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Essays and Travelogs

To Boldly Go…by Ali Piracha

For a solid year, my sister was eating and sleeping only Concordia. She either talked of what was to come, or muttered about food, accounts and crampons. Furthermore, she threw herself into the preparations with the excitement and enthusiasm of a cat surrounded by mice.

Her bed, apart from being her own nightly lodging, was home to three large Karakoram maps, “Into Thin Air” and “Trekking In Pakistan and India”

I remained aloof from the whole thing deciding I would act nearer to trek time. Usually I would sit and listen to what she had to say. (After she had binged on “Trekking In Pakistan and; India”) She must have explained the route and stops to me on the map at least five or six times for she had them burnt in her gray cells, while I, simply kept forgetting.

Occasionally, when her mind would be slightly distracted from the trek itself, she’d talk about the great people who were to accompany us through these “uncharted lands”

I don’t exactly have time to write a detailed psychological profile on everyone, but I’d say she was pretty much right.

No trip across the Baltoro can possibly be free of its problems. No eggs (big problem), no real meat (even bigger) and 23 hungry people collapsing at every campsite. Etc. Yes, 23. If we were all rubber bands, everyone would stagger into camp and SNAP. Atif , the ONE exception would keep running around like some damned energizer bunny, barking orders to the porters and Shafeeq. The man would run all the way back to Payu for cigarettes if you asked him to.

Coming on to the rest. We had 5 professional cameramen , er.camera persons to completely document and record every aspect of the trip. These shutterbugs were Jeff, Hasan, Yasir K, Wasif and Cassandra.

We also had along, a Frenchmen, who just so happened to be one of the cameramen.

Our resident camera persons could easily be spotted. They either said things like: “get out of the way”, Look here” and “hold that”. Or the could be found sitting on rocks with their tripods waiting for “the exact moment”

Then there came the music men and musicians. One type brought music and everyone listened to it. (Yasir K, Fooqi, Khizar, Sajjad) The other type sang and people listened. This character was the one and only Rehman. Interesting chap, always ready for a laugh or a smoke. (Faiza, cigarette khatam ho gaay hain!)

Next comes the Coookie Monster alias Khizar. The hours RAN by in the mess tent and jeep whenever Cookies were the subject of conversation.

I remember having had many interesting conversations with various people. On the way from Thongol to Korophone, I walked a large part of the way with Cassandra. Our conversation ranged from world religions to how Americans found the slaughtering of cows disgusting and how they only know meat as what it was I frozen packed form. (Cassandra exempted herself from this category)

Next came the doctors. The first being Shafeeq, though I doubt anyone followed his advice, especially the “get-someone-to-stand-on-your-feet-and-wait-for-the-crack-sound” on how to “fix” a sprained ankle.

The comparatively more learned doctors (at least mine) consisted of Amber and Sara. Scenario: Me asking them if I can have salan tonight, I feel much better, them giving me an emphatic NO, and me going off sulking and ending the evening by chewing on crackers without any cheese.

Next is the man who “loves to laugh!” The stranger from Moscow, running in and out of the mess tent, like Atif, getting things done. It would be appropriate to mention Zakaria here, because if he hadn’t been along on the trip, we wouldn’t have been able to bug the hell out of Moscow!

Manan, it seemed loved to discuss politics, and tell people about Pakistan’s past political history. His student was Cassandra. Once, I also sat down with them and Shafeeq in the kitchen tent for a good half hour talking about Zia-ul-Haq and Bhutto. Not as good as the Coookies, but interesting all the same. I’ll never forget the bonfire night in Concordia. At least, the one I was awake for. Cold night, Hina’s coffee was welcome.

Maheen, Faiza, Rabia, Amber and Sadaf were the bathroom troupe abd brought a whole new meaning to the term “cover me” Point of interest – Maheen was most disturbed to find that a donkey had beaten her to the latrine in Urdukas.

On the whole, we had a great bunch of people along. Everyone did something, everyone played a unique role that could not possibly be filled by anyone else. And that, no doubt, made all the difference.

“They may take our lives, but they will never take our Coookies!”

Copyright: Khizar Bilal (c) 2001 “Coookie” (and all 99 Coookies of Wisdom) is a registered trademark of Trippy 2001 All rights reserved.

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