Ooghi: a paradise

Few people here would be able to tell where on earth is Ooghi, even fewer may have visited this untouched paradise on earth. Situated in Hazara, Ooghi is a small beautiful subdivision of Mansehra District.

As one travels from Abbottabad to Batgram, at Mansehra a small road turns left leading to Ooghi. For about half an hour, the road finds its way through vast green fields, crossing roaring streams or pahari nullahs coming from high up in the mountains. These streams are always deceptive, one good rain upstream and these streams turn into mighty rivers, destroying everything that comes their way.

After sometime, one reaches the base of green hills and the road starts ascending. All the way, there are numerous small hamlets with children playing in their typical black shalwar kameez, which is actually their school uniform. The engine starts panting as it tries to negotiate with constant upward gradient. The view is lovely all around and one can feel the cool air even in the month of June. After achieving considerable height, the road starts descending towards Ooghi town in the base of the valley. The road is pretty good and one reaches Ooghi in about an hour or two from Mansehra.

Ooghi is a small peaceful town in the lap of Ooghi valley. The altitude of Ooghi varies from 4500 feet to 5500 feet. Before the development of the legendary Karakorum Highway, Ooghi was one of the alternate routes from Mansehra to Kohistan. But now with the development of KKH, this route is not used frequently. The long main bazaar reminds one of those good old days when the inhabitants of Ooghi used to reap the benefit of doing business on a main trade route. Ooghi used to be ruled by Khans of Agrore, who had large land holdings. Now, with the passage of time, the Khan family has lost its influence over the general public but still enjoy tremendous respect among the people. One of the Ex-Presidents of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan served as Political Tehsildar in Ooghi during 1948-49.

The British came into the area around 1860s. And as it is common everywhere else, they built some attractive buildings, forts and outposts. Building forts was a necessity for the British to save themselves from formidable tribal clans. This is a common feature in the whole of the North Western region. The Ooghi Fort was built in 1867 and used to host a small detachment of English army. This fort is now under administrative control of Frontier Constabulary. Another outpost was built on a nearby hill to have a bird’s eye view of surroundings and for an early warning regarding any invading enemy. The communication among these posts was usually through lights and mirrors.

Ooghi is surrounded by small lush green hillocks that were densely forested until recently but now, thanks to the ever-strong timber mafia, these plantations are thinning out rapidly. Until recently, tigers, wild bears and monkeys inhabited these forests but now only the monkeys remain while the others have vanished from the area. However, black and brown partridges, pheasants and rabbits are still abundant in the area and this makes Ooghi an attractive site for hunters. While in Ooghi, one must spend a night at the forest rest house of Karori, about half an hour from Ooghi, known for its breathtaking environs. Similarly, a night’s stay at the Darband C&W rest house is also strongly recommended.

Instead of going back on the same road to Mansehra, one should travel on the road from Ooghi to Batgram. There a real surprise awaits an intrepid adventurer. If on your one side are views of stepladder lush green rice fields, on the other you may be accompanied by a gushing white water stream. At times, your vehicle may find its way through a narrow gully surrounded by tall pine forests. The only negative aspect is that the road is not in a very good condition here. After an hour’s journey full of surprises and beautiful scenery, one hits the Karakorum Highway near a bridge. Stop at this point and look back from where you came and you will definitely feel sorry that your rendezvous with Ooghi is over. Once on KKH, one can continue towards Kohistan or come back to Mansehra.

Ooghi is strongly recommended for an excursion, although up till now the NWFP Government has paid no attention on developing this area as a tourist resort. Gushing streams, tall pine forests, lush green fields, peace and serenity of the area definitely make Ooghi a highly suitable site to be developed from tourism point of view.

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