Qadar Banda: A New Dose to Natural Beauty

By: Dr. Jawad Iqbal
(Dr. Jawad Iqbal is a social activist, Chairman at Innovative Youth Forum and executive member of Waadi Swat)

Rising to an elevation of 8242 feet, Qadar Mountain is a lofty summit and one of the highest peaks in the Cascades that can be hiked. With a trail-head at 6500 feet, much sweat needs to be expended to reach Qadar’s Banda grassy wide-open summit. Centerpiece to the highlands sharing its name, Qadar Banda hovers over a windswept world of flower-bursting meadows and delicate alpine at the extreme eastern reaches of the Cascades. Once the domain of solitary sheepherders, Qadar Banda is now ready to host intrepid hikers and solitude seekers.
Qadar Banda is one of the unexplored eye-catching meadows situated at a distances of 6.1 miles from Fazal Banda Matta Swat, Interestingly it is at a distance of 16432 steps from Fazal Banda, Fazal Banda is at a distance of 43 km from Mingora City. Beginning at Fazal Banda Pass, Trail on the left side (straight trail leads to Jarogo waterfall) takes off up Swatai Ridge through a forest singed by wildfires in the summer of 2017. By July the trail is lined with lupine, providing a purple pathway to the prominent peak. Arnica, daisies, and groundsell add golden touches.
After about 1.5 miles of gentle climbing, forest yields to flower-filled meadows punctuated with patches of krummholz (densely matted trees stunted by wind and snow). Swaying grasses and sedges engulf the dwarfed and contorted clumps of fir and pine. Lift your eyes from the bonsai forests and golden lawns and note Hawar Sar (Staright meadows) cone coming into view. 

The trail skirts beneath it, traversing the mountain’s wide-open southern slopes and arriving at a junction at 2.5 miles (elev. 7700 ft). Turn left, following light tread 0.5 mile to reach the heavens. Locals told that decades before Hawar Sar was a place for Sanda Mela (Sanda Mela is a local Pashto term attributed to Bullfighting, which is a physical contest that generally involves Bulls attempting to publicly subdue, immobilize, or kill a bull, usually according to a set of rules, guidelines, or cultural expectations. Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice in different parts of the world).
At this lofty altitude, the elements can be extreme, making it quite welcoming for plants to survive. The alpine flora has adapted well, taking refuge behind weather-beaten boulders and in small protective depressions. Particularly striking are clusters of juniper clinging to lichen-encrusted rocks and outcrops.
Rope support during the hiking when we last our way to Qadar Banda 

Now, lift your nose ‘up from the ground once more. It’s time to take in the horizon-spanning views from “Jaabay” airy summit. In every direction an inspiring landscape unfolds. To the north are a panorama of Spin Sar peaks, the Hira Sar, and Spin Sar Snowy Mountain, and 1000 feet directly below is a little tarn in a stark cirque. Look south over high rolling ridges out toward Loup Pass and the Beaver Meadow country. To the east the Banr Panghaley bake in the sun. And west, the Kandaw Sar crowd the skyline. It’s a pretty big payoff for such a moderate effort. Kandaw Sar is on the top to the west which is the border of Swat and Dir and is connected to village Warai and Usherai Dara. 
Kadaw Sar: Three Trees in the middle is border edge of Swat and Dir, Swat is on the left side and Dir is on the right side.. 

Locals of Fazal Banda, Biha and Tangar told that this was the way they used during the previous insurgency for food and medicines. Thousands of people also migrated through this route to Dir and secured peaceful places during the operation Rah-I Nijat. A local Abdul Raziq told that he had crossed this route 11 times in two months and provides medicines to her sister, who served as a Doctor, who were in village and provide support to the inhabitants during military operation.

Qadar Banda is half mile below from the Kandaw sar which offers pictures of the meadow with a forest all around it. Running on the east side is a dreamy stream and the sky-punching mountains soaring in the background. An abundance of wild foods grow here as the climate is mild cold lush and springy. 
The burgeoning green of the meadow in July was gloriously lush, radiant really. I searched for enough descriptive words to distinguish the greens I saw—emerald and viridian; olive, pea and lime; verdigris and malachite. I became giddy surrounded by robust greenery. Indeed, it was a green felicity, and the trials and doldrums of winter disappeared with the exhilaration I felt watching emerging blades, herbs, and shoots. 

As the meadow’s growth flourished, we kept track of the succession of plants. Golden coins of flowering dandelions carpeted the new grass for a week before fluffing into white globes of seed- carrying filaments. The grasses grew taller. Buttercups and blue flag iris colored the meadow with gold and purple, and daisies added their white blooms. 
Grasses began to bud. Grass holds its highest energy content, that is, the most digestible dry matter, at this stage in its growth. Once bloom comes, nutritional values drop. However, the variety of grasses growing in the meadow do not bloom at the same time, and the mix of other hay plants, including clovers, vetch and alfalfa are best left to see all the time. 
We tried to identify as many kinds of grasses as we could. I examined the flower clusters with their delicate spikelet as they opened. We found a rest house cum mosque on the left side of the meadow and decided to rest and have our lunch over there. 
The local shepherds welcomed us and guided us to the mosque. One of the kid welcomed us with yogurt shake. It was really delicious. Two of our friends reside there and started BBQ while rest of us tighten our shoes and left for Kandaw Sar which is the border of Swat and Upper Dir which leads to Usherai Dara.

One of the local Gul Zada leads us to Kandaw Sar and shared with us the exciting stories. He told that many times the local have seen leopards and bears. The jungle is filled with monkeys. The place is quite safe of snake due to the cold temperature. 

We have crossed many peaks and reached at last to Kandaw Sar which offered some amazing views. Gul Zada sung some local songs with his flute and relaxed us.
We decided to go back to our friends where all was set for BBQ. We were feeling cold which might be laughable at the mid of July. Our friend light some fire in the local incendiary. 
A shepherd told us that the place (mosque) was built 280 years ago by our elders. The handmade crafted art work on the pillars was amazing and worth to see.
We all were no doubt hungry and a friend of us called us for lunch. We enjoyed the scrumptious food with some more exciting stories. We decided to go back and left back for Fazal Banda.
The way to Qadar Banda offers some really amazing stuff including a unique fish found in the ponds called Chakya, white edible mushrooms like button mushrooms and minerals rich veg called Ladoray. Interestingly we have enjoyed that all in our dinner with our host Muhammad Adnan in his home.
The exploration of our new touristic spot ends with some unforgettable memories. It is worth to remember that do not forget a jacket, rain coat and all other requirements for hiking. You may also need roof which can help you to climb some steeply rocks.

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