Sleepless night, shooting stars, and unspoken wishes

13 August 2016, (circa 3 am)

My ears were no longer able to block out the unceasing sound of the roaring river below me, and my body was no longer able to sustain the uncomfortable position I had taken for the past hours of sleep, wrapped in someone else’s sleeping bag over a thin mattress on a tapchan (evelated platform used mostly for relaxing and as a site to drink tea).

I looked at my friend still fast asleep on the other side of the tapchan with a tinge of envy. I was weary but unable to stop thinking about the previous day’s hike, encountering shepherds and goats, lakes of delicate aquamarine hues, mountains so rugged yet so refined in their, well, ruggedness. My mind has a tendency to wander as much as my feet, and here in this isolated corner in the Seven Lakes of western Tajikistan, in this much too early hour, my mind was spinning with thoughts and emotions and I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep again.

In an attempt to calm myself down, I looked up at the night sky, a black canvas on which golden celestial bodies illuminated the backdrop. How could it be that objects light years away shone so bright that their light could arrive at my eyes? I thought I had travelled far on this earth but looking up at the universe put into perspective just how little and insignificant I was. It was then that I saw movement, something I had never seen before – a shooting star – darting across the night sky. This drowsy, fatigued traveller couldn’t help but notice it. And the next one. And yet another …

This little moment in time … Was it too much to conclude that the heavenly bodies of the universe were conversing with me? One after the other, not too frequent to call it a shower of light but definitely more than a handful of these shooting stars, decorating the night, lighting the atmosphere on fire, tempting me to make a wish. And despite being a child’s tradition, I thought it foolish not to make at least one wish.

But what should I wish for? For love? For freedom? For safe passage back to town tomorrow? For courage to continue pursuing these adventures? For this serenity and peace, wanting nothing more at the time but to see the dance of these stars across the heavens, gently fading into oblivion, slowly evaporating into the darkness of the night? Though no words were spoken, I felt that the world listened to my heart’s supplications.

I also made a wish to remember this moment and all the circumstances that accounted for the peculiar time and place at which I found myself. A year has passed since that night, and I still remember.

the tapchan in which we stayed, right by the rushing river, taken at dusk

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More than a picture

2 August 2016

Ishkashim, Tajikistan (with Eshkashem, Afghanistan lying on the other side of the Panj River)

It’s incredible how a single picture can trigger so many detailed, vivid memories. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, here’s some things this picture couldn’t tell you.

Obviously there’s the sunset, but unless I told you, you’d never know that I had stopped at this town for the night because I thought (incorrectly) that it would have internet access. Having been travelling in the Wakhan Valley for the past few days and not having internet at all, I kind of hoped that there would be a chance to go online.

You’d never know that I had to register myself at the local military office and show the additional GBAO permit in my passport that allowed me to be in this part of Tajikistan.

You’d never know that I had just taken a stroll around town with fellow travellers David from Austria, who I had been travelling with we met in Sary Tash in Kyrgyzstan, and Charles from Québec, who we had met at our guesthouse in Ishkashim.

You’d never know that Fato and his kids Horod, Amir, and Yosomin, local Pamiris, were walking along the river bank where they encountered us. Fato talked to us travellers for a bit while the kids played around with carefree abandon, and all the while we enjoyed the cool breeze on another hot summer day.

You’d never know how much I pondered what life was like beyond the river, so close and yet seemingly still so far away, in a land that has been terrorized by war and invasion for centuries, in a land that I’ve heard about countless times in news headlines; it was surreal that I was separated from that land by only dozens of metres.

You’d never know that we cut through a field on the way back to our guesthouse and unwittingly trespassed through someone’s property.

You’d never know that we ended up at the house of an old woman who began yelling at us, resulting in my embarrassment for thinking that we made her angry, only to be surprised when she was just offering us tons of freshly-harvested fruits from her garden and invited us inside for tea.

You’d never know how much this day made me love travelling even more than I already did …

All of that I remembered from simply looking at this picture 🙂