One family heads for the hills to explore the tourism potential of Naran, Shogran and surrounding areas. While none deny the compelling beauty of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the take away message from this trip was more than just a pretty picture.
Check-in at Arcadian resort Shogran (approx. Rs3,000 per night per person)
Rented jeeps and off to Siri (at 8,000 feet) and Payee (at 9,500 feet) for a day trip. Returned to Naran PTDC (Rs7,500 per hut which could accommodate five).
Siri and Paye are two mountain tops north of Shogran. Only locally-hired jeeps can navigate the road which is quite honestly just a path dug out of the mountain and is somewhat levelled. The road was built by the jeep owners who all pool in for its maintenance. There is no PTDC or government contribution in this, say locals.
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The mountain tops are flat and ideal for a lazy afternoon but little has been done to manage, facilitate or even contain tourism there.
Single biggest disappointment: Not a single trash disposal facility in the area – not even a single bin. Locals were also indifferent to protecting the environment.
All PTDC needs to do is place three to four large bins in the area and hire four people to keep the tourist spot clean. Not just in Siri or Payee, but across Naran, Nathia and other hill stations as all hotels end up tossing refuge down the mountains.
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Naran to Batakundi for lunch and back.
Naran itself has the air of a developed area, with its own version of a high street like Oxford Street.
The PTDC huts are located right where the market ends; PTDC has an entire compound, which allows for camping for those who wouldn’t be adventurous enough to set up a tent in the middle of nowhere.
Plus point: Clean rooms with hot running water in the bathrooms.
River rafting in Kunhar River. Then rented jeeps and went to Saiful Malook for a day trip. Came back and camped at Kunhar River for a bonfire night.
Saiful Malook is the single biggest attraction in the area yet another death ride on the jeeps. The 50-minute uphill drive is littered with boulders. Once there, the view was breathtaking but in a sad way.
Part of the gloom is the disrespect to nature which can be witnessed all around the iconic lake. All the little shops selling teas, pakoras and sweet coffee had piles and piles of trash on the sides.
Packed up and returned via Abbottabad.
Photos and text by Ali Tiwana who is a frequent traveller exploring northern Pakistan. He can be found at instagram.com/alitiwana
Text by Mehr Tiwana who is a corporate communications specialist and tweets @mehr_tiwana
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2015.