Mole on the sole
I have a mole on my sole. Culture has it that this mole is related to traveling. Well, I don’t know how true it is for others, it has always proven to be true for me. I have traveled to more than 20 cities in the time frame of 20 years and I must say I have been lucky!
But not always! As travelers, we tend to make mistakes and learn from them. It all comes from on-the-road experience. After 20 years of traveling solo and now with two kids, I must say I have slowly mastered the art of keeping my nerves sane before, throughout, and after the journey.
A key factor that affects one’s traveling experience is packing. Oh yes, it makes so many of us anxious till we are unable to sleep, especially when your travel includes a hike of any sort, and if you, like me are not a professional mountaineer, it can all be exciting but nerve-wrecking in the same place. So, for people like us, the key is to be well prepared.
When I traveled to Gilgit Baltistan back in 2018, I didn’t have an idea that this will be the life-changing trip of my life. I was in a group of complete strangers, entirely unaware of the itinerary and all I had with me was a backpack and some cash in hand.
Gut instinct or just plain luck that I packed smart!
I, hereby present my shabby self to share some decent tips on what to pack while traveling to Gilgit Baltistan, or traveling to any part of Northern Pakistan, for that matter. When packing for Northern Pakistan, we need to ensure that we have everything essential but nothing which becomes a burden (literal and mental) on us as we aboard the journey. This is because you never know where you might have to/want to hike.
The right backpack
The utmost important thing is the right kind of backpack that you intend to take along. Honestly, it all depends on the kind of traveling you have opted for. However, my personal favorite was a hiking bag, which has lots of space and sections and you can easily carry it on your shoulders – be it a hike or exchange of vehicles. What is a proper backpack, you may ask? Well, a proper backpack for a mountain trek is large enough for the gear you need to carry and comfortable enough so that you can still enjoy yourself. It should fit your body well with respect to your torso length and shoulder width. The lighter in weight, the better. However, you want to keep a check on the quality. The best way to know that the backpack fits you is to try it on in the shop and walk around in the store for a bit, just like those childhood trips in the store while shoe-shopping.
How many clothes are too many clothes?
It is better to call this heading “layers” because that is what works best in Gilgit Baltistan. Places that are high in altitude tend to confuse you with their weather and temperature. So, you don’t want to hoard huge and heavy overalls and jackets. It is best to pack layers and different materials. You can keep adding or removing layers as the temperature rises or falls. If chosen correctly, the best option for cold weather is fleece or anything with a fleece lining as it is super light and warm. Better to avoid cotton as it doesn’t wick moisture easily – once sweaty or wet, it tends to remain that way for a long time.
I was quite happy with my decision to carry and wear six-pocket hiking pants. One could always get to use the extra “space” for some snacks, water bottle, and camera accessories. Also, suitable headwear cannot be emphasized enough, if you are traveling up north.
The right shoes:
New shoes might seem exciting to endeavor your adventures, but trust me it’s a bad idea! You need shoes that are well acquainted with your feet. You don’t want blisters and cuts to ruin your trip.Hiking shoes are a great option, especially if you are heading up mountains on rugged terrain with unpredictable weather. Ensure that your boots are durable and have enough ankle support. I always prefer carrying a pair of flip-flops for my leisure days in the hotel or marketplace. You might need them to give your well-traveled feet a little rest. Besides, keeping an extra pair of shoes is never a disappointment. You never know when your shoes might get soggy with the stream water in GB or even break up!
The “other” essentials:
The first-aid bag with basic medicines and ointments – a couple of muscle relaxants, band-aids, motion-sickness medicines, and pain killers can come really handy! Traveling to Gilgit Baltistan means that you don’t want to miss being in the rain, so carrying a raincoat will be such a blessing! You can even carry an umbrella or choose between the two.
Mosquito repellents, a torch, wipes, a power bank, electrical converters, petroleum jelly for those cracked lips and heels, towel, NIC/student card, Ziplock and polythene bags for edibles and trash collection, some snacks especially protein/energy bars, reusable water bottle, and a small packet of detergent for emergency purpose.
Mountains are always calling, but how do we respond is the question at stake. A good experience is only possible if we are well prepared.