I started the trip hesitant and unsure about trekking to Rakaposhi base camps and rock-climbing over 12000 feet, but I came back confident in my ability in Adventure Sports. I came back a certified white water rafter, trekker and rock climber.

I have never been one to step out of my comfort zone. Coming from suburban Long Island, I’d much rather sit in my room, curtains drawn, bed sheet strewn, body sprawled with my laptop on my tummy, watching cat videos on YouTube than ever see a ray of sunlight. So when Dignosco offered me the opportunity to go on a 10 day experiential learning trip as part of their Summer Program in Northern Pakistan, I was hesitant to say the least. But I embarked on the journey nonetheless. Life does after all, does begin at the end of our comfort zone. (Doesn’t it?)

Throughout our trip, we were guarded by SSG commandos, who not only served as tour guides when we traversed through the local mountains of Hunza, but also mentored us during our hikes. Moreover, no matter where we camped, whether it was in the Naran Valley, Hapakun Forrest or the starry Duiker point, we were provided with comfortable sleeping bags and water-proof, secured tents. The camp was always equipped with a generator for lighting and for us to charge our phones and power-banks.

I’ll mention a few of my highlights from the trip. We set out for Hunza through Islamabad and Naran. When we reached, it was almost 7 pm in the evening and our surroundings were hauntingly beautiful. Snow-capped mountains all around us, orbited by clouds straight out of a horror movie. On an ordinary day, I would have been scared. But this was no ordinary day. I was here with 40 new friends (and some old ones of course) and they made me feel completely at ease. And every so often, the air was filled with cries of local merchants, selling us homemade jam or local “pakoray” and tea.

We completed the Level 2 White Water Rafting course. Swept by the currents of the Kunhar River, bouncing here and there, it was insanely enthralling and fun. We got a chance to have the fresh fries with the locals over tea, where we were told of their comical stories with other tourists and got a chance to meet their children. Early in the misty night, we had fresh, succulent chicken barbeque and local tea beside the campfire.

In our busses to the Karakoram Range in the Himalayas, we blasted classics and played charades, getting pelted by snow-balls from our bus driver. After a night’s rest, we set out on the 6 hour trek having been briefed extensively about emergency situations and the basics of trekking. I’ll simplify it for you. Keep your water bottles in a light bag-pack, stay with your friends and take short steps. It’s just learning outside the classroom. The trek was done in multiple groups with the furthest group forward pacing, and the last group logging. All of us were equipped with binoculars, sunscreen and caps to protect ourselves from sunburns. Furthermore, we had the chance to sit and chat with the locals over refreshments in their homes. Most of us were on Hapakun (Rakaposhi base camp 1) within 5 hours, drinking Pakhtun soup (would highly recommend) and playing cards. In the late hours of the night, our Pashtun friends lit up a bonfire in the middle of our camp and sang with us songs of love. Those of us who were up for it trekked further to Taga Fairy (Rakaposhi base camp 2) the next day, where we I had my first ever snow-ball fight. Staring from a height of several thousand feet down below, we posed for pictures and ate Maggi Noodles. Yes, even at a height of 12,000 feet, there were Maggi Noodles and Peak Freans biscuits available. If you were feeling particularly zesty were allowed to go ahead to Rakaposhi base camp 3 with ropes and shoe grippers for crossing glaciers.

By far however, the highlight of my trip were the starry skies free from night pollution. We learnt to identify the North Star, the Pan Handle and we even had the chance to see Orion’s belt and the Milky Way. We even got to see the moon through a telescope. Eating local dishes, sleeping in the comfy houses of the local Hunzaians and staying late up at night with my friends, laughing till our stomach hurt, rapping like Tupac and Biggie were a close second.

I started the trip hesitant and unsure about trekking to Rakaposhi base camps and rock-climbing over 12000 feet, but I came back confident in my ability in Adventure Sports. I came back a certified white water rafter, trekker and rock climber. I came back with 40 new friends, views of the stars shining brighter than the moon over the white peak of the Rakaposhi and most importantly, I came back with memories to last me a lifetime.

Huzaifa Bin Aslam is currently studying A levels from Lahore Grammar School and intends to do his undergraduate degree in Economics

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