Trail Magic

When thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail receive random acts of hospitality and kindness from total strangers, they call it “Trail Magic;” and when round-the-worlders discover these things in a city like Islamabad, well, I can’t think of a better term.

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Our flight to Gilgit was repeatedly canceled due to weather; some would have been annoyed at having to rise at 3 a.m. and schlepp to the airport four days in a row only to be denied — again — but frustrated not the Tranquilo Traveler gets, says Yoda-with-a-backpack perched on the TT’s shoulder; the TT takes a deep breath, accepts his daily fate and looks for the silver lining, which, some days, is more of a challenge to find than others — especially when the TT finds himself trapped in a sweltering, chaotic chouk in a place like Rawalpindi.

But, as his traveling partner’s stomach distress became worse instead of better, it was evident that flying to the boonies — or, worse, getting on an 18-hour bus to the boonies — would have been a very bad idea indeed.

So we accepted the opportunity to take action in a place where we had at least some contacts and resources. We called Professor Masud, the old colleague of Tay’s great-granpa, looking only for the name of a reliable clinic. Instead, his son and daughter-in-law, Khwajo Yaldram and Attiya Yaldram, with whom we’d recently dined, swooped into Rawalpindi, took us to a doctor, paid for the meds, then carried us to their home, where Attiya fed plain rice, yogurt, and green tea to Tay — and homemade sweets, chai, and a full spread of curried leftovers to yours truly. “Please, eat more,” she insisted, proving that the universal Motherly Instinct knows no national or cultural borders. I happily complied. I also promised to share my New England family with her daughter, Sophiya, 23, a brilliant artist and dancer who leaves this fall on a Fulbright ride to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

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The magic continued…

My last e-mail dispatch was read by a longtime TT reader, Rachel Ross, with whom I shared common friends and experiences in Nicaragua, but whose amistad had been exclusively virtual. Until now.

Rachel replied to “Pakistan: The Adventure Starts Now,” inviting me and Tay to her new apartment — in Islamabad. We accepted, paths finally crossed, friendships solidified, and Tay had a wonderfully cool and comfortable crib in which to recuperate. Rachel is here as a recent Master in Public Health, working on an infant mortality study with a Boston-based NGO, and, while Tay slept, she took me out for Saturday night glimpse of the Islamabad international expat scene, with all its self-indulgent selflessness and unsurprising similarities to such societies in other capitals around the world (including rumors and intrigue as to who’s really in the CIA).

Happy ending: The meds worked — or was it the TLC? We were healthy and, once again, ready to go; now we just needed the clouds above Gilgit to part and allow us passage.

I am happy to report that the clouds complied.

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