It’s already July now. There are rains every where. Clouds, the rain and the small ponds and rivulets formed on slopes and hollowed spaces on soil, paved or unpaved, create a romance unto themselves, yet the sweat, the vapory environment with a downpour every now and then turns one wet. Hence it’s also the time to run away and seek shelter in some cool, refreshing place where there is no sweat, no “pitch pitch” of the plains, and where there are lakes and mountains to provide peace and freshness to body and soul. So dear readers! let me take you this month to a valley where there are lofty mountains, serene lakes and lush green terraced fields – in the vale of Kaghan.
Siri Paye is a queer, rather funny name, yet this place in a remote corner of Kaghan, six KM away from Shogran has superb views unrivalled by any other place.
Siri Paye offers a carefree weekend adventure, away from the stressful day to day routine for us, the dwellers of Punjab plains. The small hamlet offers an excursion that rids you of your taut nerves and a joy time day in and day out. Visiting this magnificent vale in summer carries promise of a cool and fresh weather coupled with a warm welcome from the local people, the best bet in any case. Its charm and splendor, says the writer, stays embedded in my memory ever since the day I landed into this vibrant, enchanting hideout with fabulous treks and bountiful thrills of walk in the valley.
We reach this heaven on earth as we leave Rawalpindi, traversing our journey through Abbotabad, Mansehra and Balakot. I have covered almost 232 KM and am moving onward to Kaghan on the main Balakot-Naran Road. As I travel upward about 25 Km from Balakot, comes the sleepy little town of Kewai. It’s from kewai and at a distance of about 9 Km upwards that the picturesque valley of Shogran comes before me. The road to Shogran is surrounded by thick forests, ardent slopes as we make our way upward to Shogran. Shogran too is surrounded with similar scenes on all four sides, studded with mountain peaks which bespeak the grandeur, the magnificence of Shogran.
Siri Paye is 6 km further from Shogran. Reach there either by hiring a four wheel jeep trailing over a bumpy road or just trek. The patch is full of adventure and fun. However some turns are enough to raise your hair but once you reach Siri Paye, you are truly rewarded after a blood curdling—spine tingling journey as you catch the most fascinating glimpses of domed, lush green hillocks. On our way up to Siri, very often, young innocent kids approach the visitor. These “salesmen” the sons of the mountains offer you wild berries and “Aloochas” at very cheap prices.
At a majestic height of 11200 feet the Makra Peak boasts the most dramatic scenery of Paye offering a pleasant blend of lakeside walks with a vivid blue sky above us which is truly a rewarding exercise for the beholden visitor to “Siri Paye”.
Siri Paye itself is a queer—rather funny name. Literally in English it would be “Head and Feet”. Locals have many myths coined to assign an origin to this name. One says “Siri” was a Hindu lady who fell in love with Paye and this Paye the legendary hero of our story lived somewhere on the meadows called Paye, thus the name. Another story going around the valley says, a lion (or for that matter, a mythical force) lifted goat of a villager and ate it at some place with “Siri” and “Paye” of the goat left stinking at two nearby mounds. However Salman Rashid an avid traveler himself, in his essay—a piece of high literary flavour, a style usual to the noted story teller says:-
“It is interesting that the names of Sari and Paya, the two summer grazing grounds that lie between Shogran and Makra, have taken on a gastronomic connotation on the tongues of Punjabi trevellers and semi-literate young people. They are now called Siri-Paye — trotters and skulls, palate the Lahoris relish so much.
Sar means “lake” in Hindko, the language of Kaghan, as well as in Seraiki and Punjabi, and Sari would be a pond or a small lake. Sure enough, to make this an appropriate handle, there is a little tarn at Sari. Similarly Paya in Hindko is a high grazing ground. At over 3000 metres above the sea, that is what Paya actually is.
What surprises me is that all these so-called travel writers filling up page after page in Urdu have never got this simple thing right. Even a famous photographer whose breathtaking pictures of Sari and Paya had graced a calendar some years ago had the names wrong in the captions. The kind of tourists I saw at Paya will never read anything in English – actually they’ll never read anything other than the Urdu rag in their lives. And so, Sari with its pond and Paya the grazing ground will forever remain siri-paye on the tongues of ill-informed tourists and those who hear their tales”.
…….Back to my tale of two mounds Siri and Paye.
Siri Paye, where clouds play hide and seek with you
Siri Paye where clouds play hide and seek with you.
After having reached Siri, the drivers, to cool the rickety jeep engines, change water in the radiators and cool up the tyres which often are heated up due to lot of braking and ascending or sharp bending on the steep heights. Passengers utilize the break with a cup of tea prepared from goat milk, served from a nearby makeshift hotel.
Siri has a rest house too (though devastated now) but its verandah displays enchanting views on all four sides. Nonetheless, place’s irresistible appeal emanates from its small yet majestic, serene and frozen blue water lake. Its sheer beauty lies in surrounding green pastures—grazing cattle—gradual slopes and thatched houses.
With its most elegant perfect scenery, Paye has been a popular retreat since long. Atmosphere in this delightful hideout with its outstanding blend of pure nature and alpine milieu, thriving wild flower beds unrivalled beauty of snow covered peaks is out-worldly. Many lakes at Siri and Paye are just painted lagoons, perfect to be one on picture post cards.
Clouds hover around the place all day and give rise to varying shades and hues to flower studded slopes. A large number of wild flowers sprout in May and August. Local youths play cricket on slopes or play flute and dance in pleasant weather.
If you may wish to run, it will turn you breathless (it has a height of abt. 10,000 ft) because there is lack of oxygen. There are no hotels and restaurant on Paye. It is preferable that visitors take eatables from Shogran along with them. There are three un-spoilt grassy mounds specially Paye I, II and III. Due to a harsh weather during winter, most herdsmen stay at the meadows only during summers.
While concluding my tale, I must say, Siri Paye is a place where all visitors who come once to this valley are sure to feel refreshed for the superb sensational and valuable holiday which is a treat in itself. Try and see it seeing is believing.