Travelogue

Written by;
Saad Ahmed

The Kaghan valley as we know of it may not stand shoulder to shoulder to the beauty and grandeur of Skardu and Gilgit, but its lakes and pastures that still remain hidden from the eye of the camera, are no less than a heaven on earth. Not many who might just have been able to reach these places would most certainly speak of the criminal negligence of our tourism department for there is not a single snap shot of these hidden places available anywhere- places beautiful enough to leave one speechless at first sight.
. 28th of June, I reached Naran in an attempt to relish the magnificence of three assorted lakes namely lake Dodipit, lake Lulusar, lake Saral located some 40kms from Naran down the Kaghan road.  Supplies enough for a week, my gear comprising of dried meat, beans, food supplements, tea, sugar, a small pot and a stove, a water proof tent, rain coat, warm clothing and sleeping bag, complete and as trustable as it always had been.

Started off from Islamabad in the morning at 6 and commuting through local transport, I reached Naran at 4 in the evening amidst slight drizzle.
Kaghan valley is also engulfed by the newly born hindukush range which stretches all the way up to north to meet the other two giants, Karakorum and Himalayas.Great continental ice sheet covered much of the temperate latitudes. The warmer  climate that followed caused the ice sheets to retreat. The features of highland and lowland glaciations are more than evident all across the valley. Boulders of the size of small truck can be found lying near the base of the mountains, brought only by a travelling and retreating glacier.

The infamous Saif-ul-malook is also a glacial lake formed by the rise in temperatures and melting glaciers. Kaghan valley presents an ideal opportunity for the students of geography to witness the effects of lowland and highland glaciations, the glacial lakes and their impact on human lives.

To help myself with the long journey ahead, I decided to go as far possible as the daylight would allow reaching the famous mountain resorts within 4 days.I quickly made friends with the commuters, who helped me locate a shortcut to Lalazar, a rather difficult and steep one. It was my first strong hike up after a year and was an excruciatingly tough one, for I also had my lunch and the load on my back was also a heavy one. It took me 2 hours for an otherwise short hike. I reached the top at around seven in the evening.  Put on my jacket as the air was getting colder and the sun had already begun to set in the west. Had few cups of “dodhpatti” (milk tea) from one of the two or three hotels that served the tourist and set off to locate a campsite, which itself, a difficult process and require much care. The campsite has  to have three basic requirements other than being at a safer place. Care must be taken that the site must not be in the path of water in case of heavy rains or in an area of possible land sliding. While as for the comfort level, it’s certainly more convenient that the ground is grassy and free of stones n pebbles. Soon night stepped in quietly but surely. The air smelt of pine and the ground was carpeted with the needles of twisted and wizened trees, their exposed roots, acting as a formidable trap for the unweary. After unloading and closely inspecting the area, I decided to hit the sack. It did not take me too long to realise that the gear i had was not even  a substitute to what i needed. Thus i had to abandon the plan and wait for guides to arrive with better accessories before starting my week long expedition through nights..
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BECOME THE DAREDEVIL OF CAPETOWN.

CAPE TOWN

Written by: Ushba Khan

A daring dash through the adventurous landmarks.

Few cities contain a spectacular National Park or a broad range of adventurous activities that take full advantage of attracting people. Accentuating this natural majesty is Capetonians’s creative flair with design and color from fluorescent facades to synchronous Afro-chic décor of its guest houses and restaurants which turns Cape Town into one handsome metropolis.

South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town, with its cloud-draped Table Mountain, golden beaches and bountiful vineyards captures people’s hearts.

The star attraction is the Table Mountain. To millions of people who have climbed in the cableway to its 1088 m peak, it is the ultimate viewpoint over the city. If you want to get energetic, Cape Town’s wind-whipped waves and Table Mountain is a nirvana for sport enthusiast, with operators aligned without having experienced adrenaline rushes like surfing and rock climbing.

On my visit to Cape Town, I was craving for adventure when my guide advised me to climb the famous icon of the city, ‘The Devil’s Peak’. The time I climbed, the clouds rolled over the peak covering everything in a fine, wet, moist atmosphere, even though it was sunny in the rest of Cape Town. The weather forecasters predicted sunny skies, so I was in a pant, t-shirt and my hi-Tec v-lite total terrain lace (joggers).

Devil’s peak is a site of great beauty and tragedy. In 1971, an aircraft crashed into the peak, killing 11 on board. The thunderous bam was heard throughout the city. If you look closely, the scars in the ground can still be seen. I literally had goosebumps after glancing at the wounded ground.

However, thrill lies in hiking. One has to cross two huge ‘Lion heads’ (picture-perfect mountain in Cape town). Then, the small section of chains takes you through craggier scale faces to finally the rocky playground which makes your mouth drop.

After reaching my desired destination, I encountered eland, wildebeest, zebra and indigenous animals including porcupine, small grey mongoose and a pair of Himalayan Tahr (a goat that occurs to be seen naturally in mountainous regions of South Africa). It was a picture-postcard view; the skyline was observed from left to right, the spire of devil’s peak, flat mesa of Table Mountain, dome of Lion’s Head, all stood in front, in short, a 360-degree view of Cape Peninsula from approximately 1000m above the coastline made me eyes dissolve in the beauty.

The sky was as pure as snow, the view was stupendous, and the ‘Cape Floral Kingdom’ inclusive of fynbos (a unique plant found only in Cape Town) was alluring. I stood on the edge of the Devil’s Peak and captured a selfie to save it as a memoir.

After this dangerously exciting hike tour, I paraglided and went for a ‘shark-cage dive’, yes, the well of death surrounded with sharks. Luckily, I stepped out alive.

I travelled around the city and came across courts of golf, yoga and sports of pampering at the spa. The scrumptious food in one of the famous restaurant of Cape Town, pleased my taste buds, and provoked me to crave for more.

Cape Town is a multi-cultural city, where respect for different ways of living is ingrained. I will always treasure the time spent in Cape Town since the city allowed me to fulfil my dream and become a daredevil. I have posted all the pictures of the tour in my scrap book so that a broad smile dodges across my lips whenever I look back at the memories.

Diving Republic of Maldives

Exploring the richest underwater world
By Andrea Davoust

Paradise on earth exists. Not exactly on Earth’s surface, mind you, more like several dozen feet below it. To be precise, paradise lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 700km from the coast of Sri Lanka, in the shallow lagoons of the Maldives archipelago. As an island country, fragmented into 1,200 islets, huddled in 26 atolls, the Maldives is an outstanding diving destination.

It is in its transparent, warm waters, that the marine world was revealed to me. “Revelation” is no understatement here. The first day I scuba dived, I swam into an enchanted and hitherto unsuspected universe of iridescent colors, fantastical shapes and unhurried movements.

Now don’t get me wrong. The bit of Maldives that does emerge from the ocean is idyllic – a modest bit really, since ninety percent of the country’s official surface is covered with water and the largest island doesn’t exceed eight square kilometers. In fact, the islets are so postcard-perfect that a description summons every cliché in the book about Robinson Crusoe-style islands: palm trees leaning over fine white sand, turquoise water, gentle waves, tropical heat, fragrant hibiscuses, azure skies.

Then on the 80 or so islands which have been turned into exclusive resorts, foreign guests can sip cocktails under a parasol all day long – a hedonistic treat forbidden to Maldivians, who are Muslims. Since I was not lucky enough to be on a luxury honeymoon, I was stuck working in Malé, the capital island.

It is a compact, polluted concrete jungle of just a few square kilometers, onto which 100,000 people – and possibly an equivalent number of scooters – are crammed, without an inch of palm-fringed beach. Mercifully, other expats quickly pointed me towards the one available escape: scuba diving.

Initially, I was a little worried about getting claustrophobic underwater and strapped into all the gear, so my friends first took me on a snorkeling trip. We rented a dhoni, the traditional wooden fishing boat of the Maldives, and sailed to a spot an hour away from Malé. I slipped into the deliciously warm sea and, floating on my belly, gazed at the depths through a mask.

The visibility was stupendous: I could see shimmering shoals of fish perhaps ten meters below, above undulating sea anemones, eels poking their reptilian heads from holes in the reef, all this in a greenish space of muted sounds. When a turtle glided past, close enough for me to distinguish its scaly face, I knew I had to learn to dive.

And so learn I did. With a funny back-to-school feeling, I sat through hours of “open water” instruction. I became familiar with the tanks and regulators, figured out how to use the dive tables (which tell you how much surface time is required after so many minutes at certain depths), memorized the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis, choked through my first underwater exercises, and finally got PADI-certified.

My first real outing was at a reef called Bolifushi. One by one, harnessed to our clunky equipment, we dropped over the side of the boat, then went under all together. We slowly sank away from the twinkling surface, towards the sandy bottom. Once we had exchanged the necessary safety hand signals, the instructors led the way.

As I followed everyone’s paddling flippers and streams of bubbles, I felt like I was in a science-fiction story. We were explorers, adventurers of a new world, prospecting a totally alien environment, enclosed in our precious survival spheres.

We reached a wreck, at a depth of 25 meters, and my awe intensified. The other divers swam over and around it, like curious insects swarming around an unknown carcass. The wrecked ship lay on its side, and though the structure was recognizable, it had been transformed by its years underwater: fish crossed its portholes and spindly algae grew from the deck.

Over my next dives, I grew so confident that I almost never had to worry about the technical aspects and just focused on enjoying my new playground, the lagoons of the Indian Ocean. I learned to recognize the numerous species of fish: the red and white lionfish, with its antennae-like crests, the big-foreheaded napoleon, then my favourite, the blue surgeon fish, with a round, black-trimmed body the size of a plate and yellow fins.

While no other location can beat the teeming wildlife of the Maldives, I now have the ability to experience other countries around the world differently: underwater.