IJC's annual summer camps have been regular part of calendar since 2009. This year, the chosen destination was Chitral Valley. Initial plan was for Broghil Valley, but a huge landslide which contributed to the major road being swept away changed the plan, to other parts of beautiful Chitral.
The convoy was divided into two groups. The first group lead by Desert Devil left at midnight at the end of day 2 of Eid. There were 8 rides with 22 people in that group. While the 2nd group left 5 hours later. I was in that 2nd group consisting of 2 rides with 4 people. I was travelling with Mani in his 5 door Pajero 2005, while Mazhar and Aadil travelled in Aadil's Daihatsu Rocky! Progress was brisk. A short stop Enroute for breakfast. Even that was quick as Mani had brought Anday n parathay packed, so we just got tea and enjoyed the breakfast. Next stop was Dir for another cup of tea around 11ish. Than it was to the top of Lowari. Traffic was plenty, but we didn't have to stop, until we were across the top and it started pouring down heavily and when we crossed the tunnel entrance there a land slide started just 150 meter in front of us. Not one, not two but 3 of them within a distance of 100meters!
This was bad news, surprisingly we had full telenor network there, and we were in contact with group ahead, we informed them of the land slide. As it was only day 3 of Eid, all tunnel heavy machinery operators were away on holiday! We enquired around about accommodation otherwise we were prepared to sleep in our rides. An hour later the rain stopped, 20 minutes after that the mud pouring from mountain sides stopped at the land slide heap. There were maybe 30 vehicles blocked on either side. It was all self help there, plenty people from their rides and lots of locals set about clearing the road. Luckily it was mostly small to medium sized stones. Locals had good idea about what to do. They just made a path with make shift ramp to the top of land slides accumulation which were 1 and 1/2 to 2 meters above road level. A couple of jeeps and hilux 4x4 ventured slowly above the ramps and crossed safely. After few crossings the path was reasonable enough. And on our turn we managed slowly reciting dua's. The stones n mud was shifting under our wheels and few stones were thrown into the river to keep the excitement up!
After that 3+ hours of delay we headed non-stop to Chitral. It was dark by the time we made it! Met up with the rest of the gang. Stories were shared at dinner table! Than it was on to our rooms in Pamir Riverside Hotel.
Next morning had relaxed breakfast at hotel while some got minor repair works carried out in their rides. Eventually after some local food procurement for the camping night, we headed up for the Chitral National Gol Park. Very nice drive indeed with beautiful views of valley, and also of Chitral airport runway. Had my camera ready to capture any aircraft landing from up-top, but it was not to be! And than Mani's Jero's tyre sidewall got ripped by a sharp stone. Tyre change was quick and we continued with our ascent. We climbed almost 1500meters in short time, eventually reaching the beautiful top.
The weather was beautiful n clear for camping night. We setup our camps in lawns next to wildlife forest rest house which was empty, which meant we could use their running water, wash rooms and kitchen!
The group settled down, some went for trekking around, while others went to the Markhoor view point of wild life officers. They had binoculars and small telescopes for monitoring these preserved species! Saw few full grown male species with long twirling horns and beards, they were a sight to behold. While the rest were mostly young and or females.
The chit chat, gup shup, banter, jokes n stories continued till late. Before I forget, must mention the excellent food preparation by Juma Khan for both lunch n dinner. This included Karahi n barbeque. We consumed over 25kg of chicken in just one day!!! After hearty meals, people started disappearing into their tents. Finally well after mid night it went silent......................well not according to complains next morning!! Everyone was saying that their neighbouring camp was snoring out loud like some tractor running or what ever!
Next morning, was up early, went again to the Markhoor view point and saw plenty beautiful species! Than after breakfast it was pack up n wrap up time! First we headed down to Chitral city. There we got the tyre repaired for emergency, by closing the piercing hole and placing a tyre tube inside the tyre. Nadeem Bhai's LC also needed tyre repair. Than it was some more food pre-curing for the night camping!
This time our destination was a valley beyond Garam Chasma called Gabore. The track was mostly katcha and rough. On the way, the RKR of Aizaz started giving trouble, and was eventually towed by Yasir's Prado. And than suddenly the dreaded bang happened! Mani's another tyre wall got ripped and this time it was nasty. The tyre was the old spare one and almost got shredded. Thank God we got the first one repaired which was put back on. Mani was shaken. It was almost a blink of an eye lapse of concentration and he missed a sharp stone sticking out from one side, and BANG!
Gabore was peaceful serene and fresh........................just as the doctor ordered for camping! After some local off roading, water splashing, mud stuck and tow outs we settled for camping on a nice green pasture next to the river! A passing by local was extremely kind and got us fresh made roti's / chapatti's for out dinner from his home not too far. For the night our cooks were Mani and Nadeem Bhai. The gup shup continued till late over repeated hot cups of tea and soup! The weather was chilling but not freezing! Just right for camping in my opinion! It was a bit windy, but we made wind barriers by parking our cars in line. Eventually it was bed time and we all disappeared in our respective tents.
Next morning was another beautiful crisp though a bit chilly awakening. Washing face in freezing clean river water was an experience by it self! Eventually the sun came up from behind the mountains and people set about making breakfast, which was much needed n enjoyed thoroughly.
After breakfast it was pack up and wrap up time. Mani and I removed the 30mm spacers from the front wheels as they were not helping in the narrow track.
Then we set off for the return journey towards Chitral. Enroute there was a stop over at Garam Chasma. The bath/ hozi dip in the Mosque was a sizzling experience. There after we went to a local hotel with swimming pool, which was getting water from the Garam Chasma source. Lots of games were played in the pool, including speed competition, both surface swimming and under water swimming. Than breath holding competition, diving, jumping and the rest. Needless to say it was great fun. This was followed by lunch at the hotel.
Eventually we left back for Chitral, Enroute we passed the mountains with Markhoor population! The time of day meant it was rather hot and we saw only a few of them! Back in Chitral our stay was at the same Pamir Riverside hotel. Some of us caught up on sleep in early evening. More gup shup n stories were shared over dinner. Eventually everyone headed to their rooms because we planned an early start, i.e. leaving hotel at 6am.
Next morning we were prompt, all cars were out of hotel gate by 6:10 am. Progress was steady. A short breakfast stop at a dhabba enroute Lowari top near the tunnel exit. A further tea stop / toilet break at Dir. Aizaz's vehicle clutch continued to trouble thru out, though surprisingly it made it to Lowari top and caused more trouble on flatter section. Lunch was at Khorak Mahal near Bat khela! After that it was supposed to be non-stop run to home, but at takhtbai we stopped again for chilled mango shake or two! It was awesome, the whole inside froze! On motorway, we could not speed above 90-95kmph as the repaired tyre would wobble too much. Overall it meant we spent maybe 20 minutes etc on motorway.
Amazing trip with the gang as usual. Had loads of fun! Travelling as passenger gives a different perspective on these trips. Mani was excellent company as usual! Our beautiful Pakistan is full of nature's beauty and still there are so many more regions to be explored. Missed those who could not join us, InshaAllah on SC2 in August 2017! Eternally thankful to Almighty for the blessings upon us. Pakistan Paindabad!