At Allshore, we like to take some time off each year to explore the beautiful places in the country of Pakistan. This year we decided to explore Azad Jammu & Kashmir. We had Kashmir valley on our minds and boy it was a great decision. Kashmir valley really is heaven on earth. The mountains, the rivers, and the people; everything made the trip worthwhile.
At the end of shift on Friday, May 23 we set off to Kashmir for our long and interesting journey. We had Keran, Sharda, Kel & Arang Kel on the list of places to visit, but before that we made our first stop in Muzaffarabad for breakfast. Muzaffarabad is the city that was hit the worst in the 2005 earthquake.
After breakfast and refueling, we moved on to the next stop in Keran. Though we were all tired, only a few of us had a chance to nap. As we gradually ascended through the unknown winding roads, the true beauty of the valley literally lit up our eyes. Everyone grabbed their cameras to capture the moments of dawn breaking on the mountains of Kashmir. For most of us it was an experience of a lifetime.
At Keran, we had our lunch by the riverside and across the river on the far side we could see members of the Indian Army. We had never seen an Indian soldier up until then, and it was like we could literally cross over to India if we wanted to. After lunch, I took some time to truly appreciate the beauty that surrounded us. From there we had to move towards Sharda, an amazing place where we were going to stay overnight. As we entered Sharda, we saw the “Shuhada Monument” (Martyrs Monument). The monument was built in the memory of our valorous sons who have laid down their lives for the glory of the nation.
Our rest house in Sharda was right at the bank of two river crossings. There we saw the Sharada Peeth (Sarvajna peetha or Throne of Wisdom) temple ruins. It was the famous temple of the goddess Sarasvatī (Sharda) on the banks of the Kishanganga River, where Hindus & Buddhists used to sit and pray in the early ages. At this point, nobody wanted to sleep but we finally did as the day was coming to a close. We literally had an uphill task for the next day: Arang Kel.
The next day, we got up at 6 a.m. and after breakfast we rented out 4×4’s for the next phase of the trip as our ordinary vehicles would not last on these treacherous roads. We went to the small town of Kel, located at an altitude of 6,879 feet (2,097 m) and started hiking towards Arang Kel. Little did we know that it is at and altitude of 8,379 feet (2,554 m) feet and is only accessible by a two kilometer (1.2 miles) trek from Kel.
This trek proved to be more than what anybody had anticipated. The steep ascent of the trek to Arang Kel proved to be killer, resulting in only half of the 23 participants making it up the hill to Arang Kel, which took us two hours. But the rewards for the sweat and pain of the steep climb were incredible. Hardly anyone had seen anything like this before. The breathtaking panorama views of the sheer beauty just sealed everyone’s lips. The serenity all around, views of the glaciers, grazing horses that looked like the spirits and the houses made of all wooden planks, all made us think that this place is not from planet earth.
After an unfortunately short stay up there, we decided to descend towards Kel and then back to Keran. There we had arranged a barbecue and bonfire. We did some cultural dancing and singing around the bonfire and some other fun activities before going to sleep at around 1 a.m.
The next morning was sunny and hot as we took our route back to Islamabad. On the way we made another stop at Kuttan Valley and visited a hydro dam and some waterfalls. Everybody was heavyhearted leaving such a beautiful place behind and going back to city to their normal lives.
Kashmir (Neelum Valley) is a must see tourist spot for everyone from Pakistan and beyond.