For the first time in my life I did a 100% road trip in the northern areas of Pakistan, a long road trip. And it was not what I had initially planned with my fellow travelers.
I along with few other friends (whom I befriended during different treks except one who is my childhood friend) had been planning for Chilum Joshi festival in Chitral. Three of Us (me, Aamer Ayyub Rabbani and Muhammad Zubair Abbasi) decide to meet at Monal in the Margallah hills. Aamer had picked Zubair Abbasi from his place and then picked me from the Centaurus Mall’s exit on the F8 side. It was an awesome weather and just minutes before it had rained in Islamabad. We reached Monal for dinner where we not only finalized our plan but also enjoyed the romantic weather.
We 5 friends (me The Silent Travel, Aamer Ayyub Rabbani, Muhammad Zubair Abbasi, Ahsen Awan and Ahmad Kamal) set out in Toyota RAV4, owned by Aamer Ayyub Rabbani, at 1 AM on the night of 12th May 2015 for Chitral from Rawalpindi. We reached early in the morning at Malakand and offered Fajr prayer in a small mosque there. We reached Upper Dir in afternoon and stopped for breakfast at a hotel before the main bazar. We took short breaks for various reasons. As we reached near the Lowari pass we met friends, Kashif Javed and Yousaf Akhtar from Sayiah who were leading a large group of tourists to Chitral for Chilum Joshi festival. Lowari tunnel was closed for public transport as some work was going on inside the tunnel. We stopped at the Lowari top for sightseeing and photography. After short break we set out once again for our destination i.e. main Chitral city.
We stopped once again at Ayun, the same place where we would come back again the very next day for Chilum Joshi festival in Bumborate, Ramboor and Birir valleys, for sightseeing and photography break. We reached Chitral city just before the sunset and booked 2 hotel rooms in Chitral View Hotel.
We went for dinner in a nearby hotel and then did some shopping from a shop right below our hotel.
Next morning we set out for Bumborate to witness the Chilum Joshi festival. The road to Bumborate goes from Ayun and after going for few kilometers inside a valley the road then splits into 2 directions, one goes to Bumborate (left) and the other goes to Ramboor (right). The road to Birir is separate one which goes from the main bazar of Ayun. At 10 AM we reached Bumborate and to our surprise we found out that the festival in Bumborate starts on 15th while on 14th of May it is the Ramboor valley where the festival is held. We decided to explore Bumborate for 2 hours and then go to Ramboor valley. We reached Ramboor valley at around 1 PM. There was too much and didn’t allow the tourists to take phones and camera to the main festival place. This got us angry because three of us were photographers and had lots of photography equipment. We had no choice so we handed our bags to the security personnel except Aamer who opted not to go without his camera.
We came down soon and quickly we decided to change our plan because we didn’t feel good about the whole situation there, first they wouldn’t allow you to take your camera/phone to the festival place and second there were more policemen and soldiers than the tourists which meant that we will face the same situation at Bumborate. We discussed few alternate options including Kumrat valley in Dir, National Gol Park and Shandur lake in Chitral. We decided upon Shandure lake. We went back to Chitral city but this time stayed in a different hotel. We did some more shopping from Chitral bazar after the dinner. The funny thing is that we had only 3 sleeping bags, no mattresses and no food but we had 2 camps. We bought mattresses (the one which is used below the carpets at home/office) somewhere before Buni.
We set out for Shandur top at 8 AM in the morning. The road condition was good for few kilometers but for the rest of the trip upto Shandure it was very rough jeepable road. We reached Mastuj, the place from where you can also go to Broghil valley for Karomber lake at around 4 PM. We stopped at 2nd last village before Shandur top for lunch. We reached Shandur top just before the sunset which was perfect time for us photographers to capture some shots (visit Sher Ali Photography, Essence of Photography and World through Aamer’s Lens for photography of our trip).
First we asked the Chitral scouts if they would allow us to stay with them. They said they cannot allow us to stay with them and told us that there is a small hut owned and operated by Lal Kah all year long, yup even in winters, and he has all the facilities there in his hut. We went into Lal Khan’s place where he serves us tea and biscuits. He gave us place to stay in his hut for nominal charge of Rs. 500. Provided us bed sheets and razayian/blankets. We had tea in the night. Aamer bhae was not feeling good so went to sleep right away. Zubair and Ahmad also went asleep shortly. Me and Ahsen stayed awake till 12 AM to try to capture milkyway. Fortunately we got a glimpse of Milkay at around 11:30 PM. Got some shots and went to sleep.
Next morning we started the descend on the opposite side of Chitral i.e. Ghizer valley in Gilgit Baltistan. Just after a short ride we came across lush green meadow with lots of Yaks grazing over there. We took a short break at the top of Ghizer valley for some shots of the day and kept moving until we reached a suspension bridge just before Phander lake where we did some more photography (after all 3 of us were photographers so other 2 had no choice). We took another short break at Phander lake.
We did our breakfast at Khalti lake, Gupis where we also got another opportunity for photography. We reached Gilgit at around 3 PM but didn’t waste a second there so kept moving towards our destination of Islamabad. We reached Chilas after sunset and did our dinner in a hut hotel along a huge water-stream coming down from mountains and ultimately submerging into River Indus.
We were supposed to spend a night at Besham but yet again we altered our plan and kept moving towards Islamabad. We took a short break for tea just before Abbottabad and another for milkshake at Hasan Abdal.
Finally we reached our destination Islamabad at 8 AM on the morning of Sunday 17th May 2015.
It was one hell of a road trip and everyone enjoyed it very much. This road trip was not in my travel wishlist for 2015 but I am glad that I explored a lot of areas in a single trip with amazing bunch of people.
Traveling is living!