Stay in Gilgit, 8 February:
We reached Gilgit at noon, loaded our bags in the Suzuki and off we went towards our community center hostel. We got a warm welcome from the scouts’ leader at our community center and also our camp commander Dr. Hina. We were briefed about our stay arrangements for the rest of the day and night and they told us that we could go and explore Gilgit together if we want to. We were provided with lunch after the short introductory and briefing session. We were so famished with hunger and you can guess our level of happiness when we got biryani. This was heaven after those little scraps of food we ate on our 48 hours journey. After lunch, the maiden of the hostel took us to the nearby girls’ hostel and she was such a nice & hospitable lady. Our room was on the second floor at the corner, although other girls in the hostel lived in that room they were generous enough to lend us their room until our stay. We got settled in our room, got freshened up, changed our clothes and got ready as soon as we could because we wanted to explore Gilgit in the short time we had on hand. We met up with the boys, all of us dressed in warm clothes as we knew the temperature would drop till -1. Some of us did shopping, we all took pictures while exploring the markets and sightseeing places at Gilgit. After reciting prayers we went to pizza king for dinner. The pizza was absolutely yummy. All shops were closed at 8pm except for few general stores, so we stocked up chips for our camping. Back at the hostel, we quickly packed our backpacks for 3 days and 2 nights camp in the mountain areas called Nalter. It was so cold that we girls huddled up together in blankets, set up the alarm for early morning and then we slept.
9th February, Camp day 1:
At 6.30 the first alarm rang but we girls were still in bed. After the 3rd alarm, we finally started getting up one by one. It was so cold in the morning that we just wanted to lay in bed, huddled together in the blanket but we had an exciting journey ahead of us. We were already wearing 2-3 layers of warm clothes so we just wore our camp uniforms on the outside and snowshoes as we were going north, in the snowy mountains. We then went to our community center to have breakfast. After the breakfast, we called our parents to let them know that we will be out of reach for 3 days as there were no signals in the mountain areas. Our camp commander called us outside in the garden where we met other guides and scouts participants from Gilgit, Hunza, Iskoman punyal and few other places from northern areas. Guides and scouts were divided into four groups each. For all four guides group, two group leaders were made. Hina, me and Arsheela were the leaders of 3 of the four groups and the second group leaders were the girls from northern areas. Soon after the group division, we all left for Nalter in the vans. Although Nalter is part of Gilgit, its way up in the mountains and I was so excited to be in the snow. The vans stopped halfway in the mountains because we all were told to go hiking from there onwards until we reach our resident area. Every group was given envelopes which contained activities that every group had to perform on the way. Us Karachi participants were not experienced in hiking up the mountains but we all tried our best. I was literally getting out of breaths after every 5-10 minutes but my fellow group leader Haseena kept encouraging me to go on and we performed all our activities as a team. We finally reached our residential place in Nalter and I could see the snow, far ahead in the mountains. After settling in our rooms, getting to know our group girls, we had lunch. After the lunch, we all gathered outside our residential hut, listened to our camp commander’s instructions and prepared to go get ready for our snow hike. We put on our leather jackets and gloves, took water bottles, big wood sticks to help us in walking in the snow. This was my first snow hike ever in my whole life and I was so scared but thrilled as well. It was a challenge for me and there were so many obstacles we faced along the way because the snow was slippery and most of the North girls went way ahead of us. We Karachi girls were trying our best to reach the destination that was way up the snowy mountain. there were two scouts leaders with us as well as few north girls who were helping us out so that we do not slip down the mountain slope, in the slippery snow. The rest of the guides were cheering us from upside. So we finally made it after a deep struggle and it felt wonderful. We had a group photo session and then we went on our way to a big hut where we had an introductory session of the camp, then we watched a Pakistani movie called Actor in law. By 7 pm it was already dark outside, so we all went back to our residential place. We distributed dinner among our fellow guides and us leaders had dinner together outside in the camp. We also got a briefing about the activities of next two days. As for our sleeping arrangements, four of the north guides girls slept on the bed in our room and we Karachi guides girls slept on the mattress because the mattress was just too comfortable. In the other rooms, girls stayed awake till late night, they were having fun together but were so tired that we just huddled together and slept.
10th February, Camp day 2:
We woke up in the morning feeling so cold but then heater was provided to girls in all the four rooms. Okay so here’s a weird fact, we were not able to shower since 5 days. In the initial 3 days of the journey, we were on the way to Gilgit but after that, there was no warm water in the hostel and we just washed each other’s hair on the night of the second of the camp. Camp day 2 was all about learning skiing, adventure trail, getting to know each other a little more better, exploring cultures by having a campfire and playing in the snow. All of this actually sums up our day. I remember how dangerous the adventure trail was and the whole time I felt like I will fall down any moment. But thanks to our Gilgit guides friends, who held our hands and helped us through the whole adventure trail. We also went to see the snow leopard that day, all the girls were fascinated to see it. We took pictures of the leopard and a group picture of all of us girls. We got time to play in the snow, take pictures in the snow, tasting pure snow and just having fun with each other. All of us girl guides did a sort of campfire in the daytime. I know campfire in daytime sounds weird but it was so much fun because we learned guides songs of northern guides in their language and then we taught them our guides songs in our language. It was a beautiful moment. Learning to ski was the hardest part because I remember being scared but I still wanted to try it. My fellow guides friends encouraged me to do it and I now feel glad that at least I learned the basics of it and taught Komal as well at that time. Arsheela also tried skiing and did her best. Amber and Arveena were the best of us as they learned it and when they tried skiing, they just did beautifully.
At night, we felt so clean and wonderful after washing our hair. Sitting together in front of the heater, drying our hair and realizing that the next day is our last day at camp.
11th February, Camp day 3 (last day):
On the last day of snow hike camp, we woke up early as per the instructions given to us. We had breakfast and we all left for snow hiking. They were taking us to a place where we could do model making in the snow. On the way, we girls talked about how it was the last of the camp and it was just memorable. We made so many new friends who were so helpful, strong and dedicated guides. We did yoga near the water stream. It was so peaceful, hearing the birds voices, waterfalls and winds blowing. When we finally reached our destination, each group was given a large space for making snow models based on our Thinking day themes and those were: Connect, grow and impact. Making creative models in the snow was such a fresh experience because each group worked together as a team and made something innovative with a deep message, showing through the models. Finally, we had our closing ceremony and a grand group picture. On our way back to the residential huts, we made the most of the little time we girls had together by having snow fights, talking to each other, reliving the 3 days of camp and just bonding with each other.
After lunch, we all said goodbye to each other, giving hugs and exchanging numbers. Finally, we took our backpacks and sat in the minibusses, heading on our way to Gilgit. After reaching the community center in Gilgit, our team of 13 people was decided to book Hi Ace bus that will take us to Islamabad and from Islamabad we decided to book flights to Karachi. In the evening we went to buy dry fruits. Our bus was booked, we went to the hostel and packed our bags. The other girls in the hostel came to say goodbye to us. Time went by so fast that I couldn’t believe it was my last night in Gilgit. It was my last night of sleeping together with these 5 wonderful girls with whom I had the time of my life.
Gilgit to Islambad and Islamabad to Karachi:
While on the way back, on the night of 12th February, we got stuck somewhere before Mansehra because it was raining and snowing. The road ahead was slippery so it was dangerous to travel ahead. Although we were wearing warm clothes they were not enough because it was so cold. We girls were in the upstairs hotel room which was freezing. Hotel people made a kind of heater for us burning wood. We were all so anxious because our flights were booked for next morning. Finally, the rangers came to help us and although it took almost a whole night to leave that place we made it through. We literally saw live snowfall the first time in our lives. We reached Islamabad airport on time in the morning, boarded up on our flights, talking about how we had the best camping trip ever. Every moment was memorable. By afternoon, all of us were home.
This Camping trip changed me in so many ways. I transformed into a new version of myself and I developed a sense of peace after this camp which I was craving for a long time. I had a time of my life and now I miss all my team members so much. I dedicate this travelogue to all my camp team members.