Babun is another hidden pearl of Neelum valley. I first heard about Babun from Wasim Qureshi – a friend from Muzaffarabad while Waqas, I and him were coming back from Chitta Katha lake trek back in 2009. Wasim is the same guy who recommended Pir Hassimar when I wanted to explore something beyond Pir Chanasi and it turned out to be a great exploreation. With this built-in curiosity for always exploring new areas and treks, I kept this name in my to-dos-list. Last year, we went to Jagran from where Babun can be reached but we had a different target. We were attempting 4500 meters high Shikar gali that had to take us to Batakundi in Naran. Although we couldn’t cross that pass because of weather, I managed to get more information about Babun.
This year finally Babun’s turn came. We had to go somewhere out and remote in May in order to prepare ourselves for the challenging Haramosh trek. I sat with Kashif and explored all possibilities of a short weekend + one off day type treks including a trek in Swat and one in the Hajipeer area. After evaluating each, we locked Babun and so we started preparations for it.
Babun connects Jagran to Lawat and Keran in the Neelum valley. It can be done from either side however I will recommend to start it from Jagran because of its easier approach. The Jagran road leaves main Neelum valley road from Kundalshahi and takes around a couple of hours to reach Jagran bazar. Jeeps can be hired for Rs. 2000 – 2500 as of summer of 2013. From Jagran bazar, one can look for porters which is not easy as these guys are not accustomed to portering. However, as we had some contacts from last year’s trek, we tried to reach them and after some efforts were able to find Ali Zaman who went with us last year. Unfortunately cell phone coverage is not available in Jagran area thus you cannot make these porter arrangements beforehand. We hired three porters from here for Rs. 800 per day.
From Jagran, the trek starts along the damaged jeep road that used to go all the way up to Khorian via Dabba village. This road was damaged in 2011 floods and is yet to be repaired. Short of Dabba there used to be a forest rest house at Thunian which got flattened during the same flood such was whose strength that now even it’s remains cannot be seen. The path remains gentle and almost straight till Dabba. Dabba is a beautiful village with all-wood-houses constructed in traditional style. From here, trek for Babun leaves the main Jagran river and climbs towards right. Elevation increases very steeply here however remains mostly in shade because of the dense forest. After about a hike of an hour, the trek bisects with one option is to remain on the same ridge that goes all the way to an amazingly beautiful village of Seri. A better option however is to turn left, cross the nullah and climb towards Koyian meadows and eventually to Koyian wali Mali – the last settlement before Babun gali. Total trek time from Jagran to this summer settlement is around 5-6 hours. This point has an elevation of around 2700 meters. We spent the night here.
Babun gali is further 1000 meters above koiyan mali. As we were in May which is pretty early in the season, the path beyond this point was all covered in snow. It took us further 5-6 hours to reach the top which was at 3740 meters as per my watch. On the other side lies a bowl like Babun valley which was all white at that time. It is supposed to be lush green in late July and August and thus are the recommended months to venture in this area. After a descend of about an hour or two comes another settlement from where there are three options to reach down. First option is to take the right ridge and walk along the ridge that can take you to Upper Neelum village above Keran which is a popular tourist resort. The left ridge can take one to Lawat and offers some nice green meadows. We opted for the middle path which seemed shortest. This path descends sharply and starts moving along the Nagdar nullah. This nullah starts growing bigger as one moves on and so is the path that becomes wider from what looks like an un-traversed path. It is a very long and tiring way down that crosses villages of Kaloo wali basti, Nagdar ghorinakka etc. It took us around 8 hours to reach Ghorinakka from Babun top where we stayed overnight in the village mosque. Main Neelum road at Nagdar bazar is further an hour down.
Whole area of Babun is rich of pine forest and like some other parts of Neelum valley has one of the dense alpine forests in Pakistan. Babun area is also famous for different precious gems and stones which are found and is often a reason for many people to travel and explore this area. For trekkers, this area has mostly remained unexplored and till now not much information about it is available over the web. I will highly recommend this trek for people who want to do some short weekend trek in Kashmir.