When I was 17 I was allowed to go on a trip alone for the first time. So I made my way by hitchhiking to Amsterdam with my savings. I stayed at the Vondel Park and had contact with hashish for the first time. Of course, as a non-smoker, I couldn't take take a pull and when I tried to smoke the chillum I failed in a pathetic coughing attack.
But the fascination was born. Over time, I mutated into a passionate chillum smoker always on the search for the best Hashish. During my high school days, during my training time to become a teacher and even during my teaching activities, the chillum was always my daily companion. Of course, with this passion you got into a gray-black area, because of that role model function nobody was allowed to know anything about this habit except my closest friends.
On the bus to Mingora in Swat, I felt the liberation from this gray-black area and this merciless social embrace for the first time in my life. I felt that the game of hide-and-seek was coming to an end.
The atmosphere in the bus was very friendly right from the start. Pakistanis are very proud and happy and euphoric when tourists are interested in their country. They suffer very much from the fact that many hippies only use their land to travel from Afghanistan to India as a transit. We sat down in the front of the bus next to the driver, which should prove to be a disadvantage at the beginning. The non-existent door let the stifling hot air hit us directly and was additionally heated up by the Bedford's engine inside the bus.
But after a certain time, after passing the checkpoint with the hint that we were going to the tribal area of Swat at our own risk, the air slowly cooled down and the view of the ever greener Swat valley was now excellent to enjoy. Passing some red and white blooming opium fields, we arrived in Mingora.
At this time the apricot and plum harvest was just beginning in the Swat valley, so we bought some fruits on the street market near the bus stand. I already knew from Switzerland the incredibly aromatic dried apricots from the Hunza Valley, tasting like marzipan, but these fresh fruits were also incredibly good. The Pashtuns collect the stones of the fruits, dry them and then crack them to get to the almond-like kernels. That's how we did it too. Excellent! But only eat a few a day. The kernels like the ones of plums and cherries contain some hydrogen cyanide and too much can be fatal.
Of course we had already made friends with the Pashtuns who were traveling with us and were immediately invited for the famous, very sweet milk chai and a fiery hot Pakora with spinach or onions. The Pakora maker was very amused that we panted for air because of the spiciness. He prepared the delicacy in a large, flat, wok-like bowl filled with sizzling hot oil. He asked mischievously whether the oil was hot, and in response to our astonished faces he stuck his index finger deep into the oil and said smugly with a smile: No hot!
We were then invited to continue our journey with a few Paschtun men who traveled to Kalam with all their purchases in an open Toyota Jeep and they were very happy that we accepted the invitation and also took a seat on the loading area.
We drove over a country like road littered with potholes and regularly flew up to the sky and to land after more or less gently on the back of the jeep. Fortunately, we still had some "travel balls" from Quetta left over, which we ate before the trip. This now eased the pain of the bumpy ride, past waving children through an enchanting terraced landscape, along the pretty wild turquoise blue Swat River we went up the valley. And it began to smell.
After about 3 hours we reached Madyan, at that time still a small, rather sleepy village, but already known by locals as a very relaxing hill station to stay.
A dealer was selling Coca Cola at the entrance to the village. It seemed that this product wasn't exactly selling well up here. To compare with old wine bottles, the content had evaporated and sunk to the level of a deep shoulder. Through the bazaar it went steeply down to a bridge that led over the Chail River.
Now I caught my breath. I knew immediately that I had arrived at the right place, I had found my scent. Shortly before the bridge stood a small field of wild hemp. It smelled so intoxicatingly intense that I just had to get out. I've never smoked ganja or marijuana but was more than impressed by the end product. And this inviting, intense scent promised excellent smoking experiences. As it turned out later, no hash was grown in the Swat. But Madyan back then was a place where locals and a few westerners who lived there celebrated the best quality in their chillums and hookahs.
After the bridge there was a small tea shop built high on stilts over the Chail River.
So I wanted to stop and have a cup of tea, because I already knew that my journey will end here for the first moment. Of course I wanted to invite my fellow travelers to it, which of course remained a shy thought. To brew a new tea, they threw a kettle attached to a long rope into the river to draw water for it. The small chai shop also rented out a few small stone bungalows right next to a mill a little below right on the river.
We decided to stay here.
We had to stay here because we had finally arrived at the place we hadn't known before the trip and which we had in mind to look for. Madyan should become our destiny and happiness!
Of course, our new friends were not very enthusiastic because they thought we would travel to Kalam with them. After the high and sacred promise that we would soon visit them in Kalam, they left us behind.
The stone bungalows were simply decorated, 2 charpoy and that was it. Anyone who knows these traditional, wonderful beds knows that with my height of 1m96cm I exceeded the dimensions of a charpoy by far and I needed a special sleeping position to be able to find a comfortable position on the charpoy, which are also not too wide.
We soon realized that we had neighbors. The next two bungalows were rented to what looked like a wealthier family from Peshawar. Many Peshawari who are able to escape the cruel heat in the city, can find some cooling in the fresh breeze at 1300m. But that was not the main reason for their stay. The head of the family was not doing particularly well, he kept vomiting into one of the small canals along the river and the rest of the time he spent moaning and groaning on his charpoy, wrapped in a warm blanket, although it was not really cool here during the day either.
It was obvious that he had to recover from his opium addiction and therefore spent a few uncomfortable days in this paradisiacal place.
On that very first evening in Madyan, in this inconspicuous chai shop, my life was to change fundamentally. I was supposed to get to know a young man and through him the door to paradise was opened for me, at least for the next three months. Just thinking about it, my eyes get wet again.
©by Koh Nie