IJC Summer Camp 2015, 46 Aficionados and 13K Peaks !


(Trip report by Dr Nadeem Naeem)

Team IJC’s annual summer camp has been a regular feature since 2009. This year was no different, various destinations came under consideration. Eventually the destination was locked on Neelum Valley and crossing Noori Top from Sharda to Jalkhad.

Mashaallah, IJC summer camps have always been very popular with not just IJCians but their friends as well. So what initially started as a group of 18-20 wanting to go on the summer camp, eventually turned out to be a massive 48 people group! In total 16 rides participated.

Arranging accommodation and managing logistics etc for such a large group was a challenge that was very well met with admirable efforts by Zeb and Salman, along with considerable help from Imtiaz n Zohaib. THANK YOU guys! Obviously there were minor hiccups here n there, but than this was camping trip of a jeep club, so it was all part of a game! And in any case as is said in off roaders lingo……. …………something like “if you don’t get stuck…………..means u r not trying hard enuff”

Day 1 (Friday):
As you are probably already aware, we had friends from all over joining us. Asad flew in from UAE the day before our trip. Bad weather meant his flight was diverted Lahore, where he spent the night in the lounge, before arriving Islamabad early in the morning. The night before, Zeb n Imtiaz came over quite late to load up stuff on NPP daala. After packing etc I finally managed to go to sleep around 3am. Next morning was up before 6am, the excitement of trip completely overshadowed the lack of sleep. My friend Ahmed soon came over to join me. After loading his stuff on the daala, we headed towards the meeting point. Friday 21[SUP]st[/SUP] was the D-day and one by one all gathered at the meet-up point.

After Dua-e-Safar we left for our initial destination of Keran in Neelum valley. Progress was steady. We had a breakfast break just short of Muzafarabad, where we were served Parathas n Anday (dripping with oil) along with a very welcoming hot doodh patti.

Next stop around 3pm was at Keran. Lunch was at Caribbean Camping Resort. The weather was absolutely marvellous. Sitting beside the river acting as the border between the two Kashmir, it was amazing atmosphere and everyone just chilled there………….for a bit too long. It was well after 5 before we left Keran for our final destination Kel.

On the way we had few photography breaks and also fuel break. The journey thru out was thoroughly enjoyable with radio communication between all. There was joke sharing, leg pulling, more leg pulling and what not. First day of holiday and every ones humour was at its best. No one was spared!

We made it to Kel well after 9pm. The accommodation was pre-booked and we moved straight into our rooms. Where more gup shup and stories were shared. And despite almost 12 hours of travelling is a convoy, everyone seemed fairly fresh. After dinner some mazeed gupshup took place till way after mid-night, before eventually people started slowly slipping away to their rooms.

Day-2 (Saturday)

Next morning there was a change of plan, from doing a day trip / visit to Shaun tar valley / lake to camping at Shauntar. So everyone wrapped and packed up, which took time. Eventually we left our hotel just after 10am. Progress was slow. The track was narrow and rocky. I was with base radio in NPP, so remained as the last vehicle thru out the trip to make sure we had full communication through-out the 16 vehicle long convoy, which at times was over 10km apart! There was absolutely no mobile phone coverage in Neelum valley apart from local S.com network and even that was very patchy n unreliable apart from bigger towns.

Our convoy included the massive MaxCrew long wheel base, long daala Tundra. Which had to be expertly manoeuvred thru these tight twisty tracks, with occasional external navigation. Still the Tundra did suffer some scrapes n bruises on underbelly and side foot boards. Having said that I think no one was spared in this tight twisty track including NPP, which was loaded with kitchen stuff! The front runners made steady progress, and reached the Shauntar Lake in under 3 hours, the back-end had much slower speeds resulting in an extra hour to reach the rest.

The absolutely stunning beauty of the valley mesmerized everyone and we were all clicking away with our cameras. Eventually people started to unpack the camping gear, and low n behold we had a massive thunder shower. All the camps and canopies and marquees tried to fly away and couldn’t be kept down with any amount of pegs. Eventually all the camps and canopies were tied next to the vehicles and tied with the wheel / rims etc, which worked very well. The rain had soaked up many a tents, because we weren’t able to put up the water proofing sheets etc in time. But the spirits remained high. And we eventually all settled down and lunch preps started.

The 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] round of heavy rain came during lunch and we were all huddled under the big marquee brought by Saeed bhai. Eventually, it calmed down, at least for next few hours. All camps were in place, with best efforts to waterproof for the night. Many thnx Huzaifa n few others who helped me set up the camp. Additionally many thanks to Ali who loaned his tent to me, as mine just flew in air and bang landed + rolled around a few times in fast blowing winds, resulting in broken rods etc.

The pre-cooked hot biryani lunch was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Followed by hot tea. There were snacks n dry fruit and everyone relaxed with music in back ground, soaking up natures beauty! Thru out there was a friendly brand war between Mitsus, Toyotas n Nissans. There were one or two rides stuck in slushy mud, which were yanked out. So NPP got to do its bit as well!

Before Dark we saw a small white vehicle coming towards us thru mountain tracks. Low n behold it was Noman Ahmed in his 3 door Pajero IO. He couldn’t get leave from office, so he left early Saturday morning and reached Shauntar directly in 12ish hours. He was with us the whole of next day and eventually headed directly back to ISB alone, reaching at 4:30 am and back to office at 9am!! What a Jazba………………well actually he does work for Mobilink, so it’s “Such Jazba” J

At night some of us tried to capture the brilliantly bright stars. The chit chat on bonfire was temporarily halted when we had another short heavy shower. Dinner was freshly made fried chicken n pakoras. Zeb had managed to pick up the chicken from a village on the way earlier in afternoon and prepared the chicken himself. It was absolutely classy mahool! Eventually after midnight many of us retired in our camps. With snow covered peaks around the valley we all knew it will be a freezing night and …………..it was!! Didn’t have the best of sleep at it kept raining intermittently and from cold coming from the floor!

Day 3 (Sunday):

Around 6:30 in the morning, people started coming out of the camps. Mani n his friend packed up and left straight away as he had to get back to work next day. The rest started packing up which took time as every thing was wet n soaked. Had a quick tea n biscuits breakfast and the whole gang started the return journey. The last vehicle left around 9:30. The return journey was un-eventful, apart from some minor repair requirement on a Jero. We made it back quicker in around 3 hour 20 minutes, i.e. the last group! BTW, the milestone in Kel suggested that Shaun tar valley was 60km, where as in actual fact it was only 28km from Kel.

A quick dash of Lunch in Kel hotel due to changed plan and we all left for Sharda. Some of us there had a fuel top-up from local small shops with fuel in drums. Eventually just after 3.30pm we all headed up towards the Noori top track. The track upto Noori had the most stunning views with initial gradual and later on very steep inclines, taking us to the top at exactly 13005 feet. The progress was steady, we had few minor issues with couple of vehicles including two burst tyres from sharp stone edges and diesel leak from the injector nozzle / pump. That was dealt with promptly.

The distance from main road to Noori top was 31km, and the distance from Noori top to Jalkhad was 17-18km. The first group had made it to the top by 6pm, however with few mechanical issues, we reached there just before 7, by then it was almost dark and with a deep cloud cover, we did not get any pics at Noori top. Hopefully Taimoor who was upfront will have something to show us all.

The downwards journey from Noori top to Jalkhad in the dark was exciting to say the least. Plenty of ditches n obstacles were encountered which we managed with team work. Alhamdolillah we all made it down safely. There after it was exciting run on metalled road after nearly 20 hours drive offroad. Everyone was gunning the throttle, soon we got to Bata-Kundi where we found a nice Hotel (Shan Guest House). It was quite spacious for all of us 40+ people. Mani had left early in the morning directly for ISB. Where as Nomi left straight for ISB from Jalkhad.

At the hotel there was some unwinding followed by some yummy Haleem n Naan dinner. Than we had a lovely bonfire, sharing stories, the stories sharing than took a turn to the darker side including plenty spooky n horror stories etc! Gradually people began to disperse and eventually well after midnight we all returned to our room for a good night sleep in cosy interior after the damp experience from previous night! I think both me n Ahmed were off to sleeping land within couple of minutes.

A mini highlight of the day for me / npp was the fact that we crossed Noori top from Sharda to Jalkhad in two wheel drive thru out. It was just one of those things, i.e. been there done that. Having said that, would like to make it clear that we did not have to rush thru inclines or steep turns in momentum. We had ample weight on the rear wheels to maintain smooth traction and at no stage did npp encounter any lack of / loss of traction or power. Mashaallah!

Day 4 (final day) Monday:

During the night I woke up couple of times, due to background water noise. The first time I thought it was some river / naala flowing close bye. The second time, I realized it was actually pouring rain like mad! Anyway after a bit I slept again. Finally was up n about at 7 in the morning. When we came out of the room, saw few others already up as well. They pointed to the mountain top snow all round. At first I didn’t realize, but than the hotel owner clarified, this is all from last night, it wasn’t there the day before! It was a lovely fresh morning, clear sun, lush green mountains surrounding we had our breakfast in the hotel veranda.

Than it was time to wrap-up n pack up. Initial plan was that some of us wanted to visit Lalazar and rest the Babuser top! The locals suggested to aim for Lalazar a bit later in morning as it would be very muddy n slippery from last night rain at 9 in the morning. So everyone decided to hit Babuser Top. It’s always a treat driving on Naran Jalkhad road. Everyone just breezed thru amazing surroundings. The road up to Babuser is mostly metalled, so we saw so many cars going up it was almost like Murree! Once we reached Babuser, I had pre-decided that main road of Babuser is only 13700feet, and I will hit 14000feet on the side mountain once again. So straight away I took npp to the side mountain climb in 4 low
My GPS was set to meters n I calculated that I needed to make it to 4268 meters.

Initially, it was just me up there, and Ahmed was a bit worried that with such sharp stony path we may encounter tyre issues. So we stopped at 4255 meters. I took some pictures, than identified a tyre safe route further up. While I was wondering whether to do it or not, Ahmed shouted, Tundra is coming. Lo n behold, it wasn’t just tundra, there were 6 more rides from our group just behind them. That was enuff boost to make me try hitting 14k. So I went up alone, and Alhamdolillah made it easily upto 4269 (14003 feet). The track was narrow n steep, so there was no chance of turning. So Ali helped me navigate back in reversed upto the plateau where the rest had parked up. There were plenty clicks up there of the amazing Gitidas valley. The snow on top of most mountains had melted away this late in season. There was plenty posing for photo-shoots!

Eventually we all turned round, and started the return journey downwards. We stopped at Lulusir Lake for a short tea break. Again plenty clicks all round for the amazing surroundings! And finally we were back at the Hotel in Bata-Kundi for a delicious Nihari Lunch. The weather was lovely, we just relaxed with tea n gupshup. Some carried out few minor repairs on their rides before we began our return journey for back home. Needless to say there was plenty heavy pedal use (by the petrol powered monsters) on the open n vacant sections of the road to Naran.

Naran was partial fuel refill time for many. The road till balakot was not at all busy and we made steady progress. We reached balakot at Maghreb time, where everyone topped up fuel tanks. Short prayer break and we were off again. Road upto Mansehra as predicted was a bit busier. Than the usual heavy traffic of Mansehra Abbotabad section. We all managed that imaginatively! Abbotabad was busy with traffic as well. We were no longer in convoy, but still in communication via radio or mobile phone. Imtiaz n I were leading the pack, until my Tarpal covered Daala appeared too suspicious to police and was stopped for inspection! The inspection etc took long enuff to put us almost with the back runners of convoy.

At that time it was decided to enjoy the hospitality of Haripur. We stopped at a hotel, for Sajji, Karahi, kebabs n plenty more! Food was awesome and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Turned out over 2 and half hour break!!! At Haripur, everyone said good byes and eventually we all left for home. It was well after 1am before I made it home. Alhamdolillah the rest of the gang also all made it back safely home one by one.

It was one hell of a trip with all the gang. Didn’t expect anything less with IJC summer camp, but each one is a unique experience with memories to cherish for ever. Our heart felt thanks to all the friends who came over from various parts of the world to be with us on this wonderful experience.

Eternally grateful to Almighty for the un-countable blessings upon us, for providing us with these amazing opportunities to discover our wonderfully beautiful Pakistan. For blessing us with such lovely friends with whom we can share these wonderful moments. Thank you ALL.

Pakistan Paindabad!


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Pictures of the trip


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Few more pictures


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Would appreciate ur comments


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Thank you AAMIR for sharing this wonderful story with us ! Your trek must have been a very exciting adventure far beyond any jeep outing that is spent on just a day out . This is the kind of outing that everyone who seeks to plan an off-road trip with their jeep or 4WD vehicle wishes for. Not only is it wonderful to get out and drive your vehicle off road but also to see beautiful land and enjoy nature as it is intended to be enjoyed . I will say again , you have been blessed with a beautiful land that you and all your jeep club members are enjoying . It's really nice to get away from work and be free to see something other than work . That is the dream of every four wheeler , to get out on the trails and enjoy nature ! To enjoy the beautiful land we are blessed with . Thank you for sharing with us your beautiful landscape and a most wonderful adventure !