Along with the driver we hired, Hassan accompanied us on the ride back to Skardu from Hushe. Also in tow was a random teenager from the village who had slept in too late, missing his earlier bus to the city to write his exams that started the next day.
Situated on the immediate outskirts of Central Karakoram National Park, the village of Hushe (part of Hushe Valley in the Ghanche District of Gilgit-Baltistan) is the stopover point for treks to Mashabrum and Gondogoro La.
Entering the airport arrival hall in Lahore at 5 am, I was met with a sea of multicolored salwar kameez and not-so-discreet gazes from curious onlookers. Once Maida and her family appeared outside to whisk me away (and snap me out of my red-eyed trance), we headed directly to her home.