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There are times when the mundane aspects of city life start slithering nonchalantly up your nerves. At times like these, one desperately wants to escape the world around. There is no other choice but to either go into prolonged hibernation or to pack a bag and run away to the mountains.

Shaikh Muhammad Ali


The Opening: Being a mountain goat (A Capricorn), hiking and climbing mountains it seems, is in my blood and if I dont go up a mountain at least once a month; my feet start itching. Either I go hiking with my hiking buddies, family or the Asian Study Group (ASG) once a while. Come 7th October 2012 i.e. the first weekend of chilly October here in Islamabad and Ahtesham Raja, the coordinator of ASG had invited us over for a usual ASG hike to the Talhar village in the Margalla Hills. I thus get up at 5:15 a.m., say my Fajr prayers; and wake up Adil at 5:30 a.m. The other members of the family get up by 5:50 a.m. and by 6:30 a.m. we had our breakfast and leave the house at 7:15 a.m. While hiking and visiting the Internet regarding hiking tips, I have come to learn that the most important thing that we must take care of during hiking is our two feet. If the feet are not taken care of, we can say goodbye to hiking. And I must rush to add that good hiking shoes / boots are the most important ingredient when it comes to securing our feet. Hiking shoes or boots are chosen depending upon the intensity of the hike. If the intensity is light or moderate, then joggers with good grips can do the trick. If the hike is long and intense, then sturdy hiking boots are required which take care of the feet and give them enough breathing space for the long haul. Here is the picture of our familys light hiking shoes which we use during short and moderate hikes.

(Family signature hiking shoes) We reach the rendezvous i.e. the Japanese Garden parking lot by 7:35 a.m. Ahtesham greets us with 13 other hikers. Ahsan Mumtaz (Ex-HEC Project

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Coordinator) and now working for PTCL as an ERP specialist also joins us for the first time.

(The ASG Hiking team) We leave for the base camp in the Margalla Hills @ 7:50 a.m. and start the hike around 8:15 a.m. while enjoying the beautiful morning views around us.

(A view of the Talhar village underneath us) Adil and Mohsin join the faster group and move onwards while I accompany Ayesha, Sabeen and Syeda Tamkinat (an office colleague). The faster group was being led by Ahtesham Raja from HEC.

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(Ayesha, Sabeen and Syeda Tamkinat stopping for a pose) Later, Syeda Tamkinat also left our group and joined the forward party while we walked slowly up the ridge. Although, I was given the impression that the hike was moderate but it turned out to be a little steep and tiring for little Ayesha and thus our speed was much slower than the other group. Rather than hurrying to the top, we thus decided to ascend slowly and enjoying the views further.

(The beautiful Talhar valley in its splendor) The first group reached the first peak around 9:08 a.m. and stopped by for a water and picture break.

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(The participants of the first group enjoying the weather and the scenery) We reached the same spot about 22 minutes later i.e. around 9:30 a.m. and since Ayesha and Sabeen were both feeling tired, we decided to call it a day here.

(Ayesha posing at the sit out on top of the ridge) We opened up our snack bag, took out the sandwiches & water and enjoyed the views from the top. This is the first point I have seen in the Margalla Hills from where you can see both the Rawal Lake and the Khanpur Lake from the same vantage spot.

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(Ayesha enjoying her snacks in my lap) We stayed on this point till 11:15 a.m. and retreated when the rest of the gang returned from visiting the last point on the ridge and joined us.

(The group is retreating at 10:33 a.m. while achieving another feather in the cap) My wife felt slightly uncomfortable since Adil and Mohsin left our group and joined the other group without taking permission from her and thus she was a little concerned about their safety. Mountains being mountains, one can always twist a foot, break an ankle and hurt oneself although my children and I always carry whistles, torches, ropes etc. to have some sort of connectivity and precautionary measures.

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(It is interesting to see here that Mohsin is leading the retreating group) We reached base camp around 12:30 p.m. and after sharing pleasantries, disbursed. We decided to stop by for lunch and ended up going to Haleem Ghar @ the Blue Area around 1:15 p.m.

(We are about to start our Nihari and Haleem lunch @ Haleem Ghar) After enjoying a sumptuous meal, we reached home by 2:30 p.m. Had a warm shower, said our Zuhr prayers and rest was history.

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Post Script: Life in the metropolis with all its glitz and glamour feels overrated sometimes. And so I decide to run off to places devoid of the minutest traces of life. In an age when journalism is becoming more and more etiolated, when articles are becoming shorter and shorter, usually lacking all historical context, travel writing is one of the few venues to write with some complexity about an alien culture. Despite the internet and the revolution in communications, there is still no substitute for a good piece of travel writing. It gets my juices going, my spirit soars and thus I write. Till next time!

The Wandering Dervish

Shaikh Muhammed Ali

E-mail: Cell: +00-92-321-5072996 31st March, 2013, 19:59 (PST)

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