Fairy Meadows-so called because according to legend, fairies were impressed by its beauty and used to come there to enjoy the majestic scenery. People who have been there can certainly relate to feeling so relaxed and blessed that they might want to remain there forever.
Fairy Meadows is a grassland near one of the base camp sites of the Nanga Parbat, located in Diamer District, Gilgit-Baltistan. At an altitude of about 3,300 meters above the sea level, it serves as the launching point for trekkers summiting on the Rakhiot face of the Nanga Parbat. In recent years, tourism to Fairy Meadows was boosted by the government declaring it as a national park and by different travel groups who braved the trek that leads to it.
I have been looking forward to going to this particular place for a long time and as it was my first overnight trip with a travel group, it holds a special place in my heart. We started our journey at around midnight from Lahore and reached Chillas at around one thirty the next morning, having only stopped for meals along the way. After having lunch at Bisham, we were extremely tired of just sitting in the coaster all day so we requested our travel leader to stop somewhere and he chose to stop at a Chashma (spring) at around nine pm. We were stiff and tired but as we got off the bus, we were greeted by the most amazing gust of cold wind that I have ever experienced in my life. The water of this particular spring was so fast that we could barely discern any rock that we threw into it. Imagine sitting in the coaster for six hours, cramped and tired and yes, a bit cranky and then stopping at a place like that. And then imagine having to go to wash room, crossing from the side of the chashma on nothing other than an old wooden plank. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. At around one am, when Chillas still refused to come, most of the people of our coaster were severely sleep deprived and that sleep deprivation along with fatigue caused us to sing ridiculous songs, at the top of our voices on the completely dark roads of Karakoram Highway.
Nest day , after a quick breakfast, we were on our way to Raikot bridge from where we were to take jeeps to brave the jeep track which has been included in the lists of most extreme roads in the world, quite frequently. While getting into coasters, we realized that our guides had already arrived in Chillas, and were urging us all to wear sweaters as it would be cold after the jeep trek. Let me mention here that it was at least 35° C at Chillas and we were all quite reluctant to dress up warmly. Thank God that the guides insisted! The temperature dropped drastically once we had covered the jeep track.
The jeep track- let’s say that it was adventurous especially when the guide hung half outside our jeep’s window and seeing the horrified look on my face told me, ‘Baji! Mein ne Kalma parh lia hey!” One of the most memorable things about the jeep track is not the track itself but the songs that were playing in the jeep; cheesy romantic bolly wood songs from the last 80s and early 90s which my friend, Saira, seemed to be able to recall with alarming accuracy. To keep ourselves busy and entertain ourselves as well, we sung as loudly as we could, much to the amusement of the jeep driver. The best part however was when the jeep in front of got a flat tire, and as there is no place to actually overtake or cross a jeep, we had to stop while they fixed the tire. This gave us a rare opportunity to actually walk on the jeep track and sit right on the edge and take pictures of the beautiful fluffy white clouds against the pure blue of the sky. The jeep track is barren and gives no indication whatsoever of the beauty that it to unfold after only about 12 km. The rocks, the sands, the hot sun which can reduce your skin to blisters if you are not careful, all this can be completely misleading and this in my opinion is one of the allures of Fairy Meadows.
To call the place beautiful does not do justice to the breath taking scenes that surround it. After about trekking three fourth of a way, my legs gave up and all I could do was sit and breathe. Lucky for me, there were guides and horses along with them who were patrolling the trek, seeing if somebody needed help. I hired one of the horses to take me the rest of the way. While climbing, my back was towards the valley and all I could see ahead was the rushing river and the Nanga Parbat giant, looking over the valley like a sentinel guarding its castle. When we were almost at the top, my guide told me to look back at the valley with a slight smile in his voice. I looked back and words cannot describe my feelings. There were lush mountains surrounding the river, and surrounding the river were barren glaciers. It was a scene unlike anything which I had ever seen, even in pictures. I think I stood there gaping like a fish out of water, until the horse getting impatient, snorted and decided to move forward. I know, I am repeating myself, but the splendor of this place cannot be described by words or even by pictures. You have to visit Fairy Meadows and I dare you to come back and not believe that wither fairies do come there, or that they gave us a part of their kingdom.
The tale of the meadows would be incomplete without mentioning Beyal Camp. I was not an experienced enough hiker to reach till the base camp of Nanga Parbat, but I did go until Beyal Camp, and hands down it is the most beautiful place that I have ever seen on Earth (and keep in mind that I have seen almost 50-60% of accessible northern areas). It seems like a place out of a calendar, a spring peacefully flows right through the middle of the plain, and a waterfall can be seen on its edge, the grass is a rich green color and the wooden huts have small gardens in front of it which add to the magical allure of the place. I could easily have stayed there for a lifetime with nothing but my husband and my books, though I have to admit that lack of technology would have driven him crazy within a few short months.
Fairy Meadows is beautiful during the day but it turns magical at night. Fazal Chacha (the owner of the hotel where we were staying) would start a bonfire around sunset and we would all sit around it, wrapped in our warmest sweaters and play charades or sing songs or simply look at the sky where millions of starts seemed to be beckoning. I could have stared at the stars all night long, and still I would not have been able to see even half of them.
And then off course there is Nanga Parbat, the giant, the 9th highest mountain and perhaps the most difficult one to climb. We would sit for hours staring at it, and willing the clouds to move from its peak so that we could see the twin peaks of the summit. It’s strange, how looking at the beauty of nature can make your belief in God stronger, and make you feel more at peace, and more at ease with yourself. I have always felt more relaxed and stress free after a couple of days in the mountains.
It was my first trip to a place in the northern areas which is more than 3-4 hours drive from Islamabad, and let me say that it was a great place to start; because after that trip, no trek or track or road seems to frighten me. Going to Naran? Child’s play, going to Nathia Gali? Toddler’s play.