Thursday, May 27, 2004

Soan Land outside Isloo

Seven km off the Islamabad - Lahore Grand Trunk Road along the Soan Nallah that has water flowing through it 12 months a year, we have a 4 acre plot. Tasnim is planning to do some horticulture on it. It could become our staging point for Northern Areas trips. All new major development is expected to take place in this direction. Hopefully, it will remain rural for another 15 years, after which it may become residential - time to move on - under......

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Khuda Hafiz till next time when we return to see the skyline changed

Cheezie look right on the farm........ anyone more cheese?

Sunflowers would be a good source of attracting solar energy & add charm to the place

Saplings delivered during May 2004 indicate our seriousness to Abdur Rahman who has been managing the iste for Wasi Ahmad.

Directions to follow. Eucalyptus harms the land by drawing away all the water. Must come out. We'll use it for the greenhouse.

View from the entrance to the 4 acres on the right. Water the source of all life is available in abundance. Need to harness solar energy to reduce dependence on WAPDA that has transmission lines going across our plot - easy "Koonda"!!

Standing on Wasi Ahmad's side of the plot, Tasnim is viewing what can be done to develop this in to a green Eden

Tasnim on the dividing line. Our plot is to the left. The far end is a small road & at the back is the Soan Nallah from which we draw the water.

From Rawalakot, AK to Soan

Returning after two full days from Azad Kasmir, we cross the Soan at Sihala for a quick stop at our Islamabad green spot to meet Abdur Rahman. Shoaib is fast completing the picnic accommodations for Ghaus next door.

Kahuta Hills welcome us as we part ways with the Jhelum entering Islamabad. Sky clears, bright sun & a warm afternoon greets us.

As we speed towards Kahuta, the Jhelum rushes forward to empty into the mighty Indus. A pretty sight and much could be developed here to attract the tourists. But for now let us keep it close to Nature.

Jawed mentioned that in the last few years many roads have been built & existing ones are being widened. Before that really happens, I want to have toured Azad Kashmir. Maybe later when the TWO Kashmirs are united, the dream of the British to make it into Mini England will come true for the 'United Kashmiris'.

Back through the gateway to Pakistan over the Jhelum.

A hearty lunch an hour out of Rawalakot at Dar Hotel in Dar - bhindi, dal lobia & murgh with fresh tandoori chappatis out in the cool overcast environment.

Going up this path by jeep another 5 km would have proved futile. I would have been wrapped in fog & possible hail would have pierced through the handy umbrella which I had great difficulty keeping open with very strong side winds - see the plants sway to the right....

Threatening black clouds & strong winds brought rain, lightning & thunder, as I walked from Shaheed Galla to Tholipeer. It was pointless as the mist was turning to fog. Back we went to Rawalakot. The picture below is the consolation to see Tholipeer, extreme western part of the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas.

On this beautiful note we parted with a promise to visit again better prepared & with Tasnim to Tolipeer at 9,500 ft that had to be abandoned because of rain & heavy mist AND Neelum Valley up to Lipa & Kel.

Sardar Habibullah, the eldest of a family that donated the land to Pearl Valley School is a Trustee with Jawed & advises the Managing Committee regularly.

It was a rewarding experience to visit the Pearl Valley School with Jawed. Next year the first batch will give their Matric exams. Standards are high & continuous monitoring & improvements are part of the process.

Old habits die hard. In Jawed's case probably never! A passion he has lived up to & enjoys these in Rawalakot. The more exquisite ones are for trips to Islamabad.

Safina & Jawed were perfect hosts at Rawalakot. Pot luck turned out to be a banquet with Royal Burmese Khow sue & much more. Next morning Jawed showed me the Pearl Valley School, which must be the best in the area.

Sadiq the restaurateur tempted us with stories to drive us up to Jandali Marka to enjoy breathtaking views across the Indian border and around. Can imagine what it would be like on a clear day. It was overcast & hazy, yet tremendous. Good site to camp as well.

Banjosa is extremely pretty & serene. PWD RH has recently done good accommodations. Activity will pick up & crowds will flock June to August. A natural pond has been enlarged. Walked along the source of water flowing into this 'lake' & enjoyed it greatly.

Innumerable valleys around as many ridges, dotted with individual homes along terraces tilled for wheat or maize. Green with forests, serene & gorgeous views as we drove from Palandari to Tararkhal

Cross the Jhelum River bridge from Azad Pattan 40km from Islamabad & enter Azad Kashmir. The bridge had been washed away in the 1992 flash floods. JBL's Principal supplied the steel bridge to connect. Still working!

Azaadi - A. Kashmir

AK is very pretty. Surveyed near by areas. Had plans to go up the Neelum Valley to Lipa. Decided will do so with Tasnim in Sep/Oct when we have our 2nd summer in Karachi. Met long lost Safina & Sardar Jawed Ibrahim of vintage cars fame, in Rawalakot. He has promised to have someone guide us on our next trip. Expect the situation to remain clam along the border then.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Kala Dakka

After four excellent days at "Kala Dakka" a place in tribal area past Oghi [pronounced Uggi] in Manserah District, I returned to isLOO. Saeed Driver with family & friends took good care of me in an area that one time was notorious for dacoity, kidnapping & drugs. From here I took off for three days to AK.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

To say 'hello' Nawab Shah our chowkidar of many years past crossed miles early morning to join us at a chance farewell tea send off.

Survived the free extras of the kitchen - lucky or strong constitution

Local chai khana served well for dal, chappati & chai

Surveying for a summer place NOT palace!

Place has seen a lot of action till recently. Man standing on a rock marked with a cross where British soldiers fell to attacks by Sikh army.

Multiple levels of mountain ranges with 'Musa ka musalla' extreme right on top.

Marco Polo sheep are a far cry today. This is the closest I could get to on this trip

Machi sar to the right highest point & Machi gali on the left offer great walks & views

Back to civilized IsLOO, where solid waste dumps are set ablaze to warm the city

Campfire to keep us warm by night at 2,300m high

Entire team at the highest point - 2,800m high 'Machi sar' with 360 deg views of peaks surrounding Kashmir, Swat, Tarbela, Kaghan & the near by valleys.

Fantastic views across both valleys - Oghi & Batagram

My Penn House served wonderfully. It was luxurious.


Each time we visit Hindukush Heights, Ghazala & Siraj spoil us. This time it was in royal style. Representatives of His Highness & The Supreme Power were there but we got the personal attention & their company with the only suite at HH to boot! Mastuj was similar. Ammi was the perfect hostess. We'll be back. I want to complete the abandoned trek & climb to oTirch Mir Base Camp.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

And we had wonderful company at Mastuj - May 11, 2004

Chalet named Apricot - Mastuj in blossom - the place was luxurious! May 10 to 11, 2004

Laughter the best medicine! Raqeeb & Sikandar in high spirits.

Zerbali decoration for Chieftain in Mastuj - we were all honoured by Ammi & Subedar Saheb, May 10, 2004

Tasnim is already gunning for it & we will storm Hindukush Heights while you are at Polo World Cup!

Siraj! We will be back for this treatment in September 2004.

A family celebration - look up in the mirror - and sharing of precious moments at Hindukush Heights, Chitral - May 11, 2004

Hindukush Heights Flowers from Chitral & Anniversary cake from Islamabad carried by hand courtesy Ghazala Ulmulk - May 11, 2004

Bloom delight everywhere May 9, 2004

Pet Markhor at Sikandar's hideout

Had heard of Booniland, but Booni is for real - 2nd largest town in Chitral.

Unforgettable Fragrance - Memorable visit to Chitral May 5 to 13, 2004