On my trip to Neelwahn ponds, I met this lady who was managing a tour group in Islamabad. She invited me to join her trip to the Ratti Gali Lake. Back in 2013, I did not have any trekking experience other than the 40 minutes trek to Neelwahn Ponds. I had no idea and no experience at all what trekking in the mountains and camping in the wild meant.All I knew while I was preparing for the tour was that I was going to see Neelum Valley in Azad Kashmir. I assumed it to be a sightseeing trip, traveling in the bus and wandering here and there and I was literally not at all prepared for the experience that I went through. Neither did I ask for any instructions nor was I informed because the lady, who invited me, assumed me to be a trekker, which I usually wonder why.
For me, the trek to Ratti Gali has been an eye opening experience that taught me a lot of things which I would have never dared to try if I was informed beforehand.
Our group left from Islamabad in the morning and after almost 10 hours we reached Keran Resort in Keran, Azad Kashmir by late night where we stayed overnight. Keran Resort is the place where all travelers usually stay and you can easily drive till there on your own car from other cities. It was the very next day, we left for Dowarian Village from where the jeep trek to Ratti Gali begins. The Alpine Club trekkers gave a briefing session of instructions in the morning which made me realize that it is going to be some sort of adventure. But when you do not even have the slightest bit of idea of what it is going to be, you are all excited and geared up. Back in 2013, the jeep trek route was not very long, it drove us for half an hour after which we were on our feet. Presently, the jeep rides covering a major area after which the trekking is just left for a few hours or perhaps minutes. To learn about the present situation at at this read Ayesha Tasneem’s blog on trekking up to Ratti Gali Lake. Anyway, when we were on the jeep to the base camp, it seemed to be fine although the jeep trek to Ratti Gali is also an adventure in itself. You usually come across big stones and hurdles on the way. That’s exactly what happened with us. A huge rock was on the jeep trek when we has started our journey and thus after a few minutes we had to quit the jeep track and we all were on our feet.
We started in the afternoon like around 12pm and after having lunch on the way and had to stop on the way because it was evening by then. Having crossed a massive glacier was an achievement since it was slippery and near to impossible. After realizing how dangerous it was, our tour guide shifted us to the mountainous part so it was like crossing a slanting mountain with slippery mud, risky and adventurous. Some were afraid since we had elderly and not really frequent travelers with us. For me it was my first ever experience of being close to nature and it was totally worth it.
By the evening it was dark, cold and there was no signs of any animal or bird and there was wilderness all around. Imagine the feeling of being only with a group of people, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. With complete disconnection from your friends and family and the only thing that prevailed was wilderness and nature’s overwhelming effect.
By early morning, everybody rose and started our trek to the lake. It took us almost 4 hours as many of us were beginners and our shoes were not even proper for trekking on diverse terrains on the way to the lake. Wherever the path was straight, that was a blessing. All I remember was this local person from Muzaffarabad who helped me complete my trekking by dragging with the hiking stick and boosting my morale by continuously encouraging me that I could do it and was nearly there. His words was encouraging or else I wouldn’t have made it. He lied and continuously did that for all the 4 hours. Without any homework about the place, without any research, I had no idea what trekking in the mountains meant. You come across different and diverse topography that you need to cover by your feet. Sometimes there are straight paths and sometimes it’s slanting and the elevation could freak you out. There could be rocky and a barren terrain or perhaps greenery across your eyes’ expansive view with distinctive flowers and unique species of flora. The view could be dull and boring or it could be spectacular and stunning and worth seeing. Whatever it is, it is always beautiful in its own way. This is picture of the lake when we reached there
We spent only an hour at the lake after which we all returned back to our camps from where we set off for our journey back to homes. The time we had at the lake was short but it taught a lot of lessons.
It is very important to have the right shoes and the right type of clothing while you’re trekking, especially in winters. During end of September, it is cold but sunny too. The nights are usually very cold so you need to be prepared to face the chilly weather at night. Hiking shoes are important since wrong type of shoes could cause feet issues.
Let me confess that had I been informed of the type of hiking it was, I wouldn’t have agreed on going. That’s what normally people do. I was made to trek and it was only then that I realized what a fantastic experience it was. And since then there is no stopping. Hiking and trekking in the mountains and the North of Pakistan is something that everybody should cherish. We are a nation being truly blessed to have such amazing tourist places in Pakistan.