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Hike from E-9 to Kot Jindan via Trail-1B (Darra Siniarri Trek

(Start Coordinates: 33°43'12.96"N 73° 00'22.77"E) Elev: 1,922 feet) (End Coordinates: 33°44'38.75"N 72° 58'47.42"E) Elev: 3,160 feet) Total Return Distance: 7.16 kms

(Shaikh Muhammad Ali)

3D Google Map of the entire Hike: Maximum Trek Elevation 3,160 Feet

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

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Opening Statement: Money is something which I never had, still don’t have and probably will never have. It actually burns a hole in my pocket. And I have come to terms with this. What the hell! Who needs money when you have happiness? Yeah right! When I wanted to get married; I asked an uncle of mine as to getting tips on this issue before I would take the plunge. He told me two things about marriage. Marriage is nothing but economics and compromise. If you have money and you are willing to compromise then you should get married otherwise forget the idea. Well, I still don’t have money but I gathered the courage to compromise. And boy, I tell you that I am still compromising to date. Hope my wife does not get to read this? Laughter! Well, in the early marriage days, your ‘Bhabi’ (My better half) and I would leave no opportunity to sneak out for a dinner whether it was an uppish restaurant or a down to earth Dhaba depending on the amount of moolah I would have in my pocket at that very moment in time. One such Dhaba was the ‘Café Clifton’ which was on the way to the Clifton beach near ‘Sea view’ apartments in Karachi and believe you me, we would feast on one chicken piece barbequed, one Seekh kebab, one Paratha, one ‘Nan’ (Bread) and to wash it down, two cups of tea. All this in just Rs. 89. Yes, you read it right. Rs. 89 only! And this was not in 1901. It was 1997. Come Saturday (a fortnight ago), 19th May 2012; I took my father, wife and children to Hardees in sector F-7, Islamabad for dinner. We had fancy burgers with fries & drinks and ended up paying Rs. 2,850 for the six of us. Goodness gracious. Look at the rate of inflation in 14.5 years. Just read in last Sunday’s paper that the inflation stands at 11% and with the current Federal budget we will probably end up living in trailer parks  It is not that I could not afford such a dinner once every weekend with my family but one meal at such an exorbitant rate (and that too fast food) is just not done. I just felt beside me when I met a poor kid right outside the same restaurant begging for a few pennies. May God forgive me for such extravagance? Amen! While we are on the subject of restaurant & eateries, I just happened to visit G-9 Markaz yesterday and while walking around, noticed a strange name of an eatery ‘Hubba Bubba Atomic Foods’. Well, I wonder what kind of atomic foods do they serve but I am sure that these atoms would roll in the stomach of the not so very atomic customers after feasting there. LOL 
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(Names do matter, huh!) Now let me transport you to the subject of this article. Last time when we were coming back from the Kalinger hike on 31.03.2012, our team lead i.e. Wing Commander Gohar Saeed suggested that we must do the Siniarri trek as well next time around. This got stuck in my mind and surely I wanted to do this one too. On Friday, 13th April 2012; I called up Dr. Group Captain Fahim Hashmi (one of my PhD graduate scholar) if we could go hiking the next day to the Siniarri Trek on which he immediately agreed. Within the next half hour, he called up to confirm that not just Gohar Saeed would lead the pack to Siniarri but Vice Chief of Air Staff ® Mr. Hifazatullah Khan will also accompany us the next morning who was an ardent lover of trekking. All the next waking hours, I was wondering as to how it would be like trekking with such a senior Air Force officer who was retired as well. How would my young boys take this news? Once I shared the news with them, all three of us had mixed feelings about the hike scheduled for the next morning. But again, making contact with people not like you is one of the best things a person can do. You never know how it will all turn out. As usual, I got up at 5:00 a.m. and said my Fajr prayers. Woke up Adil first at 5:15 a.m. who too has taken after me (Prayers & trekking both). Mohsin followed next at 5:30 a.m. I checked out the weather forecast @ 5:30 a.m. which was cloudy till the previous night but turned fair this morning and stood at 170 C. I later woke up my better half who grudgingly made us Paratha, Chai and sandwiches for the trip. Rancorous, not because I woke her up at this obnoxious hour but

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because she and Ayesha (my little one) were not invited for this particular hike since it was an all-male affair. Actually, I did not know the distance and the severity of the trek and thus was not comfortable to tag the ladies along! We left the house at 6:45 a.m. and reached the rendezvous i.e. the first gate of the (to be established) GHQ on the Margalla Avenue which is right behind the F9 park. The remaining trekkers reached there at 7:10 a.m. and while traversing on the Rafiqui Road (closed for civilians since it lies between the GHQ and the AHQ), parked our cars at the mouth of the trek in the Siniarri village. This is what I wrote earlier about the Trail 1B or the Siniarri Trek: Trail 1A & 1B – This is the one of the less known treks and starts at the junction of the same treks where the treks 1A and 1B branch out. On the left is the Chountra Village and on the right is the Siniarri Village (GPS Coordinates 33°44'29.66"N and 73° 0'4.82"E). You start at the intersection behind F-10 and F-9 park i.e. at the first gate which is between the Army Headquarters (GHQ) and the Air force Headquarters (AHQ) but unfortunately since it is a sensitive and fortified area, you must be accompanied by Military or Air Force personnel with whose help you can traverse this path and reach the mouth of the two villages and proceed from there. It takes roughly 1.5 to 2 hours (at an easy pace) to reach the top of the famous first Ridge of the Margalla Hills. Here you reach the Kot Jindaan Village and can further trek enroute to the Khanpur Village which is another 15 kms from here and roughly takes about 4+ hours. Since both of these routes are off the beaten trek thus the flora and fauna is amazing and is slightly different from the other later treks in the Margalla Hills. You also get to see many quarries which have actually ruined the Margalla Hills. This is indeed a painful site if you love the mountains. Thanks to Mr. Roedad Khan who has been able to get this nonsense stopped and is a famous name in the hiking and trekking circles of Islamabad.

Our new trekker i.e. Vice Chief of Air Staff ® Mr. Hifazatullah Khan was introduced to us by Dr. Hashmi and Gohar Saeed who turned out to be young at heart and a very serious trekker. We were to find rather early that our hiking skills were too primitive, naïve and embryonic as compared to his. Very soon, he took the lead and started sharing amazing real life stories of his trekking escapades. It was indeed a pleasure to have accompanied him on this particular trek since he was a walking encyclopedia on the Margalla Hills.

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We started our hike at 7:16 a.m. and within 30 minutes reached this picturesque spot.

(The ‘off the beaten’ Siniarri Trek) In the next 14 minutes i.e. at 8:00 a.m., we stopped for our first water break and took this picture.

(From L-R: Myself, Adil, VCOAS ® Khan Sahib, Dr. Hashmi & Mohsin) By 8:18 a.m. we had reached this scenic spot and were overwhelmed to see the blossoming ‘Kachnar’ (Bauhinia variegata) trees.

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(Kachnar trees in full bloom) I stopped around 8:30 a.m. to take this picture of the ‘Centaurus Towers’ in the morning haze.

(D. Hashmi took this picture while I am trying to catch another view) We were tempted again to stop and enjoy the breathtaking flora arrangement around us. By 8:38 a.m. we captured this snapshot.

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(From L-R: VCOAS ® Khan Sahib, Gohar Saeed, Adil, His Excellency and Mohsin) Exactly at 8:45 a.m. we reached ‘Kot Jindaan’ our final destination. Around 8:52 a.m. I took this picture of the famous boulder on this route.

(Adil and Mohsin at the ‘Kot Jindaan’ Boulder) We brought out the snacks which comprised of drinks, home-made sandwiches, dry fruit and water while Khan Sahib shared some more interesting stories of his earlier hiking trips. We asked a young lad who was hanging around to take a group photo for us at 9:16 a.m.

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(All six of us – Boys day out!) Further north we could see a trek heading into the valley. Khan Sahib informed us that it leads all the way to Khanpur Dam which was roughly 15 kilometers from here. At the mouth of this trek, we could see a group of trees and he identified that they were wild olive trees.

(Olive trees at the mouth of the Khanpur Village trek) While we were discussing the olive trees and some stories of air force boys trekking on the Khanpur village trek, Mohsin decided to have a second helping.

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(Mohsin caught snacking on candid camera) At 9:35 a.m. sharp, we decided to retreat while conquering yet another ridge in the Margalla Hills. Within eight minutes of descent, Adil and I stopped by to take this picture while the rest of the gang was descending slowly.

(Sir Edmund Hillary waiting for Tenzing Sherpa) Now the sun was rising fast and it was becoming warmer and thus we decided to walk fast. By 9:50 a.m. we were able to capture the entire Siniarri pass in this snapshot.

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(The entire Siniarri pass with Islamabad in the backdrop) On the way back, we took two short cuts and thus were descending faster than we had gone up. The trekkers were more interested in returning to base camp than stopping for any more pictures. I was still able to catch Mohsin at 10:28 a.m. who was at the tail end and was being monitored by me.

(Mohsin posing at the tail end of the group) By 10:33 a.m. we had reached a natural spring on a slightly different path and took this group photo. We all drank to our heart’s content and filled up our emptying water bottles.

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(Posing at the natural spring which is right underneath our feet) We finally reached our cars at 11:00 a.m. and decide to go to Dr. Fahim Hashmi’s house reaching there at 11:15 a.m. where his better half served us ‘Pakoras’ and a hot cup of tea.

(Mohsin posing outside Dr. Hashmi’s house) We stayed there till 12:15 p.m. chatting and finally reached home around 12:25 p.m. This was yet again a wonderful hike with three amazing gentlemanly Air Force officers. I am again thankful to Dr. Hashmi and also to Wing Commander Gohar Saeed. Without these two gentlemen, we could not have hiked on this particular trek. While I am trying to complete this article on 4th June 2012, Islamabad sizzles at 430 Celsius. Luckily, the month of May had been rather pleasant this year but hiking in June will be a no-no. July and August will be monsoon and thus again it
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would be too wet to traverse on the Margalla Hills. We would now be moving further North either towards the Galliyat or further up the Himalayas for our hiking escapades. But this would surely need more time, planning and of course money! I would like to leave my readers here with a thought that don’t think about what you will tell people after you retire. The time is here and now. Pick up the pen and make the most of it. No one can learn to love by following a manual and no one can learn to write by following an academic course. You just fall in love and you just start writing; just like that! If you spend too much time trying to find out what is good or bad about someone else, you will forget your own soul and end up exhausted and defeated by the energy you have wasted in judging others. And finally, you don’t need to climb a mountain in order to know that it’s high; you don’t have to go all the way to Vladivostok to be able to say that you have travelled on the Trans-Siberian railway. Just get up, get out and go do it  Au Revoir!

‘The Wandering Dervish’

Shaikh Muhammed Ali

E-mail: Cell: +00-92-321-5072996 4th June 2012, 9:08 p.m. (PST)

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