Sunday, 7 April 2019

Travel Diary: Kallar Kahar

Travelling does not have to be an expensive and elaborate experience. It does not have to have a train or a plane ride and visas and passports. You do not need to save all year to go on one vacation. I have learned to appreciate and take joy in visiting and exploring little towns and have realized that sometimes you underestimate the beauty of something just because it is easy to reach and sometimes you spend a big amount only to be disappointed. After our first international move, it took us five years to go on our first 'international' vacation together. We were struggling financially and managing our lives in a new country and a vacation seemed like an expense that we could not afford. That, however, did not stop us from taking numerous little trips to places that we could at least drive to. Every other long weekend, we would select a small town or village and go exploring. It got me wondering why I never thought of doing this in my own country. 

So, now on all my trips to Pakistan, even though, I am always struggling with the shortage of time versus the tasks at hand, if I manage to squeeze in a small adventure to a new destination, the mission is accomplished. 

This time it was a day trip to Kallar Kahar, a small town in Punjab. Just one and half hour from Islamabad this little valley holds a beautiful lake, the shrine of Abdul Qadir Gillani's grandsons, Takht-e-Baburi and Baagh-e-Safa, a garden known for its natural beauty; freshwater springs, abundant fruit trees and dancing peacocks which we failed to find. 

Lake Kallar Kahar is the main attraction of the town. You see it while on the way. Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP)  has built a motel that overlooks this salt lake and is also connected to a small park open to the public. You can enjoy a boat ride on the lake. In a glance, it feels like a big funfair and the best part is that it is a permanent one

We reached Kallar Kahar with growling stomachs and a strong craving for chai like never before. Lol. Like always. So, we decided to have lunch at the TDCP motel. We ordered Chicken Karahi and Tikka with fresh naans and a refreshing cup of tea. Food and service were both good.  

Later, we went to the colourful park that we could see from the outdoor sitting area of the motel. People from nearby areas had come for recreation. The park was filled with happy squeals and waves of laughter. Swings, boat ride, camel ride, horse ride, shooting and the overall air of festivity made it worth the drive. 

We also decided to go for boating. 

There were shops selling beautiful handicrafts made of cane, wood and seashells. Food stalls, drinks, snacks (Read snakes :D) and even a massage centre was there for everyone's enjoyment. 

Yes, a massage centre. 

No, we did not try it.  

After the boat ride, we drove to Takht-e-Baburi which is a rock-cut platform from where the emperor Babur addressed his army. It was hardly 5 minutes away. The first Mughal emperor, Babur, stopped in Kallar Kahar during one of his expeditions and was so impressed with its beauty that he asked his troops to build this throne for him which is now a heritage. Baagh-e-Safa was also constructed on Babur's orders. 

Takht-e-Baburi is on height and you have to walk all the way up. The view from the top is beautiful making you forget the steep walk. Going back down is easy peesy. 

The highlight of the trip for me was Abdul Shah Gillani's shrine for its spiritual feel, poetry on the walls, and the little colourful market around it. There is a beautiful winding road that you take to reach the shrine. At this point we were to be greeted by peacocks but, there were none in sight. 

We parked our car just a few yards before the shrine in a parking lot and walked up a steep lane. The spot where we parked our car had this precarious looking cable car, transporting humans between the two mountains which caught a lot of attention and concern when I posted on Insta-Stories. But, there it was ... successfully taking people from one mountain to the other. It was almost evening by then and we had to go back but, I would have tried it if I had more time. 

At least I can say this now...

My sister-in-law and I just wanted to buy everything from the shops on both sides of that little lane that took us up to the shrine. The market brought back so many memories of our childhood funfairs. The small shops were flooded with all kinds of crude plastic toys, trinkets, clay pots, handicrafts and gifts. There were also petals and flowers that people buy for graves and other religious sovienours.  

Finally, we reached the beautiful Shrine. It has graves of two grandsons of Abdul Shah Gillani. It commemorates the bravery of both the grandsons who laid down their lives trying to save and rescue the people of the region. And that is why the locals believe that peacocks (birds from heaven) come to visit the graves. 

If we had more time, we would have gone further to the complex of Hindu temples called Katas but, time was limited and we wanted to drive back during the day so, we just enjoyed what we could and headed back home. 

I am so glad that I did this little trip and managed to see a place that is historical, spiritual and beautiful. I was surprised that it was so easily accessible and yet, I had not been there despite living in Rawalpindi all my childhood. 

Don't wait for that grand vacation to 'travel', perhaps start with exploring such gems on little weekend getaways. 

Tell me places that I must visit when I go to Pakistan next? 

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1 comment:

  1. It was definitely a fun filled outing, a place I too visited for the first time, though I claim to be Pindi girl 👧