I have just noticed that time must have been flying over the past three months and even though it seems that I have only just got back to Pakistan after my visit to Europe, I am actually about to leave again.
I have just been asked how I was feeling and even though the time here has not always been easy, I am sad to leave my friends, my interesting work and my life saviour in Islamabad – the Margalla Hills. I have just come back from a hike with a couple of my colleagues and even though I spend most days in the hills either running or biking, it made me realise once again that these hills are a true gem in Islamabad.
The sad thing is that so few people use this wonderful nature resort and I was amazed to find out that the two Pakistani women I walked with had never ever been there. It also made me realise, how lucky most of us are who are physically active as one of the girls, who was barely 24, had to turn back after about 15 minutes as she was exhausted!! My colleagues Stacey and Khunsa proved to be very strong though and utterly enjoyed the walk and the amazing views!
Coming from the ‘western’ world, exercise is something most of us do in one form or another. We may not go running every day but most people walk or bike to work and some of us make more of an effort and work out properly. Here in Pakistan, the notion of exercising is still pretty alien to people, and it is certainly great to be able to motivate some of them and get them to go out and do something. I have started to take my colleague Fatima up the Margalla Hills before work once a week and it is a real joy to see how much pleasure she gets out of it. “Being able to walk up these hills and enjoying the nature has really changed my life,” she said during one of our walks.
Now I have two more weeks to set up a walking group of people who can join up and go for a walk in the hills before work. It would be so great to leave this legacy in Pakistan as I have the feeling that a lot of people would love to do it but just need some motivation.
However, for the time being I have to motivate myself to get strong and fit for Lhotse, which at 8,516m is the fourth highest mountain in the world and is situated right next to Mount Everest. So far, just over 400 people have successfully climbed this beautiful peak, and among them 21 women.
I have been trying to build up strength by putting 16 litres of water in my rucksack and carrying them up the Margalla Hills. Using water is not a bad idea as it can be dumped once you have reached the top and you can walk down feeling like a feather. The hikers in the Islamabad hills must think I am absolutely mad when I take out the huge canister of water and dump it in the bushes – but I must say that the little tree I have been watering three times a week is certainly looking much greener and healthier than its fellow plants.
I am leaving for Kathmandu on Thursday, 24 March and I will stay there for one week to meet the rest of my expedition (Russell’s Lhotse group is joining his Everest expedition as it is the same route up to Camp 3), help Miss Hawley and pack up my gear for the expedition. I will then come back to Islamabad to wrap up my job with UNOCHA, teach a few more CORE classes (something I have utterly enjoyed) and organise a few going-away parties before I leave Islamabad for good on 13 April. I will be leaving with mixed feelings as I have met some wonderful people here, have learnt as much as I have never learnt in my life and have had the joy to motivate some people to go out and do something.
However, I have an amazing expedition to look forward to and even though I do not know what life has in store for me next I am sure it will be something exciting – “In Shallah” like an old Arabic proverb goes!