October 2004 - Travel Pakistan

Kel Valley Azad Jammu Kashmir

Hunza Valley in Autumn

K-2 Siren of the Himalayas

Malam Jabba Swat Valley

Shangrilla Resort Skardu

Kohe Safed FATA

Passu Cones Gilgit-Baltistan

Oct 17, 2004

Astola Island Balochistan, Pakistan's largest Island

At a distance of 25 km from the seashore of Balochistan Province in Pakistan, this is the largest islands of Pakistan. It is approximately 6 km long and 3 km wide. Administratively it is part of Pasni, a part of Gwadar District in Balochistan. It can be accessed by the motorized boats from Pasni of Gwadar District.http://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gifhttp://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gifhttp://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceout.gif

The island consists of a large tilted plateau and a series of seven small hillocks (hence the local name "Haft Talar" or "Seven Hills"), with deep chasms and crevices, which are several feet wide. There are several natural caves and coves on the island. The south face of the island slopes off gradually whereas the north face is cliff-like with a sharp vertical drop.

Astola is used as a base for fishermen who frequently visit the Island between September and May to catch fish in general and lobster and oysters in particular. Between June and August, the Island remains free from human interference due to rough sea and high tides. On finding a small Island ideal, the fishermen decided to bring their cats along in order to rid it of its resident vermin. What they do not realize is that by doing this, they trigger a change of events that leads to destructive changes in the Island’s habitat. A few fishermen and their pet cats on a trip to Astola unwittingly can almost destroy this unique ecosystem.

Locals have given it the name "Haft Talar" meaning seven rocks but the Island appears to form a single block with an estimated height of two hundred feet at its summit. An isolated rocky area has broken away from the main block towards the south end. Given that the Island is not sheltered from the open sea, it is subject to strong wave attack during the southwest monsoons, when wave height exceeds 3.5 meters. The coastline, therefore, suffers from severe erosion.
Astola is one of the biggest offshore islands in the Arabian Sea. Possessing a unique habitat, it was identified as part of a Global 2000 eco-region. It is the only significant offshore island along the north coast of the Arabian Sea, and as such maintains the genetic and ecological diversity of the area.
Astola is the only site along 1,000 kilometers Pakistan coast where Hawksbill turtles have been sighted. Dolphins and to a lesser extent, whales have also been reported. In fact, in December 1994, a large whale (possibly sperm whale) skeleton washed up on the shores of Ganz, Balochistan. The bones of the whale are on display in Gwadar town. Astola is also rich in corals, oysters, and important commercial fishes.
The flora and fauna are as they would have been centuries ago, but spellbinding: The natural vegetation is composed of the type able to survive arid climate. It does not only suffer from extreme drought but also from wind carrying saline particles. Salt sprays coupled with sand particles clog the respiratory mechanism of plants, affecting growth.
“Prosopis juliflora is the most significant widespread species distributed in the island. Indigofera oblongifolia and Hycium depressum are also prevalent forming large bushes. Other types of vegetation found include Sueda fruticosa, Aerua persica, and Tamarix dioca,” the experts gave these names but to me it looked like undergrowth in the form of shrubs and creepers. The island supports a large number of breeding seabirds including Larus hemprichii and several species of terns. The internationally endangered Green turtle and critically endangered Hawksbill turtle frequents the site for nesting purposes along the sandy beach threatened.

Oct 14, 2004

Thar Desert in Pakistan and India

Stretched at an area of more than 200,000 square kilometers this desert is the 18th largest subtropical desert in the world of which 50,000 square KM falls into Pakistan covering the districts: Tharparkar, Mirpur Khas, Umerkot, Khairpur, Sukkur and Gotki in Sindh Province and some areas of Bhawalpur of Punjab Province.
In India, the territories which fall in this desert are state of Rajasthan, covering the districts of JaisalmerBarmerBikaner and Jodhpur, and some region of the states of PunjabHaryana, and Gujarat.
The origin of the Thar Desert is a controversial subject. Some consider it to be 4000 to 10,000 years old, whereas others state that aridity started in this region much earlier.
Another theory states that area turned to desert relatively recently: perhaps around 2000 - 1500 BC. Around this time the 
Ghaggar-Hakra ceased to be a major river. It now terminates in the desert but at one time was a water source for the Indus Valley Civilization center of Mohenjo-Daro.
Stretches of sand in the desert are interspersed by hillocks and sandy and gravel plains. Due to the diversified habitat and ecosystem, the vegetation, human culture and animal life in this arid region are very rich in contrast to the other deserts of the world. About 23 species of lizard and 25 species of snakes are found here and several of them are endemic to the region.

Oct 13, 2004

Zalzal Lake Jehlum Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

This lake is located in the Jhelum valley of the Azad Kashmir, at a distance of 188 km from Islamabad. This lake was formed naturally when the earthquake of the 8th October 2005 hit the area of Azad Kashmir, devastating the infrastructure at an intensive level, losing the 80 thousand lives. 
Four villages in the Jehlum Valley was massively collided and collapsed creating a heap in the way of a natural stream which resulted in the creation of a lake, stretched over an area of 3 km. Since then this lake has gained popularity at the national level, becoming a famous tourist spot of the Jehlum Valley.

Pattika Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

At distance of 148 km from Islamabad and 19 km from Muzaffarabad city, this small town is a major tourist rest spot heading towards the Neelum valley. There are a small zoo and fish hatchery too in the town.

Also the there is a rest house for the convenience of the tourist. While leading to the Neelulum valley through Neelum Road one has to pass through the Pattika bazaar. From here a bridge, Pattika Bridge, joins two sides of the Pattika town. The houses built on terraced hilly area presents a beautiful scenic view. 

Oct 12, 2004

Ramkot Fort Mangla Azad Kashmir, Pakistan

Located at a distance of 135 km from Islamabad this picturesque and beautiful fort, on the top of a hill, is surrounded by the Jhelum river from three sides. 

Picturesquely located on the summit of a hill, Ramkot Fort is built on the site of an old Hindu temple on the banks of the Mangla dam lake. Three sides of the hilltop are surrounded by the Jhelum River, which falls into the huge reservoir of Mangla Dam.
Ramkot fort is located on the opposite side of the Mirpur city and one has to cross the Mangla Dam to reach there through the boats. It takes overall 45 minutes to reach this fort from Mirpur city. A 10 minutes travel by road from Mirpur leads to Sukhian and nearby Army Water Sports Club, from where boats are available for access to Ramkot Fort. 
There is a small museum too which contains several kinds of rocks, paintings, and model of Mangla Power House. 
From the fort, one can take a look at the surrounding stunning areas covered with water and small lush green cliffs.