Town & Places - Kaghan Valley

 

From Mansehra a winding. road through forested hills leads D the mouth of the Kaghan Valley: the town of Balakot pread across the two banks of Kunhar River. Balakot suffered widespread destruction in the October earhtquake of 2005. Here the final battle between the Sikhs and Ahmad hah Berailvi was fought leading to his decapitation. Unlike the Swat Valley which fans out like a palm, this 155 km / 96 mile long forest-valley is narrow and the mountains steep. It lenetrates into the heart of the Himalayan system. The road rst built between 1893 and 1895 is prone to periodic landslides and leads northwards to the villages of Kaghan and batakundi, the lush mountain-meadows of Shogran and leyond, to the Babusar Pass (4, 173m) and the Chilas region. he parallel mountain ranges rise up to 1 7,000ft and the lopes provide grazing grounds for seasonal nomads and lighland dwellers. The Kunhar River, known for fresh trout "hich thrives in its crystal clear water, is fed by three alpine ikes. The most famous and accessible of these is the Saif ul-Muluk, named after a legendary prince, Saif. The legend bout this lake, on the lips of the Kohistanis / "Mountain wellers", was celebrated by many but immortalized in a lassical romance in Punjabi verse by the Sufi-poet Mian /luhammad Bakhsh (1830-1907). According to the tale rince Saif ul-Muluk hid to watch a fairy-princess Badar lmal, who came every full-moon night to bathe in the lake.On seeing each other they fell in love. But the evil djinn of the Malika Parbat became jealous. He broke the banks of the ake and flooded the valley below in order to drown them. Luckily they hid in a cave near the village of Naran - the cave still exists - and made good their escape out of the valley. It 3,212m the lake, as a nature reserve, provides a pristine pectacle despite increasing human intrusion. The lake sits in all glory reflecting the surrounding snow-capped peaks Malika Parbat (5,291 m), the highest mountain in the valley among them - that guard it like a precious emerald.

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