If any of my readers have not had the opportunity of visiting the hill station of Abbottabad, they have missed much. Despite having spent my summers as a child in Murree and developing an emotional attachment to the place, I still prefer to spend some quality time every year in what is one of the balmiest vacation spots in Pakistan, just a couple of hours drive from Islamabad. What adds to my pleasure is the fact that the road journey from Islamabad to Abbottabad is replete with history and natural beauty. There are two routes that take us to our beautiful destination, named after its British administrator lovingly referred to by the people as 'Kaka Abbott'. The first route turns right from the Grand Trunk (GT) Road, a kilometre after crossing the Margalla Pass and winds its way through Khanpur to link up with the famed Karakoram Highway, or KKH, at Haripur. The other is along the GT Road to the beginning of the KKH at Hasanabdal and then on to Haripur, Havelian and Abbottabad. For this week's column, however, we shall take the second route, beginning our journey from Islamabad on a warm April morning. Our first stop is at the Margalla Pass, the left side of which is topped by an obelisk. There was, however, once a time when a beautiful arch covered drinking fountain adorned the right wall of this steep rocky defile. Both these structures were part of the Nicholson Monument, erected around 1868, to honour the memory of Brigadier General John Nicholson - the legendary British soldier-cum-administrator, whose courage, integrity and charisma earned him the title of 'Nichol Seyn'. This man, much to his anger, even became the object of a cult that considered him to be a deity. While the obelisk still commands the pass, the arch with its fountain were dismantled and now lie neglected, a few hundred meters along the GT Road. As one exits the Margalla Pass and looks left, one is apt to see a stone paved stretch of road going up the hillside. This is the restored portion of the original Grand Trunk Road, first built by the Persians in 516 BC and later developed by Sher Shah Suri in the 1540s. Our next stop is short of Hasanabdal, where we turn left along a road to beautiful gardens with water features, laid out by Raja Maan Singh between 1581 and 1584. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir spent a few days here, while on his way to Kabul in April 1607 and spent time fishing. This is how the Emperor describes his royal activity, ".......Raja Maan Singh has made a very little building. There is a lot of fish in the pond having a length of quarter yard. I stayed at this beautiful place for three days. I put the net in the pond and caught about 10 to 12 fish. These fish were again dropped in the water after sewing pearls in their noses." The Emperor Shah Jahan stayed here on his way to Kabul in 1639 and ordered Ahmed Maamar Lahori to re-lay the gardens and baradari, which took almost two years. The premises played host to Shah Jahan on four occasions after its renovation and was also visited once by Aurangzeb in July 1676. This historical piece of our heritage was badly damaged in the Durrani Era, but is now in a state of restoration under the Archaeology Department. As we pass through Hasanabdal, we find it teeming with followers of the Sikh faith. The town carries great significance for this community, as it is the home of Gurdwara Panja Sahib, so named because of a massive rock with the imprint of a hand or punja, believed to be that of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. This makes Panja Sahib one of the three holiest places for Sikhs. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Gurdwara is another shrine related to Baba Wali Kandhari. It is said that a battle took place between Guru Nanak and Baba Wali Kandhari over water and the punja is the imprint of the Guru's hand, as he used his powers to stop a huge boulder thrown at him by the Baba. The conflict, however, ended on an amicable note and the hilltop shrine is visited by many devotees from the surrounding area. Even Sikhs pilgrims to Panja Sahib trek up the steep mile long track to pay homage to the saint. We now leave the GT Road and turn right at the very point that marks the beginning of the great 1,300 kilometres Karakoram Highway linking Pakistan with China. This great feat of engineering, referred to as the 'Ninth Wonder of the Modern World', follows the historic 'Silk Route' and was jointly built by Pakistan and Chinese Army Engineers. It is here too that we shall take a breather till next week, when we will continue our journey, sample food at an amazing driver hotel, enjoy a 'coke' chilled in the waters of Dor River, look at another shrine albeit - a strange one and finally arrive in 'Kaka Abbott's Vale'. The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.