Trip to Kallar Kahar and the Khewra Salt Mines


Khewra Salt Mines
Our office (APR) like last year recently took us for a trip up North. Though it was a 3 day excursion, we got to experience a lot in terms of unexplored territories (places we hadn’t been to before, not that these were unexplored in general) of our beautiful country. Domestic tourism is also turning over a new leaf, thanks to self-awareness and that created through social media as well; for instance, there is a group called the Karakoram Club that houses travel enthusiasts and amazing photographers whose stories compel you to want to visit Heaven on Earth which is part of Pakistan. According to an article published in The Express Tribune, Murree, Nathiyagali, Ayubia, Bhurban Patriata, Abbottabad, Swat, Naran, Kaghan, Shogran, Rawalkot, Nelum Valley, Leepa and Gilgit-Baltistan have welcomed a lot of domestic tourists lately. As per Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) these places have received about 60,000 tourists, especially as a result of prolonged Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.

So coming back to our trip … I packed my suitcase 2 days prior to our departure only to witness my expiring joggers that I found out about a night before. I was helpless! My niece offered me her shoes but I still felt I needed to buy my own, so the next day I went wearing her shoes as a backup plan and rushed to the nearest stores as they opened. I finally had luck at Bata and immediately fell in love with the turquoise/cerulean joggers but in vain, it didn’t have my size. Although I am a purple-stuff-hoarder, I still wanted the turquoise beauties.

The salesman suggested me to buy another pair instead since he got to know that I’m going to a place(s) where I’d be required to do a lot of walking so a thick sole was required. So I settled for a Rs. 2,200 lovely pair instead shown below (not to mention that I was also drooling over Nike and Sketchers joggers also, a pair of which was worth Rs. 9,500 *sigh*, I decided not to spend that much).

The cerulean blue I had to let go of
The ones I finally got

We left for the airport and travelled via a very spaciously wonderful PIA aircraft. I personally loved the pension plan for air hostesses where they don’t retire and are modestly allowed to carry on with their employment tenure, not to mention their amiable attitude towards the passengers (they were nice and quite motherly, I’m being honest). These were some lovely ladies and the leg space was great! I would always want to travel via PIA, our national airline (privatized now but I’d still like to call it national) that had a rich history and was marketed so splendidly until political termites happened beyond the parliament. 

Having landed at the Lahore airport was fun, it was as if the plane would never stop and converted into a ground vehicle while our Lahore colleagues waited to welcome us with all their heart and soul. Last year they had a bangra stunt performed at the railway station and this time they welcomed us with Khalifa Nan Khatai! :) And it had rained that day, washing all the trees that revived their freshness.



Off we went to Kallar Kahar then. It is a town and subdivision (Tehsil) of Chakwal District in Punjab, Pakistan or according to the description of Emperor Babar from the Mughal era, ‘a charming place with good air’. It was pretty warm when we reached the place at around 10 pm, and charming … yes it was as it dawned upon us the next morning. The view was spectacular!

We stayed at the TDCP Lakeview Resort which was the only resort that actually had its windows opening for a view of the lake. Apart from their slow and a bit carefree service, the coffee they made was very good and so was the food. The night when we were going to our rooms, it was warm with the sounds of crickets adding to the overall ambiance while a bit of gloom set in. I opened up the door to find a huge reptile on the floor, considering it was a lizard, it was seemingly enormous … yet stationery at the same time and I thought maybe in Kallar Kahar they have big lizards. 

I screamed with the entire force of my lungs, this is when our boss seemed satisfied that his prank had worked on at least one person. Somebody switched the light on to reveal that it was a fake rubber lizard. And here I was, wondering why two of my colleagues had initially had their mobile camera on in video mode. They had failed to capture my reaction because this prank hadn’t worked on anyone else and they had given up. Why? Because the rest of the rooms had these rubber insects tied to the fans and mine had fallen down to the ground, thus being the first thing to get noticed when the room was opened.

We had to have early breakfast the following morning so that we could catch the train we had to travel via, inside the Khewra Salt Mines.



 

The Khewra Salt Mines are the second largest in the world, the first largest being in Goderich, Ontario - Canada. Ours are said to be discovered by Alexander the Great’s horse as it had begun licking the stones on the ground. The time was 326 BC and as he along with his army was making his way through present day Pakistan, the horses helped discover the salt mines. A soldier followed suit and realised that the rocks were actually salty. It is estimated that these salt mines turn out 325,000 tons of salt a year, and an estimated 220 million tons over its lifetime. The massive salt stores here are said to be 6.687 billion tons. As we entered through the tiny train, we were engulfed by the coolness and serene environment of the cave which was indeed a treat compared to the outside rather hot temperature. The train finally came to a standstill near a place called the Chandni Chowk.

Chandni Chowk

There are various monuments built with salt bricks, with each colour known to have its own characterictics. Fayyaz, our guide inside the mines was well equipped with knowledge and was perfect for his job, his sense of humour added to the fun. 

The Minar-e-Pakistan monument stands 25 years on and is a real piece of art.


The Minar-e-Pakistan Monument (Picture Courtesy: Mehfooz Aleem using Nikon D3100)
A mosque made of salt bricks



When lit up, these caves and bricks radiate a striking warm glow ...

Stalagmite formation that had been preserved 

Stalactites in the cave



Salt rocks
These salt mines and salt lamps made out of natural salt are said to have healing properties, especially for asthma patients. Atlas Obscura has got some really good facts about these salt mines and has gathered some points in terms of reaching this destination and what route to take. It’s a little more than an hour’s drive from Kallar Kahar with a number of scenic sights along the route.   

I believe in collecting souvenirs from places I travel to, the salt lamps thus fulfilled the purpose. This one is lovely as it sheds its mystic light.

Salt Lamp (Snapped with Nikon D3100)
Having a great time at the salt mines, we then travelled to the Katas Raj Temples and Swaik Lake. There is more to come in the next travel post. 

A hardworking Pakistani being lead by a politician outside the Khewra Salt Mines!

P.S: All pictures have been snapped with my Samsung Note 5 unless otherwise stated.