The other day an old classmate of mine presented me with a calendar containing photographs of alpine landscapes. As I leafed through the pages, I was transported back in time decades ago, to the lush green meadows and forest covered mountain slopes around Abbottabad and Mansehra that could put any alpine scene to shame. Driving to Abbottabad from Hasan Abdal is a wonderful experience. Just short of Havelian, one cannot miss a sprawling drivers hotel with the name Punjab Hazara Hotel on the right side of the road. At the time covered by this column, this was a small shack, with a couple of charpoys in front. What made the place special was that if one ordered seasonal vegetables, they were harvested right there and then from the fields behind the structure and then stir cooked into a spicy dish that defied definition. Khote di Qabar was and remains a spot lying at the point, where the road began its gentle climb towards Abbottabad after crossing Havelian and the Dor River. This place is reputed to be the last resting place of a special beast of burden said to have carried supplies to Syed Ahmed Shaheed and his band of freedom fighters across the mountains, alone and unaided or guided by any human. The cantonment city of Abbottabad, named after the popular British administrator, still affectionately referred to as Kaka Abbott, nestles in a cup like valley at around 4,000 feet above sea level and is one of the most beautiful of hill stations in Pakistan. Many tracks wind up the mountains that stand sentinel over this valley in the north and northeast. Ascending these paths is a captivating experience not only because of the surrounding beauty, but also the wild flowers and birds that have made this area their habitat. One of these tracks leads to Piran di Bandi and onwards across the mountains to Mansehra. I first set eyes on this beautiful place, while trekking and returned to it many times, just to be able to savour the cool, crisp air, smell the wild flowers and refresh myself with crystal clear, fresh spring water. Thandiani was at the time a remote hamlet on one of the highest points on the ridge line. It is today, a popular local tourist spot with restaurants, a camping site and a television booster complex. The drive on what was supposed to be a road was, to say the least, nightmarish. A recent visit showed that although properly surfaced, the narrow strip of asphalt continues to test drivers and their vehicles. North along the Karakoram Highway lies the town of Mansehra. I and a friend once spent a night there almost 45 years ago on our way to explore the Siran River Valley. We spent over two hours walking amongst the huge boulders that carry edicts of Asoka the Great. This great king built an empire that encompassed almost the entire subcontinent around 272BC and the 14 rock edicts written in the Kharoshti Script, convey his dharma or righteous laws for all who travelled the celebrated Silk Route on the northern frontiers of his dominions. Past Mansehra, the road ran through the town of Shinkiari, before crossing the bridge on Siran River. A small by-road then headed right, along the southern bank of this picturesque stream to Dadhar and its forest rest house. Away from the stresses of the city and nestling amongst a grove of pines, walnut and fruit trees, this rest house was a dream come true. Made somewhere in the first decade of the 1900s, it existed in a time warp exacerbated by the old caretaker cum cook. The kitchen was located some distance away from the main building and accessed through a covered passage and food was cooked on wood burning stoves. Our first meal consisted of real chicken curry and boiled rice made to perfection and served in the old dining room accompanied by the old mans constant prattling as to who had stayed in the place and how many commendation letters he had accumulated. Dhadar would make news much later, when it was destroyed in a devastating earthquake, a few years before the great 2008 tremor. Recent trips to the places mentioned in this weeks column have, however, revealed tales of gross neglect in preserving and upgrading the area as an alpine tourist resort. Perhaps, this column will galvanise the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to take a fresh stock of things and transform this beautiful piece of Gods country into a world class tourist attraction. The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.