That time I was stuck on a mountain
Look, I’m not the queen of disastrous vacations. Most of the time, my trips turn out fine, or better than fine. But I like to reminisce, every once in a while, about things that went hilariously, or horribly, wrong when I travel. Like that time I got a worm in my leg in Thailand and the disastrous flight mistakes I made.
Or take that time when I planned to fly to Skardu, in the north of Pakistan, to hike along the gorgeous mountain ranges of Gilgit-Baltistan. I imagined my husband and I would be just like those rugged men arriving at Islamabad airport with their mountaineering gear, going on an expedition to the K2, known as the second highest and most fearsome peak in the world.
Except we would do it with some borrowed equipment, a couple of guides to carry all of our stuff, and just walk around at the kind of altitude (about 4,000 meters high) where a pregnant woman can still breath normally. Because I was four months pregnant at the time.
Two weeks before our departure, however, the unimaginable happened. For the first time ever, or so everybody said, tourists had been slaughtered by Al-Qaida in Baltistan. This event is now known as the 2013 Nanga Parbat Massacre. Apparently, 16 militants stormed a mountaineering basecamp killing 13 tourists from different countries, allegedly with the goal of kidnapping them for ransom. We’ll never know for sure, because they were never captured.
It clearly wasn’t safe to go to that place, so we changed plans. Determined to go hiking, we made a beeline for Nepal. Yes, going to remote parts of the Himalayas seemed like a good idea, even when I was four months pregnant. Especially so, actually. We figured since we didn’t have kids to worry about yet (although now that I think of it we already had a kid to worry about, in my belly) we should take advantage and do something adventurous.
We flew to Kathmandu where we hired a guide to take us to Pokhara and then on to Jomsom, from where we would hike up to Mustang. The entire itinerary was based on one conversation I’d had with a friend who worked for the International Red Cross. He’d said Jomsom was cool.
In Pokhara, I skipped the most popular tourist attraction, which was paragliding. Skipping out on something as adrenaline-inducing as paragliding is very unlike me, especially since I had thoroughly enjoyed my experience with bungee-jumping a few years earlier. I was proud of myself for making such a responsible decision.
Next, we jumped on a tiny 12-passenger plane to Jomsom. The flight was amazing. It felt like we could touch the peaks of the Annapurna mountains, several of which are almost as high as the Mount Everest. We managed to hike from Jomsom to Mustang and back with little altitude sickness, although I had enough altitude sickness to stay in bed for half a day in Mustang.
The flight back to Pokhara, unfortunately, never happened. It was too foggy for any plane to land, it being the monsoon season and all. I wasn’t worried. The plane would come eventually, I thought, and spending a few more days in Jomsom could be interesting. I felt like the biggest problem I had was that all the candy bars they sold up there were long past their expiration dates, which bothered me only because, again, I was pregnant.
I also didn’t like the small portion size of peanut butter, which you had to order separately from your toast. Each time I ordered a portion of peanut butter, which cost about two dollars, I’d get about a teaspoon full of it. And the more peanut butter I ordered the smaller the portions became. Evidently, they were really worried about running out of peanut butter.
Several days passed, but no airplane came. On the day before our flight out of Kathmandu, we had no choice but to jump on a bus to take the perilous 12-hour ride back down. This trip, and this is no hyperbole, was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. The bus was leaky, creaky, and crowded, but the worst part was that the driver asked us multiple times to lean out of the window to check if all four wheels were still on the wooden slats we were driving on over some deep ravine, which we could have plunged into at any moment. The ordeal ended with a broken bus and a trek over the next mountain with our luggage on our backs.
It was a great trip. We saw some incredible mountains and even ventured into Tibet. We admired the lives and mentality of the people who live there, although they seemed horrified by me because I was hiking while pregnant. I just can’t help wonder sometimes; would we have gone if we had known everything that was going to happen?