I’ll have to admit, Mooroo’s recently released travelogue sort of got me wanting to take a break and revisit the beauty that Pakistan has to offer. While Mooroo went deep into the hidden treasures of Pakistan’s northern areas, such as Naran and Lake Saif ul Mulook, I barely ventured as far. To be honest, I once travelled all around Hunza back in 2014 and three years later, I’m itching to have a similar experience.
So I took a break from work, packed my bags and booked my ticket to Islamabad. Without wasting any time, I booked a car and headed straight to Nathiagali from the airport.
It’s a short and breezy two-three hour drive. By breezy, I mean literally breezy. During this time of the year, the chill has started to creep in and as you go higher and higher up the mountains, the weather becomes almost unrecognizable for a Karachiite who is used to the warm and humid weather that hangs around even once December arrives.
A warning for the faint hearted though, the drive can make one feel a little queasy since the road to Nathiagali twists round and round several times. But if you ask the driver to drive a little slowly, the ride becomes a lot more bearable.
Alas, I finally arrived in Nathiagali. It took some time locating the hotel but with the help of Google Maps, I was at my destination in no time. Alpine Hotel is a cozy little vacation home that is nestled safely between dense forests, perfect for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Budgeted around Rs. 8000 per night, the hotel was perfect for a weekend getaway. Try their fried fish if you get the chance.
There isn’t much else to do in Nathiagali except for walking and hiking so that’s what I set out to do. The winding road leads towards the very famous St. Matthews church that is surrounded by magnificent horses, a picturesque park filled with rides and ample space for a picnic and small tuck shops that serve the best doodh patti.
A local then advised me to take the road less traveled i.e: a narrow path through the forest that would lead me back to my hotel. Naturally, my first instinct was to simply go back the main road. But then I decided to hike through the forest. While there is a small, man-made rocky path that leads the way, there isn’t a hint of mankind on that road. I was surrounded by dense trees, the sounds of monkeys and complete isolation. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of that road, plus no camera would have done justice to the ambiance and the feeling of being completely alone.
The best part is that life up in the mountains is so laid back, it really slows time down. An hour feels like several hours and a day felt like a week! What made it even better was that there was no leering or jeering, the weather was perfect and it seemed like a safe place for women to travel in.
I headed back to Islamabad shortly but made the most of my stay there too. For those who love to hike or trek, trail no.5 of the Margalla Hills is beautiful. I barely managed to do 4-5 kilometers that day as we were losing light and it was difficult to walk back down on the rocky, unmade route without having sufficient sunlight. And while the hiking in Islamabad was nothing compared to Nathiagali’s hidden treasures, it was the perfect way to end the trip!