Travelogue writing dates back to antiquity. In old times, the sages & elders in the families used to relate to their off-springs as first-person-account of their journeys. Over the years, travelogue has acquired a level of art. It is a tedious but exceedingly rewarding experience in the end. Writing a travelogue is like gathering raindrops to form a cloud again. A travelogue becomes more exciting when the explored destination is stunningly beautiful and strikingly historical. Chitral Valley is an astonishing tourist attraction in the Northern areas of Pakistan. This Chitral Valley travelogue features one of the most amazing tourist destinations. It rekindles memories of the spell-binding Chilam Joshi – the spring festival of Chitral. Let’s explore the unforgettable experience on our way to Chitral!
The Journey of Amazing Chitral Valley Travelogue Begins a Bit Earlier!
The alarm went off at 5 o’clock in the morning. I sprung up from the bed in awe and surprise as to why being up so early. Soon it hit my mind that I have to set off on a journey to a destination unexplored. Bon Voyage!
The distant valleys, sitting in the lap of some of the gigantic and mighty mountains, are longing and yearning to be explored by someone new. The gushing rivers, meandering along the delicate curves, want some new faces to be washed in their crystal-clear waters. And those verdant meadows, sprawling amidst mountains, are looking for some fresh eyes to be dazed with their immaculate beauty and enchanting magic. So, it took just a while to get my stuff packed and here we come, Chitral the gorgeous!
We, a group of around twenty curious and fun-seeking people set off on this memorable journey. Surely, we knew that all the adventure, thrill, and pleasure were awaiting us.
The journey started in the morning as we left Islamabad at 07:30, reaching Chakdara Interchange at around 09:30. We took the route from Islamabad to Chitral via Dir. We had a stop-over for a breakfast at a motel kind of restaurant at Chakdara Interchange. So our tour guide chose a peculiarly named restaurant – TKR. They served us the traditional Parathas, Channa, Omelette, and the sweetest tea I ever had taken. Soon we resumed our journey. Half-asleep, half-awake, some munching on the snacks, others singing, and clapping, the group continued for another 2 hours to reach Lower Dir.
As we left the motorway, we passed through small towns and the landscape started changing. The road was now accompanied by the River Panjkora or Swat River. We had our next stopover en route, for lunch, at a small Dhaba by the riverside. The scenic view of the river beneath somehow made us forget the blandness of the food and the unhygienic setting of the restaurant. After clicking a few awesome pictures and having lunch and tea, we left for our final destination for the day.
The next amazing leg of our journey consisted of passage through tunnels. Lest I forget to share, the Lowari tunnels connect Chitral with the rest of Pakistan. There are two tunnels, one 9km, and the other 2km long. To pass through the Lowari tunnel, travelers have to queue up for clearance from the traffic monitoring authorities across the tunnels. We took this opportunity to have a few more clicks for our gallery, and why not; Lowari tunnel is one of the most famous tunnels in the country.
As we closed in on the peripheries of Chitral, we found a nice refueling station. It housed a tuck shop with a coffee machine, and the cleanest restrooms we could find the whole day. It seemed like a luxury. Of first things, we rushed to get our coffee cups and had some badly needed leg stretch for a while.
As the day started, witnessing its twilight and the mighty sun softening its glaze with mellowness, we reached our hotel in Chitral. Quickly as we settled down in the nicely made-up rooms, we re-gathered for our dinner in the dining area on the rooftop of the hotel. After dinner, as I set my foot on the carpeted terrace in front of our room, the sight of the moon shining among star clusters was mesmerizing.
How often, we city dwellers, could witness such a clear sky in days together, couldn’t even think of it in the wilderness of my imagination.
The eventful day ended with anticipation of the next day’s fairly stuffed but exciting errands. Our tour guide was quick to brief us about the next day’s plan to explore Chitral City. We knew the day would be hectic but equally rewarding in terms of sightseeing, and learning more about Chitral and its overly simple people. As we withdrew to our rooms, we could comfortably feel our proximity to mother nature. The land had an aura of simplicity and purity. The softness of the people could reveal their true selves.
Each Day Adds to Mounting Excitement – It’s Way More Than Chitral Valley Travelogue!
The day earmarked exploration of Chitral Valley, so everyone took the liberty to relax and start the day a little later than it should be. After having breakfast, we first visited the Chitral Fort, situated on the banks of the Chitral River. The fort’s massive white gate offered splendid sight, but we had to walk through the entrance on the riverside as the door was closed. The cool lawns of the fort overlook the river. Across the river, I could see glimpses of Chitral Gol National Park. For a few moments, I sat quietly to let this captivating scenery take a hold of me and leave a lasting imprint on my memories. It was at that moment when I thought of composing this memorable Chitral valley travelogue!
Apart from having architectural splendor, the century-old fort has a large number of rooms with the history of the valley written on the walls. After strolling through the fort and listening to the guide who narrated the chronological events associated with the fort, we captured a few shots of the cannons displayed in the verandas, and the infamous dungeon every fort features. We then walked out to visit the famous Shahi Masjid nearby, but unfortunately couldn’t enter the mosque as it was already prayer time, so just took some pictures from afar to enshrine the memory in the photo albums.
We made the next stop at the Chitral Museum, showcasing the rich history and culture of the land. Like all Museums, the Chitral Museum tells a lot about the history of the people of Chitral. The museum had two sections. One section was dedicated to exhibiting the history and culture of Chitral Valley – ‘Khowar’, as they call it, and the other section reflected on the traditions of Kalash Valley. Enthralled by the stories associated with the relics displayed as wooden and metal cutlery, clothes, furniture, and the Gandaus, one is awe-struck by the mystery and magic of these centuries-old valleys. The historical treasures and relics could tell the stories of resilience, and hard work, besides revealing abundantly the unceasing human struggle against the inhospitable climatic extremities.
The visit to the Museum provided a special fillip to our excitement, as we were to visit Kalash Valley the very next day – the first day of the Chilam Joshi Festival. For a more comprehensive view of the Chilam Joshi Festival, read our article.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we headed to visit Chitral Bazaar. The merchandise was local but gave an air of exotic collection all over. Besides the local souvenirs, Pakol (Chitrali cap) was the highlight of the shopping spree; everybody got one. Pakol is not just a headgear; it is a way of the Chitrali lifestyle – portraying elegance, tradition, and distinction.
Toward the end of the day, we had the privilege of having evening tea in the Chitral Scouts Mess, a British-era place. It is managed by the Chitral Scouts, also known as Chitral Levies. The ‘Mess’ maintained an immaculate style, giving an impression of a quasi-military setup.
An instant nostalgia overwhelmed me as I saw the treehouse in the middle of a lush green Mess lawn. The sprightly evening was all about the splendid view, the lavish and scrumptious hi-tea, in an air of joy and festivity. Delighted cackles of Ludo and Uno winners, distant sounds of badminton players. The carefree chuckles of excited kids, could comfortably transform one’s tedium into a refreshing sojourn.
The day ended with a round of Antakshari (a turn-taking singing gala) as we circled around the bonfire and enjoyed our dinner.
This journey was tiresome, yet incredibly memorable. Time to hit the hay, and get to some deep sleep, though dreams abounded the night. To borrow Robert Frost’s lines: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep”.
If you find this Chitral Valley travelogue amusing, click here for the next part. Definitely, you’ll love to learn how the splendor of Kalash Valley and Garam Chashma is unveiled. Indeed, ‘Thou art as wise, thou art beautiful.