My first visit to Pakistan's Nathiagali, in the hills above Islamabad, was on a trip with a group of colleagues that I had come to call my friends. To be perfectly honest, I hadn't thought much of the region on a prior trip in 2006, when I travelled alone to Murree, a larger, busier hill station at a lower altitude. As such, I went along with little expectation – sure it would be pretty, but the main (or only) attraction was going to be spending time with the lovely people I would travel with.
Boy was I wrong. Nathiagali is not only beautiful, but is near the starting point for a trek to what seems like the top of the world! Mushkpuri (also called Mukshpuri) is a clear peak of 2800m, reached by a pleasant four kilometre walk which gradually gains altitude. It was at Mushkpuri that I fell in love with this region. I now understood what people meant when they spoke of "the beauty of Nathiagali".
Down to our right was the Pakistani province of Punjab, to our left, the disputed region of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. We stood in the province of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, and further afield (obscured by haze) was Nanga Parbat, an incredible icy peak near the far-flung Gilgit-Baltistan region. The Jhelum River snaked its way through the mountains, and above us the flawless blue sky stretched from horizon to distant horizon.
Some of us slept at the top, others photographed. I sat down on the edge of the hill and stared out into the distance, hoping I never had to come down.