MINGORA/MANSEHRA: Tourists flocked to hill stations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Swat and Mansehra, during Eid days from across the country to enjoy cool weather and see scenic beauty.
However, traffic jams were reported at many places.
In Swat, most tourists went to Fizagat Park and Bypass Road area near Mingora city.
“We never miss to visit Swat valley during the holidays of Eidul Fitr. Coming here refreshes us especially after spending the tiresome fasting month of Ramazan in the scorching heat,” said Arshad Iqbal of Kohat while enjoying lunch under the cool shade of trees along the Swat River.
Tourists also said Swat’s weather turned quite pleasant in July.
“This is amazing here. We first enjoyed rain in the morning and are now enjoying pleasant weather along the Swat River. More tourists from Sindh and Punjab must come here to enjoy peace and tranquility amid greenery and cool breeze,” said Mohammad Ihsan, a tourist from Lahore.
Tourists took keen interest in the cable car to cross the Swat River.
Though children were afraid of using the cable car, men and women rode it cheerfully.
“It was a bit scary to cross the river in cable car but it was challenging and thrilling, which we enjoyed a lot,” Amna Ihsan, a tourist from Lahore said, adding that she was enjoying stay on the bank of the river.
Group of friends were enjoying cooking meal along the river while some enthusiast youngsters were dancing to the beats of music attracting large number of others, clapping and yelling.
The Fizagat Park, which is the only recreation place for local residents in Mingora, was also packed with tourists.
Many vendors had shown up from other districts to sell traditional food items.
“Swat is the best place both for tourists and for food sellers. We have double fun as we earn money by selling rice besides enjoying the pleasant weather,” said Sarzamin, a vendor in Fizagat Park, who had come to Mingora from Swabi district.
Organisers charged Rs10 instead of Rs5 as the fee to enter Fizagat Park but the facility was poorly maintained.
“There is trash and litter everywhere. Organisers do not ensure the park’s cleanliness,” he said.
Haji Nawab, a tourist from Peshawar, regretted Fizagat Park was the only park in the area but that too was not properly maintained.
“The district administration must ensure cleanliness in the park,” he said.
Mansehra, too, attracted crowds of people during Eid days.
Traffic congestion was reported on all the roads leading to Kaghan valley in the district.
The Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad Road in Mansehra as well as major roads in Qalandarabad area of Abbottabad district remained blocked for long hours to the misery of motorists.
Most hotels in the region were booked for Eid days.
And those, which had empty rooms, overcharged tourists.
The owners of tent villages, who usually charge from Rs1000 to Rs1500 for a tent, increased the rent to Rs4000-Rs5000.
“The valley has seen a record number of visitors during Eid days but unfortunately, hoteliers and tent owners looted them at will,” said Mohammad Ajmal, a tourist.
He said jeep drivers also charged visitors to Saiful Muluk Lake, Sirri Payye, Babusar Top and Shogran much higher than normal fare.
A large number of tourists gathered along the Kunhar River to enjoy cold water and scenic beauty of the valley and Balakot.
The Saiful Muluk Lake also attracted large crowds.
The district administration had banned boating in the lake.
Few local residents tried to violate the ban but were stopped by the wildlife department officials.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2015