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As Far As The Eye Would Venture
Yes, a true identifier of beauty can find it anywhere from a ditch to a rough garden patch to the ferns growing out of the cracks in one of those old roofs. Well, I suppose I am not an identifier. Yet. What I can do for now is to truly appreciate it in all its aspects where it is so utterly and profoundly and effusively pushing through to be seen that if a person could not see it, they must immediately be deemed sightless.
On my little sojourn with my family to this hilly belt near Islamabad I have seen many such things. And though of course – I being the most avid of travelers – this isn’t the first time that I visited these places, I must admit that it is the first time that I think to write of them. And before even beginning I must say that no words, no photographs, no poetry, no prose could ever do justice to the beauty to which I had the honour to be witness to. Because no matter how many photographs one takes or how long one stays there, the beauty of these places is so overwhelming that absorbing it over and over again, it still remains immortal and can never be contained. And I think that that one thing, that radiance which cannot be captured by the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen is actually what makes the place ever so fascinating.
Yes, most people find love in people. I mostly find it in places and nature.
This wasn’t like a full-on weeklong stay, it was more like a long drive – two days long to be precise – and we drove from Islamabad to Nathia Gali to Ayubia to Kala Bagh to Abbottabad and back to Islamabad via the motorway. It was a drive I kept wishing would last longer.
We took off in the morning on Friday and this being the last week before the Holy Month of Ramzaan was upon us and also the weekend, roads were jam-packed. So jam-packed in fact that my father, who hates getting stuck in traffic even considered turning back and looking for another route in, this being the Murree route. And we all know that the Murree route is packed even on normal days as due to the negligible distance, people from Rawalpindi/Islamabad come here so very often. So well the plan to go to Nathia Gali and back didn’t really work out because it was almost sundown and we were still very far from the destination. Thus we looked for rooms and luckily found quite satisfactory ones to spend the night. I don’t know the name of the place we stayed the night but it was definitely Something-Gali. Most of the places on that land belt, their names end which “Gali” which I couldn’t completely dig deep into and infer the real reason why. But well, here’s my theory, the whole belt is like a long long road and all these tiny hill stations with the hotels and tourist attractions are like small lanes or pathways off the main road. Because “Gali” in fact is the Urdu word for “lane/path”.
Well, that’s as much as one could get out of me, because when I’m in one of these places, I become incapable of thinking about anything other than how extremely beautiful the surroundings are and I lose myself in its magnanimity.
Looking out my car window I can see the places where once a landslide hit the road and renovation had to be done. Some of the brown rocks still line the cracked road. A legacy of the time nature took over. These aren’t those mountains that bear nothing but rock and barrenness. These mountains have much shrubbery (even though a lot of it thorny), ferns, and of course their famous pine trees. And in every single one of these trees I can find something so fascinating that I am wholly captivated for a good long while. May it be a crooked branch, a leafless stem, an abundance of cones, a tree that’s leaning into the road that lies beneath, a lovely green colour so refreshing to the eyes I actually stop to think if there could be anything so full of life, a lone tree standing in the distance apart from all the others and the distance, the mystery makes me wonder.
Subtly my sight turns to the innumerous daisies that these mountains are so full of. When one lowers sight from the audacious heights of the pines, one may spot true meekness and beauty. And I, for one, am a greater fan than any of these little flowers as I vividly remember Mckay’s poem about them and how much I liked it. They are raised further in my sight and I feel like I could go lie among them for days. Only, I am not allowed to.
A striking difference of perspective as the car climbs the other mountain and from this one my side of the car is turned not towards the mountain the road was cut out of but towards the pine tops that the road borders, the clear blue sky, and the sharp fall down into the vales and unknown life below, a chasm. I am not frightened by height. In fact, mostly I am quite delighted and thrilled by it. Thus the precipitous edge does not scare me. And I boldly look down into the deep chasm, the bottom of which I cannot perceive. Incredulity enwraps me as I behold once again the greatness of these structures Allah created; that His artistic hand carved. And one cannot be but humbled in company of such magnificent creatures.
Going farther up, we have now reached my favourite driving spot which is in fact quite dangerous as now we are so up high that the clouds which appeared mere tufts of white cotton candy from the base are now at eye level and being among them exalts the spirits and lifts the mood. Well, mine at least. For when I showed some of the photographs I took to a few friends some admitted the situation to be quite spooky. Ah, well. Perspectives.
And there were a thousand more sightings and sensations so utterly inexplicable that even to try to explain should be considered a crime.
So I shall continue to when we went walking around, the view was less restricted of course because there was no car window I was peeking out of but mine eyes only that assimilated the nature around me with such hunger, I have funnily enough never felt a greater hunger, not even for food. The road which we had taken had forked away from the Murree route thus now there were no honking cars and no hustling people; which is a far better mode in which to observe and roam around these mountains.
And though I want to write chapters I must end here for now. Maybe I’ll write a new chapter to this journey later and explore the unexplored. For now though let’s end with saying that standing before those trees and walking on that road, I wonder if I did anything other than smile. Or whether I even stopped smiling for a second.