Friday, November 14, 2014

(Part 5) Fishing Trout and Spotting Hoopoe in Taobat

Catch of the Trip
This is Neelum Valley Travelogue Part 5 
Click here for Part 4 Part 3 Part 2  Part 1

Day 7: Sunday, August 24, 2014
Nawaz Sharif Owns Land in Taoabt!?
Last evening, we felt some activity in our neighboring rooms but thankfully this time it was not like alien. They were travelers; first overnight tourists since we had arrived in Taobat. One was a group of physicians from Abbotabad who were visiting the valley with their local colleague.  Taking benefit of the opportunity I showed Mikael to one of them as the little monster was having an uncomfortable chest. But the doctor assured that there was nothing to worry about and that it would go away with time and the precautionary medicine which we was already carrying. The other group looked local in appearance. One of them introduced himself as a serving judge posted in Muzaffarabad. I believe they were looking for some investment opportunity, most probably in the tourism. It was one of them who told me the rumor that Nazwaz Sharif had also purchased 10 acres of land there, pointing right behind our cottage, recently through a front man!

Adapting Kids
After a couple of days of overcast weather the sun shown up in the morning. So I spread the laundry in the open air before starting the Al Waheed Hotel trek for the customary breakfast. By then, kids also got used to of the morning walk which started with the lengthy swinging bridge. Misha wanted to cross that without holding my hand as she observed local kids doing that freely. It was nonetheless dangerous with a missing plank after every few steps and a totally absent side netting but we it was good to see kids adapting to the environment.

Misha’s Newly Found Patriotism
From nowhere Misha also developed a liking for cadets. Whenever there was a check post or a platoon passing by, which was a common sight, she started chanting “Pakistani Fauji”. She also wanted to shake hands with them and ask them whether they found their Indian counterparts somewhere! Soldiers were also responsive and polite. One of them shared with me that she reminded him of his daughter, of the same age, who was back home. While telling this he was also trying to hide away his wet eyes!

Misha’s craziness was somewhat surprising for us because we did not teach her that yet. In fact when we visited a national monument, Mazar-e-Quaid, in the recent past, she got scared with the loud echo produced by the boots of marching and saluting guards!

Using the Telephone, a Luxury, Second Time in Taobat
It had been a couple of days that we called home as there was only one PCO in the village which we could not visit due to the weather. After having the breakfast at Al Waheed Hotel we walked back to the village for the telephone. At the PCO, there was a long queue, mostly soldiers talking to their loved ones. One of them was probably newlywed as he looked a bit nervous talking to his better half and that too without any privacy. In the meantime Mikael could not bear with it and leaked, although it was not that cold out there. His tomfoolery actually proved beneficial for us, as the person on the call had to cut it short and then Urooba was quick to take the “ladies first” advantage.

Slogan of the Trip: Walk, Walk, and more Walk
For the rest of the day we wanted to explore the local hydel power generation system which was located in the part of the village which we had not visited yet. But from the PCO we first had to go back to our room to change Mikael’s diaper! From our room to Al Waheed Hotel, then to the PCO, and then back to the room; that petty looking to and fro already made us walk around 2-3 kilometers and took almost half of the day. The hydel generator was another kilometer away which made it 4-5 kilometers. That was significant especially with the uneven terrain and two kids in the tow.

Taobat’s “Power Plant”
The trek to the hydel generator was similar to the ones we had already undertaken, and so were the flora and fauna, except for that there was no cultivation around making it wilder and more natural. Urooba’s sharp eyes spotted a unique insect which was camouflaged perfectly in the grass. It shaped like a miniature turtle and was green in color. Walking and spotting, we reached the power plant, which was a simple rotor powered by a water channel coming naturally from the hills and was enough to light up the whole village during the nighttime. The other day, Yayha Shah told me that it cost them ~PKR 2 Million (~USD 20,000) which the villagers contributed on self help basis.

“Hudhud” Spotting
On the way back, Urooba again caught a sight of a unique yellow bird which vanished quickly before we all could see that. I also spotted a bird with black and white stripes and a golden crown. It remained there for a while and did not look afraid when I chased it. Locals call that “thoka” due to its characteristic habit of hitting the tree trunk so I assumed that to be a woodpecker. But a zoology buff indicated on one of my previous posts that it was actually a “hoopoe”, which is mentioned in Quran as “hudhud” with Prophet Sulaiman PBUH (King Solomon) and is a national bird of modern day Israel. Later in the trip we spotted the bird frequently at other locations as well.

The Haunted Guesthouse
When we reached back to our cottage after trekking, it was still bright and the sky was also clear however the sun was getting ready to hide behind the hills. In search of the solar energy, we meandered to the backyard and lounged there for the rest of the day. It was slightly elevated and better positioned for the sunlight, as compared to our cottage, and was surrounded by corn fields; probably the same fields where the bear used to come during our earlier nights in Taobat. Another tourist guesthouse was located there which was owned by the local government department of the Azad Kashmir Government but it looked deserted and was rotting due to lack of care.

Having Muft Ki Biryani and a Good News
The guests we met back in the morning had already departed but two more groups arrived and were negotiating with Yayha Shah. It was a busy day for Yayha maybe because of the weekend so he also looked happy. Out of the new arrivals, the more interesting one was the biker group from Lahore. After a hot discussion among themselves they decided to stay in Taobat instead of returning back, which could have been fatal due to the looming darkness. They got settled in the adjacent camps. The other one was a bunch of friends from Sialkot. They were moving with their own cookery and were busy in preparing biryani. Interestingly, they were unsure whether they cooked it to perfection and obviously as a Karachiite they thought I could be a better judge. Andhay ko kia chahiye? Do Ankhen!

In the meantime, Abdul Hai prepared our meal, clubbing the lunch and the dinner, and gave us the last news of the day; he had talked to his father who agreed taking us for trout fishing the following day!

Day 8: Monday, August 25, 2014
Our Last Breakfast at Al Waheed Hotel
It had to be our last full day in Taobat and it would have been an injustice to go back without having the trout fish. We also wanted to experience firsthand how it is caught. For that, I had been requesting Abdul Hai for last few days and finally the time had arrived as he confirmed the day earlier that his father agreed to take us to fishing. We did our breakfast walk quickly, said goodbye to everyone at Al Waheed Hotel, and came back to our cottage waiting Abdul Hai’s father.

The Trout Adventure Starts
His father arrived soon and instructed us to follow him on the same trek which we did a day before for the hydel power generation. Along the river, we kept on walking beyond that generator. Realizing our slow speed, he kindly offered to carry Mikael so that we could match his steps. Like all other people we met around Taobat, he was a also polite and courteous. While walking he introduced us to the wild fauna around, some of which were supposed to have medicinal qualities. Urooba was especially interested in the one which according to him was like a life saving drug for heart patients. Seeing Mikael coughing, he also advised trout which he claimed could cure even most chronic asthma.

We Were in Cloud Nine - Again
Across the river we could see a stunning panorama of the Taobat village while on our side there was no human presence. I took a photographic sojourn and then continued to catch up the marching troupe. With every step, it was getting more natural and purer. Air was getting thinner and fresher. Most amazing thing to notice was the innumerable pollen fizzing in the bright sunshine. The walk continued along the river and looked unending. At some junctures the trek took so difficult turns that it would have been impossible for us if Abdul Hai’s father were not accompanying us.

The First Catch! And Then the Second!
After more than an hour of trekking he finally had mercy on us and stopped along the fading trail before walking down to the river and instructing us to hold our ground. We got tired and were unsure whether that long trek would serve any purpose. Urooba was worried about the kids because of the excessive pollen around. We also lost sight of our guide was walking along the river stones. But to our absolute disbelief, the gentleman came back within 15 minutes with a pretty looking fish in his hand. Yes, it was a trout! The dream came true. That success made us walking another furlong to the next fishing point where he repeated the same performance and brought another fish of the same size and color – thanks to his weapon; the French Spinner. We could not resist applauding his skills while he was praising our good luck as according to him that was not the best time, twelve noon, for fishing.

Two in hands were better than a lot many in the river!
He wanted to try his luck further and again disappeared along the river leaving us with the catch. Out of excitement, we decided to go back to our cottage, to show off our achievement, and left the place without even informing our guide. On the way back, we soon realized that we had gone too far initially and it was not a wise decision to go back alone. Although we managed to keep it on the track but in the absence of any human presence around us nearby we started feeling vulnerable. The legend that bear could smell the fish from distance coupled with the factual presence of Himalayan Bear in Taobat made that scarier.

Surviving the Blunder of Our Life
Urooba was carrying Mikael – who refused to walk any longer – while I was following the better half with the fish in my one hand and Misha holding the other and walking along side. At one stage the trail got too narrow with the river flowing on one side. From far, that patch looked like a thin crease. The width was only enough for one foot at a time. Mumbling the safety prayers I was watching the wifey crossing the ridge; she fumbled at one point and my heart stopped for a moment. I could see her slanting towards the river but thankfully she managed to keep it going somehow until the end of the narrow passage where she stopped waiting for me. I followed her footsteps and when I reached the halfway there was a sharp rattle in my ears. Oh My God, it must be a snake. I didn’t want to look behind for the confirmation and instead kept walking steering Misha along. Out of breath, I shared that with horripilated Urooba who also confirmed that – the reason why she fumbled there. 

From that point, it was relatively easier. A group of locals were busy in grass cutting with their kids enjoying swings around jungle trees. That human presence eased down our breath. Past the hydel generator we came back to the familiar territory and in a little while we were back to our cottage hopping and screaming in happiness. Soon Abdul Hai’s father appeared from behind looking serious and concerned. He thought we might have fell in the river and drowned – which was not so unthinkable keeping in view how we managed the trek on the way back! Then he also revealed that trout fishing was actually banned by the authorities. I felt like a partner in crime! That was my second time. The first was a bank robbery :-P

Happy Ending of Our Last Day in Taobat
Abdul Hai arranged three more trout from somewhere and fried them all for the lunch. We took no time in having it as soon as he served the meal. We were so hungry, and selfish, that we did not even ask our neighboring tourist, who shared their Biryani last night!

That was the last episode of our Taobat story. The following day we had to move back to Kel where we planned to hike and explore Arang Kel. So after having the scrumptious trout, which we had without even sparing the bones, we started packing. Around dinner, I reminded Abdul Hai to arranged seats in the early morning jeep and called it a day.

Continue reading Part 6
Another Morning in Taobat
Making Use of the Sunshine
A Wet Moth Found a Refuge
The Way to Al Waheed Hotel
Butterflies Getting Hydrated
Cows Grazing Around Taobat Village
Going To School
In August/September Locals Collect Winter Feedstock for Their Cattle
Taobat's Power Plant
That was a Small Hydel Power Generator
Electrical Wires Going to the Village
Taobat Village Was Located on the Other Side of the River
A Scene Along the Trek
Adding Colors to the Scene
Yet Another Butterfly
The Flower Couple
The All Weather Leaf
The White Bouqet
The Yellow One With the Leather Shine
Misha's Favorite; the "Foo" Flower
A Different One
The Purple One Was My Favorite
A Closer Look into My Favorite One
Nature's Garden
Flowers or Fruits?
This is Only for You!
Poetry without Words!

Can You Spot the Creepy Crawly?
It was Perfectly Blended
A Closer Look
My Spotting: A Hoopoe which is Mentioned as Hudhud in Quran
The Elevated Land Behind Our Cottage
The Haunted Government Rest House
Corn Fields
The Corn was Almost Ready
Some More Flora
Happy Mikael With His Bunch
Signs of Human Presence
The Backyard of Our Neighboring Cottage
The Trout Adventure Begins
Taobat Village Was on the Other Side of the River
Another View of Taobat Village
Misha Posing
Cardio Friendly Herbs 
Fishing Starts Now
Nature's Green Carpet
Any Idea What Was That?
The First Catch
Yes It Was a Trout!
Soon They Become Two
Trout and the French Spinner
Hang Till Death!
Misha With the Catch
Farewell Shot of Taobat
5 Trout at a Time!
Trout in the Making
We Left that for the Bear


  1. Nice elaboration of the sites, I really enjoy your posts, keep sharing this excellent work!


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  4. Trust me you shot a very rare and expensive herb red clover ,local name tripattra means 3 leaf . It's 15000 per kg .