Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mystique of the Mystic Lakes – Lower Northern Mountains

Dodhipatsar Lake


by Abdul Razaq Vance

Beyond description, was my excitement when I saw four lakes scattered over a vast panoramic expanse—covered by green hills and majestic Nanga Parbat in the background. I was trekking down the Saral Gali pass and mother nature rewarded me for my strenuous effort. The magnificent panorama stretched 360 degrees.

Along with my three other journey mates I had spent a night at Lake Saiful Maluk, then started early in the morning for Jalkhad, a small stop over Naran-Chilas jeepable road. Earlier this road was much neglected and used to be in fairly poor condition, however, after the Kargil episode things started changing. Now FWO is constructing this road as a totally new driveway.

Saral Lake

From Jalkhad the road bifurcates. One part leads to Chilas and joins KKH while the other goes to Sharda and Muzzafarabad in Azad Kashmir. This part is popularly known as MNJ (Mansehra – Naran – Jalkhad) road. It runs along the Kunhar River up to Jalkhad and from there over the Nuri Nar Gali Pass to Sharda. Our fascinating journey started from Naran and far beyond the road seemed to wind through a dense pine jungle upto Bata Kundi – a small but beautifully placed valley. From Bata Kundi the track forks to one of the most popular tourist spots known as “Lalazar” and the main road continues towards Jalkhad.

Hanif, our jeep driver was an expert in maneuvering through serpentine roads which later had to drive across over steep heights of mountainous terrains. A happy chance that he belonged to the area where we were destined to go i.e. the North East. Being a local, all roads, bends and treks were on his finger tips so he confidently navigated each and every corner, the blind one as well as the clearly visible but highly dangerous ones too.

Porters and horses for our trekking journey at Jalkhad had already been arranged. These porters were mostly residents of the valleys from where we started our track. A few kilometers before the Nori Nar Gali Pass we left the jeep and started on foot. Ascent was gentle in the beginning but became a bit steep in the later hours. There was no clear trail.

Guided by our local escort, we walked through the dense green grass with multi colored flowers. It was evening now and sky lit up in warm colors of a splendid sunburst in the west. It was unanimously decided to pitch camps at the spot. A chilly wind blew across the landscape. It made quite tough for us to establish camp site, but our porters were expert at it. They erected tents within no time and started preparing meal for the night.

The night was dark but studded with countless stars of unimaginable size. I had never seen such a clear starry night. Despite all that beauty, it was a sleepless night because of high altitude, and high chill in the atmosphere. Our camping site was just below Saral Gali Pass which is more than 4000 meter high. Air was very thin and it was quite tough to breathe at night. Lush green grass also consumed oxygen in the air and made the situation worst.

Saral Valley

We began our ascent to the Saral Gali Pass early next day. Trek was now a bit more steep and rugged. But the Pass was not too far, and within one and half an hour we reached at the  top. We saw an un-named lake in the North West of the pass [also mentioned on the map in Pakistan Trekking Guide by Isobel Shaw]. We moved along the ridge and soon reached at a point from where we saw first glimpses of that deep blue un-named lake. It lay there, serene and beautiful, like a centuries old jewel shining among a vast landscape. It was absolutely a mystic land with deeply serene and enchanting solitude all around. I wished I could go into it to experience the magical solitude of the valley, just sit and meditate; a deep urge within my soul but then had to move ahead as we were to go a long way still further, still higher.

As we approached the descending slopes of Saral Gali Pass, it seemed we were standing in the midst of a Lost Paradise. Four lakes of sapphire blue water shimmered under the sun. As far as the eyes could see, a lush green carpet of wild foliage stretched all over the place. Herds of sheep and goats spotted the vast panoramic grandeur of the valley. A picturesque pastoral and magnificently inspirational landscape surrounded us. Some patches of snow from icy months still lay around the lakes. Multi colored stones were being reflected in the shallow crystal clear waters. Pink, yellow and blue flowers swayed in abundance in the swampy areas and vast pastures. Green hillocks descended towards the banks of these shining lakes with mighty Nanga Parbat looming in the distant background. Blue sky overhead dotted with white cloud patches as small sailing boats on a wild blue ocean.

A nameless lake in the valley
Spellbound, we witnessed the glory of Supreme Nature. Silently we prayed to Almighty. This gorgeous canvass carrying unforgettable strokes of color, motifs of a never ending beauty and message of peace and hope slowly assimilated in our worldly beings and purified our mortal existence. Porters moved ahead and broke the spell of Nature's magic. About half an hour from this heavenly abode, equally beautiful and marvelous – stretched another lake. It had a vast shallow shore richly endowed with scattered round pebbles and sand. In its tranquil waters relatively green and small clusters of cold water fish were swimming in an idyllic joy along the surface. What a day it was! What a place to sit around! Meditate! Soothe and relax! All of us were still and speechless, so beauteous and bountiful was the look of it– it was simply unbelievable.

Landscape became an embroidered piece of sheet with natural prints of multi colored flowers. Pink dominated everywhere. It was like living in a fairyland. But my trance broke and had a restless heart as I saw MNJ road and jeeps waiting for us. Beauty though is mostly a short lived and short loved affair but stays forever and ever in the eyes and hearts of those who love Nature.

             "The most beautiful emotion, man can express is the mystique. It’s the power of all truth, all art and science. But to science, emotion is a strange thing. Science can no longer feel the wonder, the awe and delight, for science, it is as good as dead.The highest wisdom and most radiant beauty is manifest in the knowledge about the centre of true mysticism. In that sense, I belong to the ranks of devoutly mystic men.
(Albert Einstein)
Photographs: All photos in this post have been taken on locations by the writer.

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