Roman Baths of Pakistan
It all started with “what you are doing on the weekend” email from Kboom. The one liner had picture attachments that were sufficient to invigorate the exploring spirit within us and we were out on a sunny Sunday morning. The landscape was same as that of Swike (Salt Range and Potohar), but we had documented evidence with us this time. The stage was set at Nurpur Sethi village away from Kallar Kahar. A terraced stream of waterfall ponds named Neelwan awaited us. Just beyond the village the landscape gets tricky. Perfectly cut out ridges in the Potohar Plateau form a giant cup with vertical, almost hanging rocks on one side and the gradually sloping thickly vegetated landmass on the other. Mother Nature has crafted a place where water from a source deep within the mountains falls from vertical cliffs, flows out accumulating in the square crevices extending down below forming a series of terraced ponds with shiny blue waters.
Owing to some professional (and some not so professional commitments) the group got sliced. Sherazi was busy planning his honeymoon trip (a forward thinker as the grand event was to be eventually realized by March – April 2013; Sherazi! you don’t even possess the complete accessories for a honeymoon trip!). Dodo was on a date at Lahore and a date in hand is better than ___ Dodo we understand that! … and Ladla was onto flying on a sunny Sunday in Islamabad. God bless air traffic in the vicinity of Islamabad International. Having enjoyed a lavish treat after his first solo flight, Ladla has been officially honored with the title of “A Drone in Islamabad Skies”
It eventually came up to Kboom, Rashid Minhas, Jayzee and me to lift the flag up and high, and we were up and high until confronted by a ticket for over speeding on Motorway. The negotiation with Motorway Police was left with some able leadership. The negotiations were successful as after about 20-25 minutes we eventually agreed to pay the fined amount. Three cheers for Kboom, Rashid Minhas and Jayzee, hip hip —
Oh I almost forgot; we also had a fresh and energetic Bacha joining the group during his post college vacations to learn some practical hands on knowledge about life….. under Kboom’s able guardianship ???
The inspiration driving us forward was to explore the rugged terrain of Salt Range an extra mile and re-live the Swike experience in a changed mode. Moving out in the wild with almost empty stomachs, our usual companions were Excel Labs Mitthas… very fondly branded as our desi Red Bull. The route descended into a zig-zag following ridge patterns and was easy to follow. What troubled us were the every now and then protruding bushy branches with some state of the art razor sharp desi thorns (desi is a reference here to indicate the unusual enormity of the size). It was during the descent that our conversation (both in between and in the air) got quite uncouth. The shrubs were hostile causing a stabbing and puncturing effect and it felt like being a kid and getting vaccinated every now and then. Every shot in the …… followed some *@#&%! (gaali aur gaana tou maadri zubaan mein hi maza deta hey)
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Roman Baths of Pakistan…
Welcome to the Neelwan complex of springs, showery falls and ponds…
It was while viewing from the top that we fell in love with the third pond in line. The reason was shiny pure blue waters and we accordingly set course for it. Rashid Minhas navigating the group put all of us through some testing parameters. It was a complete package: sliding on our bottoms, letting yourself fall for a bit and recovering, some rocky climbs, shoes becoming water filled buckets and off course getting punctured every now and then.
Pond 3 was fun. There was some jumping off a hanging rock into the pond, lots and lots of swimming and the trade mark hesitation (lots and lots of it) by one while jumping into the water (no names again). The waters were deep (very deep in fact) and calm and the bathing environment it offered was the one fit for a king. It was Roman Royalty out there in Bath.
Pond 2 was inviting as well, and we did return the call to test its dimensions, but the pick of the day was the emotional outburst by Rashid Minhas upon discovering that he could practically swim in Pond 1. RM was let loose in Pond 1, which in fact was a causeway with water just spilling over the surface at knee level and falling into Pond 2. The place had it all from Kings Bath for royalty to Spring Overflow for Plebeians. (RM we love you)
Having our stomachs squeezed to the back and our throats parching, we settled down for the energy drinks. The Excel Labs mitthas drenched in revitalizing fluid quenched our appetite and restored our energies. Time was ripe for Jayzee’s signature sheesha and the lad was onto the recipe. Some sheesha gossip, some addicted looks and some scratching concluded the day for us. The group got ready for the hike with a big heart… generously letting our bases at the mercy of Potohar Shrubs.
The consensus was, if you ever have to return to Neelwan,
you got to have bottoms of steel…