An ideal weekend was coming along with Eid vacations and we needed to do a warm up trek too before our main summer expedition. We discussed a few options and then decided to go for this trek that we had wanted to do since last year – Gabin Jaba and Daral.
Gabin Jaba meadows and trek above it is an amazingly beautiful trek in Lower Swat. Trek starts from Lalkoo village which is at an our drive from Matta town. Lalkoo is accessible on a metaled/semi-metaled road so cars can also go there. a fielder car charged us Rs. 1500 for booking till Lalkoo. Other public transport options are available at lower fares too.
Lalkoo is the last village on this road and has a one small roadside restaurant and a hotel. Not known to common tourists coming from Punjab, Gabin Jaba is a pretty popular destination among local Swat tourists. Because of Eid holidays, a large number of people had come in various groups along with their food and sleep arrangements at Gabin Jaba. This had an obvious side-effect – littering. Gabin Jaba was littered with trash and empty wrappers everywhere that made it looked awful. There is even a local makeshift campsite and restaurant right there at Gabin Jaba which is though a good opportunity for local tourists, doesn’t feel good to nature lovers.
Trek from Lalkoo to Gabin Jaba moves along a rough jeep road and takes 2-3 hrs. The real fun begins on trail beyond Gabin Jaba. Lush green meadows continue for sometime before the trail descends onto a small glacier on the right. A steep hike awaist you there after the glacier that takes around 3-4 hrs up to Daral pass at around 3700m. Though the hike looks pretty steep at the start, local made zigzagged trail makes it a bit less hectic. From Daral pass, one has the option to continue west towards Saidgai lake from where one can descend into Usheri valley in Dir. Or else, one can descend straight down for another hour or so to Daral lake and camp at the lush green meadows there. Total trek time from Gabin Jaba to Daral lake is between 6-8hrs based on one’s pace. This involves around a 1000m ascend too in total from Gabin Jabba. There is also a small mosque near Daral lake where one can comfortably stay if camping needs to be avoided.
From Daral lake, one can continue descending along the stream and reach Bahrain. However, this is a long trek of 12-14 hrs and becomes too demanding for legs because of continuous stress. People generally come back to Gabin Jaba and then to Lalkoo using same trail and we opted for it too. There is another option of continuing North where there are trails supposedly connecting to Jahaz Banda (Kumrat) at one end and Kundol (Gabral) at the other.
One serious issue we faced during this trek is lack of willingness of local people to move with us as porters. This is unlike other parts of Swat where generally we didn’t have issues in hiring porters. One possible reason we felt was that all of them were pretty busy with their livestock and there were less men available to cater for large number of livestock. We have been told by locals that this is because of the fact that more people have gone to middle east and less number of people now move up to these pastures. It is therefore advisable for trekkers to bring porters from mainland Swat if possible.