We left for Dir from Lahore, where Jahaz Banda is located. It was the 5th of October and this trip was part of the LUMS Adventure Society’s (LAS) Annual Spring Trips.
We stopped in Mardan for a breakfast of omelettes, parathas and chai. Travelling upwards, towards lower Dir, we passed Batkhela and Timergera. For lunch, we stopped for daal at a hotel by the river side; the colour of the river water was a murky red. We stopped at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University (SBBU), Sheringal, Upper Dir District for dinner. It was dark by this point, and the campus wasn’t well-lit. Nevertheless, the group was impressed by the beauty of the campus, which was circled by mountains. They had a wonderful football field, and many enthusiasts started dreaming of playing here. A chilly breeze was blowing, and it started drizzling intermittently. While enjoying the Chicken Karahi, I thought how wonderful it would have been, if LUMS could be transported to this location.
From here, the group travelled to Jandrai village in 4 jeeps, and in about four hours we had reached the guest house of Raja Taj Muhammad. Raja Sa'ab happened to be a very hospitable person, and did everything to keep us entertained. At his guest house, there is a place to camp as well as the facility to stay inside. On the first floor, there is a museum for tourists, displaying ancient weapons, stuffed animals, clothes and wooden sandals, used during the time of his forefathers.
We set up our tents here, as it had started raining and the temperature dropped. I went to my tent, and all I could hear was the rain pouring down on the canvas so I prayed for better weather tomorrow, and went to sleep.
Next morning, the sky was clearer, although heavy dark clouds still hid the taller mountain peaks. Raja Sa'ab advised us to make our trip into a day trek, and to come back in the evening.
The initial part of the trek was through Jandrai village itself. We walked through cultivated land, next to a stream, until we crossed a wooden bridge. From here the more difficult part of the trek began. We moved towards a dense forest, but realized we had to go over a hill first. The group slowed down at this point, since the ascent was a challenge for everyone.
Mubashir Bhai, a 50 year old Kashmiri who had accompanied me to Chitta Katha Lake, had given me some valuable advice for becoming a better trekker. He told me that if I felt tired while trekking, I should slow down, but shouldn’t take intermittent breaks, and I tested this advice now. My friends teased me by calling my steps ‘baby steps’ but it actually worked!
We trekked through the beautiful forest, crossing one hill after another. Two hours into the trek, we had gained enough height to be able to turn around, and see the distance we had covered. The hills appeared to be large green domes.
At Zuhr*, we stopped for lunch and the guides prepared Chicken Karahi. We were on top of one of the hills and could see the snow-clad peaks around us. The sky was clear, but for the occasionally cotton like clouds floating around. The sunlight kept altering, because of the clouds, making patterns on the hills, a beautiful sight. After replenishing ourselves, we began our trek for Jahaz Banda. The rest of the trek was also an ascent, but the soft grass under our feet made walking easier.
In another hour or so, we had reached Jahaz Banda, which lies at a height of 3,100 m, and is a beautiful green pasture. We could only stay here for ten minutes, since half of our group had decided not to go the entire way. When I looked back, I could see the whole valley submerged in blue clouds. In front of us stood a majestic mountain covered with snow, which the clouds hadn’t yet reached. Other than this, the entire sky above the valley was veiled with clouds.
The descent was very easy compared to the trek upwards. Feeling extremely happy at having made it to the top, I raced down towards the camping site. I had no idea as to when I would get a chance to come back to the mountains, and the fact that we would be able to rest the next day, made me savour every moment. At dusk, it started drizzling while we were in the forest. As darkness descended, it became very important to return to Raja Sahab’s guest house as soon as possible.
We completed the last part of our trek using torches. At this point, we also found a lost, drenched puppy, which made my trip all the more memorable. We carried the puppy, which appeared to be of Corgi's breed, to our camp site and helped it get comfortable near the bonfire. Raja Sahab had planned much more than we had expected. He had arranged for a musical performance around the bonfire, and had invited locals to play the sitar. After a round of musical entertainment, we were served the much-awaited lamb.
The next day, after having parathas with jam, we prepared for our journey back to Lahore. The jeeps took us back to the hotel, where we had lunch previously. The colour of the river had changed; the water had become much clearer now.
*Zuhr refers to the muslim time for prayer, between one and two in the afternoon
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