“The really happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery, even when they have to take a detour...” - James Hopwood Jeans
|(The tunnel entrance to Khewra Salt Mine)|
Day 03: Friday, 11 September 2015
Route: Lahore – Khewra – Islamabad
Distance: 447 km
Hotel: Margalla Hotel
Our first stop was at the Shalimar Gardens, a Mughal garden complex and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located along the Grand Trunk Road about 5 km from Lahore city. Shalimar Gardens draw inspiration from Central Asia, Kashmir, Punjab, Persia, and the Delhi Sultanate. The Gardens are laid out in the form of an oblong parallelogram, surrounded by a high brick wall. The gardens have three levels of terraces elevated about 5 metres above one another. There are 410 fountains and 5 water cascades, which discharge into wide marble pools. It was a pity that the fountains and cascades are now turned off to prevent the wide spread of dengue fever.
|(Many water fountains, but presently not operational)|
|(A cozy corner for picnic area)|
|(A couple photo, one for the album)|
|(The high red wall surrounding the garden)|
We continued our journey on the 367 km long M-2 motorway which connects Lahore with Islamabad. It passes through many intersections leading to other towns along the motorway ending just outside the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It has the highest pillared-bridge in Asia at the Khewra Salt Range. The Pakistan Air Force has used the M2 motorway as a runway during their military exercises on a few occasions.
|(A R&R with a restaurant and fast food outlets)|
|(A set lunch of roti and chicken curry)|
We stopped for lunch at the Peacock Restaurant at the R&R at Kallar Kahar on the M2 motorway and later performed our prayers there.
|(A small signage of the Salt Mines)|
|(Old railway tracks leading to the mines)|
160 km south of Islamabad we detoured to visit The Khewra Salt Mine, the second largest in the world, after the Sifto Canada salt mine in Ontario. The mine is a warren of 40 km of tunnels housing an illuminated mosque made from salt rock, a replica of Minar-e-Pakistan and even an asthma clinic. The mine is the largest and oldest salt mine in the Pakistan, drawing up to 250,000 visitors a year. Khewra salt was discovered back in 320 BC by Alexander the Great's troops, but trading started in Mughal era in the sixteenth century.
|(The train track running into the mine)|
|(A replica of Minar-e-Pakistan)|
The main tunnel at ground level was developed during British rule and has been flourishing ever since. An electric railway has been working in the mine since the 1930s. It once hauled extracted salt from the mines, but now brings tourists in to marvel at the salt formations. The mine is still the largest source of salt in Pakistan with more than 350,000 tons produced per year. The cavernous tunnels have alternate bands of translucent, white and pink coloured salt.
|(The entrance to one of the many tunnels)|
|(A colorful luminous salt cave)|
We continued our journey and reached Islamabad during dusk. Our planned to visit Faisal Mosque was postponed as there was a power brown-out for load-shedding and we could not even get a glimpse of the mosque in the dark.
At Margalla Hotel we had a hearty buffet dinner before we checked in for the night.