A trip to KP’s north

It was dark. Coterie of three decided to escape the urban bitterness and embrace the wild. We friends decided to travel to Swat valley – the heaven on earth never witnessed before by
any of us. We left Lahore at 10pm, and after a nine-hour long journey reached Buner early in the morning. After sheer insistence of friend (who is a resident of Buner) we had a scrumptious breakfast at his place.

Buner, now a separate district, was once part of the state of Swat. Buner is a place that abodes greenery in its lap, surrounded by sizzling green mountains. We spent some time de-stressing near a place where water was flowing and trees were hospitable enough to lend some shade. Soon it was noon and another friend who lived nearby coaxed us to visit his place,we had lunch with him. Few hours later, it was afternoon; we decided to witness more of Buner. Followed by an up-sky snaky road we reached Khalel, a mountainous top that gives a bird eye view of the whole valley. It’s a saying among the natives, “if it were possible to build a way to the sky, the Bunerwals would have made it”. It was dark as we came back to the residence. Khalel in picture:

Our night was in Buner; next day we travelled to Shangla – which was also the part of Swat’s state once. Shangla is famous for its Shangla Top. Next following the snaky and wavy road we reached a place, cool and relatively narrow, cradled between green mountains a flowing waterfall, it’s called “Yakh
Tandae” (meaning :cold and narrow-valley).

After saying goodbye to Shangla we entered Mingora, Swat. Tired and sleepy, we were quite
fortunate to find a good hotel alongside Swat River at a reasonable price. Next day, we decided to visit
‘White Palace’ which is situated in Marghuzar. White Palace has a historical importance. It was built by Wa’li-e-Swat of former Swat’s state for Queen Elizabeth; regarding Swat she once commented that it is a place no less than Switzerland.

It was night again. Now we had a list of places to visit and we were considering the options; either to visit Malam Jabba and the places nearby, or to go for Kalam, which was quite far. Up till now we were undecided about visiting Kalam. There were different opinions, myriads of advises by friends on phone and individuals that we came across. Resources were scarce (as we were not sure), few friendly matters that needed sheer attention and above all, the destination was six hours away. Somehow, we reached a consensus and managed a car.

The next day we left Swat at 7am in the morning. On the way we crossed beautiful and scenic towns of Madyan and Bahrain. At 12pm we were in Kalam. Kalam is just 36km from Bahrain but it took two and half-hours from Bahrain to Kalam because of the rugged terrain. Kalam is but a heaven on earth; cool breeze blowing, wild Blue River passing by, and a sudden change in temperature. The driver was native; on inquiry about the waters of Kalam he said, “The river water is not an ordinary water but wine”. A witty friend commented, “so when they want beer they drink water right”. We all laughed. Kalam is not place for one-day visit. It is a place to spend a week at least, especially when you are accompanied by your significant other, though it does not imply that a coterie of singles is a bad idea. Never!

It’s a hilly area clothed in greentrees and bushes with a strip of river cutting in between. Enchanting forest, topsy-turvy valleys, planes in between mountains, scenic views and a roaring river flowing by, all in one place: Kalam.

Next day we hiked to Byoun Top; the view was thrilling, and breeze pure. We had a plan to barbeque some food; we were all prepared but unlike Buner’s shadowy trees, the clouds of Kalam were not so hospitable. While we were cooking, it started raining cats and dogs. Luckily, we had umbrellas with us to rescue our barbeque and the fire we had made. Temperature dropped further. It was cold and now we were feeling the involuntary shivers that our bodies were generating. We finished our food haphazardly and decided to go back. Track was muddy and it was shivering-cold; we were chatting about the need to have tea. As this sentence left my mouth, we saw a man approaching us. He was a native shepherd named Sher Dil, who asked us for tea, the offer which we were unable to resist given the weather conditions.

It was dark when we came back to our hotel. River was talking, coffee was hot, we in our room’s balcony facing river, were exhausted. After a deep slumber, we woke up, packed our luggage and travelled back to Swat, with regret of not witnessing the Mahodand Lake. From Swat, we went to Shinkiari. We spent a day in Shinkiari which is the complete embodiment of its name, meaning “Sabz Kiyari” in Urdu. The next day we were in Lahore. Back to urban monotony!

But here is a memoir of an evening in Swat:

Web of night knitted with dark shades;
Ripped apart by bolting spark
Icy gal canopying nostrils,
and constantly engaged, conversing river flown by.
Cigarettes, tea, perpetual monotony, superfluous solace: paradox
Staring straight, stones, flat and cold,
with secrets of centuries in their abode
and a glaring sergeant at head, watching out or just maintaining an illusion of it
Some humans chirping unrequited love and the clumsy terrain,
Yes, cold, monotonous solace and unending yearns! Welcome to swat

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