Deosai Plains – Fact Sheet


Heading west from Sadpara we move towards Deosai. From Deosai northwards reach Upper Astore Valley through Chakor Pass located at 4,266 meters. This is the most impressive part of our Deosai adventure, with deep blue Sheosar Lake, nestled in the pass that offers picture-book scenery. [Above a view of the enchanting Sheosar lake in Deosai. To view full size, click on the image] 
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DEOSAI PLAINS  FACT SHEET

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by Jalal HB

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Pakistan is a God gifted land. It abounds in natural treasures and breathtaking landscapes. One such of these are the Deosai Plains – spread over an area of some 3,000 kilometres. After Tibet, Deosai is the second highest plateau in the world. The endless and awesome Deosai Plains are located on the boundary between the Karakorum and West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe. A part of Pakistan’s  Gilgit Baltistan region, the plains at an average height of 4,114 metres above mean sea level, are rich in
unique type of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. (more…)

My beautiful Pakistan: Gilgit-Baltistan


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 Shangrila, a heaven on earth, is situated in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The region has some of the finest tourism attractions in the world, like K-2 (8, 611.M ) the 2nd highest peak on earth. Deosai Plains the longest, widest and highest plateau in the world, the fast flowing River Indus which starts from Ladakh and snakes its way through the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges, along picturesque valleys, glaciers, natural wild life, forests and historical monuments, dating back thousands of years and across the country into the Arabian Sea.
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THE SHANGRI LA 

[NORTHERN AREAS]

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WoP research desk

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Besides Murree, there are a number of other hill stations, resorts and skiing areas for those who dare go some extra miles. These include, Malam Jabba, Kalam, Chitral and Naltar besides the resorts amid the mighty northern mountains of Pakistan.

Starting from Abbotabad, you have many options – choose to go to Galyat and Murree or go towards Manshera, Balakot and onwards to Kaghan and Naran. For Swat, Malam Jabba and Kalam start from Nowshera – Mardan and onwards through Dargai Pass. Naltar and Hunza are approachable from Gilgit. Though most of the resorts abound in areas adjacent to Murree and Abottabad, however, if you can fly to Skardu, the picturesque Shangri’la tourist resort and Deosai plains are within your easy reach.

Shangrila, a heaven on earth, is situated in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The region has some of the finest tourism attractions in the world, like K-2 (8,611.M ) the 2nd highest peak on earth. Deosai Plains the longest, widest and highest plateau in the world, the fast flowing River Indus which starts from Ladakh and snakes its way through the Karakoram and Himalayan ranges, along picturesque valleys, glaciers, natural wild life, forests and historical monuments, dating back thousands of years and across the country into the Arabian Sea.

To reach Shangi La, a daily Boeing 737 flight from Islamabad is available, it takes 45 minutes, flying over the most spectacular Himalayan and Karakoram ranges from where you can see the tallest peaks in the world. Flying over the Kaghan valley, Chilas and then following the mighty Indus river, skimming past Nanga Parbat the 9th highest peak in the world, which is called the killer mountain at a height of 26, 660 feet, flying north and entering the valley of Skardu which is the capital of Baltistan.

You can also travel by road via the famous Karakoram Highway, also known as the Eighth Wonder of the world. A new road has also opened through the Kaghan valley over the lush green meadows and streams, over the Babusar pass to chilas.

 Due to heavy snowfalls the highway is closed for traffic a few months in winters.

Shangrila, also known as “Heaven on Earth”, is nestled amongst some of the world’s highest peaks. It encircles the heart shaped “Kachura Lake” surrounded by fruit laden orchards and flower laden gardens.

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The changing colours of autumn in Leepa


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Leepa - A Valley of Changing Colours
Leepa  is a valley of changng colours
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A RICHLY COLOURED ATTIRE OF RED, ORANGE & YELLOW SHADES

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by Syed Zafar Abas Naqvi 

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The picturesque Leepa valley comprises of several villages, the principal being Reshian Gali, which at a height of 3600 M above sea level is also the gateway to the vale of Leepa. In addition to Reshian, there are other villages in Leepa like:-

  • Nokot
  • Chennian
  • Kappa Gali
  • Bigil Dher
  • Lubgran &
  • Ghaipura

Like Reshian, all these villages, the tiny small hamlets, equally contribute to a wonderful mosaic of patterns mother nature has so ornately and intricately woven here in this part of Kashmir.

Leepa is famous also for its typical Kashmiri style of architecture, mostly in the form of 3 storied wooden houses. A look at the houses here makes one believe, Leepa as a true extension of Indian occupied Kashmir into Pakistan.

The people in Leepa, as in other parts of Azad Kashmir, demonstrate robust character and a steadfast, a resilient way of living. Inspite of 18 years of Indian shelling and continuous fire almost every day (which takes its own tolls in terms of human life and collateral damage), and all this exacerbated by the deadly earthquake of Oct. 2005, life has gradually started turning to normalcy.

The paradise like mini Kashmir in Leepa has numerous water driven flour mills, the only kind of industry in the valley.

The valley has a population of about 75000 inhabitants who generally indulge in farming, cattle rearing and tourism related services. Nearly 400 jeeps ply daily from Reshian to Leepa and back. Jeeps are the only mode of transport in the valley though motor bikes are now also seen in ever increasing numbers on the bumpy jumpy road.

The red Kashmiri rice is grown in October by the farmers in Leepa. This is also the staple food for the people of the area. Husking of rice is done in traditional way, by first beating the rice stack with long sticks, thereafter, threshed along temporarily constructed ditches.

The highest peak is Shmasa Bari, which remains snowbound throughout the year.

Down hills, every year with coming of winter in the valley, when previous year’s snow melted on top of the mountains, soon fresh snow will be falling to interlace them all. It’s the time also when residents of this far flung vale have to brace the chilling winter  which brings heavy snow and thus brings increased hardships  for its 75000 residents. Due to lack of infrastructure, the valley is disconnected from the rest of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.

Apple is grown in the valley in its different varieties, most popular being Golden, Delicious and Kala Kullo King. These varieties have a unique, highly tempting flavor and taste comparable to none. Walnut is another fruit grown in the valley. It too ripens in early autumn when it is collected, deseeded and then sent to down country markets where they fetch price as high as Rs 450/- per Kg. In Leepa the cost per Kg is Rs. 300/- per Kg.Though poor in infrastructure and no industry worth its name, excepting the water mills, nature has provided spectacular beauty to this valley that can surpass even developed areas of the plains if only its tourism potentials were exploited to the full.

Water in its streams is crystal clear and there is absolutely no pollution. One can breathe, clean fresh air, full of fragrance from virgin forests and wonderful scenery all around to watch.

Allover the valley, high walnut trees likewise put on attire in yellow, red and orange, which adds extra sparkle to our stay in Leepa. We also come across yellow herbs and shrubs tucked nicely into green vegetation comprising of large conifer trees, adding variety to this miracle of changing colors during autumn in the valley.

 Walkways amidst jungle are filled with compost leaves signaling a momentous magnitude of autumn in the valley. The foliage from deciduous trees stays on the ground leaving a damp and decayed trail. The skyline in the whole vale transcends from ardent green to russet red, gold, orange, dark yellow and brown. Strong winds and mild storms also wreack further havoc with the delicate branches, turning them yellow and this too adds to the already damp compost like soil. A walk on these fallen decayed leaves reminds of the harsh winter ahead. Birds are also going nomadic ready to move on an arduous and long journey bracing the chilling winds on the way, to safe havens in down country areas where they can feed and breed.

Kazi Nag Nullah basin also hosts hundreds of poplar trees with ready to fall yellow foliage. Yellow chinar trees acquire a crimson hue as if on a fire, a unique view along the mountains, tracks and the valleys in Leepa.

Soon we reach Burthwar Gali and encounter nearly 300 chinar trees again with their yellow, orange and red mix of colous, shades and hues adding further fire to the panorama of winter in the valley. Local elders said, these trees were planted during the period of emperor Shah Jahan, the builder king of the famed Mughal empire – to provide shade and protection to travelers who used to journey between Srinagar and Punjab either on horses or even on foot. We couldn’t help but admire this wonder of nature which had laid down a carpet of innumerable crimson colored trees, when viewed while passing through Burthwar Gali Pass.

Appreciating the allure of autumn trees in narrow alleys is the best pastime in this vale of wonders – wonders that this picturesque valley showcases to the outside world.

Tailpiece: Daily strolls along the fabulous terraced fields devoid of any crop at this time of the year offers you chance of a life time to enjoy nature’s beauty at its best. No words are able to describe the true beauty and incomparable sight of this touristic paradise in Kashmir.

Each year, on start of autumn in Kashmir, Leepa, which lies at a distance of about 90 KM from capital Muzaffarabad, starts to dress up in a new and richly colored attire-a mix of red, orange and yellow shades. It’s the time when apple picking season in the valley comes to an end.

Images

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A myriad of changing colours (Leepa Valley)


The joyous chirping of birds, heavily laden fruit orchards, alpine meadows, grazing herds,  shepherds with their lilting music, a vivid mosaic of colors, sights and sounds – right  before you, presenting  picture of unforgettable tapestry, this is what makes Leepa one of the most charming places in Kashmir.
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LEEPA, A MYRIAD OF CHANGING COLOURS

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by Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi

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As autumn sets in the vale of Leepa, leaves fall off the trees, snowfall begins, the time is ripe to visit the vale for in winters the vale offers one of the most fascinating scenery in Azad Kashmir. Leepa, a picturesque valley in Azad Kashmir lies at a distance of 95 KM east of the capital Muzaffarabad.

A narrow metalled road along the right bank of River Jhelum leads us to Reshian as we pass along the way, through Garhi Dupatta, Dhanni Baqalan, Hattian Bala, Neili and Saien Bagh. The changing hues of a serpentine and rushing Jhelum, with suspension bridges built over, present an enchanting panorama all along the route. Lofty mountains looking over a swaying gold colored rice crop are worth to make one stop and gaze at the wonderful scene.  

From Reshian, the gateway to enter the valley, there are three different routes which take us to Leepa. The zigzagging Defence Road meets the valley at Hanjna, via Barthwar Gali and Bali Camp. Locals mention 72 u-turns on the way, putting nerves of the toughest one to test. Forest and military vehicles are a common sight in the area.
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To visit the valley proper one has to cover a distance of 15 KM over a stony path (more aptly a footpath) via Panjal Gali which is approximately 10,000 ft high. (more…)

Reach to the top and beyond


Abbotabad

                 Abbotabad: Jinnah Gardens in Early Spring  

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A TALE ON THE TRAIL  TO THE ABBOTABAD PEAK

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  by Nayyar Hashmey 

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Located at a distance of 116 km from Rawalpindi and 217 km from Peshawar, Abbotabad is a popular summer resort in the midst of spacious valleys surrounded by green hills on all sides. The city is noted for its verdant parks, gardens, a beautiful golf course and pine covered hills. Besides, it boasts some prestigious educational institutions of the country and serves as an important gateway to almost all-beautiful places in Pakistan.

The formidable Karakorams and the enchanting Himalayas are approached from Abbottabad. It is a junction from where one goes to places like Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu and Kohistan of the Karakoram Range. One can easily reach Swat, Swati Kohistan, Dir and Chitral of the Hindukush Range along with Naran, Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran and Babusar Pass of the Himalayan Range. Neelum, Lipa and Jhelum Valley of beautiful Azad Kashmir are also connected through Abbottabad.

While other hill stations are deserted during winter, Abbotabad is blessed with visitors due to its bracing winter season. The place has a beautiful park, the Jinnah Garden, maintained by the local Cantonment Board. The splendid stretch of turf in the city promises plenty of room for sports like polo, football, hockey and golf. The Cantonment area of is still very British. The European bungalows, the club, the church and cemetery are still there.

This is how the city looks nowadays but long time back, when I was doing my HSSC course; it had a different, even more beautiful and natural look than it has today. I was invited then by my elder brother to spend summer vacations in Abbotabad. (My brother in those days, was posted there as a tax officer of the Govt. of Pakistan).

Abbotabad as every one knows, was then and still is the second most important hill station in Pakistan. It was in those days, a clean, fragrant and beautiful town. There was absolutely no stink of diesel fumes, population was small and a rain shower even though a slight one, would dry clean the whole town, giving the small, beautiful Abbotabad a totally new look.

Nestled in the hills of Nawan Shehr locality of Abbotabad, Ilyasi Mosque is Abbotabad’s landmark constrcuted over a natural spring. 

The city had on its brinks green blue hills dotted with poplar forests. Crisscrossing the hills were small streams and rivulets. Up on the hills and their slopes were fruit orchards laden with apples, pomegranates and wild berries of every kind. The place we were living was also on the edge of the city and was called Malikpura. (It exists even today but is a much congested and overcrowded locality now).

Now we had a Gujjar lady who used to bring milk and poultry for us. We called her ‘Masi’. This milk lady or our Masi had a son who sometimes accompanied his mother. One day this son (I would call him a Masizad because I have forgotten his name) told me that up on the peak of the mountain and beyond, down hill there is a cave where Raja Rasaloo, the one time king of the area used to keep his gold and other treasures there. Now the fascination of a place which used to be laden with gold in time unknown coupled with the fact that I had never seen a cave yet, my fascination turned double fold and a strong urge arose to reach the summit of the mountain, descend the other side and sneak into the cave of a Raja who used to rule the valley in ancient days. My younger brother asked this ‘Masizad’ how high is the mountain and how much time will it take to reach there. Came the terse reply “Oh, not much, it’s just a two hours ascent and there you go”.

 My bother and I were so impressed with an idea to scale a peak even though a not very high but then peak is a peak. Our enthusiasm also grew much as a few years back, late Edmund Hillary of New Zealand for the first time had conquered the world’s highest peak on Himalayas, the Mount Everest. If not the highest, yet we would be scaling a peak and that would be great adventure and fun.

A mix of hues, the greens and the blues created by mother nature’s brush on the mountain of Abbotbad. Photo by Usman Qureshi

Now having listened to the very tempting and luring adventure, we decided to go for the expedition next morning. With the feeling of a would be conqueror, from verandah of my house, I just looked at the great mountain in the west, which carries the city like a mother does its child in the lap, I visualized a wonderful, pleasant and comfortable journey upwards. And let it be known dear reader, neither myself nor my younger brother had the least idea of trekking, climbing or mountaineering, yet irrespective of the hazards on the way, we decided to scale the peak of mountain.

Next day, we left at about 7.30 in the morning. While trekking upwards, we felt very pleasant. There was lush green vegetation everywhere; small rivulets came on our way. We happily waded through.. Water was cold and flow was rapid, yet we easily crossed over.

In the beginning our stamina was high so we did not feel the stress and exhaustion of moving upwards. However, at 8.30 am we asked our Masizad, how far it was to the top, to which he calmly replied, “Bhai, just near the top we are”. With these words, we again plucked our spirits and started moving upwards, although both me and my brother were gasping all the time and did not feel like going up any more. But with his words we started going and again gasping, moving upwards, gasping, moving with short breaks for rest and again moving. We asked the Masizad how far was it now to the top and he with his usual calm says” Bhai ab thora sa fasila reh gya hae” (brother, its just few steps now). With these morale boosting words, we again collected our spirits and started moving through but this time it was real hard task because not only was the height a big challenge to our stamina but also the lush green vegetation had turned into thorny bushes. To this malady came another misery in waiting. The grass on the mountain had every now and then shrubs which had a slimy juice in the leaves.

There were many leaves of this type lying on the ground like a creeper. This made us many a time to slip and fall down but we managed it some how. It was almost 9.30 now but the top was nowhere in the sight. We were almost nearing exhaustion both in spirits and physique. Again the morale boosting dosage from our Masizad  “Bhai ab tau aap top per pohnch gayay ho”. (Brothers, you have reached the top almost). These words acted like a tonic but as the poet says “abhi ishq ke imtihan aur bhi haen” we had yet many tests, feats and miracle to perform. That was the price we had to pay for our love, adventure, and persistence to reach the top. Again we collected ourselves and started trekking upwards. We were very much exhausted and now the sun had brightened too much, we could not open our eyes and were terribly thirsty. Fortunately our masizad had with him water in the chhagal. Those of you, who do not know what a chhagal is, well! Chhagal is a canvas container for carrying water. Mostly soldiers used this in their exercises and actual battles. I do not know whether our army jawans still use it but in those days, it was a part of an armor by a soldier, a traveller or a climber in remote areas – whether desert or the mountain. As is the case and this we starkly observed near the top of Abbotabad mountain, that in such places, thirst is another reason to loose one’s life.  But fortunately, we had water so we quenched the thirst to our heart.

After having refreshed ourselves, we started ascending once more. While taking water, we had taken a 15 minutes break and thus had revamped our energies. Our ascent began once again but now we were not so tired as before. Fluid intake had done an elixir’s job. And then we had also the excitement to reach the top. We trekked and we trekked almost for an hour or so and vow! we were on the top. It was an immense joy for me and my brother. We were on the top of a local mountain and yet our excitement was not less than a mountaineer who had reached Mount Everest.

Mountain top was a very fresh and plain ground, lush green shrubbery and pine trees. There was wild fragrance in the air and it was a paradise like atmosphere. All our fatigue had gone in a nu

Having stayed on top for a while, we started descending now and in about an hour’s time, we reached the cave of famed Raja Rasaloo. The cave was not a big one, it was quite muddy inside but in we went. It was as cool as an air-conditioned room. We selected a dry place, plain enough to squat easily. The feel of being inside a Raja’s cave’ even though there was absolutely nothing romantic about the cave, nor anything special, no wealth of the Raja, no gold and nothing else except a hollowed space in the mountain, yet it was a great feel, great fascination and fun for us. At that moment our Masizad asked us whether we had some hunger and both me and my younger brother said we were indeed. To this, he opened his “poatlee” and vow; he had parathas and potatoes made into bhujia done in mountain style by our good masi. There was a special type of achaar made of wild apples, berries and a special fruit which had the look of small black pepper seeds. It was a wonderful recipe, the most sumptuous treat I had ever had in my life especially after such a hectic hike to the mountain and then to the cave of a mythical Raja who used to hide his wealth in the cave. Well dinner with such a relishing food and off we go. We came out of the cave, started ascending once again. The journey back home was quite smooth as we had acquainted ourselves with the whole trek now and were now much experienced hikers.

Later I trekked to many places, the Saiful Malook lake in Kaghan, Parachinar in Kurram Valley, the Alps in Upper Austria and Salzburg, the Czech & Slovak highlands in Eastern Europe and it was a normal way of life with me but the one to mountain in Abbotabad was a tough, yet a very good learning experience to embark on mountain treks, no matter low or the high mountains.

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We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

 

 

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