24 April 2014

Panjpir & Danoi, Kahuta, Pakistan

Just a handful of people in Islamabad know about this exciting hiking opportunity very near to them. Panjpir is the highest point of the Danoi Ridge in Kotli Sattian/Kahuta. It is called Panjpir because of a shrine it has at the top. Locals believe this was a place where five saints came and got settled. It is at an altitude of approximately 1800 meters. In winters the top gets a few feet of snow each year.

Danoi hike  starts from the Lehtrar rest house on the Lehtrar Road. This road links Islamabad to Bagh via Kotli Sattian. Total distance between Islamabad and Lehtrar town is around 40 Kilometers. Rest house is behind the petrol pump just a little ahead of the main bazaar. The hike starts behind this rest house and is actually an abandoned jeep road. In a couple of hours, this path reaches Danoi rest house while passing through a beautiful pine forest. Danoi rest house Is at an approximate altitude of 1300 meters.


If you have lesser time, another option is to skip the first part and start the hike right from Danoi rest house itself where a metalled road joins from Lehtrar. To reach rest house on a vehicle, follow the Lehtrar road for a further few kilometers towards Kotli Sattian till a place called as ThunMorr from where a road turns right towards Baba Sain Matka Sharif shrine in Kamra. There is also a sign board indicating this shrine. Total traveling distance from Islamabad to Danoi rest house is around 60 kilometers. If you are coming on your own vehicle, you can park it here. Tell the rest house guards to take care of it, and they will do it well. The rest house was built in 1928 and is right in the middle of the beautiful pine forest. You can also spend the night here through an advanced booking from the forest department office near Sawan station, Rawalpindi but they are generally reluctant to entertain people without reference.

Just a few steps from the rest house, there will be many paths climbing upwards. You can take any of these which will cross the road at a few points before joining it back. Road can also be skipped if one continues to climb up a little towards right to reach the ridge.  One can also spot some arrows for the directions which are marked by ASG but they are getting diminished with time. Continuing with the shortcuts and the road, the road turns into a rough jeep track. Soon, you will be able to see Murree and Patriata on your left towards west. Enjoying the pine forest and the beautiful views hike trek offers, you will reach a place where there are big boulders stretched over a large area. This part is the specialty of this trek. Nowhere else in the whole region, you will find anything like this. It is not just these large stretched boulders, throughout the trek you will notice large rocks of very unique size and structure. These rocks are also very tempting from rock climbing point of view however I am not sure if anyone has ever attempted them. At some places they offer a scary vertical drop of rock with a height of more 100-200 ft. Continuing on the trail will take you to Panjpir  which can be spotted from the distance by a large junk of jumbled up trees on the top. If one keeps walking along the edge and skip the road turning right, towards the shrine, one can reach the end of ridge with a nice view point from where river Jehlum can also be seen. Total travel time from Danoi to this place or the shrine is 2-3 hours. On clear days, from the top, you can see Makra and other mountains of Kaghan area on your north while different peaks of Kashmir are visible on the east.


From Panjpir, you can walk down back to Danoi if you have your vehicle parked there. Otherwise, another option is to drop down on the other side towards East to the Jhelum river through Nar. This path ends at Azad Pattan where a bridge links Azad Kashmir to this part of Punjab over river Jehlum. Public transport can be taken from Azad Pattan that will reach Islamabad in around 90 minutes via Kahuta and Sihala. Though it seems much less from the top, the trek on the way down takes around 3-4 hours.