Kaghan: The “Unseen” Rhapsody” Part-1

KAGHAN: THE UNSEEN RHAPSODY PART-1

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Baisal-End of Road
The Kaghan valley as we know of it may not stand shoulder to shoulder to the beauty and grandeur of Skardu and Gilgit, but its lakes and pastures that still remain hidden from the eye of the camera, are no less than a heaven on earth. Not many who might just have been able to reach these places would most certainly speak of the criminal negligence of our tourism department for there is not a single snap shot of these hidden places available anywhere- places beautiful enough to leave one speechless at first sight.

Touring extensively and all alone in this valley for the past four years, there are places left that I have not been able to reach as yet. 28th of June, I reached Naran in an attempt to relish the magnificence of three assorted lakes namely lake Dodipit, lake Lulusar, lake Saral located some 40kms from Naran down the Kaghan road.

​Supplies enough for a week, my gear comprising of dried meat, beans, food supplements, tea, sugar, a small pot and a stove, a water proof tent, rain coat, warm clothing and sleeping bag, complete and as trustable as it always had been. The idea was to travel, live and survive as the locals do, camping at places where one probably would not go in the dark. I had enough experience to rely on the sixth sense and not to stave off any fatal accident. Started off from Islamabad in the morning at 6 and commuting through local transport, I reached Naran at 4 in the evening amidst slight drizzle. The journey beyond Kaghan itself is a treat to one’s eyes and senses for all that the eye captures, is lofty mountains covered with lush green velvet and picturesque sights of walnut and deodar forest.


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The thrashing River Kunhar.
Since the dawn of geological times, no less than nine orogenic or mountain building movements have taken place, folding and fracturing the earth’s crust. We are now living in an era very close to the last of the major orogenic movements of the earth-the alpine- about 30 million years ago. Young fold mountain ranges were buckled up and overthurst on a gigantic scale. Being the most recently formed, these ranges such as the Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, hindukush and the Karakorum are the loftiest and most imposing. 

Kaghan valley is also engulfed by the newly born hindukush range which stretches all the way up to north to meet the other two giants, Karakorum and Himalayas. The northern regions of Pakistan including the Kaghan valley also hail from the last Pleistocene period, better known as the “ice age”, about 30,000 years ago.  Great continental ice sheet covered much of the temperate latitudes. The warmer  climate that followed caused the ice sheets to retreat.

The features of highland and lowland glaciations are more than evident all across the valley. Boulders of the size of small truck can be found lying near the base of the mountains, brought only by a travelling and retreating glacier. These stones that breakup from the top of the mountain due to the colossal weight of eroding and melting glacier, swim within the ice and are left stranded at the bottom as the glacier finally melts away. The infamous Saif-ul-malook is also a glacial lake formed by the rise in temperatures and melting glaciers. Kaghan valley presents an ideal opportunity for the students of geography to witness the effects of lowland and highland glaciations, the glacial lakes and their impact on human lives.

To help myself with the long journey ahead, I decided to go as far possible as the daylight would allow. Hopped in a local datsun carrier along with the locals and reached Batakundi some 12kms ahead of Naran, which is also an interjection for Lalazar, still another spectacular and serene mountain resort. I quickly made friends with the commuters, who helped me locate a shortcut to Lalazar, albeit a rather difficult and steep one. It was my first strong hike up after a year and was an excruciatingly tough one, for I also had my lunch and the load on my back was also a heavy one. It took me 2 hours for an otherwise short hike. I reached the top at around seven in the evening.  Put on my jacket as the air was getting colder and the sun had already begun to set in the west. Had few cups of “dodhpatti” (milk tea) from one of the two or three hotels that served the tourist and set off to locate a campsite, which itself, a difficult process and require much care and scrutiny.


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The campsite has  to have three basic requirements other than being at a safer place. Care must be taken that the site must not be in the path of water in case of heavy rains or in an area of possible land sliding. While as for the comfort level, it’s certainly more convenient that the ground is grassy and free of stones n pebbles. Soon night stepped in quietly but surely. The air smelt of pine and the ground was carpeted with the needles of twisted and wizened trees, their exposed roots, acting as a formidable trap for the unweary. After unloading and closely inspecting the area, I decided to hit the sack. Soon I realized that my gear was not appropriate for the otherwise unexpected shivering cold that I was  encountering.

​The sound of the roaring Kunhar, at a distance, was also dying down for all the snow that started melting during the day was now again freezing up. For two long hours I tried to snuggle up in my sleeping bag fighting the bitter cold. I do remember sleeping in between maybe just for 15 minutes, woke up, put on another trouser and also the rain coat-the only clothing I was left with. A full moon was shining in the west and the whole forest was lit up with it. As I sat on a dead tree trunk and basked in the cold  soothing moonlight, little did I realize that it would be the only dry night in my week long expedition.

……to be continued
Part – 2