I’m feeling ecstatic. Finally, one of my biggest dreams has come true. I’m in Skardu. We all have our personal battles, and such trips give one a relief. It is the tonic I needed after going through my cancer and it’s consequent hospital visits. Coming here to Skardu has been the best healer and morale booster for me. Whenever I felt apprehensive during this trip, I told myself, ‘I’ve faced cancer – this is peanuts!’
Thank God, I could join my friends Haroon Sharif and Uzma, who had made this plan over a month ago. I was a bit unsure due to my mother, but having my daughter Waliya in town, made me feel at peace. Our staff is very reliable too. Also, through my phone app I can see what is going on in my home. So, here I am sitting in the veranda of my Swiss Cottage, at Shangrila, writing this post. I can see Lower Kachura Lake right in front of me, just about fifteen feet away. It is reflecting mountains, red roofed chalets, the famous pagoda, greenery and so much beauty.
What I love the most about Shangrila is that it is well maintained. You see people constantly at work, maintaining the garden, the rooms and they have a good system that works! Yes, everyone calls it heaven, and it certainly is! Even the water is so clear. (Something I dreamed about whenever I saw the crystal-clear waters of Atlantic ocean in Halifax in 2019.) I’d think, ‘why can’t our waters be this clean?’
While the plains of Pakistan are sweltering at 42 degrees and above, here it is 7 – 14 degrees. (Last night I used two quilts!) The most beautiful roses are blooming before my eyes. I’m very satisfied, as I’ve just done some rowing which I was dying to do, ever since we came. Finally, after seeing almost all beautiful places around, we are actually exploring Shangrila – the name of the place where we are staying.
Why I’m writing this post:
It is to encourage all persons in their middle-ages (45 to 70 years) and older) to travel in Pakistan. There are good places here which are comfortable and well kept. Why should just daring foreigners come here, we too need to enjoy our country. Youngsters are tough enough to rough it out, we prefer more comfort as we travel. So, now we have have good choices, and many good tourist companies have sprung up. At their ages, I too would be happy camping and going on tough trips.
There are others like me who like comforts of modern life, or who have small children with them, health issues or are belonging to older age groups. So you can avail these good facilities which are comfortable and of good standards. So, it was a pleasant surprise to find nice hot running water, comfortable rooms with clean sheets and good food. The transport we had was also very comfortable and tough enough. Of course there was a nice courteous staff to help one out and pleasant ambiance. We stayed at Serena Shigar in Shigar Fort for two days, and in Shangrila in Lower Kachura Lake at Skardu.
My tip is to give generous tips to the staff, whenever appropriate. (I take it as a sadqa too.)
A holiday of seven days (18th till 24th May 2022)
Flight to Skardu from Islamabad:
Spectacular views during the flight:
All these videos and image of aerial views have been made by Sadia Majeed. (Photographs shared by permission.) Since she had the window seat, and I usually prefer the isle seat. (I knew she would get good ones for me. 😊)
Skardu airport and drive to Shigar:
It is about an hour and a half to Shigar from the airport. Frankly, I don’t even remember how much it was exactly, as the landscape was so beautiful. We saw the snow capped mountains, and the cold desert on the way. We drove mostly along the beautiful Indus River.
Shigar valley and Serena:
Serena hotel is located within the premises of Shigar Fort. The first day (on 18th May,) we just settled into our rooms. I loved mine which was called ‘2 G’ which was next to the reception and I didn’t need to climb too many stairs. Our friends, Haroon, Uzma and Danial were next doors to me, we also had a lovely public lounge between our rooms. Rest of our team was to stay in Shigar Fort rooms used by the inhabitants of the fort all those hundreds of years ago! It was all charming, clean, and made of stone and wood.
All meals are served in the open-air grape-vine-trellis roofed dining area next to the main entrance.
Thank goodness, everything was nearby. No long corridors and high stairs here. It was charming, homely and welcoming.
On 19th morning our first morning, we had asked the two drivers to arrive with the Prado vehicles by 10.00 am. We started out by seeing a government-maintained orchard of apples which is quite famous. It has beautiful flowers growing there including irises that I saw for the first time in my life!
After this we drove around two hours to see the beautiful Manthoka water fall which is around 180 feet (55 meters) high. It is really beautiful, and we ordered trout fish from the hotel there which we had with our lunch of Biryani.
The drive back of two hours also included my ride on the ATV on the cold desert! It was fun, and I realized that a ride on the ATV is no rocket science, and lots of fun. There was the option of horse rides and jeep rides too.
This brings me to the end of this post. Part II definitely carries a lot of exciting travel in Skardu.
Stay blessed my dear Reader! 🙂