MINGORA: Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Swat State in 1961 rightly called it the Switzerland of the East as Swat is an abode of high mountains, green meadows, tall waterfalls and clear lakes.
The valley offers every luxury to nature lovers and adventure seekers, however, to explore its over 50 glacial lakes one has to trek on the narrow bends and steep cliffs.
Among them Godar Dhand is one of the most beautiful lakes, located in Kalam Valley. With a height of 12,565 feet above sea level, reaching the lake requires mental strength and endurance because the trail is not only dangerous but also exasperating.
"When I started trekking to Godar lake with my friends I was happy but my excitement vanished when I saw a steep rock with a wooden ladder and a dangerous rock where one has to use all fours like a monkey. However, I collected strength of heart and mind and climbed it," says Abdul Rauf Khan, a resident of Mingora who reached the lake after trekking for nine hours.
He says there is a beautiful vast pasture known as Jabba halfway to the lake with a stream of crystalline water flowing in a zig-zag manner and hundreds of animals grazing.
"There is serenity and natural beauty on the pasture. From there we climbed another rocky hill and reach the lake after covering a 3 hours distance," he says.
About the wooden ladder on a steep rock in the middle of the trail to Godar, Shehla Anjum, a Pakistani American writer who lives in Alasaka says, "I think this is the kind of ladder that the Chinese monk Faxian also writes about in his book about his journey, and how he used a ladder to get down to the Indus River to cross it, as he made his way toward Uddiyana (Swat)."
"This is an ancient design Faxian used this kind, or a similar ladder, way back in the early years the 5th century," she tells Dawn.
Javed Ahmad a resident of Kalam who loves to explore the alpine lakes in Swat Kohistan says majority of people who wanted to see the lake turned back due to its long and dangerous trail.
"About 90 percent residents of Kalam have also not seen this lake. There is a chain of lakes after this lake as it starts from Godar to Dararro lake, Zahro lake, Tor Dhand or Black lake, Spin Khwar lake and the chain ends with Kandol lake," he says.
Of the over 50 lakes, Bashigram Lake is the most majestic.
The glacial lake is located in the alpine zone of Bashigram Valley near Madyan. Reaching a height of 11,500 feet Bashigram is a perfect spot to satisfy "summit fever" of adventure lovers.
Tariq Aziz, a regular mountain climber sitting along the lake enjoying serenity of the site, says that he finds respite from the struggles of the routine life by seeing here alpine peaks, glaciers and peaceful nature.
The enchanting Bashigram Lake can be reached after five to seven hours trekking from Kas village after traversing outstanding panoramic views and beautiful mud-made hamlets now and then.
"We reached the incredibly charming alpine lake by trekking along the gushing stream, thick forest and some mysterious but attractive hamlets on the trail. Emerald coloured lake silhouetted against the blue sky has wow factor in it while the mountains around it giving a look of high wall," says Fazlullah a trekker from Manglore village,
He added that trekkers who come here must spend atleast two nights to properly take in the rich scenery.
Haji Badar a guide from Kas village says that the lake is not only popular with Pakistani trekkers but also among international tourists. "Last week I came with a couple from UK who seemed much impressed with the spot. They said the lake was one of the most beautiful in the world," he says.
However, some trekkers were sad to see plastic bottles in the lake and they urged visitors not to pollute the natural beauty.
— All photos by author.