My 2016 – The Year of 9 In Summary of Travel

It’s unimaginable to see that this year has come to such an abrupt end .. I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t yet done taking all the surprises 2016 kept in store for me. Or was it that I had grown so used to the uncertainties that I couldn’t keep a track of time where it flew as I collected myself after each shove. Yeah I guess that makes sense. There was a strange duality this year, an extreme of heightened emotions; went to the pinnacle of feeling ecstatic and then hibernated like a dull dead polar bear for days.

Why am I calling it the year of 9? Allow me to deviate a little and give you some astrological insights. 2016 = 2+0+1+6=9 has indeed been a year of immense travel, adventure, completions to pending stories of life, final touches to unfinished businesses, endings, etc. This doesn’t have to be for everyone but could reflect in one department of life or the other. Don’t know how many of you take interest in Numerology or Astrological sciences, but 2016 being year of Number 9 was bound to bring out certain completions or almost being ready for the final hit, awakenings to the front and as per the houses of zodiac, the 9th house is the house of expansion, adventure, travel and lot of learning; naturally ruled by the zodiac sign of Sagittarius (my personal zodiac) so yes in light of this knowledge, all this was definitely coming! 😀

[Again, this couldn’t resonate with all, so please please don’t hold me responsible, if this hasn’t been the case with you :p ]

Ok, so back to the point, I’m writing this article to document something I have cherished the most this year, TRAVEL, that not only gave me true bliss but on the contrary, opened me up to so many facades within my own self. Traits I never knew existed came affront and I was awakened to a new lifeway. It taught me patience, accepting uncertainties, resisting less against nature, enjoying life by moments and most importantly, living by the hour.
Most of these travels weren’t planned and just abruptly happened out of the blue due to intense callings from the mountains and highways

1. Hingol, Balochistan
Still crazy from the last trip that us friends took together, this was more like a re enactment of those times and thirst of extensive unwinding roads compressed into a 2 day trip to the gorgeous Hingol National Park, right Along the Makran Coastal Highway in the a southwestern region of Balochistan. It’s famous for its peculiar rock formations, mud volcanoes, temples, estuaries, vast landscapes and the beautiful clear sea alongside the coast.
The not-to-miss part is the sunrise at the Kind Malir beach and dense cluster of stats at night. The curvy wavy smooth roads give you an up and down view of the surroundings. On the downside, you may have to compromise on the food a little, since not many appetizing food places can be found there, so you’ll just have to make do with whatever they offer or you could carry something with you.

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2. Kalash Valley, Chitral District
One fine evening, I get a call from a friend to join her for the annual Spring Festival “Chillam Joshi” that takes place in Kalash Valley commonly known as Kafiristan, for it inhabits this strange community of polytheists who have an incredible history and magical rituals. I used to hear about this place from my grandparents as a child for its immense beauty and unearthly people. I’m glad I got to experience it myself. Their graveyards, their wall art, their traditions and customs are all so different, it’s fascinating to have such diversity in our own country. Sadly the religious extremists living in the surrounding areas have been forcefully converting them to Islam and attacking their beliefs.
The incidents and stories and people I met on this journey have been remarkably impactful on my life, some of them that I still carry with me to date and have been of extreme importance to me.

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3. Lahore City
A short trip to Lahore with a bunch of friends from The Digital Factory for an event hosted there by Nestlé Pakistan. The unique thing for me was travelling in the month of Ramadan, something I’d never experienced before. The long hours and Lahore’s heat was quite a challenge for fast – observers.
Lahore is magical in its own way and somewhat safer than Karachi as well. I miss the late night or I should call it early – before – dawn strolls in the streets overlooked by beautiful historical building and such dense history. Best visit out of all for me would be Data Ganj Baksh Darbar & Wazir Khan Mosque/ Delhi Gate

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4. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur/ Perhentian Island/ Tamman Negara
A planned trip that went through multiple stages of queerness, I guess that’s where spontaneous trips are said to be the best.  The trip to Malaysia got nearly cancelled twice either due to airline issues, visa issues or personal ones. The beauty of this trip was the fact that for the first time, we were not taking any external help and instead planned everything from accommodation to food to recreational activity to transportation on our own, gathering information from the Internet and booking things online or via apps. Plus given the fact that we were on an extremely tight budget, we even made a daily spending chart, chalking off areas where we could save money as much as possible. Haha, this trip surely taught us financing at its best.
Fortunately, my friend and I were the only Pakistanis visiting the Perhentian Island and the 1 million year old rainforest, Tamman Negara amongst the large European crowd. Why fortunately? Oh you know .. less judgmental characters, less eyeing, more freedom to speak your language (nobody can guess on earth what you’re saying lol) moreover, it made us proud to invalidate the common perception among the world that Pakistani women aren’t educated or brave enough to leave their houses or that they live in some pre historic era. Most of them initially thought we were Indians, Duhh, but they were flabbergasted to see the green passports popping out. But not a single person displayed any prejudice and it was amazing to witness the cross culture interaction taking place.

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5. Sparkistan Journey – Islamabad / Skardu / Shangla / Sargodha / Mir Pur Khas / Makli
The year couldn’t have certainly come to a better climax without this. #Sparkistan journey was a documentary shoot for Atlas Battery, where we were to interview unsung heroes who have been creating sparks through their social work or creativity and leaving a lasting impact on their surroundings. We chose a bunch of approximately 15 heroes who resided in various parts of the country, we visited each of them personally for the shoot, which gave us a chance to explore the changing landscapes and experience varied temperatures along with the comical company of the team members. Yeah I call it comical because there was never a dull moment throughout the project. A month is quite a sufficient time to get to know people, specially via travel; it was interesting to work with a bunch of complete strangers and yet having such a great time.
The people that we interviewed were brilliant in their own ways, some of them so welcoming and warm. I know I won’t probably get to meet most of them ever again, but those moments we communicated and clicked pictures together are indefinitely stored in Time & Space. I got to witness so many kinds of lifestyles that people live everyday and understand their perspective on life from their point of view. It was just marvellous!

I will cover stories of #Sparkistan separately in a series of blogs

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So here was a summary of the good times I have to thank 2016 for – majorly being Travel times and thanks to it for making me more accepting and organized in many ways and specially for all the good memories. Each one holds a different chain of stories leading back to so many emotions and connections. Thank you 2016!

Hoping for a great, adventure, smile and peace filled 2017 for everyone!

Do comment and let me know what was your highlight of 2016

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