Kaghan Valley is an absolutely amazing place to visit in the summers. The roads are only open for a couple of months and the sooner you go after the roads have been opened, the greater the chances of you getting to view the frozen peaks and the main river that runs through the valley. It is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and is a great summer destination.
The tickets for our ride to Islamabad. The food that we got on the bus – a chicken-egg (not so sure) sandwich, a chocolate cupcake and a packet of plain biscuits.
Super excited, my sister, my two cousins and I boarded the Daewoo bus that was to travel to Islamabad from Lahore at 4 p.m. Because the stewardess was half an hour late, we ended up leaving at 4.30. Anyway, we had to leave on the 7th so that we would be able to leave on time the next day, which was early – very early.
Our journey began at 8 a.m on the 8th of June. 2 pairs of parents and 11 cousins climbed into the bus that we had hired to take us from Islamabad to Naran. We had decided to travel by bus since it would allow all of us to sit together and a long journey in separate cars can get a little boring. With our bags strapped on top and with our food items all packed inside the bus, we headed on our journey, tired but excited.
We started from Islamabad and made our first stop a couple of hours into the journey.
Just for the record. It was called “something Afghan Hotel”. The angle did not allow me to see the full name of the place.
From there, we headed towards Mansehra and then to Abbottabad from where we went to Balakot. Getting into the mountains, we began to see the snow peaks. Now, I’ve never seen snow peaks live in my life before so I got really excited and took a million pictures like the one below. Little did I know that we would be living right under them.
Slowly getting into the mountains.
While going through Balakot, we decided to stop by the Kunhar River which runs through Balakot. It was the perfect place to stop since it allowed us to wake up a little, step into the water and enjoy the cool wind that blew over it. Despite the fact that the sun was glaring over our heads, it was a nice place to stop at for lunch.
It was very bright out there. The sound of the river rushing down, though, was absolutely amazing.
After everyone had stood by the river and steeped their feet into the extremely cold water, we decided to climb up and eat our biryani on charpaees. The mountain descends into the river and on that small hill, a few charpaees have been placed at a distance and semi-circle wooden structures with tarp tightened on them for shade are great since not only do they provide shelter but a fun place for visitors to sit and eat.
It was a great respite from the harsh sun that was beating down on our heads and when the wind would blow, it would throw an occasional gust of cold air across our way when it would blow directly over the river. However, the weather had, so far, been disappointing since we were expecting it to get colder as we climbed up higher.
Once we were done with lunch, we hopped back into the bus and looked forward to arriving in Naran, the main destination that attracts tourists and holiday-makers to Kaghan Valley.
There were a lot of these along the way since these streams comprise of the water that melts from glaciers and finds its way into the main river through the moutains. These were pretty amazing and were also very, very cold.
Who needs a refrigerator when you have a natural stream of cold water to do the job for you? These could be seen wherever a stray stream was found. This stream was on our right and the river was on the left so the water flowed across the road and down the mountain into the river.
Yup. These were on the road and we had to stop until they had all crossed it and climbed onto the mountain that steeped down to our left. They were a little stinky. Immensely adorable though, especially the baby goats.
More goats, grazing on the steep mountains like it was no big deal.
The entire way to Naran was absolutely beautiful since we had the river to our side throughout and the air was fresh and cold.
I think I took this one by hanging my arm outside since there was no other way for me to take a picture without the bus’ window or windowframe interfering.
The closer we got to Naran, the bluer the skies and the greener the grass got. The view also became breathtakingly beautiful as we slowly creeped higher.
This was also taken with my arm hanging out and clutching onto the camera for dear life. If I dropped it, I’d be dead meat. The proximity of the mountains was proportional to my excitement. (Keep in mind that I’d never seen snow or snow-covered mountains before. Result? Another million pictures.)
Closer to Naran meant that we would be going through the ice glaciers that had been cleaned away to clear the road. So, when our bus went through it, we had massive ice deposits on both sides with ice cold water rushing under the wheels. It was pretty scary at first but after we got used to it, it got pretty epic.
One of the glaciers we had to go through.
This was pretty scary because there was a lot of water and the ice had all melted. Sorry about the blurry picture but it shows how fast the water was rushing down and how much of it there was. IT WAS AMAZING.
Pretty close to where we were supposed to stay in Naran, there were portions, on the mountains, that were still frozen and people were climbing them. You see those clean white trails in the snow? Sled trails. People were sledding on a random frozen stream on a mountain, for crying out loud! This was also pretty amazing.
Finally, after nine and a half hours, we arrived at PTDC, the motel that we were staying at.
This is what our room looked like.
We obviously needed two mattresses on the floor but this room was quite comfortable for 4 people.
The great thing about PTDC in Naran was that the river was just under us and we had to walk a little down the area to reach it. It even had a wooden suspension bridge which had nothing but mountains on the other side and when we climbed it, it had the most spectacular view of the snow peaks around us.
Once we arrived, we got into our respective rooms and changed into something warmer since it had gotten slightly chilly. After having tea, we decided to go down to the river and take some pictures. The sun had just creeped behind the mountains and it was cold and extremely serene.
The river curved behind this mountain and the bridge was located a little further to the left side of this picture.
After taking pictures to our hearts’ content, we decided to visit the small bazaar located just a little outside PTDC. We did not get to discover much of this bazaar since we had embarked on a journey to look for chapli kebabs (since it was nearly dinner time) but we saw some pretty cool things, over-sized vegetables on proud display being one of them.
Shinkayaari’s Famous Chapli (or Chapal, whatever you prefer to call them) Kebab. Success!
One of the coolest things I saw there. This shower head sprayed water over a huge cement square which held sodas and water bottles. A pipe ran out of this cement square and directed the water into this huge steel bucket which held even more sodas and water bottles. Ingenuity at its best. They didn’t need fancy gadgets or electricity to cool things down. Nature’s provision and household items seemed to do the trick. We ran our hands under this and I don’t think I need to say that the water was freezing cold.
Once we had equipped ourselves with chapli kebabs, we headed back to PTDC and into their restaurant/dining hall for dinner.
Big enough to accommodate our family!
We only ended up getting soup and fries from the menu since we had a lot of our biryani with us and the chapli kebabs to accompany it.
This was surprisingly delicious and it was pretty cold outside. Nothing like chicken corn soup to warm you up.
My plate of food (going clockwise, starting at 12 o clock): biryani with raita, chapli kebab and naan.
No huge family meal of ours is complete without a couple of plates of french fries.
Dinner was a relatively quite affair since we were all immensely tired and we all wanted to head back to our rooms for some sleep.
Before we did, however, we did enquire, from fellow PTDC guests, about the places that we wanted to visit the next day. Turned out that most of them had gotten there the same day as we had so they were as clueless as we were. Since it was cold and we were all exhausted, we headed back to our rooms and were all fast asleep by 11 p.m. Thus ended our first exhausting but immensely fun day.
Second day to come soon!