I grew up listening to fairy tales and bedtime stories from my grandmother. The lands far far away always fascinated me. Being a Pakistani kid, it is impossible to have grown up without hearing stories about the magical land of fairies, known as the ‘Koh-e-Qaaf’. Koh-e-Qaaf would be the place where, to test the bravery of princes and those who wished to marry the king’s daughter were dared to go to, to fetch their spouse-to-be a magical artifacts. If a curse has befallen on the princess, the king would announce in public that whoever shall fight the evil witch, break the curse and would return alive would get the hand of his daughter, aka The Princess, in marriage (that poor girl!). The way to Koh-e-Qaaf was always full of dangers and great perils. A lot would have tried and failed to return. But the brave hero of our story would fight all the evils, complete the task and return back glorious and victorious ready to marry the princess, and they lived happily ever after.
As a result of growing up with these stories I became very fond of adventures. I never wanted to be the princess, the frail, poor creature though very beautiful but completely helpless, rather I wanted to be the brave lad who would rescue her.
Dreaming of adventures, I never thought I would ever have a real one, but just this summer happened the most exciting and exhilarating event of my life. I had never imagined that a place like koh-e-qaaf would exist in Pakistan, hidden between the giant mountains of Karakoram the beautiful land under the name of Fairy Meadows. It is a place like no other. The serenity, the beauty, the peace, it was incredible. Though there were no fairies, but the stars in the dark sky shone like fireflies.
As beautiful as that place is, the path to this land is as difficult. Jeeps only take you only from one side of the mountain to the other, sometimes up to the fairy point, which is a small village that marks the beginning of the track, and sometimes in case of land sliding even long before fairy point or as far as the roads would allow. The rest of the journey has to be taken on foot or on horses. It sounds pretty simple, for those on horses it definitely is, but for us, it was more adventurous than it usually is. Mostly because we had reached Raikot late and it was in the evening that we had started our journey and also that we did not have any water with us.
When we started hiking it was already twilight. Soon the blue of sky turned into velvety black allowing the moon to shine bright upon us. Thank God that it was a full moon night. Apart from the fact that moon was our source of light, it was also very enchanting. The moonlit track, the rushing river Indus below us and view of Nanga parbat ahead of us, whose peak shone silver in the moon light, the romance of it, the serenity of it, what else is the definition of breath-taking. You could forget the rest of the world and just keep going. It was a dream. Some might say it is very dangerous to hike at night, and we were told so, but I think that getting late was the most splendid thing ever that happened to us.
The next most splendid thing that happened to us was finding a spring of fresh water. We filled ourselves to our content and moved on. It was more than an hour later, we were walking through a forest when we had a surprise waiting for us. Those of us who had gone on horses had already reached the destination and had sent back those horses for us. That was a relief, since we were now very tired and the fresh water spring had become a long bygone happening. According to ladies and children first rule, the five horses were offered to the five ladies and the four kids. The men followed after us (horses were sent after them later). In 10 minutes or more, I am not sure since I had no means of keeping track of time, we reached fairy meadows. It was around 10 PM. At that point I was not sure whether I was more hungry or tired. After eating some bun and drinking a lot of water, I laid down for some rest and fell asleep as soon as I closed my eyes, though I had to wake soon for dinner which tasted so delicious at that time, especially after the meal we had at Raikot.
The place in morning was definitely beautiful. The lush green area surrounded by snow covered mountains, giving the view of melting black glacier which turned into the Indus river and above it the magnificent Nanga Parbat. If you get a chance to get up at the sunrise and there are no clouds, you would see the rare sight of golden rays from the sun shining on the snow covered peak of the giant mountain, bathing it in gold and making it more glorious. That place is pure treasure. I am really grateful that I got a chance to visit this place and I will always be looking forward to another trip to this Koh-e-Qaaf of Pakistan.