First-Timers in the Hindu Kush
Dec 31 2012
The year was 1978. My uncle Daoud was hiking through the tribal regions of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. These days that area is one of the most dangerous places in the world, home to warlords and legendary gun markets. But when my uncle and two of his friends from college, Haroon and Kasem, decided to journey from village to village, those verdant slopes and jagged ridges became the site of an epic, if not altogether safe, adventure. That trip would be the first and only time my uncle ever got high. On weed. He told me his story over the holidays.
Daoud was 19. At the time, the villages were welcoming places to weary travelers, and it was hospitality that the trio found when they arrived in the village of Naran. Kasem had a terrible case of diarrhea, so they sought shelter before the group’s planned excursion to Abbottabad two days later. A local shopkeeper with a storefront in the town’s small bazaar agreed to let them sleep in his store on woven cots for a couple of nights. They accepted this relative upgrade from tents graciously, left their packs, and began exploring the neighborhood, Kasem whimpering along with them throughout. Eventually Kasem returned to the store, leaving the other two just as they met a group of students their age also traveling through the region. One of the kids asked what the matter was with their friend. Upon hearing of his affliction, that kid invited the three boys to their guesthouse, where he promised to provide medicine that would cure Kasem fully. He asked only that they bring a bundle of naan from the bazaar when they came for dinner that evening.
Kasem’s condition worsened, so Daoud and Haroon set off to dinner without him, leaving him with a bag of sour plums, which they swore would provide some relief. They promised to return with bowel-saving medicine and set off into the glimmering dusk. Following the directions provided, Daoud and Haroon crossed a vast frozen ravine and climbed up the side of a hill to get to the guesthouse. After a bit of struggle, they arrived to a spread of omelets. The medicine man informed them that one of the omelets contained the medicine, and that they should save this one for Kasem in its entirety. He then served them their own medicine-free omelets and eagerly awaited their approval.
Daoud and Haroon looked down at their dinner, austere omelets devoid of delicious ingredients, and then glanced over at Kasem’s omelet, which was infused with a mysterious herbal medicine. Its color was darker than the others and it exuded a beckoning odor. Daoud and Haroon indulged their curiosity and sneaked a taste of the medicinal omelet. It was damn good. Abandoning their own omelets, the pair decided that there would still be plenty of medicine left for Kasem if they divided the delicious mystery omelet into thirds, consumed their shares, and delivered the last bit to him back at the shop.
This troubled their host, who continued to insist that they attend to the omelets he had so lovingly prepared just for them. But the hungry pair kept at it, ensuring that any potential illnesses they might be susceptible to were headed off at the pass. Once dinner was done, the host humbly offered dessert, with the caveat that the only sweet food in his possession was jelly and toast. At this point, my uncle Daoud had still not caught on to the nature of the medicine he had consumed, but Haroon began to appear as though he had known the score from the start and insisted that if jelly and toast was the only dessert available to him, then jelly and toast they would eat. Daoud later found out that his enthusiasm was rooted in the belief that sugary foods enhance an ingested hash or marijuana high. Incidentally, the counterpart to this theory is that sour fruits and the like diminish the high quicker.
After a few hefty servings of jelly and toast, their host insisted that Daoud and Haroon leave the guesthouse and return to their storefront accommodations. Daoud declined their host’s offer to lead them back through the frozen ravine and instead grabbed a couple of flashlights. They hit the trail, and that’s when the lay of the land began to look unfamiliar.
They walked and walked, gradually growing skeptical of their own sense of direction. Uncle Daoud described the coming on of the high as an elated experience, filled with wonderment and euphoria and tinged with a thrill that grew into palpable fear as they lost their way. He became aware of Haroon’s disorientation when he stopped on the trail and identified a large stick as a poisonous snake. After some time, they reached a cliff that dropped about eight feet onto a surface that they could not decipher. It was either a road or a river. Quelling their initial urge to jump down and just see what would happen, Daoud lowered Haroon onto the surface to confirm that it was indeed the road that would lead them to the ice ravine.
The thought of the ice ravine suddenly terrified my uncle, who, following the river-or-road obstacle, decided that his top priority would be to keep Haroon alive—not quite for Haroon’s sake, but so that Daoud himself wouldn’t be left alone in the treacherous wilds of this strange landscape, growing stranger by the minute. At this point, he still hadn’t realized he was stoned, allowing him to indulge fully in the fantasy of this adventure.
After what might have been hours, the two boys reached the ice ravine and gazed up at the lights of the bazaar on top of the hill on the other side like Frodo and Sam staring at the Eye of Mordor. They traversed the shattered glass terrain with Haroon in the lead, Daoud far less concerned for his safety with their destination is sight.
When they finally reached the bazaar, they knocked on every store on the street before finally seeing Kasem’s drained face emerging from one of them. Haroon promptly passed out leaving Daoud to contemplate their journey, which he then left behind to contemplate every single other thing that popped into his head. He began to feel deeply panicked. Suddenly it occurred to him: The sour plums he left for Kasem were the key to quelling this hyper alert state of mind. To his disappointment, Kasem told him the plums were so sour that he threw them into a gutter behind the shop. Inexplicably, my uncle decided to punish Kasem for this by eating the final third of the hash omelet. Not only did this make him immensely more stoned, he also now had reason to believe that his companions had orchestrated the entire ordeal and that they would kill him as soon as he closed his eyes. Daoud spent a restless night in a qausi-dream state and awoke dazed and dehydrated, rousing the other two to ask that questions that rings out in the wake of lost nights through the ages: What the fuck happened last night?
This instance remains the only time my Uncle Daoud has been stoned, and he swears that it will remain the only one. But as he was telling me— his pothead nephew on the day after Christmas—I figured that he might want to explore weed’s adventure-making effects further. My Weediquette mission for 2013 is to recreate this adventure for my uncle. I’ve got a hash omelet recipe and a mountain range all picked out.