If there was only one thing that I had to pick as my favorite part of traveling, it would definitely be taking pictures. Whether it’s taking pictures of man-made architecture or natural sights, I just love taking a pause in the middle of everything and snapping a quick photograph. Usually I don’t like going out during the weekends (I have a lot to study, not to mention the fact that most of my blogging and art happens on the weekend as well) but it was purely the opportunity to explore and take photographs was what motivated me to get out of my bed early Sunday morning on the 8th of April 2018.
It was a trip with most of the Emergency Department, so the whole traveling itself was on two really big vans (a fourteen seater, I suppose?) and two cars. I ended up getting the backseat with my little brother and we ended up entertaining each other through most of the trip. Sometimes he would be talking about his video games, sometimes I would offer to play 20 Questions and sometimes he would decide to use my lap as a pillow and go to sleep. I didn’t complain too much, I figured it was a good opportunity for sibling bonding because everybody knows I’m barely home and when I am, I’m cranky. xD
This was the first and major checkpoint of the trip. Located past the hills of Murree and Lower Topa, Gharyal Camp is on the Punjab side of the mountain range. Within Gharyal Camp is the FWO Staging Post, which is basically a sort of hotel or resort type of thing which comes under the Army’s jurisdiction. Fortunately, one of our major hosts was from the Army, so we got to enter the area and also have breakfast in their cafe/restaurant.
Breakfast was pretty good! The cafe also had a fantastic balcony with cute cafe chairs and tables, so I grabbed the opportunity to have breakfast outside. When we had set off from Islamabad, there was no sign of a sunny day and reaching Gharyal Camp, there were signs of rain everywhere. A light drizzle and blowing winds meant it was quite chilly outside, which made eating a nice hot breakfast even more fun!
My brothers joined me in eating breakfast outside, so that was also definitely a memorable moment for me. It’s not every day that I get to sit down outside in wonderful weather with my brothers and actually enjoy it! Although I am a little dismayed at how averse to photographs they are. I would have liked a picture of us sitting together.
After breakfast, we bundled back into the vans and headed out, past Nathia Gali towards Dunga Dali and Ayubia National Park. It was absolutely freezing by the time we got there and we were severely unprepared. We didn’t have enough jackets or any shawls and unfortunately, there were only two shops selling shawls in the near vicinity. One was a roadside stall and the other was a shop that also sold clothing and jewelry.
After much haggling, we got a few shawls, umbrellas and even rain coats, and started the trek on the hiking route that was part of Ayubia National Park.
Of course, since it’s a park, you had to pay a ticket to enter. It’s a single mountainside hiking path that probably leads up to the Ayubia most people think of (I wouldn’t know, I didn’t complete the hiking trail!). There are tons of fantastic trees that tower up everywhere from the mountain and small signs along the path that really shows how this is part of a well-maintained park. There is absolutely no trash anywhere and every now and then, there are benches to sit on. The length of the trail itself was apparently 3.5km according to the signs, but we were 2km in when it started to rain.
The intensity of the rain picked up within mere minutes, causing us to abandon hope of continuing the trail and instead, huddle under the umbrellas. Unsurprisingly, it even started to hail! Standing in the middle of a muddy hiking trail, on the edge of a mountain, surrounded by ancient towering trees, under a flimsy umbrella and raging winds, it was certainly an experience! I personally enjoyed it and was also hoping it would snow as well (even though I was freezing) as I have never seen snowfall in my conscious life! I say conscious life because I have seen snowfall when I was a baby but that doesn’t count.
When the hail stopped, we decided to turn back. It was still raining heavily and most of the party was split into two. The lack of cellular service was also a major problem that made communication difficult. We turned back and headed for one of the benched areas that also had a cover over them, providing some shelter from the rain. While waiting for the rain to let up, we sang the national anthem of Pakistan. It was a great way to distract ourselves from thinking about how soaked, cold and miserable some of us were.
It became clear the other half of our party wasn’t about to come back. They seemed adamant on getting to Ayubia so we went back to the vans and all bundled into one, leaving the other behind for them to return in while we turned back and headed down to Gharyal Camp for lunch. There, we could dry ourselves up thanks to the heating system there and finally get rid of the icky coldness clinging on to our damp clothes.
One of my biggest peeves when it comes to traveling is bathrooms. It’s one of the main reasons why I end up exercising my bladder- you never know where you’ll find a good bathroom to use. Even though we were in an army hotel, the bathroom in the lobby turned out to be broken. The bathroom in the cafeteria turned out to be clogged, and I felt absolutely trapped. There was only so much longer my bladder could hold on! I ate lunch in mild discomfort and hoped I would be able to last until we made it back to Islamabad. However, when there are large gatherings, there is also lots of talk! Not to mention, we had left half of our party behind, who were trekking back and would be taking their own time to regroup.
Fortunately, the staff had left one of the nearby hotel rooms open (presumably for us to use the bathroom??) so when I saw my chance to sneak in, I took it. While everyone was busy taking a group photograph and the staff was busy cleaning up the cafe, I had snuck into the hotel bathroom and conveniently reappeared when it was time to board the vans again.
The trip back to Islamabad was fairly uneventful. My brother used me as a pillow again. I also dozed off for quite a while. One thing I realized was that throughout the van trip, I had a vague headache and pain in my stomach. It wasn’t anything like nausea, but it felt close and it certainly made me uneasy during most of the trip. Having candy to suck was relieving- until the candy finished, which prompted me to make a list of all the things I probably should have brought to this trip.
All The Things This Trip Needed
- Jackets, sweaters, shawls, all of that
- maybe even extra pairs of socks
- chewing gum
- mint candy
- tissues. lots and lots of tissues
- mittens/gloves for freezing fingers
- plastic bags too
- extra pair of shoes
I thought about bringing a book to read as well, but I’ve learned that reading in a moving vehicle seems to amplify feelings of nausea several times over. Same for writing. I had bought myself a journal earlier (Saturday, actually) and have turned it into a travel diary. It’s a small, A5 notebook that I purchased from Miniso and it fit into my little bag. It was a lot of fun carrying it around and writing in it whenever I got the chance and wasn’t feeling too dizzy (which wasn’t very often!). I would also consider bringing color pencils or drawing materials to the next trip, but on the basis of this trip, bringing these types of activities might not be the best idea.
Well, that’s pretty much it for this post! What did you think of it? Would you like to visit this place as well? What are your road trip travel essentials? If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my newsletter to stay updated! Have a nice day!
Here are some pictures I couldn’t fit into the post:
These photographs were edited using VSCO.