EXPEDITION TO KAGHAN VALLEY
Daily activity narration of the tour.
First Day 05th August 2015 (Wednesday)
The schedule time of departure was 0530 in the morning, and as usual my army training made my mental alarm go up by 4.30 in time to say my FAJAR prayers. After last minute packing and sorting out things I had early breakfast but one thing was against my routine and that was my favorite past time of sitting on the throne which somehow or the other alluded me to relive myself so early in the morning.
Waited for my co participants to reach my house in LALAZAR but somehow or the other they were late in coming and despite repeated phone calls to Mr. Ibrahim ur Rehman, he came to my place at about 7.30am.
There were two setbacks for me at this time as the vehicle which was originally planned was 4 x 4 double cabin pickup but a 1300 cc Corolla was sitting in front of my house. As a result of this all auxiliary and supporting equipment for the hiking had to be left behind along with some food stuff and snacks.
The second setback for me was the upset of the time schedule as my previous expeditions up North gave me this prescient knowledge to avoid going into ABBOTTABAD in the morning between 7 am and 9 am because of the heavy rush of schools and army centre.
We started our journey at about 7.30 am packing ourselves in the small jalopy the total configuration which was four adults and three children and my I.T man was sent in advance to the PHIRWADHAI ADDA to catch the Coaster to MANSEHRA (as there are no direct connections from Islamabad to NARAN by public transport except P.T.D.C)
My main journey was on G.T Road, Tarnol, Taxilla by passing WAH to Hassanabdal turning right from G.T Road to Haripur Havellian and on to Abbottabad.
There was heavy traffic on the road and when we reached Abbottabad, there was bumper to bumper traffic as the main road of Abbottabad has five army centre, many Army establishments and about three dozen schools and two medical colleges. So you can well imagine that what a mess of traffic it is to get out of this sardine lineup.
At this time my thoughts went towards the construction of the BHURHAN MANSEHRA express way which will bypass all this rush and bottleneck and NARAN will be accessible from Islamabad within 4 hours. I hope this express way will be completed by the end of 2017.
E-35 EXPRESS WAY, This motorway will facilitate all tourists (International & National) to reach lush green mountains of NARAN Kaghan valley.
Initially Hazara Motorway will start from Burhan Interchange of Islamabad-Peshawar (M1) Motorway. It will terminate at Havelian city of Haripur District. Then it will go towards Mansehra passing near to Abbottabad.
Motorway Stations are Hasan Abdal, Jari Kas, Khanpur, Havelian Dhamtour and Mansehra.
Distance from Burhan Interchange to Havelian is 65 Kilometers, while up to Mensehra is 110 Kilometers.
After Abottabad Mansehra was another bottleneck for traffic which took us another half an hour to cross finally we cleared Jabba Pass, Batrasi at about 1115 and were on our way to BALAKOT.
I was constantly in touch with my I.T man Raheel Rustam and his vehicle was on hot pursuit of my car.
We cleared BALAKOT at about 12.00 O Clock and found that the old city had been completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 2015, which completely devastated this area and the new town of Allai was completely modernized.
BALAKOT town is famous for the last resting place of Shaheed – e - BALAKOT Syed Ahmed Barwaili Shaheed and Shah Ismail Shaheed who embraced Shahdat at this place while fighting the Sikhs.
SYED AHMAD SHAHEED BARELVI (1786–1831), was a revolutionary Islamic activist in India. His supporters designated him an Amir al-Mu'minin ("Commander of the Believers") and shaheed ("martyr").
Syed Ahmad was influenced by Shah Abdul Aziz, son of Shah Waliullah. He toured India preaching Islamic renewal and jihad, and built a highly developed network of personal friends and partisans spread across northern India organized to recruit and dispatch men and financial aid.
In 1826 he provided an Islamic challenge to an expanding Sikh empire when he along with few hundred disciples, supported by his network, arrived in Peshawar, to establish an Islamic state among Pashtun tribes in the area.
Syed Ahmad and hundreds of his troops and followers were martyred while fighting the Sikh army in BALAKOT, Mansehra District in 1831, but a number of his followers survived and continued to fight on, taking part in tribal uprisings in the North-west province as late as 1897.
SHAH ISMAIL SHAHEED
Shah Ismail Dehalvi was an Islamic scholar and a warrior in the jihad proclaimed by Syed Ahmed Shaheed with Pushtoon tribes support against the Sikh kingdom in Punjab in the 19th century.
Shah Muhammad Ismail was the son of Shah Abdul-Ghani, the grandson of Shah Waliullah Dehlawi, and the nephew of Shah Abdul Aziz Muhaddith, Shah Rafiuddin Muhaddith and Shah Abdul-Qadir Muhaddith. Shah Ismail was born on 12th Rabi'ul-Awwal 1193 H (corresponding to 26 April 1779 G).
Shah Ismail is considered to be the founder of Wahabism in the sub-continent. He is highly regarded by Deobandis.
Shah Ismail's Jihad was under the leadership of Syed Ahmad Barelvi. Shah Ismail Dehalvi was killed on 6 May 1831 during a fierce battle with the Sikhs.
Both of these Shaheed’s are buried in two separate tombs in upper and lower BALAKOT and are referred to as Shaheed – e – BALAKOT.
At BALAKOT we crossed the river on the right side to open in to the door to Kaghan Valley and the first greeting point was Khannia from where we crossed the turning of Shugran at Khawai on to Parras Sheeno, Jared, Mahandri Village.
One very important point I would like to emphasize here is that from Mahandri Village you can also go to Ansoo Jheel via Biari, Munwar Gali Pass but this is a very long track.
Also from Mahandri you can go to Danna Madows a very beautiful spot but the road is nonexistent and the trek is on foot.
On the way about 35 kms from NARAN is a very good resting place by the name of Fairy land meadows Malakandi where you can have conferences and seminars but the greatest attraction is the hikes which you can enjoy while staying there.
Crossing Khannia you go the Kaghan Village where the river Kunhar closely flows by the road side and finally reaching NARAN at 2. 30 pm.
As we entered NARAN there was a great rush of the tourists who had come in for holiday season and gave the look of Murree Hills near to Independence Day.
We followed the main road in the bazaar to the BAILEY BRIDGE at the far end and tuning right near the bridge to Jheel Road and finally to our hotel located in a very scenic and peaceful environment.
After checking in to our rooms I got a call from RAHEEL that he was at the main ADDA of NARAN and was asking directions for pickup, which we did and went in the car to fetch him as he had walked half of the distance on foot.
RAHEEL had to change his bus two times to reach NARAN one at PHIRWADHAI and second at Mansehra and his journey was also quite exciting and thrilling.
After tea we rested in our rooms and then ordered for snacks which the cook prepared in a hurry and was not so enjoyable after such a long journey.
In the evening we went to the NARAN Bazar and had dinner at PUNJAB TIKKA HOUSE where the food was to our liking and sumptuous.
After dinner I tried to have night walk but most of the participants were very tired and weary and did not accompany me on the uphill road to the hotel.
Finally sleep engulfed us and all of us went in to deep slumber as if we had sold our Elephants and horses.
My army training and sixth sense again cautioned me for the ordeals of tomorrow which I brushed aside and went to sleep.
Second Day 06th August 2015 Thursday
We all got up late and amongst us only RAHEEL and myself were early risers so we came and sat in the reception and enjoyed an early cup of tea.
After great motivation and frantic calls to other participants to get up and have breakfast this ritual was completed by at about 11.00’ Clock.
We started late and were not able to be ready on time because of children problems and photo session for the sponsors banners.
Last minutes hiccups were there in one form or the other which I do not want to mention here but much to my relief and joy we were all packed in the car at about 11.30 and were on our way for our today’s schedule.
We went in to the city to fill the petrol tank and buy some road maps for the journey today.
A point to note here that NARAN has one scheduled and designated petrol pump where open petrol can be obtained from road side shops which is not up to standard and you may be deprived of a full imperial gallon when you put in 10 litres of petrol. A word of caution for all of you that whenever you go to a petrol pump to fill your tanks never order the filling as per 500 or 1000 rupees but ask them to fill in odd numbers of litres like 5,7,9,11,13 etc. because most of the pump owners have their calibration lowered in order to cheat the people.
We then moved towards the road to BABUSAR TOP and the road till Batakundi is very good and you meet many glaciers on the way where the locals sell cold drinks and make steps in snow for climbing up and they do charge you for that.
There is also rafting along the road side where you have to don life jackets sit in the raft and they take you downstream to a thrilling and exciting motion ride.
The next port of call is Barawai which is a small hamlet and has tea stalls for quick snacks. If you are the trekking enthusiast like me from Barawai you can trek along the Jora Nar Nara to small pass and finally reach Rati Gali Jheel from where you can further trek to DAWARIA in Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir.
After that the road to Jhalkand is not mettled and the speed becomes slow for an ordinary vehicle. The height here is 15802 feet of the hill feature and at Jhalkand you have the option to follow the trek road along the Jhalkand Nala to Noori Top.
Actually this is a Noori Nar pass which connects Kaghan valley with Neelum valley and is an important vantage road from defense point of view that Rations for the Kail brigade can be easily be transported by this shorter route as compared to the route along the Neelum river from Patikka, Kundal Shahi, Ath Makam, Sharda and Kail where this road is directly under enemy line of fire.
From Jhalkand you can also go to Piala Jheel which is about one hours trek and the folk legend of Saif ul Malooq also refers to this Jheel when the giant put his foot down in anger and Jheel / Lakes were created.
From Jhalkand there is a small sparsely in habited hamlet called Baisal from where on the road side is the Lolosar Jheel but on the right side if you can trek is Sat Sar Maala meadows and you follow the Porbi Nar Nala and go to Dodi Path Sar Jheel which is a full one day trek and you have to camp their at night.
I am contemplating to go on a hiking trip to Dodi Patsar Jheel in the near future but it will be full one day trek so it means three nights of camping.
On the other side Saral Jheel is also located at half a day trek through great heights and it is better if you acquire the services of a guide in case you want to make the trek to Saral Jheel.
From Baisal you start climbing to Gitti Dass and the road is very bad for about 20 miles or so but becomes mettle top till Babu Sar Pass. The important thing about GITTI DAS to
note is that here people from Chilas valley known as chillasi migrate in May and live there till September in very big meadows on the right side of Gitti Das which is bestowed with greenery, plantation, grass, refreshing springs from this village after a 7 mile assent up you reach the end of Kaghan Valley that is the Babusar Pass.
We finally reached BABU SAR PASS at the height of 13700 feet at about 1.30 pm and all the children were very hungry because we had very light breakfast in the morning.
There was a lot of complaining and groaning from the ladies which resulted in slight displeasure between the ladies and the gents but finally the ladies won and they usually do. We ordered for Pakoras Chips and eggs which were very late in coming as the water takes a very long time to boil at these heights because of low atmospheric pressure.
As the snacks were being made I ventured out and made friendship with the guards across the barrier of Gilgit Baltistan while the rest of the group indulged in exhaustive photo session at the Monument built by the 142 RMB (Road Maintenance Battalion) of the army corps of engineers.
I again went down the memory lane when in 1968 I was part of a hiking and mountaineering expedition from Cadet College Hassanabdal when we climbed to the Babosar top in July from the Babu Sar Village and walked on foot to Gitti Das where we found the foot bridge completely washed away and had to camp on the side of the river at night in sheer cold a night which I will always remember.
The snacks came in which I gulped down with a hot cup of tea but the urge for a second cup of tea was quickly negated by my sixth sense less the visit to the wash room becomes imperative.
On the other hand the ladies and children were making a Bee line for the washroom which was situated far away and an apology for a washroom but there were charges for their use and one has to make his wallet lighter on entering such dirty, filthy and dilapidated washrooms.
The BABU SAR PASS is now the gate way into the CHILAS valley and the village CHILAS is only 44 miles away.
The road from Bhurhan to Havelian to Mansehra to NARAN and over the BABU SAR TOP is a much shorter way if you want to go to gilgit and astore cutting down the driving time by six hours when the Bhurhan Havelian section will be completed.
At such heights you have Lack of Oxygen which is called in the medical language as Physiological Polycythaemia where the number of red blood corpuscles increase in size in order to compensate for the scarcity of Oxygen.
On the return the journey was quicker because of the descent and we reached LOLOOSAR LAKE where one could see the local tourists in large numbers enjoying the beautiful view and sitting by the lake.
This snow melt lake is one of the major sources of the KUNHAR RIVER which meanders through the Kaghan Valley.
I myself took off my shoes and dipped my feet in cold water and enjoyed nature at its best while IBRAHIM and company also had a car wash by a stream where the locals have made improvised service stations using the gravitational and potential force of the water to make high pressure water service nozzle.
As the women folk could not resist CHALLI so again we had to stop for CHALLI by one of the glaciers on the way.
On the way back to BATAKUNDI we parked our car and I hired the services of a jeep driver. Finally got a driver by the name Shabbir who had to 4x4 Jalopy for LALAZAR which was a very rickety and dilapidated.
We crossed the low Bailey bridge again and at the turning point of Police Barrier we turned left to the LALAZAR road on to the LALAZAR meadows. You cannot call it a road but a very bad jeep trek as my co-passengers very apprehensive and jittery specially the women folk’. This journey took about 35 minutes and was again full of adrenaline rush.
We reached LALAZAR a very fine beautiful natural meadow at the height of 13000 feet where again you can enjoy the serenity and tranquility of nature.
LALAZAR meadows worth seeing and should not be missed at any costs when NARAN trip is on the itinerary
Here we had a photo session again where I mingled with some hikers from Karachi who were very eager to listen to my adventures and took some pointers from me as they were planning a trip to the DODIPATHSAR LAKE.
Already evening was setting in so we turned back to GITTIDAS where we had a session of hot tea and Pakoras and finally got in to our vehicle for the return journey to NARAN.
We got down at the Punjab Tikka House and ordered Chicken Karahi Mixed Vegetable and Dall with green tea. We returned back to the hotel where we had a meeting for planning for tomorrow’s trek to ANSOO JHEEL which will be another hectic day.
Third day 07th August 2015 (Friday)
One thing I have learnt on this trekking expedition that children and families should not be taken on such a trip because of the impediments and bitter lessons which I learnt during the greater part of the day.
Despite my firm announcement that we will leave the hotel by 08.30 am but my co participants got up rubbing their eyes at 09.30 am and it was very hard to get them ready by the scheduled time.
Any way late breakfast at about 10.00 am and then again the usual preliminaries, photo sessions, children problems and herding them into the jeep for SAIFUL MALOOK LAKE.
ANSOO LAKE is situated in Kaghan Valley Mansehra District of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It is located near MALIKA PARBAT in the Himalayan range at the altitude of 4,245 meters (13,927 ft). This lake is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes of the world.
The name "Ansoo" comes from its tear-like shape (the Urdu word Ansoo means teardrop). The lake also resembles a human eye with a central ice island resembling the iris and a ridge resembling an eyebrow, which becomes even more prominent when ice melts on the "eyebrow" during the summer.
The lake is said to have been discovered in 1993 by Pakistan Air Force pilots who were flying low in the area. Earlier, the lake was not even known to the locals.
There is no place to stay at ANSOO LAKE. Some people may camp on the top of extremely cold and windy mountains but it is very risky and even the locals do not recommend this.
This lake can be reached by two different routes. First one is short but steeper trek from SAIFUL MULOOK LAKE. It takes more than 7 hours for a round trip to ANSOO LAKE starting from LAKE SAIFUL MULOOK. The trek is covered with snow in most parts of the year. The best time to trek is from July to August.
The optimal time to set off for the lake from SAIFUL MULOOK is around 06:00 in the morning, in order to return before sunset. Horses and guides can also be hired from the LAKE SAIFUL MULOOK.
Sometimes, the lake is not viewable due to fog or rain. The trek to the lake itself presents several picturesque views to the visitors. After hours of trekking a hill is climbed, and on the other side, ANSOO LAKE is visible. AANSOO LAKE can be reached using two treks;
FROM LAKE SAIF-UL-MALOOK
It takes seven to nine hours of trek for a round trip from Lake Saif-ul-Malook to ANSOO LAKE. This trek can be separated into two halves. The first part is through a valley alongside a river to the base camp of Malika Parbat. The second steeper part is from the base camp of Malika Parbat to ANSOO LAKE.
FROM MAHANDRI THROUGH MANOOR VILLAGE
The second trek to ANSOO LAKE begins in a village named Mahandri, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the south of NARAN. Turning left from Mahandri Bazar, a jeep track leads to Village Manoor. This valley offers picturesque views.
Vehicles cannot proceed further from here. 6–7 hours of trek brings one to a green meadow called “Dher”. From here the trek becomes steeper. After 3–4 hours of trek from Dher at a height of about 14,000 feet, ANSOO LAKE becomes visible.
The jeep ride from Jheel Road NARAN to SAIF UL MALOOK takes about 1 hour but the distance is less than 8kms. This is because of the poor and dilapidated condition of the road with the ascent line of a gradient of 45 degrees and the jeep has to navigate the climb and ascend the S-bends in the first gear and sometimes even the 4 x 4 has to be used.
One peculiar fact of this road which I would like to bring to the notice of my readers is that about 10 years ago the construction of this road was started with great zeal and enthusiasm by the army corps of Engineers. They made the initial pilot cut and widened the road and starting laying the sub base.
On seeing the construction of the road the local jeep mafia raised objections to the constructions of this road and went on strike and blocked the NARAN Road. They were agitating that in case the road is constructed then they will be out of business, since then the road is not being built but you can see some portions of the road which was carpeted by the army corps of Engineers.
One another very interesting point about this road is that when you hire a jeep from NARAN there is a full jeep mafia and cartelization that you cannot bring the rate down. Thirdly when you are half way up on this road the jeep driver will deliberately stop at a particular point where three people are posing as workers trying to repair the road.
This is another big scam on the NARAN SAIF UL MALOOK road, where these pseudo workers in connivance with these jeep drivers fleece you of your hard earned money so never pay them no matter how much empathy you have in your heart.
On reaching the SAIF UL MALOOK LAKE you will be confronted with hordes and hordes of jeeps parked like sardines in the parking area and you will have problem in disembarking because of the rush of the people there in the assembly area.
At this moment you have to leave your jeep and make your way to the restaurant and the dining area for a quick cup of tea or snacks and the traditional Pakoras but the prices are again three times of what you find in the plains.
We all got down from our jeep and I sent the ladies and the children ahead where as I along with my entourage had a photo session on the jeeps with our banner from the sponsors.
The time was 11:30 am and I made my way to the lower terrace to arrange for the horses for our expedition to ANSOO JHEEL. The locals at this tried to discourage us not to take the trip because of the time shortage and secondly the trek was a dangerous one.
I was determined and adamant to make the trip so I showed my could not care less attitude and hired 3 horses for our expedition to ANSOO JHEEL.
I came back to our families and apprised them of my decision of taking the trip to ANSOO JHEEL where a lot of opposition and impediments were shown by Mr. Ibrahim’s wife but on my persuasion and motivation Ibrahim came along with me on the trip.
I packed my rucksack with edibles, juices and drinks and went to the departure area to mount our respective horse. As I was the leader hence a fine sturdy horse by the name of BADAL was given to me, RAJA was given to IBRAHIM and SHERA was mounted by RAHEEL and TAHA the eldest son of Ibrahim.
The first part of the journey is relatively easy on the bank of lake SAIF UL MALOOK which takes about one hour to circumvent and navigate round the lake till you come to some JHUGGIS (Mud huts) where some of the BAKARWALS live. These are nomadic people who migrate to this summer pasture in the month of April every year and depart from this area in late October when the road becomes closed due to snow.
Their lively hood depends on raising vegetables, fodder, maize, millet and corn. They also bring with them their live stock and horses from which the men folk earn their lively hood by catering to the joy rides of the tourist who come to visit LAKE SAIF UL MALOOK.
From SAIF UL MALOOK to Base camp is a ride on horseback though uneven tracks, small Nalas, river lets and streams. If you are on horseback then the poor horse takes you across theses small obstacles but RAHEEL and IBRAHIM feeling adventurous started walking and were on their foot and had to take off their shoes to maneuver over these ankle-deep streams of water.
Finally at the base camp it was time to rest and view the splendid scenery and take pictures.
The majestic MALKA PARBATH PEAK could be seen on that sunny day sometimes being engulfed in clouds and sometimes a clear view could be obtained. We had snacks and cold drinks which I had brought in my rucksack and after 45 minutes of rest we started on our second trek of the expedition.
From the base camp to the (Pehli Takkar) to the first ridge is a sheer climb of more than 40 degrees on a very small narrow path. I was a bit out of breath because of my weight but somehow or the other managed to climb behind IBRAHIM, RAHEEL and TAHA to the first ridge.
My speed of climb was very slow like that of a snail and I started cursing myself that how come I landed myself in this unfit position with obesity and bulkiness which were not my hallmark about 30 years ago when as a young captain in the Pakistan Army I was able to climb peaks which even had a vertical ascent.
So much for memory lane as my accelerated heartbeat (tachycardia) and dysponea (Breathlessness) jolted me to the present when I saw rest of my teammates already perched on the first ridge. Since I was slowing down my companions because of my fatigue conditions so I called for a hurried meeting and decided that all three IBRAHIM, RAHEEL and TAHA should go ahead where as I will follow them at my pace.
I rested for a while at first ridge while Ibrahim & company went ahead to the second ridge and soon they were out of sight. I met many people coming back from ANSOO JHEEL and enquired about their completion of the trip but I did not get any answer in the affirmative.
Many families were complaining about the hardship and ordeals of the climb and they had to abandon their attempt midway from the third ridge.
The third part of the climb from Second to ridge to third ridge was not that difficult but fatigue and tiredness were taking a toll of our physical abilities and mental faculties. This was again burdened by the cold weather and lack of oxygen which further aggravated our ordeals.
The walking pathway was very narrow and there was a steep fall on the left side and one false move and you were history. We were not prepared for the extreme of the weather and our water supply and snacks were running out. Our walk was tessellated between alternate bouts of resting and walking because we got tired very quickly complicated by the quench of thirst and hungry pangs of the stomach. This drove us against the wall and we had to drink from the stream which came on our way but the water was very cold and you could not take more than a few sips.
The drop of temperature was also causing numbness, headache and bluish coloration of the skin but it was sheer willpower and determination which drove us on and then we reached the glacier which was about half a furlong so taking caution we went to the edge of the glacier and traversed it by climbing the rocks on the side. This took us about 25 minutes to cross as our speed was slow. IBRAHIM and TAHA were on horseback whereas RAHEEL had to tread on foot which again slowed down our progress.
Crossing the glacier we came across small waterfalls but they were on our left side where as we were walking on the right side and crossed the incline in another 15 minutes to reach a fairly high ground from where the adjacent peaks looked like miniatures.
The view of MALKA PERBATH from this point was very clear and was a sight for the sore eyes which we did not appreciate at that point but now reminiscing about the view it flashes upon on the inner eye with an urge to see it once again from that vantage point.
From the water falls to the fourth ridge was again a steep incline which we managed to climb on foot taking the help of each other in case of any slip on the snow.
From the fourth ridge to fifth ridge was a trek on dry ground with steep ascent again to the sixth ridge again from where we were joined by some youngsters who had walked all the way from NARAN to this place.
From the fifth ridge was a very tricky trek because at this point you had to leave your horses and make your way on foot which is an experience of a life time and it is something later on you can tell as a bedtime story to your grandchildren.
Access to ANSOO JHEEL is restricted because of heavy snow fall, slippery and steep slopes, high velocity of winds and extreme cold temperature dropping to about 10 degree C.
We reached the summation peak at about 4.22 pm and lo and behold it was such a sight which I will remember all my life. The View of ANSOO JHEEL was from 2000 feet above and from there photography and photo session with the sponsor’s banner was held. The wind velocity was so high that it was difficult to hold the banner at ground level and because of the opposing air impact the banners were being blown up like inverted hammocks.
The view of ANSOO JHEEL from this height was an exhilarating and mesmerizing experience because sometimes the view was clear and sometimes the view was impeded, obscure by clouds reducing the visibility.
This was a point of achievement and ecstasy for me that after my last climb to the HARAMOSH- I in 1979, I had climbed to such a height again at the age of 64 years.
The people who were accompanying us also lent us a helping hand in holding the banners and getting the photography done so that the sponsor’s message could be photographed at that height.
The return journey started at about 5.20 pm as the cold was unbearable and shadows of the surrounding mountains were casting a hideous, spooky, scary and bloodcurdling gloom over the valley and my sixth sense sent a message to my tentacles to make a hurried exit from this place.
We came to ridge five and collected our horses and started on the decent which was very uneventful and easy and reached the base camp at about 6.45 and finally reached the visitors area of LAKE SAIF UL MALOOK at about 7.30 pm when darkness was falling and our physical condition was at its lowest ebb.
There we were greeted with great scolding and admonishing from the lady wives who were waiting for us since afternoon but turning a deaf ear to the constant nagging of the wives we gulped down hot tea and chips which we greatly deserved after such a laborious, exciting, thrilling and adventurous hike.
At about 8.30 we boarded our jeeps and made our way from LAKE SAIF UL MALOOK to our hotel on Jheel Road and reached there at about 10.30, where I just fell down on the bed nor even taking off my clothes and shoes and went into a deep slumber which I greatly deserved.
The mistakes which I made on this trip were that I started the trip late, did not take with me adequate water and rations and the greatest blunder committed by me was I attempted this trek without proper warm clothing’s and trekking gear (snow stick).
This trip had its own peculiarities as injury took toll of my palms and wrist, Ibrahim fell down twice on snow where as RAHEEL and TAHA remained unscathed.
As I slept in my room Ibrahim and RAHEEL went to Punjab Tikka House in the Main Bazar of NARAN and brought with them our Dinner of Nan & Saji which I had in the bed in my room as I was in no condition even to sit up on the dining table and have my dinner.
That day I slept like a log as I was nursing my injuries to my hand and foot but the fatigue and tiredness was so much that I became oblivious of my pain and sufferings and went into the embrace of Madam sleep.
Let this trip narration of mine be a guide line for youngsters and families who intend to make this trip with me to ANSOO JHEEL next year.
FOURTH DAY 08TH AUGUST 2015 SATURDAY
The morning of 08th August came very quickly as most of us were very tired after the long arduous, hectic, difficult, laborious and adventurous trip to ANSOO JHEEL last night. I along with RAHEEL were the first ones to get up in the morning and as usual the early morning tea made my eyes fully open and the caffeine kick made me rejuvenated for the day ahead.
We started discussing with the local hotel manager about the other sites to be visited in the NARAN valley and it dawned upon us that the beautiful sites of the Kaghan Valley have alluded us because of little information about their where about’s and hazards and difficulty in excising them. We made inquires about DODI PATH SAR JHEEL, PYALA JHEEL, BABU SAR JHEEL, SHARAN FOREST and the hike up to the base camp of MUSA KA MASLAH the prayer mat of mosses. May be if we get good sponsors next time then we can make expeditions to these places. So we have marked this for next year.
Again after much coaxing and wakeup calls the participants along with the children had their breakfast at about 11.30 am and it was again an ordeal to get them in the car for our trip to Shugran.
This reminded me of a saying which I usually quote in my HR lectures that to “Make a camel sit in a Rickshaw and to make a Pathan understand something is one and the same thing. So you can understand my dilemma of making the women folk and children sit in the car on time is a explanation of my above narrative.
We started for SHUGRAN and my co-participant Ibrahim drove the car at breakneck speed despite many groans and grunts from the lady folks and children that they would like to stop here and there.
We Reached Shugran at about 2.30 after the bad road from Khawai. The last time when I came on this road this was a very good mettle road but now this road is in a very bad condition and needs the immediate attention of the provincial government of KPK.
At Shugran one of the lady participants Mrs. Ibrahim came under the weather and simply refused to move any further so our trip was coming to a sudden end but after my great motivation and buck up we made her rest where as I went in search of a Jeep to take us to Sari and Payee…..
When I reached the jeep Adda there was complete cartelization and the union man gave me a flat rate of Rs. 3000/- but after some haggling the rate of Rs. 2500/- was decided.
We again got in to the jeep and started the same 3D adrenalin rush ride to Sari lake by passing the sari lake we continued on our ascent to Payee. In local language Sari means a lake and Payee means a plain or meadow.
We reached payee at about 4.15 pm and ascended the small slope up to the Kokha’s where we ordered snacks and tea. One thing I must tell you always enquire about the rate and quantity of the food that you are ordering beforehand.
As we waited for the light snack and tea RAHEEL ventured on his own to the far end of the ridge and suddenly saw an isolated snake and got excited and called me in a hurry and I was also able to have a glimpse of the snake just before it disappeared in the bushes.
At payee the weather was ideal very cold and misty and we walked to upper meadows but the lady folks were adamant and reluctant to go any further than this.
Some of the people even went up to the base camp of MAKRA PEAK which is ideal for trekking even for school children and ladies.
We had photography session along with snacks and tea and finally made our way back to the jeep at about 5.30 pm and got down at Shugran to take our car on to the NARAN road back to NARAN.
On the Return journey in the evening stopped at Kaghan for CHAPPAL KABABS. As the Chapal Kababs were being made I interacted with the locals and they told me that this road will be a part of the CPEC and will be widened by 30 feet on either side from NARAN to Mansehra…..
Late night we reached our hotel at about 10.30 and since tonight was our last night so we decided to have a camp fire and played ANTAKSHIREE for some times and then each one of the participants were given five minutes to narrate some good episode in their life followed by green tea giving the special aroma and finally went to sleep at about 12.30.
Fifth Day 09th August 2015 Sunday
My learning curve is improving day by day and every day is new experience for me. Despite my best possible efforts everyone was late in getting up and then making them ready was another ordeal. Finally after much persuasion we had breakfast at 11.00 am then the last minute packing and putting the luggage in the vehicle was another uphill task which was left to Raheel to take care of the matter.
Photo session was next on the itinerary and that also took about 30 minutes, then cleared the hotel bills and finally we were on our way on JHEEL road to Bailey Bridge turning left on the NARAN bye pass road and Said good bye to NARAN.
Hardly had we gone ahead 45 minutes when the women folk saw a suspension bridge and their burning desire and eager enthusiasm to have their pictures taken on this bridge took another one hour of my driving time. We stopped at road side suspension bridge at Jalwaran where we had photo session and interacted with locals and tourists.
After proceeding for another 25 minutes we saw many road side cafes sporting the sign of live Trout for eating. This came as another jolt to me from the women folk who again were adamant and obdurate not to budge an inch without savoring the delicacy of NARAN the Trout. We got down at a road side restaurant where the women folk threw caution to the wind and took off their shoes along with the children and went to the river side to stand in the cold deep gushing water.
I was left with the restaurant team to order Trout fish for eating which they take out by the help of a net from the pond with flowing cold water. This trout fish is a delicacy of the northern areas and a sumptuous meal of trout should not be missed when one visits the northern areas.
Here I would like to explain and elaborate for my readers that these trout’s which you see and eat on the road side ponds are not the naturally occurring trout but in fact are raised from trout seedlings and nurtured and reared for maturity in trout farms which are found in abundance in northern areas especially in Parras, Jared, and Sheenu, which are small hamlets on the road to BALAKOT from NARAN.
These artificially nurtured trout fish cost about Rs. 1200 to 1800/- per Kilo but the one caught from KUNAR RIVER by anglers and netting cost about Rs.3500 to 4000 per kilo and their taste is much better than the artificial ones and are also called the Brown Trout.
As the trout was being cleaned, processed and cooked I interacted with the cook and asked him about the recipe for cooking the Trout.
Fresh running water is required to keep this fish alive and in these ponds the temperature is about 10 degrees C otherwise the fish will die.
The recipe for cooking the trout is first to add Salt then Chat Masala then mixed Masala then fish Masala, Black pepper white vinegar basin in a small quantity and finally lemon marinating.
The families were busy in dipping their feet in cold water and having photo session whereas I just relaxed on the Manji (Charpai) by the river side and went in to my favorite past time of having a quick catnap.
The food was late in coming and 3 hours were again wasted in this process of stopping ordering relaxing enjoying the weather and finally eating one of the rare delicacies of northern areas.
We left for BALAKOT at about 3’ O Clock and had a very quick sailing till Khawai after which we started getting resistance on the road because of the traffic and the weather started becoming warmer and the sun shown with full warmth and ferocity on us.
Apart from the very bad traffic there were problems with children and also with one of our ladies participants who starting having nostalgia and giddiness so we had to stop for 20 minutes again at BALAKOT.
We reached the junction of NARAN- KKH road at about 5’ O Clock and then from Masehra to Abbotabad it was bumper to bumper traffic. The urge for the trip to the washroom became very much persistent hence we had to stop at Abbottabad for quick cup of tea. Leaving Abbottabad after Maghrib prayers was another ordeal as the roads are narrow and traffic is heavy on both sides.
There were frustrating traffic jams and delays and traffic came to a standstill near Haripur because of anxious and untrained drivers who jumped the queue causing hurdles.
At this moment a thought flashed upon me “When will the Bhurhan Mansehra Motorway be built”?
If this is built by the year 2017 then the journey time to NARAN from Rawalpindi will be less than 4 fours and you can reach Chilas via the BABUSAR PASS within 6 hours and onwards to Gilgit in 10 hours.
The latest information about the this Bhurhan Mansehra motorway is that the properties along the route have been more or less been purchased and the contract for building of the motorway will be awarded shortly……….. so keep your fingers crossed.
At about 9.50 pm we reached the GT Road intersection at Hassanadal and turned left towards Rawalpindi finally reaching Rawalpindi at about 11.00 O’ Clock. We dropped RAHEEL at Saddar and then we got down at LALAZAR with our Luggage. Ibrahim and family were on their way at 11.30 and finally reached home at DHA – II at about 12.00 am
This is the culminating end of one of my another expedition to the northern areas.
What an interesting, intriguing, exhilarating, adventurous trip it has been as all our batteries were fully recharged by the breathing of fresh air laden with ozone free from hassle and bustle of town life and no schedules to be met. Every Pakistani who has love for nature and outing must try to visit these rare jewels of Mother Nature which we have in abundance in Pakistan.
Hope this will be a reference guide for those people who are envisaging a visit to NARAN in the near future.
Dr. Babur Zahiruddin