Planning a trip to Kumrat Valley as a Karachiite requires a lot of research. We had to invest 10 to 15 days to reach Islamabad, and then went further North. At the height of 8,100ft above sea level, Kumrat Valley is located in the Upper Dir region behind Gabral, Swat Kohistan. In the summers, the temperature ranges from 20°C to 25°C, while in the winter, the temperature drops to -4°C to – 10°C.
We started our trip from Upper Dir with Ayaz Zaman, a local jeep driver from Bijli Ghar, a small town close to Upper Dir.We had known him for a while, and he had organized tours for friends in the past also. He was delighted to show us Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK) and said, “After the visit of Imran Khan to Kumrat Valley in 2016, this valley got the attention of tourists, and thousands of them began to visit this place every year, and fell in love with it”.
We took the Kumrat road via Biar bridge, which is a non-stop zig zag ride for almost 2.5 hours, until we reached the village of ‘Thal’. We were greeted by a welcoming cold breeze which swept off the Panjkora river and the lush green mountains around the village. As we entered the bazaar, we saw a crowd of people walking their herds.
The main market was small, but filled with dry fruits and Chitrali ‘Pakol’ hats. The village also has a distinctive Jamia Masjid that is a hundred years old, with its wooden structure still intact despite landslides and heavy rains. Thal is also called the ‘gateway of Kumrat’, and the rest of the journey beyond Thal had to be on a 4×4 jeep.
The entrance to the valley was full of vegetation, mostly cabbages. There were no rugged mountains anywhere, so the only thing you could see was the river and the sound of its gushing water. After an exhausting jeep ride, we decided to stay at the first hotel we saw. The people were welcoming, and the views from our rooms were wonderfull. We only needed to take a few steps out of our rooms to dip our toes in the river. As a Karachiite, I was excited to finally be able to use a shawl, and that too in the middle of July!
Ayaz looked up at the clouds and predicted rain. Sure enough, it started raining within five minutes of his prediction. We ran to our rooms and enjoyed the sound of rain with music, tea and board games. The very next day, Ayaz suggested that we should go to Kala Chashma and the Kumrat Waterfall, the most visited spots in the area, but were constrained by the intermittent rain.
After a tiring 2 hour journey, Kala Chashma was a welcome surprise. The gigantic trees and light drizzle followed us there too, as we enjoyed tea and picturesque views of the meadows with the river running through them. While travelling towards the Kumrat waterfall, Ayaz asked us whether we had trekked before, as we would have to walk a little before reaching the waterfall. But since we were excited, we took it as a challenge!
Fifteen minutes after an uphill hike, we realized that it was not as easy as we had assumed. Ayaz kept motivating us by showing the trail of water coming from the fall. After twenty more minutes, we sighted a milky waterfall. The exhaustion suddenly vanished at its sight, and we spent the next hour munching on the fresh apricots and peaches while taking in the breathtaking view of the waterfall. But too soon, it was time to go back.
This entire journey not only left me with precious memories, but also increased my love for the mountains. The diversity of cultures and the relative seclusion makes Kumrat Valley very unique. The only thing that was missing was the mobile network, but we didn’t miss being disconnected from the outside world. Undoubtedly, this was an experience of a lifetime!