An odyssey to the high lake of Saidgai Danda in Upper Dir, Pakistan


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Asia » Pakistan » Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
July 23rd 2016
Published: July 23rd 2016
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Taking to the Road

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has blessed with splendid lakes; but Saidgai Danda is perhaps one of the lakes that has a charm that's unrivaled anywhere in the province. Whoever have the nerve to tour it, have been fascinated by its stunning beauty. Lying high in the lap of lofty mountains separating Dir and Swat valleys, it's accessible from both the valleys via different access routes. It's one of the highest lakes of Pakistan fed by glacier water; having a length and width of about 1.5 and 1 kilometres respectively. Its average elevation from sea-level is about 10,000 feet. Towered by high mountains on three sides while draining by Usherai Khwar, a small torrent stream, rushes down the valley in vast swathes of pasture, on the fourth side.

Afar from the nearest village, Gul Koei, the trek ahead is steep, and the lake being lied invisibly in the extreme north of the valley, are some of the holding up factors that why very limited number of people dared to explore the lake. Gul Koei, last village at the outer limits of Usherai Valley where a jeepable and unmetalled road ends, is at a distance of about 30 kilometres from Darora Bazaar, main town and hub of the valley, wherefrom the road issues for the valley. The ten kilometre or a slightly more distance from Gul Koei, up to the very edges of the lake, is very arduous and moderately steep.

Every year, very few people venture out to make it to the lake. The reasons for not attracting large number of tourists and vacationers, are perhaps its remoteness, lack of publicity, poor infrastructure and difficult accessibility. Those, who have guts and aesthetically pleasure in adventure, when come to know of this impressive jewel of nature, undertake long journeys and undergo difficulties to get to this exquisite lake. The trek up to the lake from the last village is truly awesome; it passes through dense forests and pastures, rushing streams, and past the huts of shepherds on the way up. The narrow valley starting from Gul Koei, runs parallel to the hilly ridges until it abruptly ends at the lake. The forested terrain right away after Gul Koei is threatened by the growing population.

The lake can best be enjoyed if toured from July to September. Apart from the summer, snow covers the lake and it's difficult for observers to differentiate it from the surrounding landscape. It's the source of Usherai Khwar, a small scurrying stream, later joined by other raging torrents issuing from side valleys; and eventually merging into Panchkora river downwards. Usherai Khwar is a lifeblood for the valley. Fed by glaciers, its water is used for irrigation, drinking and power generating purposes.



PLANNING FOR THE TREK

It was April 2012, when I dreamt of visiting this beautiful lake but unfortunately I couldn't go there that year. This year, immediately after Eid ul Fitr, we planned to visit this lake and worked out hard to materialise our dream. Our trekking group consisting on five members, began its epic journey from Wari Bazaar. We stocked up food supplies and other necessary gears at Wari Bazaar, and departed for Darora where a jeepable road emerges for Usherai Dara. Usherai is one of the beautiful and most verdurous valleys of Upper Dir. On its extreme end in the north, Saidgai Danda lies beneath the towering mountains. The lake is approximately 50 kilometres away from Darora Bazaar.

USHERAI VALLEY

Usherai Valley is bounded by Ganshal, Sheringal, Patrak and Kalkot in the north, Darora, Nehag Dara and Biha in the south, Lalko, Jaba and Chambar Banda (Bahrain Swat) in the east and Gandegar, Serai and Bibiwar in the west. Main town of the valley is Darora. The valley is inhabited by the tribes of Painda Khel, Sultan Khel and Miangan.

People of the area are generally living below the poverty line with extremely low literacy rate. Although the valley is well forested and supports sub-tropical scrub, moist temperate and alpine types of forests, there is no well-defined forest ownership. About 70% of the households live transhumant lifestyle (moving livestock to lowlands in winter and highlands in summer). They take their livestock to sub alpine and alpine pastures from May to September. Most of the people have transitional summerhouses in the alpine ranges. Apart from the local livestock, nomads bring around 10,000 animal heads to alpine meadows during summer months.

The valley is home to a number of wildlife species including mammals such as snow leopard, common leopard, black bear, musk deer, wolf, yellow-throated marten, red fox, pika, golden marmot and rhesus monkey. Himalayan monal pheasant, Himalayan snow cock and snow partridge are some of the key bird species found here.

With limited livelihood options, extraction of timber from forests to earn livelihood is major activity in the area. In addition, local community heavily depends on forests for fuel. The green landscape with waterfalls and streams of crystal clear water glorify the valley. The high altitude lake of Saidgai is additional to the aesthetics here. Although, local people take benefit of the aesthetic value of the valley by visiting it, there is huge potential of exploiting it as a focus for tourism at national level. Forests of the valley offer medicinal plants and other non-timber forest produce as livelihood option.




LUNCH AT TARPATAR

Just ahead of Darora Bazaar, a jeepable road forks off the main Dir Road to the villages of Katan Payen and Katan Bala. Our driver, Ikram, was driving cautiously as the road was not enough wide and moreover, a surge in tourists number those days often jammed the traffic on the narrow road. We stopped for lunch at a small bazaar of Tarpatar on the way up. On the right side of that small bazaar, we entered Ali Gaser Hotel, a small typical roadside hotel serving ordinary foods. From its backside windows, we could gaze at magnificent views of Usherai Khwar and distant forest. Gul Bacha, a resident of Ali Gaser village, located ahead of Galkor, was the owner of that small hotel.

After having lunch at Ali Gaser Hotel, we resumed our journey towards Gul Koei. A sea of people were enjoying Namchar Waterfall when we arrived at the scene. Heat and loadshedding-stricken people were playing with splashes of the fall unaware of how dangerous it might be. We also pulled up for a while to have look of that beautiful waterfall, and then began our journey again.

ARRIVED AT GUL KOEI

At 1:45 pm, we reached Gul Koei, the last village before embarking on for Saidgai Danda trek. No sooner Ikram parked the vehicle than the rain poured off the sky. We took refuge from the heavy rain inside the vehicle and waited for it to cease. When rain stopped after half an hour, we set off for Saidgai Danda. We'd a lot of trekking gears and were worse off when we couldn't find porters to carry our load. Usherai Valley has no tourism infrastructure at all unlike Swat and Chitral, and therefore no one has any concept of the word 'porter'.

My backpack having our tent, sleeping bag, mattress and other gears, was almost 35 kg. My fellows were also carrying heavy loads. It was their first major trek and they were very excited about it. And for me, I've already trekked in Hunza, Gilgit, Chitral, Swat, Mardan and Upper Dir.

DAY 1 - SETTING OFF FOR SAIDGAI LAKE

Hardly had we gone a little farther after setting out at 2:20 pm from the last village, when it began to rain once more. We crossed a suspension bridge on the river, and took shelter beneath a walnut tree. We'd only one umbrella and lacked waterproof jackets. That place was called Kas. After trudging through maize fields, we arrived at Jumardin Patay and interestingly rain also stopped there. We came across a larger group heading for Sapary, where a cricket tournament was going to be held. They all were local people and they guided us happily. We were walking up slowly with heavy steps, when a man yelled at us from a distant rooftop trying to guide us about the right trail. We diverged from that route, and came to the man after passing through a dense field of maize crop. Whoever met us, would tell that you wouldn't make it to the lake today. From the information we got from the hikers coming down, we could infer that the lake is far off, and couldn't getable today.




MADE IT TO GAR RA BANDA

Now we followed a new trail along the river up to Belo. When we ended up at Belo, the sky began to clear, and sunlight appeared at last. Here we rested for a while and took some shots. It was 6:00 pm when we made it to Gar Ra Banda, a summer settlement, and laid down wearily in a green grassland. Gar Ra Banda is a small hamlet consisting on a few houses. A little later, three men came to us. After querying us about our trek, they told us that you wouldn't make it to the lake today because the trek ahead is arduous and very steep. They insisted on staying here in that small hamlet for night. We were already exhausted and battered by the rain, had no alternative but to agree anyway. They could sense that we're tired and wouldn't make it to the lake today; so they continued insisting on for staying at a mosque.

STAYED AT A NEARBY MOSQUE FOR NIGHT

They sent a guy off to bring us tea. A little while later, he appeared with hot tea and maize bread. Having tea with maize bread, we recuperated from exhaustion to a certain extent. At sunset, they carried us to the mosque for the night. They added that whoever come to visit Saidgai Danda, must stay in the mosque for a night. We took our luggage and entered the mosque. Dusk was falling rapidly and it was very cold outside now. A man stood up and said us that, "I'll arrange evening meal for you". We insisted on on our own meal but he didn't agree. We didn't want to become a burden on those poor people. Eventually on our insistence, he agreed to cook our own food stuffs for us at his home.

For a while, we're laid down in the mosque and then went out for ablutions in the nearby gushing river. We said our evening prayer in the mosque having its own solace and peace. Afterwards, the local people made fire in the fireplace of the mosque, and we all sit together in the hearth as it was cold now. We're taken aback to see that all people brought meal to the mosque before Ishaa prayer. Perhaps there was misunderstanding between the man whom we'd given food stuffs for cooking and the other people. He'd forgotten telling other people about that, and therefore they took the trouble of preparing meal for us as well.

We all started eating in the name of Allah. The meal which was comprised of rice, yoghurt, roasted-chicken and loaves of backed bread, and was very tasty.

The local people told us that we've hosted a larger group of tourists the previous night as well bound for Saidgai Danda. But they sorrowfully pointed out that they (tourists) weren't good people. They used to listen to music inside the mosque, burned hay of the mosque which is used instead of a carpet, damaged a torch and used to sleep during prayers.

After saying Ishaa prayer, we'd tea, chatted for a while and then got ready to sleep. A quilted mattress was rolled out on the floor for me near the fireplace. This mosque was close to a river, and therefore, I couldn't sleep well due to thundering sound of the river. In the morning after saying our prayer, we'd our breakfast and then got ready for the upcoming journey. The weather had deteriorated overnight and a chilly overcast day welcomed us. We all were extremely moved by the hospitality, sincerity and simplicity of the local people. We became sad to hear that children of Gar Ra Banda can't pursue education because there is no school in their small village. Neither Gar Ra Banda has a school nor the nearest village located downward. Children mostly herd livestock or assist their parents in the fields.

DAY 2 – SETTING OUT FOR MANZ BANDA

At six o'clock in the morning, we pushed on and soon arrived at the confluence of two small rivers; crossed one of them and began climbing a steep slope parallel to a glacier. It was a very tiresome and difficult pitch we'd moved on since we'd started the trek. We're moving up very slowly. After an hour steep walking, we made it to Kandowgay, a ridge having tumbledown houses of herders. We're panting when we appeared at the ridge. To catch our breathes and get ready for another steep climb, we rested there. While we're resting, it began to rain. Intermittent rain, thick fog and steep climb had telling effects on us. Despite of cold weather and rain, we're sweated profusely.

The forested terrain right after Gul Koei up to Kandowgay, is now replaced by green pastures to the very edges of Saidgai Danda. Due to increase in altitude, breathing becomes a bit difficult and one has to rest after every ten minutes to catch one's breath. Gentle breeze was blowing and fog had enveloped the whole valley, when we took on the second pitch. We were standing beneath the trees, seemingly oblivious to the intermittent rain. Queued up a steep slope, we inched up slowly in thick fog. We often lost the trail due to fog but anyhow we pressed on. We're worn out due to steep climb and exhaustion. The steep ascent, poor visibility and exhaustion slowed our progress to a crawl. We moved up slowly past some charred stumps of pine trees in thick fog, rested for a while, and then resumed the trekking. Higher among the boulders, we found a fountain of very cold water. Here, we quaffed water so cold that was freezing our hands. At last we got over this steep climb and got to Manz Banda, a summer settlement inhabited by shepherds from Swat. This small alpine hamlet is consisted on eleven tumbledown houses including a mosque. As usual, the mosque was near a river.

ENDED UP AT MANZ BANDA

We passed slowly past a gutted shepherd hut. Two fierce dogs of shepherds outside those ramshackle houses, began barking at us when we moved up. The harsh sound jingled our nerves.The dogs threw a conniption fit when we dared to enter their territory. Alarmed by the barking, one of the shepherds peeped out in an ajar door. Sensing the danger, he tried to keep in check the dogs, and in the meanwhile, we moved ahead hurriedly and entered the mosque at 9 o'clock. It was still raining and visibility had dropped to a few metres. It took us an hour to make tea, rest and getting ready for the final stage of the trek. We'd knackered ourselves out the way up to Maanz Banada.At 10 o'clock, rain stopped; it was a heaven-sent opportunity, and we set off from Manz Banda. The whole valley was misted up right from Kandowgay up to the very edges of the lake. Two of our fellow trekkers, lost their way in thick fog and followed the left trail leading upwards. We trekked up along a rippling brook that was issuing off most probably from Kangar Dand.

Manz Banda sits at the junction of two rushing streams – Usherai Khwar and Kangaro Khwar, issuing respectively from Saidgai Danda and Kangaro Lake. When one moves up from Manz Banda, Usherai Khwar comes on the left and Kangaro Khwar on the right side. We a triumvirate of three trekkers, hiked up along the Kangaro Khwar in thick fog. Now for the first time, the climb became progressively gentle and the weather also favoured us. Rain had been stopped, visibility had dropped to a few metres, and we're feeling comfortable while hiking up in a vast pasture.

CROSSING A STREAM

After a hike of an hour, we're to cross Kangaro Khwar in order to follow the left track leading to Saidgai Danda. Now we're to find a shallow place in the stream so that we can cross it to the other side. We got it, and took off our walking boots. The water was too cold and fast for crossing, but however, we managed to ford it. We took some shots there and then walked ahead in a vast green pasture. The beauty and serenity of that place was unrivaled.

Manz Banda is inhabited by shepherds of Sulatanr and Lalko. They bring their livestock to the pastures of Usherai Valley with the beginning of summer season. For grazing the pastures, they pay a meagre amount to local people. Later, when we climbed the peaks overlooking Saidgai Danda, we observed that there weren't sufficient pastures on Swat side. So for grazing, they bring their animals to the pastures of Usherai Valley.

PASTURES UNDER THREAT

Overgrazing is a major threat to these pastures. We noticed droppings on a vast area and one can imagine the smell. Moreover, due to overgrazing, the pastureland is substantially reduced. If the overgrazing carries on unabatedly, the greenery and luxuriance of these grasslands will fade away in next few years. Shepherds of Swat bring sheep, goats, mules, horses, cows and buffaloes in large number every year and bring about the destruction of these beautiful pastures.

Our journey to the lake was continued. In a vast pasture higher above, we rested for a while and suddenly caught sight of our two lost fellows. They were very sad but upon finding us, became very delighted. Rain that had stopped for a while, started again. Right there, we'd to eat a five kg watermelon carrying up by Ikram. A shepherd came across and joined us. We're exhausted, and what's more, the rain battered us on the way up right off from Kandowgay. Many shepherds met us on these vast pastures, and when we ask about how far is the lake, they would respond – 'at a distance of an hour'. We used to keep on for more than an hour but wouldn't reach the lake. We're tired, and hardly hauling up our exhausted bodies.

GOT TO THE LAKE AFTER A PAINFUL TREK

At last, after a painful trek of almost eleven hours, we made it to the lake. It was raining heavily when we began setting up our tent. We're wet from head to feet and trembling with cold. Wind and rain were making it difficult for us to pitch our tent. The weather really mucked up our plans. At 2:30 pm, we succeeded in setting up the tent and took refuge from the raging rains inside. The rain stopped at 5 o'clock, letting us to make tea and diverting rainy water from our tent.

Afterwards, two of us set off for visiting the lake and the rest began preparation for the night meal. In the evening, two shepherds visited us suggesting that it might be better to spend the night lower at Manz Banda instead of here. They added, nights are usually chilly and windy at the edges of the lake. They also stated further that evil spirits haunt the lake, and it's better to stay lower at the summer settlement. But we couldn't act upon their risible suggestions. We'd already determined unswervingly to spend our time mostly close to the lake whatever people say or the weather might be.

FIRST NIGHT AT SAIDGAI LAKE

For the night meal, we cooked meat and rice. Our tent was small enough and could accommodate us hardly. In order to be lodged in properly, we tucked in our legs. We wanted to dine alfresco, but the weather outside was bitterly cold after intermittent rain.It was still partly cloudy with sporadic showers outside. At midnight, I unzipped the door and peered through it at the sky.I was greeted by a coal-black sky spangled with floating stars, the scene was backlit by the pale shining of the moon.It was terribly cold outside making me get zipped the door without delay. For us, we're warm inside the tent.

MET TWO ADVENTURERS

In the morning, the sun rose above the horizon from Lalko side, bringing warmth and providing an opportunity of good weather. We got busy in making fire and preparing breakfast for ourselves. Later on, we noticed two figures hanging around the edges of the lake. As they looked upwards, they began hiking up towards us. After being asked when they approached us, they're father and son from Saro Shah, Takht-e-Bhai. They came up Gul Koei on a bike, and afterwards, undertook long journey up to the lake by foot. Father had motivated his son for this epic journey. I became delighted to see their adventurism, determination and courage.

They'd breakfast with us, took some shots, and then left for Gul Koei. Most of the tourists who come to see Saidgai Danda, stay for night at Manz Banda. They set out for the lake in the morning, pass some time at the edges of Saidgai Danda, and then depart for Gul Koei. They've turned around time in their minds before they start out to see the lake from either Gul Koei or Manz Banda.

DAY 3 - SET OFF TO CONQUERNEARBY MOUNTAINS

After breakfast, we set out on a mission to conquer the mountains straddling the outer limits of Swat and Upper Dir, and crowning three lofty peaks dominating the lake. We hadn't a GPS device, therefore, we couldn't ascertain the exact height of these peaks. I'm sure they all are well above 4,000 metres. Scaling these peaks weren't easy, but we're determined and had made our minds to climb them whatever may happen.

Setting at nine o'clock, we hiked up to a saddle and then made it to a very narrow col, using by shepherds from Lalko to enter Dir. The first peak is exactly above this col, known as Shago Sar in Swat. My fellows were busy in making films and taking photographs at the saddle, while I quickly moved up towards some huge monoliths blocking my way up. Here I was to traverse these stone walls in order to reach the top. There was a glacier lying on the eastern slope of the mountain which seemed to me feasible to walk over up to the narrow gully, providing access to the northern slope of the mountain. Lacking both climbing boots and crampons, I set out on a risky undertaking. Both the gully and glacier, took me an hour to reach the top ahead of my fellows who're far behind.

When I reached the top, I was exhilarated, brimming with confidence and raw energy. This was exactly the kind of climbing I had pined for.

Beautiful flowers of different colours and variety were strewn over the northern slope of the mountain. Distant views of Swat Valley were veiled by thick fog making it difficult for me to discern something. Elation at the top was unusual for me, having panoramic views in every direction except for Swat side. Beneath this peak, lies the glacial lake of Saidgai with its cerulean wavy water and beautiful glaciated edges. The hill offers some of the spectacular views of both Swat and Dir valleys. Perched high on this commanding position, one can look down the lake and the stream issuing from it and running down the slope into Usherai Valley. The lake seemed out so beautiful from the top as gussied up by Mother Nature for that particular occasion. I was at the top for a few minutes to enjoy the natural landscape, take shots and to ease off my aching body after an arduous climb.

CLIMBED THE SECOND PEAK

After that, I descended the slope and set off for the second peak standing in the centre. To climb it, was rather easier than the first one, therefore I reached the top quickly. Stepping the highest point, I staggered nervously to my feet, swaying a little but quickly overcame that difficulty by sitting on a huge rock. Now my fellows were appeared on the first summit waving their hands to me. Tired, I waited there for my fellows. Spectacular views of Dir side were visible unlike Swat side where thick fog had veiled everything.

Later on, my fellows triumphed over ascending the huge boulders and reached where I was. Together, we'd cold drinks and took shots on the top. Then descended a slope and arrived at a col to attempt the third peak. Our two fellows – Fareed & Irfan, declined to accompany us on the third peak due to exhaustion and lack of willingness. We'd to trudge up through huge rocks strewn over a steep slope towards the summit. Dragging ourselves up through these enormous rocks wasn't easy since they're scattered very high on a rising mountainside, and moreover, these rocks were slippery as well.

Moving up very slowly and heavily, we made it to a flat spot where we could rest and try a granite spire looking on to Swat side. I attempted a monolith and succeeded in reaching its top very difficultly. As I began climbing the monolith, a surge of adrenaline shot through my body. To get better leverage, I raised my left foot as high as I could onto the wall, shifted my weight onto that foot, and pushed off toward the edge of the overhang. In a desperate grab, I caught a lip of the rock in my right hand. Then I leaned against the granite spire, and laughed; I had made it. Afterward, we reached the top of the third peak. It's the highest and most difficult among the three peaks overlooking straightly Saidgai Danda. While resting for a while on the top, visibility dropped to a few metres as a result of thick fog. In order to traverse the huge rocks strewn over beneath the peak, we'd to descend down to Swat side and then to make a detour to the col.

NEGOTIATING A GLACIER

When we arrived at the col, our two fellows had already left for the lake. With extreme care, we climbed down the col dominated by tall mountains on three sides, and reached the glacier-fed, Kangaro Lake downwards. As we negotiated the glacier and got to a ridge behind the lake, we caught sight of our two fellows who're getting over the lower glacier close to the lake. After climbing down the glacier, we reached the foot of another lofty mountain crowning a beautiful peak above. It was included in our list to be climbed but due to exhaustion and time-constraint, we abandoned it, and proceeded down without delay. Hiking down along the verdurous edges of the lake had its own charm and gratification. We came to rest close to a herd of sheep and goats grazing on the green meadow. At 2:30 pm, we arrived at our tent after painful climbing in the vicinity of Saidgai Danda. After a whole day climbing, I just conked out on the mattress.

WEATHER BEGAN TO BECOME VICIOUS

The weather deteriorated but still it was partly sunny. The local weather is very capricious and unpredictable, one can't predict whether in next few minutes it'll be clement or bad weather. One will enjoy sunny moments that suddenly it'll begin to rain. Similarly it will be raining and one won't predict sunny weather, that unexpectedly it'll turn out to be sunny and bright. Some of our fellows were suggesting about to pack up and stay lower at Manz Banda. I could see the yearning to stay overnight at Manz Banda, writ large on their faces. Tired out, aching all over, two of us resisted and eventually won over. Our three fellows had to give in to our persuasion and we easily brought them around. Now it began to rain and we'd to stay inside the tent until it ceased. It stopped at seven o'clock and we came out to see the lake. Hanging around at sunset on the edges of the lake was a pleasant experience. Waves were caressing the banks in a joyful manner. Earlier a shepherd from Lalko, came to our tent; and we were obviously angling for fresh milk. The shepherd seemed out a decent sort of chap – but he tricked us knavishly in the evening when he didn't turn up.

LAST NIGHT AT THE LAKE

It was our last night there. Local people told us that you're the first ever trekkers who stayed there for two nights. Usually people set off for Saidgai Danda at 1 or 2 o'clock from Gul Koei, and make it to Manz Banda in the evening. They stay for a night at a mosque located adjacent to Usherai Khwar. In the morning, they begin their journey for the lake and reach there at 10 o'clock. Once there, they take photographs, sauntering around the lake, and then depart for Gul Koei, where a jeepable road ends. They arrive at Gul Koei in the afternoon usually at 2 or 3 o'clock, and then leave for their homes downwards.

RAIN BATTERED US AGAIN

After trekking and climbing all day, we're extremely tired out and soon went to sleep. We couldn't have our night meal that night due to loss of appetite. As I discussed already, the local weather is prone to quickly turning vicious and the same happened that night as well. The storm clouds that night gathered and the rain poured down unexpectedly at midnight. Our sleep was interrupted, and we couldn't sleep well for the rest of the night. Fortunately, the rain wasn't preceded by winds or gales typical at such high altitude. All at once, rainy water trickled down in a small hole making us trepidatious, worse luck. An hour later, it ceased; yet we're battered again.

Interrupted sleep, heavy rain and into the bargain, exhaustion, had telling effects on our aching bodies. We got up late in the morning. I noticed a chink of light through a tiny hole in the tent, indicating that weather might be good. Some of our fellows prepared breakfast, and the rest began putting our partly wet sleeping bags, mattresses and clothes on nearby rocks to be dried up in the morning sun. Ikram helped me out in disposing of the trash by digging out the ground with a hatchet.

DAY 4 - RETURN JOURNEY – DEPARTED FOR GUL KOEI

Packed up at nine o'clock, we began our return journey for Gul Koei where our car was parked. Having a last glance of the lake, I hauled down the slope behind my fellows who're moving down the green pastures. The sky was blue and the only sound breaking the silence was of the rivulet rushing down the valley. Pleasure of trekking down the valley was awesome, doubled by beautiful pastures, clement weather and stunning mountains overlooking the valley.

TRAVERSED A SLOPE BUT GOT IN TROUBLES

At ten o'clock, we arrived at Manz Banda and rested for a while. Abdullah and I were left behind, and the remaining three fellows had walked down the valley half an hour earlier. Young children were playing on roofs of their tumbledown houses and their parents were grazing livestock on nearby pastures. We trekked down the narrow valley and traversed a steep slope which seemed to us demanding and time wasting. Once we got to the bank of the river, it divulged on us that crossing it to the other side is almost impossible. Now we couldn't trek up the slope to the original route and therefore, moved down difficultly along the river. It took us two gruelling hours to reach Kandowgay, a ridge having beat-up houses of shepherds. Suddenly my right knee began to ache from long journey. Abdullah walked down the slope while I was marching up to Kandowgay.

A YOUNG BOY HELPED ME OUT

It was hot down the valley now. When I hiked down to Jumardin Patay, I met Mohammad Haris, a young boy heading down for Gul Koei. Seeing my aching body, he offered to help. He carried my rucksack to Gul Koei where his home was. I thanked and rewarded him for his help. At two o'clock, I ended up in Gul Koei. My fellows were having a picnic near the river. I joined them and relaxed afterward.

FINALLY OUR ADVENTURE CAME TO AN END

We loaded our gears onto the car and departed for Darora Bazaar. Soon it began to rain when we reached Namchar Waterfall. Having no shelter, the rain poured on the people who were enjoying the fall. We pulled up at Tarpatar for meal. After having meal, we left downwards. At was evening, when we arrived at Wari Bazaar and thus our adventure finally came to an end. Now finishing up, and recalling a trek that we undertook last year; it's only a wallow in nostalgia that drove me to take down this write-up about an adventure that still takes my breath away that how we pulled off that odyssey once appeared almost impossible to us.



SOME FACTS ABOUT THE TREK

Grade: Demanding (physical fitness is required)

Best season to visit: From mid July to September

Minimum Elevation: About 2,000 metres at Gul Koei

Maximum Elevation: 13,300 feet at the top of Shago Sar and about 10,000 feet at the lake

Rain can start anytime higher on the pastures. The local weather is very capricious. Plenty of camping grounds are available for setting up tents and camps.

Local people are very friendly and hospitable. They may prove very helpful if properly paid.



For more information:

arshad8611@gmail.com



Credit of last four photo goes to Salman Baig.


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