ISLAMABAD: For those living in the capital and a pair of hiking boots, the Margalla Hills is a popular haunt. However, the jury has always been out on which of the trails are the best.
Now, thanks to data from fitness monitoring application Strava, the answer is close at hand.
The fitness tracking company has been in the news recently after researchers and journalists around the world raised alarm over how much sensitive data could be gathered from its newly released Global Heatmap which publicly released activity data from a variety of devices — including smartphones, trackers, and smartwatches.
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While most people focused on some seemingly covert military activity the map had covered, a look in Pakistan mostly served to confirm a foregone conclusion — we are far inclined to exercise our gastric muscles rather than are hind ones. There is just too little data in Pakistan.
However, there are a few spikes of activity in the capital — particularly in the Margallas.
The heat map shows that trail 3 and 5 are by and far the most frequented trails, including some of the variants of the two trails seeing intense activity.
Per the data, the trail 3 fireline and trail 5-A merging into 5-B was the most popular.
There was significant activity on a fireline heading east from trail-5 as well apart from a few other routes which including trail 4 which basically either cut through the trail or allows one to jump between trail 3 and trail 5.
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Trail 3 starts from the Margalla Road in Sector F-6. It is considered a little tough due to steep hills. Its path leads up to the Viewpoint and takes around 30 - 50 minutes to complete for a person who is fit. After the Viewpoint, people have the option of continuing for another 45 - 60 minutes on an easy-going section to reach Pir Sohawa.
Trail 5 starts from Margalla Road in Sector F-5 and runs parallel to trails 3 for some distance. Trail 5 also leads up to the top of Pir Sohawa road. The estimated time to cover the distance on the trail is around 2.5 - 3.5 hours.
A survey to determine which trail did residents like better did not yield any result with around half of the people preferring trail 3 to trail 5 and the other half vice versa.
“Trail 3-A,” Adnan Anjum, who works for a non-governmental organisation in Islamabad, replied instantly when asked about his favourite trail. “It is much more scenic in comparison to the other ones. You can see the face of entire Islamabad while going uphill.”
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His sentiments were echoed by Zakariya Zubair who noted that trail 3 was easier when compared to trail 6.
For Sharif Khan, he preferred the less frequented trail 4. “It is not molested with garbage, is covered with greenery and comparatively thick trees and it disconnects you from the world for an average of 2-3 hours as there are no signals on the entire hike.”
“Trail 3 is the real hike. Trail 5 is the most scenic and trail 6 is the most popular nowadays,” said Zeeshan Haider who said that the hikes every chance he gets away from his media job.
In fact, some leaned more towards trail 5 because of the lower difficulty level.
“Trail 5, because it has a nice spot with water. Trail 6 is new, is also an emerging contender for the “favourite” spot,” said Faran Rafi, adding that trail 3 was too tiring and hard. “I do not know why people do it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2018.
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