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A WORLD OF GOODAgents of ChangeISSUE 07

The Valley of Wonders

Namal College is located in the picturesque Namal Valley, which is host to some spectacular scenery. The college building is sandwiched between a lake and a mountain, standing out and blending in at the same time.

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Namal Lake is actually a dam built by the British in 1913. A den for migratory birds, including Russian ducks and Siberian cranes, it can be accessed from the college either by boat or through a breathtaking hour-long hike. The short walk from the college to the boatway is an interesting one. You first notice an old graveyard, which predates the formation of Pakistan. Next up is a masjid almost on top of the water. After a short walk you reach an abandoned well built by the British. This is where you hop on a boat and start the short ride to the dam.

It takes fifteen minutes to get to the dam, but that time is well spent marvelling at the scenery that surrounds the area. The landscape narrows and the water is surrounded by barren mountains on three sides, creating a stunning vista that makes the traveller forget the mundane realities of normal life, if only for a while. A deep red in colour, and in some places even displaying shades of purple, the mountains in the area are rich in minerals and on the other side of the dam’s walls, sulphur springs sprout forth from them. There are date palm trees around the springs and a healing mineral bath can provide the perfect denouement to a soothing trip.

The dam itself seems like a rickety piece of work, mainly due to the neglect it has faced. Remarkably, though, it managed to hold strong in last year’s floods, saving the people of the area from considerable destruction.

Getting there

There are numerous routes that can be taken to get to Namal. The quickest two take five hours from Lahore. Along the motorway, the Balkassar Interchange at the Talagang exit ensures a drive on top-notch roads. The 90-minute drive off the motorway to Namal is a treasure trove of excellent truck hotels, which provide delicious street food and the special doodh patti served in these parts. It is cooked on log fire and many places make it with gurr instead of refined sugar.

Alternatively, you can travel on GT road via Mianwali. This path just has to be experienced by those who consider themselves foodies. Just before Namal, at Musakhel, a man sells Jungli Pulao, famous throughout these parts, as evidenced by the fact that the food is sold out for the day by 11:00 am. This dish of soft creamy rice served with a hunk of tender and juicy beef and an assortment of vegetables is legendary and must be sampled by any self-respecting food lover in the country.

Those who are more adventurous of spirit will be well served taking other roads less travelled. Coming through the mysterious yet majestic Soan Valley to Namal will take the traveller through a vast and varied landscape that possesses wonders that cannot be fathomed by a mind that has not yet been exposed to such scenery. The myths of robbers and dacoits are fanciful as the people here are extremely hospitable and will make it their obligation to help their travelling guests. Despite the apparent backwardness of the area, its inhabitants are rich at heart and hold a happy countenance.

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