Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lake Saif ul Muluk – a Heavenly Lake on Earth


Lake Saif ul Muluk is one of the dream tourist resorts of Pakistan. Located in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa province at the northern end of picturesque Kaghan Valley at a height of 10.578 feet in the foothills of famous Malka Parbat (the Queen Mountain), the spectacular lake with its deep blue waters is a sight one comes across once in one’s lifetime. The reflection of Malka Parbat into its still blue waters add awe to the spectacular landscape.

Recently I came across a video on Saif ul Muluk that triggered memories of more than two decades when I visited the lake for the first time – and perhaps the only time of my life. While the video took me back into my memory lane, I was amazed find that the dirt track leading to the lake from the Naran town is still the same and to approach the lake one has to hire sturdy and robust Jeeps to reach the lake. One wonders why after so many years the dirt track has not been paved. But then one wonders if the dirt track is metaled, what the locals would do as it would rob them of the only livelihood available to them for carrying tourists up and down. So while visitors and tourist, both local and foreign, throng the Naran town in summers, the hotel and Jeep business flourishes – perhaps the only means to earn bread and butter of Naran town.

I visited Naran and the lake back in 1996 with a group of friends and family. Although it was July, the lake was still half frozen which is fed by the Kunhar River. The lake with a surface area of 2.75 square kilometers and with a maximum depth of 15 meters or 50 feet is famous for its brown trout with an average weight of seven kilograms. 



We lodged in an army run rest house ahead of Naran town and due to a glacier intervening the guest house, we had to park our vehicles well away and short of the glacier and walk on slippery glacial snow to reach the guest house – and this became our daily routine to pass over the glacier to go to Naran town and the lake.

Unlike hiring normal tourists who hire jeeps, we added a tinge of adventure by hiring horses from the base to the lake. Adding yet more adventure, I along with two other relatives decided to go up through a narrow track made in between a fallen glacier. While others reached safely, I had a fall and slipped down the frozen snow and had a free fall towards the gushing stream of water from the lake. And at that time I almost felt as if my time on earth was over as I could not find anything to hold on. But then Nature wanted me to live to narrate this incident and just feet away from the icy blue stream of water, a stone came in between I and the stream, stopping from sliding further.

Now I could not move as any move would have been fatal. Seeing my plight, a local lad, expert on such glaciers came down making holes in the ice and then rescued me and we both slowly moved up and back to track. The thought of the incident still shudders my body and I thank God for saving me from drowning and sending me an angel for my rescue. Thereafter we still followed the same track and suddenly there it was the almost frozen Lake Saif ul Muluk - a sight of lifetime for me.
Much relaxed I posing with my wife after the close to a deathly fall

That day was one of the days when the lake was almost frozen with its blue waters barely visible from under the frozen snow. We spent almost the entire day at the lake though a freezing cold wind was passing through our bodies. We had lunch and came back by evening fall. This time I did not opt for the track between the glacier and came down safely.
My family - less me (the photographer is generally missed out)

The lake remains frozen in winters and the best time to visit the lake is from June to early October. But sometimes the lake remains frozen in case the weather turn colder. When the snow has completely melted away, the lake looks like a heavenly place on earth. The snow clad Malika Parbat and its sister tops add more to the beauty of the lake. It looks as if these  snow clad mountain tops are fairies guarding the blue waters of the lake.

While people do boat in the lake, the real adventure is camping by the lake side, specially if it is a full moon and fantasying the tales of fairies and that of the famous Saif ul Muluk, a poetic work written by famous poet Muhammad Bakhsh, who in his own words has described the folklore of an Egyptian prince Saif ul Muluk who fell in love with a fairy princess Badi ual Jamal.

Now watch the video about Lake Saif ul Muluk which shows the rugged stony track leading from Naran to the lake which only sturdy Jeeps could endure.
Recently, the gush of tourists to Naran and Lake Saif ul Muluk has increased manifold. This while is a good healthy sigh of flourishing tourism industry, beneficial for the locals as well, it has added crowd, litter and garbage to the lake side. While the local administrations earns from tourists, it should also make sure that there are adequate arrangements for garbage disposal and cleanliness of area to preserve the natural beauty of the place and to ensure a healthy environment - lest the fairies run away....

Photo at the top: My sons Wahaab Jalal (left) and Waqaace Jalal (right) posing by the lake - 1996
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CPEC: The making of E35 - the Hazara Expressway

The development of Gwader port at Gwader, Balochistan Pakistan on the Arabian Sea and just short of the famous Strait of Hormuz has been a game changer in the trade between the oil rich countries of the Persian Gulf and the rest of the world far away from the sea waters, specially the People's Republic of China. Thus far, the Chinese shipping lines stretched from the Persian Gulf through the Malacca Strait and thence to the Chinese ports in its South East region. The 2500 kilometers long Gwader-China land link will shorten the existing 10,000 kilometers long sea route for Chinese shipping to almost 1/4th.
For the purpose of the land link between Gwader Port in the south to Chinese border up in the north, a 1,100 kilometer long motorway will be built between the cities of Karachi and Lahore while the Karakorum Highway, between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. It may be added that the KKH or the Karakorum Highway or simply the N5 was built with the assistance of China from its border to Hassan Abdal near Islamabad in the 1960s through some of the treacherous mountain passes. The entire land link is named CPEC, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.



The 180 kilometers long E35 is being constructed into seven part that will pass through cities of Haripur, Havelian, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Shinkiari, Battagram, and Thakot in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The expressway will take another two years from hence to its completion, the first three packages from Burhan Interchange on M1 motorway to Havalian interchange comprising 60 km is expected to be completed towards the end of 2017. The expressway all along passes through mountains and a look at the pace of its construction really shows the massivity of the task. 

While the first three packages pass through a rather friendly landscape and mountains, the Mansehra to Thakot section is likely to face difficulties as the terrain will turn difficult and rugged. However it still requires constructing many long bridges to cover the wide valley streams and rivers.
I came across a video about the making of the first three parts of E35 and was amazed at the work being undertaken to complete the section. The video is dated June 2017 and it seems difficult to keep the timetable requirements met as a lot is still to be done.

Watch the video yourself and see it as an update on the CPEC road link development.

Attributes:
Map | Photos: Screen Shots of video above | Video: Abid Hussain/YouTube
Reference: Wikipedia
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Healing Hot Springs of Garam Chashma - Chitral, Pakistan

Natural springs with hot water oozing out of sulfur rich mountains are famous the world over for healing skin diseases. While visiting Ramsar, Iran, I visited one of the springs and saw the fuming hot sulfur rich water and people taking bath. The Northern Areas of Pakistan too are rich in such hot springs where more than tourists patients abound for healing their skin related diseases.

One of the hot spring rich areas is Garam Chashma - or the Hot Springs as its is exactly translated into English. It is a small place some 45 kilometers north-west of Chitral, located at 1859 meters (6,100 feet) above mean sea level, overlooked by the famous Trichmir, the 7,700 meters high peak. Going exactly by its name, the place has hot water springs mixed with sulfur that have water as hot as above the boiling point.  


The sulfur springs are famous for healing a number of skin and joint diseases. This is what people of the area believe and thus attract a large number of tourists and patients to this scenic place for treatment. For the convenience of tourists special bathrooms have been constructed around the springs.
From Chitral, a narrow metaled road travels up north and then turns north-west along thr the Lotkuh River and on to Garam Chashma. The road is at most places washed off due to falling rocks and stones of the stony and muddy mountains due to rains and melting snow. Thus it is better to hire a jeep from Chitral or use a sturdy vehicle. 
Lotkuh River (seen in photo above), which passes through Garam Chashma, is famous for its brown trout fish. For anglers fishing is allowed from April to September for which permit has to be obtained from local fishery department.



Ali, a sturdy young man from Garam Chashma, who works as a helper with us, recently showed a number of photos of his village on his mobile that in fact urged me to write this post. All photos shared in this post, except for the Markhor and Murgh-e-Zareen (for which source are give) all photos have been taken by Ali.
Ali posing during spring but snow has still not melted

The mountain slopes on both sides of the Lotkuh valley abound in pine, ‘deodar’ and fir trees. In the valley, one comes across vast stretches of cherries, mulberry, apricot, apple pear, grape, pomegranate and melons gardens, besides Chinar and walnut trees. The pomegranates of Garam Chashma taste heavenly sweet and tourists take loads of pomegranates when departing this beautiful land - and I have already requested Ali to get me box full of these !!.
Ripe cherries of the season
Beside growing food orchards and trees, the locals till the rugged mountain patches with hard labour and assistance of animal drive plough to grow food for them. Mostly wheat and barley is cultivated.
Ploughing with snow clad mountains 

For those interested in wild life, the place is a bliss and one can spot by luck the near extinct snow leopards and Pakistan's national animal markhor besides ibex, urial, wolves and black bear. For hunters, however, there is a caution as these wild animals are protected by the wildlife department. 
The mighty Markhor (Photo Source)
Ali posing with the mighty horns of a Markhor
The beautiful multi coloured Murgh-e-Zareen (Photo Source)

Garam Chashma and surrounding areas also have majestic birds like Murgh e Zareen and various species of Chikor including the Ram Chikor or the snow partridge which clucks and whistles high on the stony steppes. Murgh e Zareen or surkhaab is a species of pheasant and is also known as the Himalayan Monal and is hunted for its crest feathers. 
Ali's father in his last days before he expired of illness six months ago
Ali posing with a Chitral Scout

I could not find a video on YouTube showing the exact hot springs of Garam Chashma except the one below which show pools of sulfured water coming from the springs.
There is much more to Pakistan and its scenic beauty hidden in the mountains and plains of the country. Do scroll through my blog for some very interesting and beautiful places of my country - Pakistan.

Video courtesy Faheed Iqbal
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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Porsche Museum, Stuttgart

Germany is known for its top of the line automobile industry in the world. The German brand names like Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Opel, Daimler AG, Ford Germany, Volkswagen dominate the world automobile industry and market. At Stuttgart, Mercedes Benz and Porsche,  two of the leading German car manufacturers, besides having their auto making plants have also established their museums to unfold their journey of car making to the tourists.
The Porsche Museum is located in Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart. The car making plant is also adjacent to the museum. The massive building is a state of art architecture and is kind of a rolling museum with rotating exhibits from a stock of 300 restored cars. The museum building was inaugurated on 29 January 2009 at a cost of over 100 million Euros.
 
 
The overview of one of the floors (above) with rotating platforms of car displays (below)
From some of the very early models to the latest hybrid models, the over 800 cars show the journey the car making by Porsche. Some of the old models displayed in the museum are still in perfect driving condition. It may be added for the information of my readers that Porsche built the car – really an electrically powered wagon – in 1898 at the request of Ludwig Lohner, then Austria’s leading coach builder.

The P1, the earliest model of Porsche, is majestically displayed in the museum as can be seen in the photo below. The P1 was propelled by a 287lb electric motor producing a nominal three horsepower. Powered by a 1,000lb battery pack that contained 44 cells, P1 could attain a top speed of 21 mph and could drive for 49 miles on one charge.
Well that is just the beginning - the show has just begun. Keep scrolling down for some of the best collection of Porsche cars of all times.



The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday daily at 9 AM to 6 PM. The admission fees are 8 € for the adults and 4 € for children up to and including 14 years of age. Children must be accompanied by an adult. There are also special discounted entry fee rates for group visitors. Guided tours are also arranged by the museum. Although, it is least likely for anyone to buy an annual ticket, however, these are available for Adults (non-transferable) 32 € and half of it for other categories.

Since Mercedes Benz museum is also located in Stuttgart,  visitors presenting an entrance ticket to one of the museums will get 25 percent off the regular ticket price or on the concessionary price.
 McLaren TAG Porsche F1 (1985)
The military specific Porsche jeep
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder
Yoou are allowed to pose by sitting into a car for free
Typical Porsche steering wheel
The Porsche Hybrid car
Don't e surprised to know that Porsche also produced motorcycles too

Before leaving the museum, the last feel of a Porsche - simply fantastic

To sum up the visit to the museum, one can only sum it as a fantastic experience. But that is not all - there is Mercedes museum right there in Stuttgart. I will cover my son's visit to the Mercedes Benz museum shortly for lovers of Benz.

References: Wikipedia | BBC 
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