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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Soun Expedition


It was not just an abrupt tour plan out of nowhere that took us from Lahore to the famous Soun valley in district Khushab, it was well planned and all the pre tour work done well before the departure date, at PBC we believe in making all necessary arrangements before setting forth on a long ride with overnight stay. Waqar Ahmad being the master planner of the whole trip contacted everyone interested in hitting the highway, thanks to the information technology we were all signed into tour related discussion through email. End of March is the beginning of summer in most of Punjab so our idea was to do the tour in an ideal weather before it gets too hot to commute the highway on motorbikes and since all of us are professionals besides being bikers we would need an extra day to recover from the jetlag at the end of the tour. The opportunity offered itself as the 23rd of March happened to fall on Monday; the bikes tended, the luggage packed and we were off.

Five of us were confirmed to undertake the exciting journey. Waqar was riding his Typhoon, a modified Piaggio storm powered by a 200cc liquid cooled engine while fahad riding as pillion with him, Uzair was cruising on his Tornado, a modified chopper powered by a 250cc liquid cooled engine, Nouman was on board his Beast, a modified Piaggio powered by a 150cc liquid cooled engine and at one point I came to know it also had a reverse gear in it, while I was riding on my humble but still like brand new 03 model stock CG125. I welcomed the riders at Khushab joining them from my hometown i.e., Joharabad on the morning of 21st March. The route taken was from Lahore to Khushab via Sheikhupura, Pindi Bhattian, and Sargodha. From Khushab I leaded the gang, it being my territory. These guys had stayed the first night at Sargodha and reached Khushab around 9am and although we had another night stay to our credit at Naushehra I was well aware that we did not have enough time to visit all the three lakes and return to Noshehra before it got dark so I naturally was in a bit of hurry. From Khushab, it is hardly a ride of some 20km till the mountain range starts. This series of mountains starts from Lillah i.e, the salt range and continues as far as the boundary of district Minawali. I have always loved cruising the twisty roads of the Soun valley mountain range. At some places the road is torn up and in pretty bad shape thanks to excessive recent rains coupled with no maintenance work and the ignorance of local politicians who are always in deep slumber upon the public rights. However torn roads do not tire us at all, we take it for an adventure, part of the fun package.
 
We road as far as Kathwai where we took tea and in the meanwhile stopped at a few places to take some cool pics. From Kathwai we had to take the single road to Jahlar lake, located in a remote and deserted area of the Soun valley. Lucky for us that the weather was just perfect that it could be, cloudy sky with normal temperature with a wind blowing past us telling us that we were being welcomed. The air was clean and crisp clean of the pollution as we have it in Lahore and although I am an easy rider mostly, these open roads tend to ignite a thrill inside me somehow and at many places other riders of the gang would leave far behind so I had to stop and wait for them. Moments would pass and I could hear off in the calm distance that ever so familiar tone of Uzair’s 4 stroke beast, then the gang members would become visible one by one, enjoying the beauty of nature as they ride through it; small fields with ready crop amidst green mountains, the sun rays sneaking past the clouds to make it all surreal, I love this part of the soun valley.

The road turns into a primitive track from once we take the left run for Jahlar lake, we had to cross steep slopes on first gear, going pasts twists some of which tested our visitors from Lahore before we reached Jahlar lake. This lake gives a beautiful view of nature, it is a natural lake surrounded by mountains around it and the cloudy sky made it look even more magical, even the migrating birds perch around it before they move onward. The off-road track from Jahlar lake to Uchhali is also a test of skills and novice riders will not find it a piece of cake at some points but since all of us are skilled riders we did it at ease, although with all the care that needed be. It was past 1pm when we reached Uchhali lake, another beautiful natural lake, its beauty heightened by the small patch of road that goes almost till the middle of the lake. Here we parked the bikes for some bike shots and also took some memorable pics of our own.

At a distance of 25km from Uchhali lake toward East is the city of Naushehra,a central place in the Soun valley. We had pre booked a room for lodging here so we dropped our luggage and headed for Khabeki lake right away, which is at a distance of about 20km from Noushehra toward North East. Of all the three lakes, the Khabeki lake gave the most captivating view. The large tract of land by the side of the lake gave it a beach-like view. We drove our bikes through it to reach the bank of the lake. Highly magical was the view of sun here, going behind the hills; the sun rays peeping at us at times from behind the clouds. Our next destination was Kanhatti garden situated at the far North end of the Soun valley, the road comes to an end here but the adventure does not. On the Kanhatti garden road, an off-road trekking track near a small village will take you to a historic Akrand Fort, but as we had neither enough time nor any idea of its exact location we kept on the road to Kanhatti. A minor electrical issue with Uzair’s Tornado had us ride through the dark as we returned to Noushehra where almost the whole city has fallen asleep as our gang reached the Mehria Hotel Noushehra. It was kind enough of the hotel management to open the kitchen for us and serve us with the dinner that we really needed before hitting the beds for a sound sleep. The next morning we took the regular road to return to Khushab. Return route to Lahore was via Faisalabad. It was our group’s first tour of this part of the country and certainly not the last. The next time we ride to this area, we plan to visit some other remote areas of the hidden heavenly land.
 



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