By Tabish Sethi
Over the years, I have spent days in the houses of people of Hunza and Chitral. I have enjoyed the beauty of the valleys and experienced the hospitality of the north. I have shared meals with families – shared stories and life goals. I have travelled on foot and chatted away with the porters for hours. I have done all this and more!
And now, all the freedom I had disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Those who know me, are aware that I am an avid traveller and love interacting with people of different cultures. I usually head out for a trip after two to three months and was planning an adventure by the end of March. Unfortunately, like everyone else in Pakistan, I have been restricted to the walls of my home.
Like many of you, I too feel locked up, but I also know this is not the end of the world and we must do everything in our power to play a positive role in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Whenever you feel trapped, just remember you aren’t alone. There are lockdowns all over the world and we too should follow these recommendations strictly. We must do our part in this global crisis.
Our country, our responsibility
Though there are those who are showing a lack of responsibility in Pakistan, there are also those who are trying their best to make a difference.
For instance, there is a complete lockdown in Chitral and even locals who were visiting Islamabad or Lahore are not able to go back home. In fact, in areas like Gilgit Baltistan, the kids from villages are voluntarily standing at check-posts with the local police and advising tourists to stay home.
Hence, people like us who belong to cities should refrain from travelling at this point in time.
Always remember, whenever we travel, we are acting as ambassadors of the culture we belong to. Travelling to villages up north during this pandemic therefore, may give a very negative image of city dwellers.
We don’t want people up north to see us as careless and selfish, do we?
How travellers can be productive at home
Miss travelling? Why not use this time productively and make plans for future travels?
For instance, this year I had planned to touch the basecamps of numerous mountains like Rakaposhi and Nanga Parbat. Hence, I’m making itineraries at home and deciding on the places to travel once all this is over.
I’m looking at the treks, the stopovers etc. I’m reading blogs on the locations and looking at things that I will be needing.
The fact is, you need a lot of time to prepare for a perfect trip, especially if you are a solo traveller.
A message to the travellers
In a month or so, hopefully the travelling season in Pakistan will take off again. I understand the fear of the COVID-19 will still exist, and it is up to us to be cautious at all times.
My advice is, whenever you do start travelling, make sure you check up on the situation of the coronavirus spread and take the advice of the government seriously.
And all those people who are still deciding where they will travel after the situation in the country gets better, I recommend you attend the Choimas festival in December.
The interesting part is, this festival also revolves around the ‘quarantine’ situation.
Basically, the tribes quarantine themselves within three valleys in the area. On the first day of the festival, they purify their homes and have several other rituals after which they lockdown their homes for two weeks. No one from the outside is allowed to enter. However, you can still travel to nearby regions and witness the festivities.
A fascinating tradition, isn’t it?
A thing or two to learn from the festival is that at times, a lockdown is necessary to ward off evil. And once you do return to your normal schedule, things will be better than ever!