The Extreme Sport – Doing the Ground Work

What can be more extreme than riding an earthquake? Riding the aftermath of it! Yesterday morning I started out on a great adventure. I thought that it would be fun to get out of the tent and out of the compound in Muzaffarabad and see why we are really here.

So we took a 1 hour drive up the Neelum Valley to Kahoori, a village that has very few physical structures standing. The ride up there was amazing and extreme. Much of the road had been destroyed in the October 8th earthquakes and so was carved out of the size of the mountain. Most of the road was barely wide enough for two cars to pass let alone a bus. The rest was one lane.

Imagine hanging on the side of a steep mountain on loose gravel with a large bus heading straight toward you and not at a slow speed. This was normal conditions on this road.

The Neelum Valley Road
The Neelum Valley Road showing landslides.

The sport part is to see how wide a vehicle you can pass on the narrowest stretch of road. The burly Canadian guy, new to Pakistan, was not impressed at all.

As we drove through the valley we saw villages that were totally flattened.

Destroyed Village
Destroyed village just north of Muzaffarabad.

Once we got to Kahoori, we took a brief tour of the city. It was devastated. Very few homes were standing. We even saw the school that was destroyed while full of children. Many of the people I talked with had children killed in this school.

Destroyed School
Part of the village of Kahoori with the school toward the back.

But we were not there just to sight-see, there were 360+ tents that were to be delivered to those that were in need along with some comforters.

One of the Delivery Trucks
One of the nine delivery trucks, this one loaded with tents.

I am not sure how these guys made it up the valley, but they did.

The process was pretty simple. One of the officials of the city had made a list of people that were in need and the tents and blankets were distributed accordingly. The head of the family would be called and he or a representative would be identified by the leadership then given a paper which he would take over to the trucks and redeem for a tent and two large comforters.

Me at the table
Shaking hands and giving out the “ticket” to redeem for tents and blankets.

Man with ticket
An elderly man with his “ticket”.

Girl waiting expectantly
A girl waiting expectantly for her family’s tent.

Though I was there to help and was hoping to do some hard labor like unloading and carrying tents, I was not permitted to do it. I finally was able to help a man take the blankets to his widowed mother while he carried the tent (they were probably around 70lbs). Unfortunately I forgot my camera.

Once at the home, it was very awkward to go into the living area of a conservitive Muslim family especially with women around. I came to find out that her husband passed away prior to the quake but she lost several sons and at least 3 grandchildren on October 8th.

Though it was not uncommon to see the elderly women’s faces, it was unusually to see the younger women.

Girl with mother and grandmother
A girl with her mother and grandmother waiting with their tent.

The widow had three of her daughters and daughter-in-laws with her. I was able to communicate with them though only one of the daughter’s spoke English. They showed pictures of the family member’s that were lost and then on the youngest child I saw the scars from where he was hurt by the rubble.

They made sure that I had tea, first providing me with juice and then tea with the fresh tea leaves still floating in it. They brought out biscuits which were “Kashmiri Special”. They were basically a dry biscuit similar to what we use for biscuit and gravy. Once that was over they wanted to feed me. I finally convinced them that I had to go back and work. However, they made sure I took some juices and biscuits to the “Madame”.

“Madame” is really Tara who is in charge of the Canadian Relief Foundation (CRF) work here and one of her responsibilities has been doing these tent distributions.

Tara hugging boy
Tara having a break and spending some time with a little boy.

This was a fun day and so fulfilling to these people and see their joy and experience thier hospitality.

Boys waiting
Some boys waiting with their tent.

Father and Sons
A father with his boys enjoying a break.

Shy boy with sister
Luring a little boy for a picture.

Man with the mountains
Incredible beauty of the people and their land.

What a blessing it was to be able to interact with people and be a part of the stories rather than just hear them as people warmed up in our Internet Cafe.