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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