I got a chance to visit the northern areas of my beloved homeland Pakistan. It was a long-awaited trip. It was a hot and humid month of July 2016 and we packed our bags and got ready to spend 10 days with the staggering beauty of the north. After spending the first week in the summer heat of Islamabad we were about to embark on a journey to a different world, where everything that could turn green had outdone itself in greenness and everything that could even dream of blooming or blossoming was in bloom and blossom. The breezes were so caressingly soft and intimate on the skin that you are in love with nature from head to toe.
Naran is a medium sized town situated in upper Kaghan valley which is a part of Khyber Pakhtun khwa province of Pakistan. It is one of the most beautiful parts of northern areas in Pakistan with an elevation of 2500 meters above sea level. The road to Naran valley travels alongside river Kunhar which starts from the glaciers up north and flows deep down in Mansehra. You can witness river Kunhar splashing, burbling and hopping over the rocks. This river is the liquid soul of the valley and the way it curves and moves around the whole path was enough to rejuvenate my soul. The soul that was hiding somewhere drenched in the monotonous day to day worldly worries and routines. The sparkling and glistening water from the river rose up transferred its diamond bliss to my soul and I started flowing with the river, hoping and jumping through all the rocks within my self and then my daughter shook me and said, Mom: are you daydreaming, again? We have reached, and I started thinking. Maybe the fairies do roam here!!!!
Our first stop was Shogran, Shogran is a place that takes you to Orlando, Florida to Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I thought it’s a scene from Tinkerbell, and Tink is giggling and playing with her friends somewhere in the trees. The emerald green fields were covered with gold showers from the afternoon sun. Clouds like tufty pillows glided across the sky, carrying an enriching drizzle with them, the rustling and pattering leaves were hosting the tiny drops of rain, glistening like tiny green jewels. The scene was spirit-renewing, we sat there for quite a while and had our coffee and some sweetmeats under the leafy umbrella of pine trees. The food tastes heavenly when you are in such an enchanting surroundings.
Lake Saif-ul-malook is situated 8 kilometers north of Naran. It takes 1 hour to reach Saif-ul-malook from Naran. One can find a lot of 4×4 jeeps at the outskirts of the town. These jeeps take the tourists from Naran valley to Lake Saiful Malook. It is situated in the middle of mountains, which throughout the year are covered with snow. One of the renowned mountains is Malika Parbat which is placed on the left of the lake. Saif-ul-malook is named after a folk tale. It is the story of the prince of Persia who fell in love with a fairy princess at the lake. The impact of the lake’s beauty is of such extent that people believe that fairies come down to the lake in full moon. We reached the Saif-ul-malook lake around 7:30 am, the place was so calm and serene that you could hear your own breathing. The scene was picturesque and unreal, I wanted someone to pinch me to make me realize that it’s real. It was the epitome of nature’s beauty. The crystal clear waters of the lake paint a flawless picture of the surrounding mountains, you don’t need to look up to see the sky and clouds, It’s all there in the lake.
We were lost in the magical surroundings of Lake Saif-ul-malook, we were awed by the bleating sounds of a herd of sheep with a young shepherd. It was like a group of little kids from a kindergarten class, walking, chatting, giggling so close to each other as if they are scared to be left behind. We saw two little naughty ones who were more interested to look around and were ready to be left behind and experience the novelty of roaming free in the wild.
Lulusar Lake is another prominent feature of Kaghan Valley. The turquoise blue lake in the middle of the mountains is like a piece of heaven fallen on earth. The scene took my breath away, it was vault still and restful, unruffled by wind or rain. I stayed there close to the bank of the lake and tried to contemplate the events of life. It was a soul touching experience. A lot of windows opened in my heart and some fog gathered over the years was cleared. I could see deep into my heart and mind with clarity.
Lalazar is a plateau once known for beautiful wildflowers and soothing pine forests, still enchanting view of Malika Parbat lush meadows make it a must visit. Lalazar can be reached through a muddy jeep track of one hour starting from Battakundi. Some people prefer trekking overriding the jeep. One famous, moderate trek starting from Lake Saif ul Malook through picturesque Hans Gali ends at Lalazar.
The lush green lands wore a white blanket when we reached Babusar top. Kids enjoyed playing in the snow.
Have you ever heard of Nature’s refrigerators, they don’t run on electricity and they work with high efficiency? The locals are close to nature and that makes them intelligent enough to use their resources to their best.
Camping in and around the outskirts of Naran is an experience of being one with nature and it’s surroundings. The crisp morning with a freezing breeze and the enchanting sound of river screaming joyously over the fact that it houses one of the most beautiful valleys on earth. Th wakeup calls of the sweet and melodious chirps of birds of Kaghan valley like Yellow-breasted greenfinch, White Capped Water Redstart, and Cinereous Tit.
Water rafting is the most thrilling experience on the wild, raging and rocky Kunhar river. Luckily the river was a little less torrent here and we enjoyed the experience, although not recommended for weak at heart.
Horse riding is another activity that took my breath away, had to cross the wild rocky river on a horseback. When the horse stepped into the water my heart started thumping and it was about to jump out of my mouth. Rafting was nothing compared to this.
The beautiful valley of Muzaffarabad was our last destination before heading home. Muzaffarabad is the capital of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. It is located on the banks of the Jhelum and Neelum rivers. The valley of beautiful apple orchids and rows and rows of alluring and attractive flowers filling the air with their pleasing scent and spreading their radiant colors on the canvass of the city.
This journey connected me to my soul and my inner self. I realized how teeny weeny I am in this world. Staying close to nature is an eye-opening experience, it makes you think about your nothingness and you are awed and inspired by God’s creations. I brought back the calmness of the surroundings and the melody of nature’s creations as my treasures from this trip. I will cherish and keep my treasures close to my heart for the rest of my life.
The beautiful, cozy and luxurious cottage that was our home in Naran.