Travel- ” The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”

The biggest tent, blankets, a small gas cylinder and a stove, utensils and water bottles , this was all that we had packed for our long journey to Astore. This was a plan that my family and I  worked on for a week.

Let me give a brief introduction of the place. Astore is connected to Gilgit which is well connected by air with Islamabad(weather dependent) and by road with Islamabad(capital of Pakistan)  Skardu and Chitral. You can take a flight to Gilgit from the capital of the country and drive to Astore from Gilgit on metaled road.

On July,2016  our journey to Astore began with our family. It was made of people of different age groups  starting from my seven year old niece to my eighty two years old grandma.

Our journey started early in the morning. We reached the market place by noon. This was the more populated part of Astore. We picked up snacks and essentials here then moved on to Chillam. So far we were prepared and stocked up for our journey.

We then tried to move to the next village but we were stopped by the army because it was too close to the India-Pakistan border. I was disappointed but then the disappointed was gone when we came back to the village to set up our campsite, as it was no less beautiful.

This is where the unexpected happened and I fell sick. It was food poisoning. This was a downer as it made me a bit tired and exhausted throughout the journey. At one point, I had to asked my brother in law to stop the car and  rushed to the nearest house and asked them if I could use their bathroom after explaining the situation to them. They agreed.

As I stepped out, I saw my family interacting with the family who lived there. To be honest, I felt embarrassed. This embarrassment turned into an amazing opportunity to experience Astore.

During the interaction, I found out that the girl who let me into the house was the sister of a teacher who taught at a local school. The teacher then helped us find a guest house. The best part? The guest house was close to the school. This led us to interact with the school children and the teachers there.

It was a coeducational school but there weren’t many girls. That was bit disappointing but finding a co-ed school in a remote, conservative place was very encouraging. This was the only school in the village of Chillam.

We moved into the guest house. It was a really old place. It struck fear in the heart of my eighty two year old grandmother who was worried about the place crumbling down. Putting our fears aside we got to work. Some of us cleaned the place, some of started a fire and some of started cooking.

It was pretty cold. The temperature was nearly 13 degrees. The hostess ( the girl I had met first when I entered the house) bought milk later in the night. It didn’t smell like the regular cow’s milk but we were no one to complain. We called it an early night after that.

We woke up the next morning to explore the village of Chillam.  We walked across the village and noticed that the houses were made of clay and mud. They were pretty small. The cattle shed was very close to the house, almost attached at times. This was some good thinking because during the winters when there was a lot of snow.  It would be easier to feed the cattle if they were close to the house.

The infrastructure of the village wasn’t very advanced. A few people had dish antennas set up so that they could get some entertainment via television. There a small clinic, it was the only one in the village. The clinic also dealt with women who were in labour.  It was only set up a few years ago, sadly prior to this there was no medical help in the village.

Staying close to the school had it’s own benefits. One morning we were able to witness the school assembly in which a part of the Quran was recited and the national anthem was sung.
We spoke to some of the teacher. We spoke to the students who studied there. We got a glimpse of how life is in a village and how everyone wanted to make the best of what they were doing to get on ahead with their lives. Even the smallest of the efforts mattered.

There was lot that had I experienced in this small trip. The people were very polite and hospitable. There was a co-ed school. The women were beautiful and interactive. At the same time, they were pretty conservative, so they refused to be photographed. No one asked me what my religion was. The people spoke Urdu as the kids learnt Urdu in school.

We spent a few hours with the locals before leaving for the main market place of Astore to head back home (with a few more stops). We were unsure of the weather but the hostess assured us that it wouldn’t rain because the sky was reddish the previous  evening so it wouldn’t rain that day.  They didn’t need Google to give them the weather predictions. They had their own indigenous ways to do so.

This was not just a journey that brought our family together but it was a journey that made us realize how other people lived. It told me how people who weren’t as privileged as me lived in the simplest of ways.

You don’t need to travel very far or cross your country or go backpacking to experience the best of what travel has to offer. Most of the time what you are looking for is right around you. You just need to pack your bags and make the move.

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Author: The Brown Nomad

Also published on Medium.

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