Life in the Mountains: A Weekend in Murree & Muzaffarabad

the view from the Pearl Continental Hotel

the view from the Pearl Continental Hotel

I’m not one for nature. When I read books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, where characters talk about how good the warm soil feels between their barefoot toes, I cannot relate. All trees look the same. All mountains are a blur. I live in Islamabad; come on, the mountains are a background to everyday life. My parents, however, love nature. They love trees and flowers and mountains and green things. This has always led to a bit of tension – mostly caused by the fact that I spent most of our fun family trips to the hills staring at my iPhone.

Last weekend, my parents texted me, saying they had planned a weekend trip to Murree and Muaffarabad, which is in AJK. I don’t know what made me do it, but I agreed. Murree wouldn’t be that bad since mom’s friend lived there, and she had wireless internet. As for Muzaffarabad, well it was in Kashmir, and I’d always wanted to see what it looked like.

Our trip was split between the two days. Saturday morning was Murree, where I spent the say lolling around in the deliciously cold weather, and watching cable TV. The Indian something movie awards were on, and Priyanka Chopra was dancing.

Priyanka at the Indian Filmfare Awards

I also spent some time watching the pretty white horses that are famous in Murree, while my parents went walking down the Mall, and looking at the stalls of traditional Kashmiri shawls, shalwar kameez adorned with gota, baseball caps with faux blonde hair sewn in to the back to make whoever wore them look a little bit like Cher.

After a day of watching Hum TV parody dramas featuring the patriarchal man of the house ridiculing himself (and of course, enjoying the beautiful weather and view from Pindi Point), we set out for Muzaffarabad on Sunday – a drive that was supposed to take 2 hours, but took 3, due to the broken down road, my motion sickness, and the fact that we were in a Civic, not a four-wheel drive.

We drove straight to the Pearl Continental Hotel, built atop a hill, with a majestic view of the entire valley. The weather was considerably warmer here, and we found ourselves glad that we hadn’t lugged our shawls along. For hi-tea, we went to the Marco Polo dining lounge, and my, the treats that awaited us!

Chocolate mousse in a cup, topped with crushed pistachios

Strawberry jelly-mousse tarts

Pistachio-flavoured mousse tarts

After a delightfully long and relaxing meal, we ventured out to the great gardens of the hotel-cum-resort, taking in the beautiful flowers, view and a few odd things.

A honeybee! I was so excited to actually see them flying from flower to flower.

the point where the two rivers merge

wide, open lawn

Then we ran across this sign. I personally think that if the English translation was removed, no Pakistani from my generation would have any clue as to what it means.

In case of emergency... read the English.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip, and I might be willing to go back some day, and really explore the city.