Above the Sky Makra Trek

On eid we did Makra trek in 3 days (Mon-wed). This was our route

Shogran-sari-paye-Makra-Dhari/Kholian/Sanghar wali galli-tehthri-Ziarat-Danna peak-Makri-jhamara-ghena-rajpian-pind-batal-bishash-ghori

To be exact we wanted to go to bheri but our guide mistakenly took here. We did trek to point called pind. Jeep are available on point Jhamara but due to eid none was running, So we had to trek for 3 hours to reach to rajpian, a jeep was standing there but was asking two way fare (rs2000) so we trek further to point pind; luckily one jeep came and we boarded on it (@rs 75 per head).
if someone want to attempt it from muzaffarabad then one can easily reach to Rajpian through bus from muzaffarabad at 80 rs only or through jeep from ghouri at around 100rs (its actually less than 100rs) per head. One can take jeep to Jhamara from rajpian and then its trek possibly with one camp to top of Makra. Water is present at places called makri & tethri Its very steep trek from jhamara onward to Makra but as we were descended so it was comfortable enough.

Only danger is a good 1 hour piece of trek just near makra top. It’s a narrow ridge with over 100m fall on each side, covered with boulders, locals called it as dhari.

Long Version (Its incomplete and has lot grammatical erros, I dont plan to complete it in near future)

In this longer version I will try to make you feel as you would be travelling with us

Thursday 16th August
Ali called our mutual friend and they will be going to Kalam valley on Eid holidays, Ali will be getting booking done.

Friday 17th August 2:55 pm
I received a message from my brother Ali that he has discussed with our mutual friend and they have cancelled their plan to kalam and now if Eid will be on Sunday then they will be going to Makra otherwise to Bairan Galli.

Friday 17th August Evening
Ali asked me to join them I refused as I already had my leaves approved for neelum valley and was not in mood to destroy my Eid holidays.

Saturday 18th August Evening
Moon was not sighted, Eid will be on Monday.
So as per Ali message he will be going to Bheeran Galli to where I was least interested to go so Ali decides to go to Makra. I said I can only join it if you end up in Kashmir side as I have already attempted it twice and has failed both the time to reach summit of Makra so if I go there then I want to finish the whole trek. So I requested our family to let us sacrifice our eid. The immediate answer we got was that people spent lot of money to reach home on eid and you are asking to leave on eid. Then the politician in me aroused and I replied that for guy’s eid remain till the eid prayer after it what else we have to do other then to sleep, sleep & sleep and if we are going that far atleast we should spend proper time otherwise its like race not enjoyment. Any ways our parent agreed to let us go on Chand raat. We immediately messaged to our mutual friend about plan but due to some reason he pulled out. Now the issue was serious as I never had planned a trek outside Lahore of my own. So being the more experienced in trekking as of my brother the responsibility of all the planning came on me. We immediately called Niazi, Rahber, Abdullah travels for booking to manshera but none of them picked our phone. Ali was in favor that we would go to Naizi adda on chand raat and we will find some thing.

After few tries we got connected with skyways and we got our booking done for 11 pm Sunday night but we need to reach till 10 pm to get booking confirmed. Booking with skyways was a blessing in disguise; why so? I will explain it shortly.

After getting booking done I called my friend Nadir Khan in Manshera. I first met Nadir in April 2011 when we joined together to the Paya trek in full snow and later we did Musa ka Musalla.

Nadir these days run a tour operating company (Travel Green Guide & Tours) specializes in trekking. If any body is interested in managing tour to any where in north then he can be reached at www.facebook.com/TGGTours

Any ways my contact with Nadir was as my friend not the owner of Travel Green Guide & Tours. We asked him about the availability of transport & porters on Eid day. And from his contacts he quickly arranged it.

Sunday 19th August, 2012 – 30th Ramdan
I called few of my friends for joining us but all of them refused.
7:30 PM we planned to wear our Eid clothes but they were not ready yet. Some how we got them till 8 pm and left home at sharp 8:30 PM
On way to skyways terminal we stopped at adventure shop to buy a pair of gaiters. Here I called Nadir that we have left home for Manshera and that was the last call on that date as almost all mobile networks were shutdown over some security issues.

We reached Skyways terminal at 9:40 pm. The booking clerk surprising asked for ID card. It was new thing for us that all buses leaving on Motor way must list down the ID cards of each & every passenger as that sheet need to be handed over to motorway police at movie point. If you are travelling in a group then listing the ID card of atleast one member was mandatory.

In waiting room we met a guy from Karachi who works in finance department of PSO. He left Karachi a day before at 10 pm. He told us that with great difficulty and by changing 3-4 vehicles he reached Lahore. His booking was in Rahber but they cancelled their “flight” due to shortage of passengers and then he bought ticket of Niazi and they also cancelled their “flight” due to shortage of passengers and now he has ticket of skyways and passengers seems to be on low on it too. He must want to reach to Abbott abad to celebrate eid with his in-laws. Readers of this blog must be wondering that why I am mentioning about this person. Actually this was the first time I met a person who was injured in a terrorist attack. I do have met person who have lost their dear ones in attacks but this was the first time I met a person who narrowly escaped death with few injuries. He was in the rally of Benazir Bhutto in Karachi on October 18, 2007 when some bomb exploded and 150+ people lost their lives. He mentioned that his arm was injured in that attack. And he could even feel the voice of that blast even after two years. He mentioned that attack and the behavior of the victims have made him fearless. He now a days travel to Quetta for job related activities without any fear. He mentioned of a guy who lost his leg in the blast but he stood on one leg and tried to help the victims in whatever way he could.

Every body was leaving for their home to celebrate eid and it felt me really bad to miss the very first eid not with family.

10:30 pm we asked skyways authorities to load our luggage but they refused and said it will be only done 15 minutes before the departure time.

10:45 pm our ruck sack was loaded.
11:00 pm we boarded on bus ad bus was suppose to leave Lahore at 11:00 pm
11:30 pm still no sign of bus being moving. Bus was around 80 % filled at 11:00 pm and I thought might be they are waiting for it to be get 100 % filled but even when it was 100 % filled it was not leaving. Our Karachi mate was worried the most as he must want to reach to abbotabad. Few passengers went to booking office and told us shocking thing that driver is not available. He went to his home in Lahore but as mobile phones have stopped working so he can’t be contacted.

Booking office told us that two guys have gone to his home on taxi to wake him up and bring him to bus stand. But after few minutes they arrived with empty hands.

They send another guy to his home. Who also came back empty handed. The story which they told us that his room is at third floor the guy climbed up to his room but was not able to wake him up.

Monday 20th august 12:10 am
I was simply intolerable to me. I asked for location of complaint office to lodge my protest and it resulted only in a laugh from co passengers.
I went to the booking office that cancel our ticket and refund our money we will celebrate Eid with our family as it’s no way that you are letting us wait for more than hour and there is no sign that whether driver will come or not. They initially ensured me that driver has arrived and sitting in waiting room that simply fuelled me up and broke that news among passengers which also fuelled them up and most of them moved me to booking office to treat them harshly. They referred me to contact their manager. I simply asked him to cancel our ticket and refund our money as this is high un professional way for such a big name. Manger mentioned that driver is still not here. Here the manager told me a secret that skyways have agreement with individual owners of busses. The bus owners hare name of skyways and share profit with skyways. And that bus whose number was probably 5411 was also having its driver as its owner who according to the manager is a very responsible person but he was unable to explain why he is not coming. He said he don’t have any spare driver and he is trying every thing that you could celebrate Eid with your families. I was already feeling a little guilty of not celebrating Eid at home and his statement added more to it. Any ways I asked him that we cant wait here all the night to wait for the driver to come back and you must define a cut off time after which you will take the tickets back. He said a third team has gone to wake him up so give him 15 minutes. In the meantime few passengers went to other bus stands but no bus was leaving for manshera. Only option was to leave for Islamabad. Some passengers went further to book a private van but I was not interested in that and had already started to think that how happy our family will be to know that we have returned back to celebrate Eid with them.

The Karachi guy said to us that we say bad about MQM but if any bus would have done that in Karachi then they would have surely have burned the bus to ashes till now. According to him they are extremely good in that. I avoid any sort of political discussion on travel so I ignored his statement with a smile & nod of head in agreeing to him.

12:35 am Driver arrived and bus started.

We were about to enter to motorway when a guy in police uniform asked to board on but driver assistant refuse to board him saying that we don’t take passengers who drop on way. Just after 20meters we were stopped by police at check post, who were apparently angry for not giving lift to police man. They asked to open the bus they will check each and every thing. Driver assistant simply refused to do so and said bus is already checked at bus stand and he will not open the bus to be checked again. On it police got fuelled up and closed check post and said ok then they won’t let us go and forced to stand the bus on side of the road.

Driver assistant was forced to stop the bus and open it for checking. If police would have tried to check it thoroughly it could easily have taken an hour. Police gave an argument that on bus pass it was written that departure time is 11 pm then why the bus is leaving at 12:45 am.

All the passengers who were already quite angry got down from bus and a clash was expected between police & the passengers. On seeing passengers getting down, police cleared the bus with in 2 minutes. And we crossed check post.

Before we could enter the motor way the driver stopped the bus to fill diesel. Complete 123 liters was filled in the bus and we entered motorway at around 1 am.

At movie point we again stopped for movie and to handover sheet of id card number of passengers. Now a day it’s extremely important for all of us to carry their NIC on travelling outside Lahore. As some passenger didn’t showed their ID card at time of booking so it took further 10 minutes to fill the list.

Journey finally started. The limit on motorway for bus is 110kph but our driver was driving at 135 kph to cover up the time. And considering that he was forced to wake up from sleep it could have turned to be fatal but Alhamdulillah no damage done.

Just after few minutes we left movie point the passengers started shouting “ooye TV la ooye”. I uttered lightly for God sake let us sleep but naqar khanay main ‘totti’ ki awaz kaun sunay ga.

So a movie was played. Movie name was Badal and cast included booby deol and rani mukher jee. The movie was made in 2000 and its print quality was also showing that it too old. Surprisingly that movie have has remarkable resemblance to our situation in Waziristan & Baluchistan, where people are killed either by government support or by government silence which has led a rebellion to arise among our own people whose family member were killed in drone attacks or kidnapped by unknown people. Any ways Allah Allah ker k movie ended at around 4:30 am. I do tried to sleep during the movie but as I mentioned that movie has very old print and was played on VCR so after certain time the irritating high volume voice start appearing from it. These voices were so annoying that it was impossible for any human to remain sleep. Bus stopped at hasan abdal for fajar prayer. Driver told us that he has covered a lot of time by moving fast.
As the bus started I smelled some one smoking. Thankfully driver assistant was vigilant and asked the passengers to throw away the cigarette but passenger simply refused by saying k “mainy yeh muft nahi liya”. It was probably not a normal cigarette. Any ways on protest of other passengers he throwed it away and I was finally able to take a nap. I awaked up after an hour when we have crossed abottabad. I quickly messaged nadir that we are near.

7:10 am we reached Manshera. Niazi has created a bus stand, skyways busses also stands there. We were supposed to offer Eid prayer with Nadir but we got late to reach manshera. I called nadir he was already in masjid for Eid. So we have to find some masjid on our own for Eid prayer but issue was that we were carrying ruck sacks, gas cylinders with us. With them we can’t offer a prayer or with them police would not have allowed us to enter any masjid. Skyways offered us that we could place our stuff in waiting room but we were not confident that it will be safe or not. In short it was getting obvious that we won’t be able to offer Eid prayer. I chalked out a plan that one of us should stay with the luggage and other person should offer Eid. In this way atleast one of us will get that opportunity of Eid prayer which has lot of blessings according various ahadees Sharifs.

The driver of our bus who belongs to Lahore changed his cloths to Eid dress which he carried all the way. He was going to offer Eid prayer. We requested him to please place our luggage in the bus and lock it, which he happily did and we moved with him for Eid prayer.

On ablution area a lot of Lotas were present. For a person living in Lahore that’s kindly a strange & uncomfortable way of doing ablution but every area has its own ways.

8:00 am Eid namaz was offered.
8:15 am Imam sb started post namaz dua and that was such a long dua that we literally started praying k ya allahi yeh dua khatam kerwa dey. Imam sb was repeating every dua with all past, present & future tense. Any ways after 17 minutes the longest dua of my life time ended and we were freed to greet Eid.

That greeting started in a strange fashion as in Lahore we use to hug three times and make the chest meet but in manshera they hug for only once and that hug only include touching of shoulders mainly. Now we were trying to take three hugs but people were going away with one. That was looking so much funny but we quickly understand their custom so started to ‘do at Rome as the Romans do’ but we were not enjoying much until we met the bus driver and then we hugged in lahori style to really feel like meeting Eid.

Nevertheless it was the most rememberable Eid for us, as we moved to masjid where no body knows us. To whom ever we met & greeted it was probably our first and last greetings with them and we may never be able meet them. It does help us realize the global nature of Islam.

8:45 am we reached back to bus stand and got connected with Nadir.
9:20 am Nadir arrived, It was good to know that his office is present in front of that stand. It was indeed very kind of him that he came to us on Eid day. He invited us for tea, breakfast at his home but we were already late. Heavy rain also arrived there.

Nadir arranged a taxi for us for rs 2000 till shogran. On normal days they take around 1500 rs but on Eid day that was the best we could bargain.

Our driver Haji nazeer took us to tire workshop he said his reserve tires are punctured. He took around 30 mins to get tired punctured. We took gourmet pizza with us. We started eating it but it was gone bad. So have to through it away.

Our driver haji nazeer
A man in his early forties, small beard, applied colored on beard to look black, lean face, height around 5 feet 7 inch, wheetish color, head covered with a cap, runs a green alto with bigger tires and I wish to never ever meet him again.
He talks & talks & talks as he was born only to talk & talk. To be exact he had a map of northern areas of Pakistan. And whether he know the way or not, it’s was like mandatory for him to tell us about it. We were not willing to stop on the way as were already late but he has to stop to force us to take pictures at exact same spot where we have taken pics on almost every trip. Secondly he was of “big heart” so he need to stop to help his fellow taxi driver whose cars were stopped in heavy rain regardless of considering that we were getting late.
He mentioned that it was all water on road due to heavy rain and a Suzuki cabin car went into river due hay rain and a person ahs lost his live. We do believe him on this as damage on road was quite obvious.

We wanted to take some items from the balakot but on reaching balakot not a single shop were open due to Eid. So we carried on. He was also a great fan of Lahore hotel in shogran and it was his utmost desire to let us stay there and he was not ready to listen that we are here for camping and trekking. In past I have seen Lahore hotel. It’s a small descent hotel with affordable price but we were not going there for hotelling. To our bad luck that our host Mustaq didn’t picked our phone and some mist also came over. It haji sb another point weather is very bad, you wont find you way, you will get yourself killed, I am elder, you must respect opinion of elder. So stay in Lahore hotel today, go for hike tomorrow. We refused and he was like Lahore hotel, Lahore hotel, and Lahore hotel. It was like he will get us a cheap room for good sake stay for one night at Lahore hotel.
We stopped at kawai. I asked a hotel to cook 15 roti for us which we would pack and carry with us for our camping ahead. Thankfully we got connected to Mustaq and he said porter is waiting for us at hotel Pine Park. Despite of telling all that to haji sb he was again on the same tune of Lahore hotel.

Those who know me know that very well that I use to remain quite most of the time but that man ahhhhhhh!

1:00 pm
As soon as we were dropped at shogran we gave him his 2000 rs and ran away.

Regardless of his talkative nature and his strong desire to force us to stay at Lahore hotel, I must admit that he was a super excellent driver who know about each and every pit on the road. And his car was better then many.

Safi
Our porter was safi ud din. Our first look was a very bad one as his one hand was broken and was heavily strapped so he could only use one hand. His hand was broken in some fight. As we have already have booked him in advance and were extremely late and he was waiting for us for atleast 1 hour so we were in no position to refuse him.

We quickly changed our clothes and decided to use hotel pine park washrooms but they were extremely dirty so we just went without using toilet or washrooms.

Richard
We met Richard at shogran, He hails from UK and had recently done the shimshal pass and was now willing to do darkhot pass but his flight to chitral was cancelled due to bad weather and as a plan b he came to shogran. Unfortunately he didn’t know any thing about that area and when we asked him that what he will be looking in that area he mentioned he will go to near by villages and will see the life of villagers. Despite of the fact we were getting late we do gave him a short summary of the area and the main things to visit in shogran & naran region. We invited him to do Makra with us and descend on to Kashmir side but as he was on car parked at shogran, so we atleast invited him to Makra. He was staying at pine park hotel. We mentioned him that we will be on trek by sun rise so he should reach to Paya at that time on jeep. As a precaution that he may not be able to catch us, we explained his guide that to take him to Makra next day.

We started our trek. I intend to do camping at Paya. Ali decided to carry his own ruck sack whereas I gave me rucksack to the safi. Some local kids met us. They also showed willingness to join us to makra tomorrow.

Within 20 minutes after body start complaining about the lack of exercise. We went straight after Ramadan and doing trek quickly after the Ramadan was expected to create issues. After nearly 45 minutes into the trek; the body reduced complaining. I always believe that treks are done more with mental fitness than physical fitness so that’s why we went on it without any exercise. In normal days whenever we plan a trek we do start a gentle walk few days before start of trek but this time we were not able to do so. Any ways the local kids who met us showed gesture to carry our water bottles to some midway point on sari. Here we did two mistakes.
1- Our daypacks + dates were in the ruck sack which was with the porter and he was going through the shortcuts and was so much far away that even our full voice can’t be heard by him.
2- Our water bottles were with the local kids and they were also fond of shortcuts so they also left us. Now they also left us.
In my previous visits to sari, there use to be 2-3 water sources on way up but at this time of the year their was not a single “chasma” as they were all dried up.

Although the guy with the water bottles went far ahead but a few of his colleagues were moving with us. One of them rushed ahead and shouted his colleague to stop to stop water bottles on the jeep trek on which we were moving. What we later learned was that the village of those kids was near and they handed water bottles to our potter and went away. We took one turn & another turn but still the porter was far away from us. Thirst was getting like that as we haven’t drunk any thing for days. For me water and dates are like fuel of the body. It was getting difficult for us to move forward without water. Our feet were slightly dangling & head was whirling. We were wearing water proof clothes but these clothes are water proof from outside, it has as inner lining of probably cotton and that lining was all wet due to sweating. Good thing was that we could now hear our porter from behind the trees but we were not sure how far he was. As I was without any ruck sack so Ali sat down I went to fetch water from potter, I would have hardly taken 20 steps when I saw our porter (safi) coming back with a bottle of water. Bottle was only 30% filled but it does help us to return back to our senses. These were the bottles we bought from the filling station which around 30 minutes before balakot and it turned out to be a good decision as no shop was open in shogran, kiwai or balakot having mineral water bottles. Any ways while coming back to us our porter did a mistake.

He left our ruck sack which was containing the most important items like, food, camp on the road. He was around 5 minutes away from the point from where he could see the ruck sack. Due to Eid there were a very few people on the trek. Also we were so much engulfed with the thirst that at that moment we didn’t thought about that someone could take away the bag but on return we do met a group who suffered from almost the same type of loss. I will explain that particular incident later on the travel log.

Any ways the bottle which safi bought was only 30 % filled so as asked him that to drop another water bottle on way so as when we move up we can pick it up. It resolved our water problem till sari.

We met three guys from Karachi they were coming back from sari. One was having a guitar, we would have loved to listen to him playing guitar but unfortunately the string of it was broken. They mentioned they are coming back from makra top but considering the timings they were mentioning I was pretty sure they went to the Makra which 95 % mistake as to be Makra. Actual Makra is far behind the real makra. They were having sleeping bags only and were willing to do more trekking. Ali suggested them to do the Mahandri to Ansoo Lake and then through saran pass reach batakundi. We referred them to our friend Nadir and later in the trek we do learned that they successfully did Ansoo lake trek from mahandri but they did not went on to saran pass to reach batakundi & instead returned back through saif ul malook.

I been to sari twice before, once I went on jeep and other time I went in good 3-4 feet snow on ROAD. You might be wondering that why I wrote the ROAD in caps. The reason is that I was in search of point where we did a shortcut on our return to sari in snow. One of member got his foot strangled in the bush. He fell into soft snow. On digging for about 4-5 feet’s we learned that his foot was actually engulfed in a tree top which was fully covered in snow. So at that time on road there was only 3-4 feet of snow but on mountain slides it was good 12-15 feet of snow. The sides of mountain where sun does not directly reach do melt a little late so that why when we went there in April 2011 we encountered so much snow. That point was basically the half way mark to sari. Throughout my way to sari was trying to find only two point one that I just mentioned and other was a 60 degree straight height but issue was that in snow and after snow melts it’s very difficult to recognize the same points.

Almost on every turn I get that feeling that just one more turn and we will that gradual ascend but it was not coming. Even then since I started trekking this thing do work that by saying to yourself that only 15 minutes more. That’s a separate thing that most of the time that 15 minute more saying is repeated almost 15 times. We heard a jeep coming up. For an instance we do thought to get the lift from him and when it came near it was with the people whom we met at pine park hotel. They were probably fro Peshawar side. We offered a lift to sit on the bonnet of the jeep as rest of the jeep was packed. It was indeed a very attractive option and our body was also creating problems but we came here for trekking not for a jeep safari and when they offered the lift it was life grabbing the heart in the fist and signaling the head with no. We have heard that shogran to sari trek is only of 150 minutes. Although in snow it took us good 5 hours but in that season that should be only 2.5 hours long and as we were already into the trek since two hours so why to take lift when hardly 30 minutes more was left. Although we do have say that just 30 minute more for two times atleast.

On our way up we met few more local school kids. It was sad to see them doing smoking at such a young age and it was something annoying for us so we do gave them a small lecture on side effects of smoking. I am not sure how much that lecture would have affected them but they do said that it an Eid day and they are not regular smokers & they gave the same old excuse that they don’t inhale it to lungs. Here for the first time in this trek we initiated the stories relating to Bhuttay. If you don’t know that who are bhuttay then I will explain it shortly but just to get a bird eye view you can consider them like the current day political leaders who claims to be following policies of ZA Bhutto. If you know who are bhuttay & have respect for current ruling party then my above comments might have gone a little harsh on you but I am here to write the things exactly how I felt.

Any ways we do had 10 minutes break and again started our trek. Those kids do told us that sari is just 10 minutes away. But …

Another jeep passed by us and by just a wave of hand to say Salam/ hi it went away. Two jeeps were descending from paye and I was still in search of that gradual steep area which in snow we did it in around 45 minutes. We do receive the call of Mustaq (our host at sari) mentioning that our porter is at sari waiting for us. At the same time we do received the call of our mutual friend whose plan was dropped a day before we left. With his well wishes we dropped the call and continued our trek. Now the mist arrived and we could hardly see anything beyond 15-20feet. It was not a first time mist arrived in our trek so we were a little use to it. We were doing two things in those misty conditions.
1- To only maintain that must distance between two of us that we could easily see each other.
2- To stay on jeep trek and avoid any shortcuts.

From a distance we saw another gradual height gain. It was cruel to us as we were already exhausted but as soon as I turned towards my left and saw down I was filled full joy & energy because we were standing on the exact same steep area just before sari which I was trying to find in my whole trek. And I knew that sari is just there. We took another right and we could see the first house of sari village. So nearly after 3 hours of trek we reached to sari. 6-8 hours of trekking is just a normal thing for me but these 3 hours was purely a killer. Our body was not in shape, we were out of exercise. We were physically not ready for the trekking but just went on with because as I said earlier that mental fitness is more important than physical fitness

We rushed to Mustaq small hotel at sari. I do know mustaq by face but not by name since we did winter survival to paya in April 2011. We quickly opened our bag with dates and took a heavy dose of like 10 dates each. We already had the food packed so as rotis but when we asked mustaq that what he has he mentioned that he had daal mash. Which happens to be my favorite? Price was nominal (Considering that its away far away from main city) 100rs per head for daal mash & sabzi whereas chicken karahi was of 900rs per kg (per hen). I was also more in favor of eating from hotel as it would be fresh and our target for today was paya so it would save a lot of time. It was almost 4:30 pm when we reached sari and we do had at least 140 minutes of sun light. But even when we were thinking we saw mist/clouds rising up from shogran and within few minutes we were in position that we could hardly see beyond 15 feet.

Any ways Ali asked for sabzi and I asked for daal mash. Both were in ready to cook position. Ali went on with Mustaq to do some experimenting with that aaloo anda which only resulted in destroying it and he was not even able to finish even half a plate. Whereas I ate more than 2 rotis. We asked for tea and it was also quickly made. The moment of making the tea was extremely beautiful we could see a small rainbow of colors near the tandoor. It was a mystic feeling in which one feel that he is hallucinating. In that dark shop the burning of wood, blue & red flames the white smoke and clouds outside the window. The warmth of the tandoor, the hospitality of the mustaq, the dancing flames, the curling smoke, it was just like that we are in a paradise and some “Hoor ” will come in that hut with some sweet drink to kill the thirst forever. But instead of some hoor a local man with beard came in. It was nice meeting with him as his inlaws live on the other side of Makra and he has completed that trek few times to meet his inlaws. I was wondering what a journey that would be that to meet inlaws one has to walk for 10-12 hours (two ways). He could have easily refused the visit claiming that it’s too far. Lucky Man! Those who know me well know that I use Google earth a lot for before going to trek especially the escape routes. And before leaving for trek I do calculated out that there are three possible ridges, two of which descend towards Kashmir side and one to Chappar on naran road. That guy mentioned that if our face would be towards Kashmir than we need to descend towards the left most ridge (South east). He was perfectly correctly. That ridge towards southeast leads to bhairi and it’s the safest path.

Any ways after short meeting with him we went for a gentle walk. Ali went to sari lake to take some pics. I was not much interested in going to it as it would have required me to do ascend of good 10 minutes and I was not in that mood. For me it’s not a lake and I call it a pond. The reason for that logic is that for me a lake should must have proper inlet and outlet whereas sari pond/lake lacks any of such things. Sari pond is good 25-30 below the Mustaq hotel and when I came in winter I walked over it as that 25 feet was all filled with snow.

Mustaq has a big tent installed along with his hotel. He said if we want to spend night in that camp then we are most welcome. We were already carrying camp with us but when we saw soft mattress in the Mustaq camp then we decided to stay in that. That was quite a big camp and around 15 people can easily sleep in it at one time. He has also applied a sort of insulated sheet in it which does help to maintain the temperature inside. Moreover structure of that camp is supported by steel pipes so it can stand even the wildest weather. It outer is covered by a thick water proof sheet.

It was clean enough and we were the only tourist at sari on that night so we had the whole camp with us. It gives us advantage as we can openly spread our stuff in the camp without any risk of security.

I got off my trekking shoes took the camping sandal. I was in need to pee and saw a temporary built toilet. I took a water bottle and went in it. It was a bad decision as it was not clean and I would have came out more cleanly if I would have gone in the jungle. Readers might be wondering that why I am mentioning such a disgusting thing here but one purpose of this article is also to educate the readers about the environment.
We took our sleeping bags and went for a nap. It started to rain like cats & dogs. Mustaq camp was good hide to prevent us from that rain but unfortunately wind was so harsh that it blew one joint of water proof sheet near the corner where I was sleeping. Although that opening was with that angle that rain could not come in but still the wind was coming in. It was such a heavy rain that we can’t even dares to go out to fix it. Any ways soon we went into the valley of sleep. Although it was still time before sun could have gone down but clouds and mist made the night well before the sunset.

From bottom of my heart I was quite happier over rain as rain normally blew off the mist and that would be a blessing in disguise as we could get better views.

I was with a goose down sleeping bag and despite the fact it was extremely cold outside I was sweating due to goose down so I opened up the zip and slept for some time without sleeping bag. Mustaq was running outside with a ladder to his home nearby, probably to prevent seepage of water through the roof.

Those who into trekking knows this thing very well that camping nights are too long and mostly sleep come in patches of like 2-3 hours. We were half awaked when Mustaq & Safi came to our camp. Rain seems to have halted at that time and clock was probably ticking 8 pm. We are also having gotten reasonably fresh due to a good 2 hour nap. We haven’t finalized the rates with our porter and before start of trek when we do asked him for the rates then he asked that we should do it with Mustaq. As Mustaq is colleague of our mutual friend Nadir so we were ok with that. Moreover we also had some idea about the rates. They basically came to finalize the rates. Safi started the discussion with the same stories (One such accident do happened) that people have got killed in such weather we should not attempt Makra. Or we should go only till where weather allows it. Basically I believe safi was trying to convince us in such a manner that we would leave our bags at sari, do makra and camp back again sari and whole purpose of him was that he should not carry my rucksack and would only act as a guide. Although weather was tough but I was confident that it will clear in the morning. Safi was so much convincing that I do give his idea to return to sari after makra a serious thought. Mustaq was neutral and mediating between us. Safi was not agreeing to carry us to kashmir. We mentioned that we will give him the amount to reach back to sari from Muzaffarabad just accompany us. Discussion was getting nowhere; safi was not seemingly ready to go to Kashmir. We fired an arrow that if we need to get back to SARI then why we would even needs the guide/porter. I do have my working for makra and I could have gone for the summit without him if we have to come back to sari. Mustaq mentioned that we are his guest and our safety is a great concern for him. So we should not risk our lives. Safi again fired a shell that some looting incident has happened on top of makra so we should not carry our valuable with us and should leave the rucksack at sari. That all discussion was happening between Mustaq, Safi and Ali and I was more of a silent spectator. Safi when saw that we are not getting convinced he mentioned to us that its tough dangerous not everyone can do it. I mentioned that I have done twice the “Musa Ka Musalla”. And my friends who have done both MKM & Makra have rated makra slightly less tough. Ali added that he has done jungle trek from paya to manna meadow. And when he mentioned the things like water fall and other things he saw in trek Mustaq was quickly convinced that if we are insisting then we should descend towards Kashmir. Actually the reason that mustaq quickly agreed with us was because he know how dangerous that trek of paya to manna meadow trek is. Its highly unlikely that somebody attempts that trek and he doesn’t encounter any wild animal. Almost no one attempt it and 24 * 365 that jungle has lions, leopards and bear. After Mustaq got convinced we assured safi that we are not going to do a suicide we will go for Makra and if we found out at some place that it’s not wise to go forward then we will return back. Anyways half heartedly he agreed to move with us. Now the next hurdle was rates, I was sure that it won’t be tough thing to settle down but I was wrong. Safi demanded Rs 3000 per day plus we have to give him the cost from muzaffarabad to sari. That was a shocker for us as that high rate is nowhere in Pakistan and on first day and last day it only had 2-3 hours of planned trekking, Although the second day had the almost 10 hours of planned trekking. We mentioned to him that was too much. We decided to break the porter expense in two parts.
1- Actual portage price.
2- Price to reach from muzaffarabad to sari.
Safi mentioned around 1000 rs for part 2. After mentioning him some facts we lowered him to 500 rs for part 2.

Safi was not ready to reduce the price for part 1 and we were not ready to give him what he was demanding. To be very true we only had 16000 rs in cash in total. If we give him 9k then we would have ended on short side. We asked Mustaq to mediate between us and he asked us that how much we give. We mentioned that we will give him 5000 rs in total. If he is ok then we are moving ahead if he is not then please arrange some other porter for us and whatever his nominal amount is for from shogran to sari we give him now and Allah hafiz. After some discussion Safi agreed for 5000 rs in total.

It was around 8:30 pm and Safi & mustaq left the camp and we again went on to sleep. We decided to leave sari with sunrise.

Posted by Ali Usman Baig Blogspot (Documenting Pakistan) on 2014-06-06 16:49:55

Tagged: , makra , sri , paye , trek , hiking , love , beauty