Fri. Sep 30th, 2022

My journey to the heaven … and back

Sabah Zafar

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I have learned that fear limits you, and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may just be a few steps down the road for you. Every journey is valuable.

Let me take you through my journey to the “Heaven”. Yes, in this write-up I am going to narrate the story of my journey to Gilgit-Baltistan.

I still vividly remember the day. It was the 5th of August, 2016, when our official university tour was announced. I can’t express in words the excitement this news brought to me, because Gilgit-Baltistan is my home region. Also, because I was going to the mountains after three years.

On the most awaited day, at around 6 am, our journey towards the heaven started. We left Sargodha and moved towards Islamabad. It was a long journey, but i didn’t feel a bit tired, because of the excitement that comes with going back to where we belong.


In Islamabad, we had our brunch. Our first stay was in Balakot, the green valley with a beautiful river, and awesome weather. The cascading river fascinated all of us.

Next day, we move towards our final destination, i.e. Gilgit. As we reached Chilas, the scorching rays of sun almost burnt us. It was so damn hot.

Gradually, as we ascended towards Gilgit, the weather got cooler, and the awesomeness of the mountains and the valleys got even prettier. I was anxiously waiting to meet my relatives, specially my grandfather.

We stayed in Gilgit city, a centuries old settlement nestled on the bank of the Hanisara river, for a day, relaxing and roaming around.

The next day we were much excited because our professor told us that we were being taken to the “Dream World”. We had our breakfast and started our journey in jeeps because only these were capable of bearing the bumps, the ups and downs, of those unpaved, horrifically narrow, roads. And, also, because the open Jeeps give you fresh air, broad views and the opportunity to enjoy the sceneries

Throughout the way to our Dream World, every single thing reminded me of my childhood. The ragging river, the hauntingly overpowering and beautiful mountains, the cool breeze, the green trees and fields, and the people busy with their daily choirs, everything was beautiful and bewitching beyond imagination, and I could relate to each and everything.

Rama Lake. Photo: Syed Mehdi Bukhari

Our vehicles stopped at Rama Lake, Astore. As I stepped down from the  jeep, the cool breeze touched my face, refreshing my soul. The mesmerizing view took my breath, and my soul, away. “Marvelous”, I said, feeling at loss for words. The air was cool and fresh that for a while we forgot it was June, and the plains were burning in scorching heat. The calm and the coolness was overpowering; many of us felt, and said, that we would love to spend our lives here, in this wilderness, near the lake that seems to be from out of the world. But, we all knew that these moments, unfortunately, will not last for long. Picture sessions started. Memories, sights, colors, lights and laughing faces were captured in digital devices of all sorts. But there’s no device yet invented to fully capture the aroma of the mountains and the joys of being there. Our journey started again with the sun setting behind the huge rocks.

Deosai Plains

The next day was even more exciting. We rode the jeeps and reached Deosai, the land of the bear, where flowers of a thousand colors sprout, and where fairies, the local folk tales say, live. The plateau is so vast and beautiful that one can’t do justice describing it. The sound of the moving air enters your soul and nestles there forever.

The next day’s sun rises elegantly, and we are full of energy. I am super excited because we are going to Ghizer, and I am all set to meet my grandparents. On the way to Ghizer, we had a little break from hectic journey and stayed for a while at the Baseen Lake. The boys swam in the lake, while us, the girls, felt the cold water by dipping our feet in it. The day was really hot.

Khalti Lake

We left that lake and moved towards Gupis, where a hotel of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) is located, right above the majestic Khalti lake. I didn’t stay at the hotel, because my uncle was waiting there for me. He took me to my grandparent’s home. I went to my birth place, Yasin Valley, where I was received by my family like a princess. the hospitality, love and the care I received is indescribable. After spending some amazing time with my family, i bode them farewell and joined my university fellows. I tried a lot to control my emotions, but my tears rolled down like a milky glacial stream, while I left my family.

But, completely in line with the famous Persian saying, “This too shall pass”, my moments of sadness went by, as I joined my university fellows.

Final resting place of Lalak Jan Shaheed

We went to Hundur, village of the daredevil soldier, Lalak Jan Shaheed (Nishan-e-Haider), and prayed at his tomb. We talked to his brother and showered praise on the gallantry of the man who is  a household named across Gilgit-Baltistan.

A monument in the heart of Gilgit’s busy markets

After enjoying the freshness of Hundur, we returned to Gilgit city. The next day was for shopping, in the ‘city of dry fruits’.

On the last leg of our journey, we went to Hunza, the heart of Gilgit-Balitstan. The road to Hunza was smooth like silk and the views were beyond perfection. We crossed Nagar, seeing the majestic Rakaposhi mountain, on the right.

Entrance of the Pak-China Friendship Tunnel in Shishkat

After crossing the recently constructed Pak-China Friendship Tunnel, we reached the Attabad Lake, which is a wonder in itself. The lake was formed due to a natural disaster, but it has added to the beauty of Hunza. We boated in the turquoise colored lake, from one side to the other. The colors of the water, muddy here, blue there, and turquoise elsewhere, was awe-inspiring. By looking at the colors of the lake, mixing with the light of the setting sun, I adored and praised God almighty, for being the ultimate creator.

With a heavy heart, we had to say good bye to Hunza. and moved to our hotel.

The next day was our last in Gilgit-Baltistan. It was the independence day, i.e. 14th of August. National songs echoed in the valley, flags fluttered on shops and houses. Patriotism was on fully display. We had to leave the heaven, though.

The journey on the way back was less excited. Pieces of our heart were left behind in the beautiful valleys. The only glimmers of hope were the memories etched in our hearts and on our souls.

The contributor is a final year Pharmacy student at the University of Sargodah. She belongs to Yasin Valley, Ghizer. 

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