01. March 2016 · 1 comment · Categories: Memories

We woke up at four in the morning, hoping to make it up the hill before the sun had been up too long and cast a haze through the mountains. We gathered, my sisters, father, wife and I, and headed down the hill from the guest house to meet our driver. Saboor, wearing a starched-white shalwar kameez, plastic chupples and sporting a handsome dark beard, was excited that these white people he had been driving around wanted to climb Miranjani, a slightly more difficult and longer trek than the more popular walk up Mukeshpuri.

The six of us started the climb up Miranjani. Within a couple of minutes those of us unaccustomed to the altitude were starting to feel its effects. Saboor continued on unhindered. I was much thinner than I had been on our last trip to Pakistan six months earlier, as an encounter with E. coli (from a chili pepper in India) helped me shed fifty pounds. A slimmer frame didn’t mean that I was anymore fit than I had been previously, however.

Excitement at 4 am

Picture 3 of 21

Laden with cameras and backpacks, and the ladies additionally by their shalwar kameez and dupattas, we trudged up the ridge, occasionally sighting the top of Miranjani in the distance. Every once in a while we would spot a figure clad in white, hands tucked behind his back, plastic sandals none the worse for wear, carrying on a considerable distance ahead of us.

The halfway point was a muddy watering hole used by the local buffalo, and we were relieved when we reached it. We had stopped every once in a while, though not too often and not for too long, so a longer break was welcome. Our lungs had become accustomed to the flatness of the American Midwest, but we had the promise of the view from the top of the 10,000 foot peak ahead of us. And, perhaps more importantly, we knew that aloo parathas, fried eggs, and chai awaited us back at the guest house. The aloo parathas had been a requirement of the trip, though we had been told the night before that they wouldn’t be available. Dad had asked why, and asked if they had potatoes, and asked if they had atta to make roti, and if so why were aloo parathas not available?

The second half of the hike was significantly steeper, and a set of cutbacks across a slope of scree meant that we were close to the summit. We came upon Saboor near the top, worried that something had happened as it was taking us an embarrassing amount of time to climb the hill. We had already been with Saboor for a few days, and after he had discovered that Dad had been born in Murree, close to where his own family was from, the two had become brothers.

The ridge to the summit is long and gentle, above the tree line but still covered with grass and dotted with wildflowers. The summit itself is mostly barren except for a communications tower. And a small group of children, no more than fifteen years old, hoeing in the hillside for roots, giggling at the white people huffing and puffing their way up the hill in their backyard.

We took pictures at the top and admired the view though we knew that the haze would prevent us from seeing the majestic peak of Nanga Parbat, the ninth tallest mountain in the world that guards the far western edge of the Himalaya.

The climb back down the mountain seemed to go more quickly, though following Dad through an advised shortcut ended up with my wife’s clothes getting snagged in tall weeds and my sisters laughing as they beat us following the normal path.

Back at the Green Retreat Hotel we met Mom, who was enjoying early morning coffee and not waking up at four in the morning. Aloo parathas, fried eggs and chai always taste good, but their flavors are undoubtedly enhanced by a morning adventure.

The next step of our trip was further west, through Abbottabad to Qalandarabad, the birth place of my sisters. It had been over ten years since my entire family had been in Pakistan together. The fact that two weeks prior Osama bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad cast a strange, surreal pale over our trip back to the country where we group up. Still, nothing can take away the taste of aloo parathas in the mountain air after a trek up Miranjani.

 

1 Comment

  1. John Whittemore

    Wow! Did that bring back wonderful memories or what. We hiked up Mukshpuri and Miranjani several times when I was at MCS 1958- 1962. I don’t think the communications tower was there at that time though. Everything else looks exactly the same as it did back then.

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