Monday, December 28, 2009

Trekking Through the Nomads' Land

Lonely Planet terms it ‘Chaghbibi—Gokhshal—Chimirsan—Rumbor Trek’. I would rather describe it ‘Trekking through the Nomads’ Land’ given the frequency with which one comes across the nomads in the course of his/her trek illustrated by scenic beauties—dense forests of pine, cedar and oak, milky streams, pure icy springs, colorful flowers and most noticeably an aura of pastoral life.
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Day 1:
We start trekking from the Chitral town with quite heavy supplies—food items, utensils, clothes and sleeping bags—up to the Chaghbini Hut (2925m) of the Chitral Gol Natural Park and get here in about 7 hours. The watchers on duty are hospitable, friendly and easy going people, who welcome us into the compound of the hut with low boundary walls located in the forest overlooking the Terich Mir and Booni Zom to the North and the Broz village of Chitral to the south. Near sunset as the golden rays hit the landscape here transforms into a picturesque scene that prompts us to do some nice photography. We also scan the wood with binoculars to find markhor and see many of them whilst grazing far bellow the ravine. Take dinner early and go to sleep in anticipation of an arduous trek the next morning. After breakfast at 7:30, start for Gokhshal An (3720m). The trek is quite steep that zigzags up all the way to the base of the white rock before leveling across its face to reach the top and takes U-turn to the south, fall precipitously forming into a long scree defined by snow cover, moraine, grassy land and forest. Wild flowers greet us as we descend further down the valley. Here we go on the spree of mushroom searching, which the space is famous for and find 15kg of it before completing the trek to the hut of the nomads, who tend cattle up on the summer pasture in the midst of the forest called ‘Gokhshal’. For lunch, the nomads serve us with dairy products, their staple food. For night stay we go to the watchers’ hut just a little down to the nomads’ makeshift.

Day 2:
It is a reasonable stay with the hospitable and well mannered watchers from the Chitral town. They are generous and helpful to every bit. For dinner we have our delicious mushroom vegetable. This place, too, is idyllic with a great deal of photographic opportunities that we avail before sunset. The morning of June 22, we walk up the nose-touching steep of ‘surmabohto dahar’ across the river and then through a tangled and trek-less forest before getting to the Dooni pasture (3350m). We take lunch here to energize ourselves to cope with the uphill journey leading to Dooni An (3713m). ‘Alpinism’ not ‘trekking’ might better explain this part of the trek. You have to be a very good trekker. And Mr David is a good one indeed. Notwithstanding its difficult nature, the trek is the habitat for snow leopard, markhor, wild goats, snow cocks and partridges. We glimpse markhors with the biggest screwing horns ever seen. The songs of snow cocks/partridges mingle with nomads’ whistle and produce a pleasening echo in the mountains/valleys that makes the trek a rewarding one. The higher we get the more visible become the peaks of the Hindu Kush ranges with the Terich Mir standing lofty and clear. It takes us 8 hours to get to Dooni An. Once on the top we are elated with a sense of accomplishment and tough performance indicative of strong and healthy people that we are!

Day 3:
The sun is going down the horizon; we are exhausted and a little bit sore, with an urgent need to find a shelter at Chamarsan pasture with the Kalash nomads. They are equally hospitable, cordial and careful hosts, who afford us shelter, food and a place to spend the night. Nights are pretty cold here. From this point we see to the direction of the Rumbor valley to where our trek will end. We are excited about the upcoming trek, not a difficult one. We come across a range of nomads—mostly Kalash—in the forest of cedar, pine and oak. As we walk further down the valley, we see many people floating down logs along the stream to the roadside at Sheikhandeh (2250m). It takes us 5 hours to get to Sheikhandeh and an additional 2 hours to Saifullah’s at Balankuru, in the Rumbor valley. We get back to Chitral tired but elated with a sense of accomplishment about a very challenging trek plus enthusiastic to watch the final of the free style polo tourney that will be played on June 24 at 05:00 between the Sub-division Mastuj and Chitral Scouts teams in the Chitral town.

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