This post is the first part of a 2013 event report. To read the second part, click here.
For someone who has always wanted to climb a mountain, doing so should never be hard, and so, it was with an overwhelming feeling of excitement that I received my acceptance to be a part of Markhor 2013. What was Markhor 2013, you ask? It was a four-day conference held from October 3rd to 6th, 2013 at the lush Mukshpuri mountain top in Nathiagali. Arranged by Youth Impact — a non-profit youth development organisation known for its wilderness based training sessions, the conference gained immense response and more than a century and a half of participants were eventually selected to make the journey north.
Being selected for the conference, and that too, on scholarship, put me on the top of the world and my endless status updates on facebook regarding the event adequately portrayed my excitement as I counted every day till the one for my departure arrived. The flight was bumpy; I figured air travel doesn’t suit me and I thanked the Lord when we landed in Islamabad.
For the two days before we left for Dunga Gali, where we were to begin our climb, I was to stay with Rameesha Shah, a Markhor participant who had generously offered me a place to stay after I had interacted with her on facebook. I had my doubts, not knowing if I was being stupid for I had not informed my folks back at home that I was staying with a stranger I had come across on facebook. But my fears were unfounded, as my hosts gave me an exemplary welcome and I was touched by such warm love from strangers.
When we finally got to Dunga Gali, the two of us were disappointingly cast into different tribes (teams). The prospect of the climb made me awfully nervous, and I packed and unpacked my backpack a number of times, unsure what to take along on the hike as it was my first Trekking experience. Still, I was one of the first people trudging up the mighty Mukhspuri mountain, excited with the prospect of reaching the peak first. I ended up being among the slowest hikers. I slowed my tribe down all the way, for I could not possibly go on without having to rest every ten minutes (I have asthma). My mind kept telling me I was the lamest freak to come to Markhor, but the rest of the Khyber tribe vehemently negated the notion. They all hastened to help, carrying my bagpack and my bottle for me, urging me on and distracting me from how much more I had to go.
Considerate to my medical condition, everyone acted like family and they accommodated me in all ways, not caring whether we lost the hiking competition with other tribes. They treated me like only my family or best friends would have, and that is what Markhor taught me: that people are capable of loving and caring, even if you are holding them back. We eventually managed to reach the peak and win the Best Tribe award. But that wasn’t the only thing of meaning I gained that day.