The Jewel of Salt Range
Swike is the jewel of Salt Range, an isolated retreat away from the reach of routine bystanders. The place had it all, the lake, the waterfalls, rocky cliffs and the green stretch. So overwhelming was the experience that an overnight camp out at SWIKE was planned.
The group comprised of seven in total, six human beings and one Dodo. The party comprised Sherazi, Ladla, Kaboom, Rashid Minhas, Jayzee, Dodo and me. The ill planning was done at an Officers’ Mess at Rawalpindi. A lot of requesting, borrowing and seeking favours finally enabled us to proceed further in executing the plan. The fun part was visiting Metro Islamabad for procuring groceries (Kaboom knows that 😉 … and yes there were plenty of mitthaas from Excel Labs.
Three bravados reached SWIKE in daylight, installed the tents and were eventually left stranded in the darkness with cell phone torches. Some characteristic emotional SMS messages from Rashid Minhas and Dodo kept the remaining four moving to join the group at nightfall. Jayzee, Sherazi, Kaboom and I had to carry the supplies in sacks on our shoulders during an hour and a half long trek / hike at night. Poor Kaboom got punctured having carried the ‘firewood in a sack’ on his back and we had some mending done upon reaching the RV. After the tiring and wrecking hike what Jayzee was worried about was his sheesha apparatus and to our sheer disapproval was even ready to trail back to find it.
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The night was cold, started with some fun swimming at night and the melodious voice of Sherazi and Chorus singing
جپھّی گھٹ کے جے پاویں اک وارگُجرا
(O Gujjar! my beloved, only if thou hold me tight in thy arms)
The food was cooked and tasted delicious. Here was the first twist, Rashid Minhas spotted an underwater snake that peeped out just beside one of our tents and stared in hostility to on looking flash light. And here came the first memorable quote of the night “you know the water snakes are not poisonous and they don’t bite outside water” (I don’t recall who was that) but the tone was confident. Such was the wildlife wisdom that got us relaxed and going for the night. The fire was lit, Jayzee prepared some classy SHEESHA and Sherazi went hostile on mitthaas. The cards were out for the night and it was when Ladla, Kaboom, Dodo and I were playing cards that Rashid Minhas (the same snake culprit) got suspicious of hearing some wild animal out in the dark. We all had our part of enhanced sense of sound on varying times and remained on vigilance and flash light searches for the remaining night. The only weapon with us was in custody of Dodo and Dodo was on fire for the night. We couldn’t conclude whether it was a Cheetah or something else out in the forest, but we all had consensus that Dodo is possessed. Dodo with a loaded weapon was thriving to go out in the wild at night and all our energies were consumed into looking out for some wild animal’s entry from outside and preventing the exit of the other wild — from inside. (Dodo we love you!)
The morning was bright, and Swike was ever welcoming. We had garmaas in breakfast and the group then went on a swimming spree. It was some rock jumping into the water, lots and lots of hesitation by one on the jumping rock (no, I won’t say the name); holding an Inside-Water March Past under the able leadership of Sherazi; Ladla Rashid Minhas and Dodo floating on tube; and yes the pictorial poses of photogenic Jayzee. It was also a visit to the waterfall above, standing on the algae carpeted rock and looking below into the Swike was something the thought of which still mesmerizes me. By noon we had rolled over and started our hike back to the civilization. Having hiked for 45 minutes, gone past our landmark Camel Feature and reaching on the top platform, we had a break. It was then we looked back on Swike. There was our dialogue with nature, a dialogue with the lake and we reaffirmed that we will be there again. We had accepted the direct invitation from Swike.