Hiking on Trail-5, Margalla Hills, Islamabad

Overview:
Sometimes it is so difficult to pick up the pen and write. Oops, I just forgot that there is no picking up the pen anymore and all I need is to open up my laptop (My wife’s Saukan – I wish I can translate this in English) and there we go. Well, last Sunday i.e. 3rd March 2012; evening, I started to write this article but Zap. My fingers and my thoughts just could not jive. Writing is indeed an art and some science too. In my case, until and unless there is ‘Aamad’ (Divine intervention), I just cannot start writing, period!
People tell me that there are no places to go in Islamabad and for me there is never a dull moment. I keep finding places of interest and take my family along for short escapades. There is a famous Urdu saying ‘Dhoondnay Se Khuda Bhi Milta Hai’ which literally means ‘If you search enough, you will indeed find God’. We just have to search in the right places.
I have been hiking in and around Islamabad with my buddies for almost three years now but somehow I had missed hiking on the famous Trail -3 and Trail – 5 hikes in the Margalla Hills. Somehow, we had planned for tougher hikes and had skirted these two treks for no particular reason. This time around I told myself that I should start paying some more respect to the Margalla Hills and should undertake this pilgrimage too before I am posted out of Islamabad or anything close to that.
On the 4th Saturday of a chilly December, i.e. on 24.12.2012; we got up to a late start. After having breakfast at home, we decided to hike the Trail -5 and left the house around 11:45 a.m. Within 15 minutes or so, we were at the road marker of the trek. As usual took the introductory picture and off we went.
While walking for two minutes, we reached the starting point of the Trail-5 and saw this board with the sign ‘Dara Janglan’. Darra in Urdu means a passage way between two mountains or hills.
And we took our first step. This was the first time we had encountered a marker mentioning 0.0 kms out of some odd 5.0 kms that we had to walk. No other Trail in Islamabad keeps such calculation of the distance traversed.

(Stepping on the first marker at 0.0 kilometers)
This is what a blogger Atif Mumtaz says about Trail-5:
“If you love bird watching, follow, track and photograph wild flowers, butterflies and other wonderful natural elements during the spring then Trail #5 is for you. Unlike Trail #3, which is extremely popular among hikers in Islamabad, Trail #5 is less traveled, more natural and passes through some of the most scenic sections of the Margalla Hills.
The trail is over 5km long and reaches the village near Murad Gali on Pir Sohawa Road. This junction is at least 2-3 km walk from the Capital Viewpoint restaurant where Trail #3 terminates. The trail is thin and gradually climbs up the hill. It will take a little over two hours at a steady pace up the hill to reach Murad Gali. But since it passes through an extremely scenic part of Margalla Hills, we recommend hikers to stop, enjoy and take in the atmosphere.
Very few people go up this trail. However, it is worth every second on it especially during the spring season. Due to the summer fast approaching, we expect hikers to carry water and light food items with them. Take a good camera as well to capture most natural elements on the trail” .
Again after walking for another two minutes or so, we reached this spot:
Within another two minutes of walking we reached a marker which provides the details of both Trail – 3 and Trail -5.
These markers as erected by Capital Development Authority (CDA) prove that this is indeed a very popular trek in the Margalla Hills and is visited frequently by young and old, local and foreign alike. Another two minutes of walk and we reached a marker which tells us that a water spring is close by.
Within a minute of walking, we reached a 19th century spring well which was not very deep but the water was very clear. This well was connected by the spring which was coming from the mountains. The children also saw a family of wild boars and ran after them to have a better view but they vanished in the trees rather fast.
(A 19th century Spring well with fresh water coming in)
Three more minutes of walk and we reached a marker which said that a camping site was near. We turned right while leaving the trek for a while to go visit the camping site. It was a nice little place where there were a few huts and some people were preparing a Barbeque. We planned to visit this place later to enjoy a family picnic.
We came back on the trek and after walking for another two minutes reached the first marker which gives you an option to trail blaze on Trail – 3 but since our chosen path today was Trail – 5 so we continued after taking this picture.
(Where do you want to go today?)
Eleven more minutes from this stop and we reached our first kilometer thus covering a distance of 1.0 kms in approximately twenty five (25) minutes. I must hasten to add that Ayesha is only 6.3 years old. She has somehow taken after us and thoroughly enjoys these hiking and trekking escapades with the family. I also make it a point that we do not rush on such hikes and let the entire family enjoy the views, flora and fauna of the Margalla hills.
After covering an approximate distance of 1.5 kms, Ayesha took her first break and stopped for some water. I just paused to take this snapshot but did not stop since I had to keep track of Adil and Mohsin who continued their uphill journey with a steady pace.
Ten more minutes from here and we reached this marker which conveyed that we had covered a total distance of 1.8 kms so far from the start of the hike. Probably this was the last of such markers since after this point, the trek started to become a little steep.
Another four minutes of walk from this location and we reached the second sign which routes off to Trail – 3. Seeing the marker of Trail – 3, Adil and I made a point that we must hike this trek and that too in the near future.
The hike from here onwards had become a little tougher and after walking for some 39 or so minutes, we reached the spot that if you wanted to reach ‘Murad Gali’ it would take you another 5 kilometers from here. I was more interested in reaching the spring first.
Another four minutes from here and we finally reached the ‘Natural Spring’. Although there was not too much water in the spring this season but is was fresh though. We spent some good ten minutes here to continue our journey further. Ayesha was getting a little tired and thus I thought she could not travel for another five kilometers.
We left Ayesha and Mamma a few yards from the spring and continued a little further on the route to ‘Murad Gali’ to see how tough was the terrain and travelled for some 23 more minutes. The trek was much less defined here and was slightly getting tougher.
Very soon I realized that with Mohsin around, we would have to walk for another one + hour to reach Murad Gali and it was pointless to leave Ayesha and Mamma at a distance of 1.5 hours away from us all by themselves. Although, I personally wanted to reach the end point of the hike but family comes first. With this in mind, we made an about turn while leaving the option of returning and completing the hike open for some other time.
Within 15 minutes we were back and joined the ladies, had a break for water and took the following picture.
Within one hour and sixteen minutes 1:16, we reached close to the camping site and paused for this picture.
And finally reaching the starting point, we noticed the following signboards which show the direction and the total distance from here to these tourist sites in Pakistan.
Here is another signboard which shows distance and direction to some more sites. By looking at these signboards, it felt that I have seen nothing in Pakistan so far.
The entire hike took us around 3:20 hours at a steady pace and with enough breaks for rest and water while appreciating the beautiful, natural views which Margalla Hills have to offer. Not to mention that we had feasted on Chips, Bananas and Oranges at the half way point. We started for home around 3:30 p.m. after taking this one last picture adding to the treasure of our cherished memories of yet another good hike.

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