Yesterday Islamabad was heavily cloudy and my family insisted for a drive through lush green alleys and avenues of Islamabad. We leisurely drove and enjoyed the light drizzle. We stopped a while at Said Pur village (and had to pay Rs. 400 for a plate of pakoras and two cups of tea). And then decided to drive up the Margalla hills to its pinnacle at Pir Sohawa (here I may add that the Monal Hotel atop the Margalla Hills is not actually located in Pir Sohawa. In fact Pir Sohawa is a small village further ahead and down the other side the Margalla Hills. But tourists often call the Monal Hotel as Pir Sohawa).
The Margalla Hills serves a background scenic wall of the capital city Islamabad. There are three picnic spots on it. At its foothills is a small park cum zoo, called Margazar. Just a little distance upwards on a winding road is the second level of rest and recreation at place called “Daman-e-Koh” or the Centre of the Hills. This place served the Isloos and other tourists well ( and it still continues to be so) for quite a long time till another rest and recreation place on top of the Margalla Hills, just few kilometers short of the village Pir Sohawa was developed and a motel attracted more people. From here the entire Islamabad can be seen in its entirety and beauty.
Now going up to Pir Sohawa is a daring task. First of all one has to have a car or vehicle with a strong engine (even a Suzuki with a strong engine would do). Secondly very good driving skills as the gradient is very high and road at curves is so steep that one really has to get down to first gear to negotiate it. So despite being cautioned by my wife, I undertook the challenge and stared inching upward in rain, which was now gaining momentum. And each turn was hair-raising. But slowly and gradually we reached this Monal place. Unlike normal days when there is no rain, the tourists and holiday makers were nestled inside the wooden building and the lawns were lying empty. We first got a place inside the building, but there is no fun if you don’t sit outside and enjoy the glittering lights of the building and traffic down below. So I went out in the narrow corridor where only a few tables were laid and luckily I found one family leaving and so we occupied the table despite rain falling on us. While the order was placed, we started enjoying the weather, which was quite rough with lots of thundering and lightening. And I was just wondering to take a snap of the lightening flashing across the sky. These were just like many shots taken by my Flickr friend Mark and I always wondered how he enjoyed watching and shooting the lightning across the sky.
And then there it was - the BOLT of my lifetime. We were just watching the lightening, when suddenly there was big cracking sound with a flash that was almost dazzling. The lightning struck the adjacent ridge and instantly put the trees on fire. I was awestruck and so were all others. Everyone left the tables and gathered outside to see the trees on fire just close by. I really thanked the Almighty (not Bruce almighty but the actual ALMIGHTY) for having us spared with so less a margin. Otherwise a bolt so close would have razed the wooden structure of the Monal into ashes in seconds. Then slowly people got settled and started eating and so did we. And the fire which picked up quickly, luckily started to extinguish by the rain.
After the dinner, the journey downwards started – equally dangerous as coming up. I drove with utmost caution as road was so wet and any sharp brake could result in skidding (I will some day narrate the skidding experience as well). On one of the turns, a Honda City overtook me and zoomed past and naturally I murmured on his bad driving. On the next turn I saw the same car half struck on the protective railing of the road. Half on the road and half in the air with the driver stranding by. I wish he hadn’t been driving so rashly as he could have fallen down and God knows what would have happened to him.
We finally descended and I took a deep breath for having come down safely. Next time it rains, do go to Pir Sohawa – you never know you also get to see a lightning like I saw. But be very careful while driving even if you have a sports car.
Pir Sohawa (Wikipedia)
Margalla Hills (Wikipedia)
Photo (Pir Sohawa Monal) Courtesy: Faisal Saeed (Flickr)