Back in year 2005 when I started formal trekking, I used to visit Adventure Foundation (AFP) office to find out about any treks they are offering for the season. AFP was sort of only tour operator at that time offering organised trekking trips for local trekkers. I did a couple of treks with them that year and then started doing treks on my own. At that time, they had this picture of a beautify meadows there in AFP’s office. The caption said Jahaz Banda meadows. The picture was so captivating that I couldn’t get this name and place out of my mind ever since then. I kept on exploring different treks in the North however things started getting tense in Dir and Swat areas because of military operation and this non-sense war on terror and the whole area literally became a no-go for non-natives. Things are almost fully back to normal and people have started exploring the treks of Swat and Dir now since past few years. I did Dadreli back in 2014. Same year, we wanted to do Jahaz Banda in March but it was too early to enjoy green meadows, so we ended by doing snow trek of Dudeer pass starting from Thal in the same Lamoti valley and ending up in Gabral, Swat. we As we were planning to do some short excursion before start of Ramadan, I finally thought to make my long awaited dream come true – and finally go and visit the meadows I saw picture of back in 2005. I realised it took eleven long years though but you are never late when it comes to these amazing mountains.
Jahaz Banda trek starts from the village Jandari. Jandrai can be reached through 4×4 jeeps from Dir in 4-5 hours. As of 2016, the local jeep takes Rs. 450 per passenger (one-way) and the whole jeep can be booked in 5-6k.
At Jandrai, there is the famous Raja Taj Muhammad who is like the primary contact for all tourists and trekkers coming to explore the area. He is an interesting man indeed who will not let you get bored or un-occupied through his continuous chat and hospitality. He has got this local museum built at Jandrai showcasing stuff belonging to his forefathers ranging from guns to stuffed hunted species and clothing. This is quite a site to visit that one doesn’t expect to find at a remote place like Jandrai. Taj has also got a few guest rooms set-up at both museum and also with his home nearby which is indeed a treat to find for trekkers. He has also got a hut built at Jahaz Banda meadows where there are a couple of rooms setup. These guest rooms are definitely not luxurious by ordinary eyes, but given the circumstances and remoteness of the area, they become a luxury for trekkers. Taj can arrange the porters and other required stuff for any trekking requirement. He can be reached at numbers 0346-3133466 and 0321-9176378.
The trek to Jahaz Banda starts from Jandrai village. For the initial 40-50 minutes, it passes through the village and moves along the stream gradually before crossing a bridge and entering into the forest. Once the stream is crossed, the trek enters into the dense pine forest and ascends steeply. The ascend continues for next 2-3 hours till it opens up into the lush green meadows of Jahaz Banda. These meadows are one of the most spectacular meadows in the entire region and is an ideal place to pitch tents and camp. If one doesn’t want to camp, one can stay at the guest room built by Taj on the other side of meadows. On average, it becomes a hike of 4 hours from Jindrai village to these meadows.
Next big attraction of the region is a lake at a hike of another few hours known locally as Katora lake. As it was early for the season, the lake was still frozen with snow and we dropped the idea of going there. We rather got settled with Jahaz Banda lake at 30 minutes walk from the meadows on the same path of Katora Lake. There is also an option to cross a pass and enter into Swat from Gabral valley side but we didn’t explore that option much from this side.