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Old 8th December 2011, 21:22   #1
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Default IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Firstly a brief background to the trip………….….

I will never forget my first ever trip to Saiful-Maluk, back in 1986, it was late June, and when we reached the lake our jaws just dropped by the sheer beauty of it. A very spectacular lake with surrounding mountains all covered in snow and maybe only in the lower 1/4th of the mountains the snow had melted. In all my subsequent visits, varying dates between mid June to mid august, I never saw the same image of the lake that I had carried over from 1986. Somehow the snow around on the surrounding mountains has never been the same, maybe its global warming, maybe 1986 was a particularly cold year and snow hadn’t melted when I visited. In recent years the visit during peak season the lake had almost seemed devoid of its serenity. All the shops, the temporary hut n all have taken that extra special thing out of Saiful-Maluk.

So after this years summer visit, I had been thinking about a visit to the lake when it would not be busy with locals + tourist + a million K2 Jeeps parked on the side, and have plenty snow around. This would either have to be late October onwards till the road is open or an attempt in early May next year. It was too tempting and I couldn’t wait till next May. So I started planning a re-visit initially for end October. Going for a long or even regular weekend was difficult with so many on-going commitments, eventually I made up my mind that it will be a day trip.

I asked around other IJCian and found several like minded mad men! With short days of winter, maximizing the use of day light was importance. Our plan was to leave Islamabad at 5am. Despite my telling all others to make sure they get ample sleep before departure, the excitement of the trip got the better of me and I hardly slept 30 min in total. Nomi arrived at 04.30 on the dot. Minutes later we left, I called Redbull on the way and he was ready, after picking him we headed for spidy’s place and spidy was at the gate waiting for us at 4.40am, Ghuncha arrived few minutes late but still we left by 04.50 from spidy’s. We picked up his brother in law Fouad on the way and around 05.05 we were at motorway junction.

We moved at a steady pace, staying well within speed limit. Our progress was reasonably brisk as there was almost negligible vehicular movement on early Sunday morning. We drove non-stop and were at balakot just before 8am. After topping up fuel, we decided to stop over at PTDC for hot breakfast + some of us needed toilet break. Our stop proved much longer than anticipated, and we were on the move again at 8.45am. Again, we progressed un-hindered as because of off-season there were hardly any vehicles on the road.

Somewhere along the way, we got a puncture, luckily we realized before it fully deflated and caused any damage. The tyre change was also quick due to teamwork and we were off within 15minute. As we got closer to Naran the outside temp shown was 2 degrees, all the water spillways close to Naran had ice/frozen sludge, which was rather deceptive and we had few awkward wheel spins / tail slide exits on 2WD despite driving fairly cautiously. We reached Naran by 11am, total journey 6 hours including an hour’s break. First stop was tyre puncture repair shop.

After the puncture repair and brief toilet break we headed straight towards Saiful-Maluk our main destination. The path to the lake was rough as usual, probably more compared to what I encountered in summer, likely due to the rains in the recent weeks. In the later half of the journey there was plenty ice / and sludge in the shaded sides of the mountain. A few hairpin turns were quite tricky because of steep incline and the icy slush combo. Took 45-50 minutes to get to the lake.

The lake was just stunningly amazing, it was almost just like I had remembered. I took just few snaps, but mostly just soaked up the atmosphere, the stunning surrounding, the amazing colour and serenity of the lake, the pure blue skies with crisp sunshine, it was just perfect. For me it was totally worth it………..forget about the sleepless night and the long drive too and back.

There were just a few jeeps parked near the lake which had brought 2-3 groups of tourists, maybe 10-15 locals with their horses n two small tea stalls. Everyone just relaxed, took pics and after 45-50 minutes we left the lake. On the way down we decided we won’t stop at Naran but head straight towards Jalkhad. Return descent again took the same time. The road between Naran n Jalkhad is arguably one of the most scenic in Pakistan. This winding section along the river could probably compete with the best anywhere in the world.

Unfortunately the drive itself was not as satisfying this time because of frequent small landslide like areas with plenty vast spread of rock and stones every few hundred meters. And than there was the frozen water/ ice / snow sections on all spillways and also in some hill shadow areas. The frozen waterfalls were absolutely amazing. The pics just couldn’t capture the beauty of it! To our surprise we only encountered a single jeep returning on the way and absolutely no people in any of the villages on the way, except a lone baba jee on the way.

Jalkhad was absolutely deserted. So we moved further towards Lulu Sir Lake, as we gained altitude the snow and frozen slush areas became frequent. It was tricky terrain. Although I was carrying my snow chains with me, but half the track getting sunshine was dusty/ bone dry/rocky and the shaded areas were all icy/ snowy, it was not possible to put on and remove chains again and again. And I didn’t want to risk driving on rocky roads with snow chains on. And keeping in mind the remaining sun-light duration we decided to turn back only a couple of km shy from lulu sir. If we had a second vehicle we could have definitely gone there, but with absolutely no help available nearby, (Naran almost 45-50km) it was wise to return in one piece.

It’s almost obligatory to do a high speed run on a flatter section of Naran Jalkhad road and we managed to hit just over 160kmph. At Naran we had some lovely Chappal Kebab, which were cooked in (by everyone’s consensus) in used Delo 4000. Juicy hot kebabs + Nan and Karak doodh patti to top it off was all that was needed to freshen up everyone.

We left Naran just after 5pm and drove almost non-stop, apart from a brief drinks break at Balakot, reaching back Islamabad around 10pm, with similar driving time of 5 hours again.

Without a doubt the accompanying mad men were all excellent company. To keep us entertained we had our personal Marasi / Phand (he likes to call himself a Fankar) accompany us. To most Pakwheeleres he is known by the ID of Nomi1234. Everyone was a true sport, Spidy probably had the most mickey taken out. I probably was saved mostly because of my seniority and partly from my veiled and some not so veiled threats to chuck them out of TLC. My thnx to all of them for making this memorable trip possible. There were many pics taken by all, hopefully you will enjoy them all, As usual there will be plenty repeats, but I am sure they will still be worth watching again n again.

God Bless Pakistan and its most gorgeous lands and the lovely people.

Writeup by Dr Nadeem Naeem
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Old 8th December 2011, 21:25   #2
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

More pictures of the event
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Old 8th December 2011, 21:29   #3
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

More & more on the way
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Old 8th December 2011, 21:36   #4
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Another set of pictures from by picture gallery
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Old 8th December 2011, 21:53   #5
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Thumbs up Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Hats off to you! This is an absolute eye opener. I have never seen a lake surrounded by mountains with snow on top of them
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Old 8th December 2011, 22:06   #6
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Hope you will like them
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Old 8th December 2011, 23:04   #7
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Those are beautiful snaps of a truly blessed place.

Regarding ugly tourism spoiling the beauty - google up pictures of Rohtang - u have it easy.

PS:what pakoras!!
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Old 9th December 2011, 14:04   #8
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

I was expecting another nice Offroading pics thread - but this is more heavenly... Superb pics and this belongs to the travelouge's section, many Tbhp readers will miss out on this beautiful thread hidden in the 4x4 section...
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Old 9th December 2011, 14:35   #9
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Seriously, i am jealous of you. In a single day drive you get to see such an amazing place, Priceless. We in down south cant even think of getting to someplace like this so close. It takes us many days of driving or expensive almost full day flying to get there.

Awesome pictures and wonderful landscape. Thanks for sharing @aamir567, Keep them coming.
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Old 9th December 2011, 15:22   #10
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Jaw-dropping scenery Aamir. Thanks for sharing! Seeing my favourite SUV - The Landcruiser was a bonus . Unlike the luxurious Landcruisers we usually see, this one's bare-basic trim level makes the Toyota look all the more purposeful in these surroundings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aamir567 View Post
In recent years the visit during peak season the lake had almost seemed devoid of its serenity. All the shops, the temporary hut n all have taken that extra special thing out of Saiful-Maluk.
Same story with most of the tourist spots around Mumbai. However, I'll make an exception in the case of Goa : The crowds actually add to the charm of that place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svsantosh View Post
I was expecting another nice Offroading pics thread - but this is more heavenly... Superb pics and this belongs to the travelouge's section, many Tbhp readers will miss out on this beautiful thread hidden in the 4x4 section...
Done, thanks for the suggestion. I do agree that this thread deserves to be in the travelogues forum, what with the beautiful scenery on display.

Last edited by GTO : 9th December 2011 at 15:23.
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Old 9th December 2011, 16:04   #11
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

@Aamir, the place is amazing. And some well taken pics - coupled with a well written travelogue. I started to scroll down, and just could not take my eyes off many of the pics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aamir567 View Post
More & more on the way
In post #3 in the thread, what is the 2nd pic ? Not able to figure out the path.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aamir567 View Post
Hope you will like them
You are being modest, my friend !

Quote:
Originally Posted by aamir567 View Post
I probably was saved mostly because of my seniority and partly from my veiled and some not so veiled threats to chuck them out of TLC.

Last edited by condor : 9th December 2011 at 16:06.
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Old 9th December 2011, 16:13   #12
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Thanks Aammir for the nice TL. I dont have to ealborate that pictures are AWESOME and narrative Crisp. You said, you took 6 hours for the drive from Islamabad. What is the distance?

I understand that K2 and surroundings are amazing. I was reading the book "The three cups pf tea" wherein the author descirbes the landscape of Karakoram ranges as "heavenly".

BTW, this must be first TL on Pakistan. Aamir, can we expect from from you on Pakistan
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Old 9th December 2011, 16:56   #13
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

@aamir567,
wow!!!
fantastic scenery and beautiful pics.
we would like to read more about Pakistan auto scene and please share some more travel stories.
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Old 9th December 2011, 17:08   #14
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Hvkumar. Where are you? Remember the dream circuit that we used to discuss that included the stretch in pakistan? These pictures stand testimony to that wonderful circuit. Now the push to visit our neighbour is getting stronger and stronger. And hope to do that Mumbai to London drive sooner or later!

Aamir567 - Wonderful pics. Had me drooling over it. Will be subscribing to this thread. What stunning pictures you have put here. Lovely. A 5 star in the making!
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Old 9th December 2011, 20:34   #15
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Default Re: IJC - MadMax Day Trip from Islamabad to Saif-ul-Malook and beyond.

Thanks a lot to everyone for their extremely nice words
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