Off to Isloo!
Thursday, March 31, 2005 | 26 commentsby
The plan to go to Islamabad was hatched on the spur of the moment when Zaheer announced that he is bored and therefore would like to go on a long drive (his idea of a long drive also included an overnight stay). The five of us – me, Romi, Zaheer, Farhan and Ali – left Lahore around 7:15pm on 21st March. We stopped to get the car tank full first and also get some stuff to eat as it was decided not to stop much along the motorway. Farhan took to the driving seat and we reached Islamabad in three hours time.
Upon reaching there we asked for directions to “Blue area” so we could have dinner at ‘Jehangirs’ which is a good desi-food restaurant. The dinner was scrumptious and everyone ate to their hearts content. After dinner we drove around “Blue area” to search for lodging. As you drive around, you come to Constitutional Avenue and can see the Presidency and the Parliament House along the way. These buildings are magnificently built and reek of the power that they hold.
After a little while we found a very nice guesthouse ‘Chateau Royal’. It was very cosily built and the rooms were spacious and welcoming.
The funny part was when the waiter took our luggage and went to place it in the girls & guy’s rooms accordingly – he thought the two large suitcases must belong to us girls while the handbag and the backpack must belong to the guys. It came as a jolt to him when he found out the medium-sized handbag was the female’s total luggage and Zaheer made some flippant comment about us being the only two females in the world who travelled so light.
A couple of hours were spent in playing cards and then we decided to call it quits for the night as it was decided we’d go to Murree (a hill-station near Islamabad) in the morning.
Rise & shine everyone
In the morning everyone got ready (though Ali was hopping around half-naked in the lobby and only when a female shrieked at the horrific sight did he put his shirt on) and then we had our breakfast in the breakfast room. The scenic beauty of Islamabad and the clear sky made the morning more beautiful and exquisite. Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan is located against the backdrop of Margalla Hills. It is one of the most peaceful places to be in and one of the most well planned cities. The roads are of high quality and well maintained; greenery and the hills compliment the serenity of the city.
Journey to Murree
We set out for Murree, the most popular summer resort of Pakistan, around 11am. The traffic was light and the weather pleasant. Murree is an hours drive northeast of Islamabad but the drive is nerve wrecking especially for people like me who has a height phobia. The roads are narrow and the turnings are dangerous. Traffic is heavy on most days though this day was an exception but I still kept reciting various prayers even though Zaheer was driving with veritable ease. To add fuel to fire (for my phobia), Farhan narrated a thrilling story of his experience in Yosemite where his life was saved by sheer luck during one such drive. It was a very interesting story though it played havoc with my mind at that time and the speed of reciting the prayers considerably rose in my heart. There were green pine-covered slopes all around the road and made the whole view extremely breathtaking.
Finally we reached Murree and went via the “Mall” (which is a shopping area located at the center) to Kashmir Point, which is at the northeast end. As soon as we got out of the car, the chilly wind hit our faces and froze the limbs. Snow was still lounging in some corners but it was so dusty that it seemed more like a dirty stone than snow. Two Pathan kids asked us to do riding but we decided to walk on our own so that we could enjoy the scenic view at our own leisure. A street vendor offered to sell film rolls to us and also take our pictures but we didn’t need any of that since we had the magician photographer Farhan with us.
We passed by St. Denys Girls High School and the Murree Church on our way and kept walking towards the President house (formerly known as Governor House). A pine-covered forest is found on one side of the road while magnificent mountains can be seen on the other.
The reason we chose to visit Kashmir point instead of it’s counterpart Pindi point was because Kashmir point offers a much more fascinating view of the magnificent natural sights. At a near distance one can see lush green fertile valley and hills covered with snow. The panoramic view mesmerizes the viewer and one just keeps gazing at the icy peaks as if transfixed by the sheer beauty of nature. The beauty of the valley casts a spell on your senses and the sight that befalls bewitches the audience. When sunlight falls on the icy peaks, it dazzles the eyes as such it makes the mountain tops look so alluring and makes one wish that time would stop and they can enjoy the tranquility of such a place. The howling wind and the chirping of birds works as the perfect background music.
Our thrilling excursion was cut short at a point where a landslide had fallen recently so we had to turn back, and decided to go back to Islamabad. With a heavy heart at leaving the peace and tranquility of such a beautiful valley, we drove back to Islamabad. The song “Yeh haseen vaadiaan …” from “Roja” was on in the car and it fit the bill perfectly. I enjoyed the drive back to Islamabad as now we were going downhill.
Back in Islamabad
We got back in Islamabad around 4pm and went to “Pir Sohawa”. On the way up you can find a lot of monkeys sitting on the road enjoying treats from the tourists. Pir Sohawa is on the way up from Margalla Hills and when the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan last year, they were taken on a trip there too. We stayed there for a few minutes and then decided to go down to “Daman-e-Koh” – a low hill overlooking Islamabad.
Daman-e-Koh is often described as a terraced garden in the heart of Margalla hills. One can enjoy a glorious panoramic view of Islamabad from up there and it boasts of a very nice restaurant so you can fill your tummy and enjoy the picturesque view alongside. The food was very delicious and wholesome.
Rawal dam can also be seen from up here, which is the main water reservoir for the residents of Rawalpindi/Islamabad.
The panoramic view of Islamabad enchanted us and we stayed there till sunset. Watching the sun set from Daman-e-Koh was an enthralling experience. The change in light was so exquisite and the different colours in the sky captivated the viewer. The scene looked right out of the world’s most beautiful painting. It is at times like these that one really marvels at the universal beauty of nature. Time was short or else we would have loved to stay there for a lot longer.
Our next stop was “Hang-out” -- a sheesha-bar in Islamabad. Sheesha is a special sort of smoking pipe with flavoured juices inside it which makes the experience of smoking more pleasing. The ambience of the place came as a nice surprise to us. As you enter the bar, the pleasant aroma of scented smoke hits you and the superb décor is eye-pleasing - it is a delightful blend of western, Arabic & traditional designing. As we were all full, we decided to have light snacks instead of proper dinner. The little tidbits of food were nice; their mango ice cream is specially recommended while the soup wasn’t up to the standard. The good thing about this bar was that people of all ages could come and enjoy – apart from the usual teenagers hanging around, there were families enjoying the food and atmosphere.
Back to Lahore
Time flew and soon it was time to leave Islamabad. We left for Lahore at 11pm and this time Zaheer wanted to test Romi’s driving skills (she flew his test with flying colours and Zaheer is now a full-fledged fan of her driving). Farhan regaled us with more thrilling stories of his life and at 2:30 am we were back in Lahore after a tremendously entertaining trip.
Our only loss on this trip was my broken shoe * sniff sniff*