Since childhood I had a dream to visit the beautiful Northern Area town of Skardu. I planned it many times but the plans could not materialize due to one reason or another. Then, as it happened, the trip to Skardu was planned and implemented on a very short notice when both of us were not guessing it.
I was to meet my lifetime friend Riz in his office in Islamabad to bade him farewell as he was going back to U.S. after spending a very successful time as CEO USF. I reached Riz’s place on Tuesday, 3oth July 2019 at 1430 by Bus from Lahore after winding my way through picturesque hills of the Salt Range. Riz was kind enough for sending me his driver and he asked me to come to his residence and have a lunch. I told him that I want to visit a friend to take back my luggage so Riz suggested to drop me off first at his home and come by metro bus at night. I agreed. After meeting my friend, I collected my luggage and riding metro reached Riz residence at 2030 where I was told that Riz was waiting for me since 1930. He met me with usual crescent school days fervor and we had a superb dinner. Later I told him that I had to visit PTCL Headquarters tomorrow that is Wednesday 31st July 2019. All of a sudden, during our conversation during dinner, Riz told me that one of his friends had a visit of Northern Areas and they are awesome. Riz said that he had some time those days and we both may visit Skardu from thu. through sat. that is 1st to 3rd August 2019. I was overjoyed since it was like a dream come true. I instantly agreed to the proposal. On the following morning, after a lot of rain from late night to about 0900 his driver dropped me at PTCL Hqs where I visited several of my longtime friends and colleagues and had lunch with them.
We started early from Riz place at 0900 as the flight was at 1045 and reached the new Islamabad airport at 0945. We took the boarding pass and reached the waiting lounge by 1010 am. We boarded the plane by 1025 which took off exactly at 1050. The scenery, after a few minutes of flight, was exotic and breath taking as we were flying over snow caped high mountains. The captain saw us K2’s snow caped peak, then after a few minutes we took a sharp right turn for landing at Skardu airport and then the airplane started losing height sharply. Actually, flying at 8700 m for a mere 40 min flight is too much. The air plane took about 2-3 turn around Skardu city and then only it was able to land on the run way. The view below was breathtaking with Indus and sand and houses and some trees… Anyhow when we landed, no sooner did we come out of the aero plane than we both were captivated by the surroundings of the Skardu airport. Just ignoring the bus that was there to pick us up, I and Riz started taking snaps of beautiful mountains all around. Afterwards, we took the second round of bus and then came out of the airport where a person was there to pick us up from our Hotel. We reached our Hotel in a few minutes since the hotel was quite near to the airport. We took some time to fresh us up and then immediately took the road to the Deosai plains which proved to be a 3 hours journey. We started at around 1300 and reached Deosai proper at 1600. It was very cold up at Deosai. The plains are highest in the world after Tibet and are situated at a height of 14000 feet, about 6000 feet above the Skardu city. We took out our light jackets but it was still very cold. It was also raining and that added to the cold. When we looked at the surroundings, It seemed as if we have reached a fairy land. There were green gently rolling hills all around will flowers and puffy clouds touching the hills. We took there quite a snap and then started followed the return path to Skardu at around 1600. On our return journey, we met the marvelous Sadpara lake with its turquoise water and the high speed wind that was blowing all around it which I still remember. We then passed by the hydroelectric power plant of Skardu which supplied electricity to Skardu city. After passing through several streams at which Riz stopped the jeep every time to wash his face with the fresh and icy cold water of which he was very much fond of; we reached Skardu city and took a very nice dinner of chikan boneless handi ( boneless Chicken ) at one of the local restaurants which was one of the best I ate to date.
The second Day was the 2nd of August 2019. The sky was clear, as usual, at Skardu since Skardu lies outside the influence of the monsoon. As we were very much tired the day before so we decided to try the complimentary breakfast at our hotel. The breakfast was nice. After taking breakfast it was already 1030. Now before wasting any further time, we started towards upper Kachura Lake. It has got a magnificent view and the way leading to it is full of streams, waterfalls and lakes. We did a lot a photography at some of the bridges built on these mountain rivers. When we reached upper Kachura lake we rested for a few minutes then waded through the ice-cold water courtesy Riz ( Riz liked to wade through already and I being reluctant was pushed towards the water by him). It was an experience that cannot be put into words. Later we had a delicious lunch of fresh trout fish. By the way I ate Trout for the first time in my life. It was fresh from the waters and it was delicious. After spending an hour or two at this spot we started for lower Kachura lake which is nearby at a distance of half an hour. We parked our jeep in the parking area and walked for about 10 minutes or so to reach the lower Kachura lake which we found to be as beautiful as the first one but with facilities of boating, swimming etc. We took a motor boat and asked the boatman to go slow so that we can better enjoy the scenery around the lake. We had covered about half a distance when Riz asked the boat man to stop and let us drop near a bunch of trees. As we got out of the boat and started climbing the mountain full of trees it was the most charming experience. Although the ascent was quite steep but the fragrance around spread by the local herbs and the scene of the lake from the mountain made the hiking experience a memory to remember. About an hour of ascent and descent we called the boatman who picked us up from the hiking spot and back to the boating point. We had a lunch of trout on our journey back which was delicious as usual.
Our next journey was Shangri-La spot which took us about 15 minutes to reach. It’s a beautiful artificial spot created to be enjoyed with the family. It has residential apartments and nice restaurants. It has a lake around which the hotels and restaurants are set is especially beautiful but somewhat marred by human intervention and pollution. We stayed there for about 2 hours and then returned to our hotel to take some rest. As we were tired to the core, we decided to have dinner in the hotel.
Since we had a flight back to Islamabad at 1245 so in order to reach Skardu airport at least on hour earlier at 1145, we had to get up and start our journey quite early if we were to see the beautiful Shigar valley in detail. Shigar valley is a beautiful valley at a distance of 80 km or one and half hours by road from our hotel at Skardu. We started at 0730 in the morning and by about 0815 we were passing by the COLD DESERT area of Skardu. It is very interesting that although this area of Pakistan is famous for its cool weather in summer but it is so dry and the rainfall so meagre that some parts of it have been converted to virtual deserts! The sand dunes were just like the Cholistan desert of the Punjab or the Thar desert of Sind. The only difference being that this one was a cold one. After a half hour or so we reached a spot on a bridge where it was written that it is the entrance to Shigar. After crossing it and taking a turn we reached a spot which is called Shigar view point from where whole Shigar valley can be viewed. From a distance the valley appears to be an oasis in a desert. After this point the road gently descends and as we enter the beautiful Shigar valley we first pass by the beautiful 17 th century mosque built by one of the Rajas of the Shigar Valley and then the winding road leads us to the famous Shigar fort, once a stronghold of a Raja of Shigar. It was renovated by Agha Khan III and now it is acquired by a five star hotel company and is being run as a commercial hotel. As the fort opens at 1000 and it was only 0930 so we could not see the fort in detail and upon request we were allowed to take a general view of the Fort. It was a nice one with beautiful rooms made for the royalty. After a while we came out and took a nice breakfast at a beautiful spot over a rushing river stream just overlooking the Fort. It was already 1000 hours now so we decided to return to our hotel near the Skardu Airport. On our way back, near the City I stopped for some ice cream, my weak point, and Riz took some milk shake with falooda. We then proceeded straight to the hotel took the luggage and reached the Airport exactly at 1145. After checking in and boarding etc, we are in the airplane which took off at 1255. Up in the clouds, after some time, we could see the peak of Nangaparbat. Afterwards passing over Mansehra, Abbotabad and Havelian, the Plane started its descent. What a descent it was. Actually, to fly at 8700 metres in a 40 minutes flight is too much. It took the captain about 10 minutes and 2-3 circles around Islamabad airport to land at last at the runway. It was now 1440 and Riz driver was already waiting to take us straight to our homes in Lahore, Thanks to Riz for his courtesy.
No doubt, my trip to the northern area town of Skardu was the best trip I ever had in my whole life.