Pakistan at an altitude

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Continuing the story

Though as aforementioned frightening, the road to the North was one of beauty. Over the course of two days, we ascended to a town named Karimabad, located in the Hunza valley. The car had become a nauseating and dull cage after these endless hours and it felt freeing to have time in abundance as we arrived mid-day. Cruising through the meandering streets of the peaceful town, I had long noticed the fort that loomed over all other houses. Another fort was situated on the opposite end and stood far less high. A strong guess had been that we would soon wander over the edges and be admiring its stunning views. Call me clairvoyant, because as soon as our backpacks had been unloaded and we had gorged on lunch, we set foot for these medieval buildings. Entering the forts Altit and Baltit, we leapt back into the past and barged into the heretofore home of the hereditary rulers of Hunza. Bringing us back to the era of Huns, our guide summarised the past 1100 years inclusive of heirs, war and religion. Originally spirit worshippers and followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam introduced in the 15th century became the main for the town around 1830. The forts, though crumbling, still remained most of its past and make a fascinating addition to the town with astonishing viewpoints. Being that the tour was in clear English and with a guide of knowledge, I was pleased to have my hunger for a bit of history silenced.

Speaking of true hunger, with the passing of hours it had grown weaker. And in hindsight honesty, my body had felt off for the larger part of the day. I pushed through the rest of town with my head pounding as if it were an ancient clock and a tiny guy kept slamming his hammer on the bell. A constant shiver rested on my skin and my mind had become foggy. It had felt as if I was faded into the background and my body and brain went on auto-pilot. Luckily enough, I functioned well enough to attempt ignoring the oncoming symptoms and with a smile trotted up and down the streets with Waqas. I do not enjoy the being of sick, therefore I try not to accept it. If anything, as per usual during my travels, I had an inferno-raging crave for an alcoholic beverage. With my mind shifted to that, it had become a hunt to have a gulp of the local hard stuff. A task which proves significantly hard in a Muslim town, or for that matter country. Instead, we settled for the indulgence in a cup of Chai tea alongside of a set of boardgames. The tea does get extraordinarily delicious, though it is sweeter than my usual cup tends to be. Seated in the tiny yet cosy restaurant with a vanishing appetite I savoured the hot cup before we returned.

The day that followed was the day we were headed for the Chinese border at a peak altitude. On this day, it had become harder to deny my ill-being as symptoms worsened. Cursed with the family’s trait of stubbornness, I remained in denial and had convinced myself to be fit and healthy as we drove onward. Half delirious, I sat in the car attempting to keep sight with tired eyes and sight fading. Half of the ride has vanished from my memories as I kept dozing of. Not long in, we got to exit the suffocating cage for exhilarating fresh air at our first stop; the hanging bridge. Facing the long-stretching bridge, I had noticed there was a fierce and icy wind, however it hadn’t bothered me. Even the absence of my comfort and clear-thinking had not been a burden. It was a relief to be walking and have a scary bridge as distraction. With now watery eyes, I shuffled from plank to plank. The bridge had gaps wide enough for an obese midget to fall in – and thus this skinny Pete. Others had been frightened by it and our guide, despite trotting ahead, was not a big fan either. Though surely intimidating, after the disappointment of a bridge in the Philippines, it was an exciting experience to have an attraction live up to its expectations. Heck, exceed it even.

Would I have called myself sick and quit the journey ahead, I would have damned myself for missing this. Though the altitude had far from helped, I see no fault in pushing to the top and letting the illness run its course after all is finished. Then again, I am no doctor. But the snowy border was close and to-be magnificent. Few turns away, I had in bewildered state signalled the driver and rushed out of the vehicle to regurgitate my insides. Admiring my barf, chunks and pieces spattered all over the once bright snow, I wondered how many got to say they chundered their breakfast here. Then I realised, with the altitude, most likely many stood in the same scenario of kicking snow over there half digested food. Moments after the spew, we arrived. My mind had been in such a haze, however I clearly remember the breathtaking fields of snow surrounded by peaks continuing to break through the sky. Wanting to not waste this moment, I had glanced in every direction with eyes wide as they could, considering the icy wind. I’d pet myself on the shoulder for remembering to shoot a dozen pictures, however upon viewing them all I could see was my fat thumb in a thick, winter’s glove. After this miserable attempt, I took in one final view before rushing back to the car where I fell into a deep sleep.

I do not recommend anyone to push through when these symptoms appear, especially not at these altitudes. It can be highly dangerous if it is altitude sickness, especially at its extreme. Stubborn me got lucky, but it could have ended a whole lot worse. Don’t be like me and get treated instantly when suspecting to have altitude sickness and when losing a lot of liquids.