Chitral: Friday, May 28, 2021: 05:40 pm: I started traveling to Rumbor valley from Chitral town and reached Balankuru by 06:50 pm. Stayed at the guesthouse of Mr. Saifullah Jan Shb, an educated community leader and social worker of the Kalash valleys, who has significantly contributed to promoting tourism in northern Pakistan, let alone the Kalasha valleys and the rest of the Chitral region.
Yasir Khan Shb, Saifullah Shb’s cool-tempered and honest son extended warm reception to his guesthouse, which is located just near the Rumbor stream and remains exposed to the fresh and cold breeze conditioned by the air that blows along the valley from the north-west. The rooms of the guesthouse have been strongly built with stone and woods, frequently and locked at the corners and middle. The stonework and masonry are amazing. The newly constructed washrooms finished with white tiles, are clean and tidy.
The monotonous roar of the stream lulled me to deep slumber in the night. By morning I awakened to the pale light of early morning at 05:50 am. Did photography and strolled in the village for a while before returning to the guesthouse to relish the breakfast of walnut bread along with omelet and tea.
Saturday, May 29, 2021, 07:07 am: Started trekking along with Mr. Yasir Khan, from Balankuru, crossed the pedestrian bridge to Sajigorthon Village to the left a little above Balankuru. Came across ladies working in the fields of maize, the staple food in the valleys. The village features huge walnut trees, oak, and pine forest. The dense and cool shades of walnut trees provide shelter to the villagers who escape the heat of the day and enjoy sitting under the cool shades, gossiping, and relaxing. The golden fingers of the sun sporadically streak through the leaves as the air moves them. In two places we visited families, they cordially welcomed us, offered us tea, but politely thanked them and continued our trekking.
We reached the Sajigoor temple, the most important altar for the entire Kalash community. They gather here during Chilimosht and other religious festivals. It is the place where the Chitirmas sacrifices are offered. On the occasion of moving cattle to the high pastures, all the communities gather here, offer prayers, and sacrifices of goats to ward off the bad luck, and pray for the prosperity of livestock.
At the center of the Sajigoor temple’s courtyard, stands a huge oak tree, as an important reference for the Kalash people. The legend has it that the temple was somewhere else in a far-flung region, functioning under a head Shaman. The Kalash people approached him requesting to shift the temple to the Rumbor valley. He consented and simply fired an arrow from his bow and told the people to establish the alter in a place where the arrow would drop. It dropped on this particular oak tree, which was just a sapling around 1500 years back. This is how the tree has special reference in the courtyard of the Sajigoor temple or altar.
We crossed to the right from another bridge and continued our trekking to Kalashagram through a channel above the village. As we proceeded along the channel, the Rumbor valley came into full view. In one place, we came across a stone having a foot-like mark, believed to be the footmark of a fairy. The legend has it that during the construction of the channel, a big stone made it difficult for the locals to construct the channels. To resolve the issue, they offered a sacrifice of goat here. To their amazement, by the next morning, the channel across the face of the rock was dug out and the fairy left its footmark.
At Kalashagram visited Mr. Rehmat Wali, the master woodcarver of the Kalash valleys. His products have earned him a reputation locally and nationally. Some of his masterpieces have also been decorated in some museums around the world. Mr. Wali informed that his parents told him he was a healthy child, who walked, worked, and played, but all of a sudden, he was left paralyzed. Obviously, polio must have been the reason for this. But the delicacy with which he carves out features of different wooden images is amazing. Woodcarving is an art, and it requires formal education. But what this person produces is not inferior in quality and accuracy to any of the educated sculpturer or woodcarvers.
Got back to Balankuru by 02:00 pm, had lunch, and took the afternoon siesta. By 03:05 pm started trekking to Sheikhanandeh, the last settlement towards the end of the Rumbor valley. It took me around two hours to get there. Along the road, I came across picturesque scenic beauties, saw people working in the maize field. Along the route, the air was fresh and cool. The tumultuous stream produced vapors, which then the afternoon breeze flowed down the valley. On numerous occasions I noticed Koel flying past from this side to that and vice versa. The bird settled under the cool mossy rocks to search for its food. I have not seen as much population of Koel as it is along the Rumbor stream. Took good pictures along the trek and crossed the pedestrian bridge to the main Sheikhandeh.
It worth mentioning that the Rumbor-Chimirsan-Gokhshal-Charghbini treks start to the right along the nullah at Sheikhandeh. I have done this trek with a Candian guest in 2010. Another trek below the village branches off to the east to get to Orghooch. The route also has a beautiful camping location on the pastures. Along the dense forest, flora, and fauna, the treks present a heavenly scene for photographers, zoologists, and botanists. On the return trip, I walked as fast as I could. Reached Balankuru by 05:00 pm.
Sunday, May 30, 2021: 08:00 am: started trekking from Balakuru to Ayun. Crossed the villages of Grom, Ochok, Baladesh, Koldesh, Kalashagram (across the river), Batat, Chhetguru, Gombyak, Parakalak, and Ocholga (nulla). The trekking to the Ayun village was equally fast. The village is the gateway to the Kalash valleys and transportation facilities are available all the time. During the trek took good pictures and interacted with different people, including officials of the tourism police. They are doing a good job for tourism promotion in the area. Reached Ayun by 12:30 pm. From there I traveled to Chitral town with general transport.
Note: Please note that the consent of people has been secured to use their pictures along with this write-up.
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