Check the Weather forecast when Flying:Honestly, no one told us... and in our excitement to actually get to Chitral, it didn't even occur to us to check the Weather. It only slapped us straight in our face waiting for the flight at 6am at the Islamabad airport and finally heading home disappointed. From then on Pak Met was our best friend. Do rely on it if you're Chitral, Gilgit or bound anywhere up North, we found it to be super accurate... Our flight was delayed for 3 days owing to clouds and rain on the way to Chitral something that personally we could have avoided. However, once we finally did get on board, it was one of the most pleasant and scenic flights Ive taken in an ATR.
Costing approximately 8k per person the North bound flights are not confirmed till the day before when you recieve a call from a polite PIA executive confirming your booking. This however, does NOT confirm if the flight will actually take off or not as this decision is made by the Captain only 15 mins before the take off time. So there is no avoiding the airport unless you have been weatherwise in planning the booking to begin with.
|Chitral Airport - Stock Image|
Given that we had decided to travel to Chitral in April, we got rain forecast for the next 3 days on our way back also. Determined not to suffer the same fate as we did coming, we decided to head back by road. While the 10 hour drive to Islamabad is not considered the safest, we personally didn't experience any issues on our way back and from what we hear neither did the foreign visitors who decided to brave it the day after we left. Here is how you go about it, in case you decided to brave it:
- Leg 1 of the Journey Chitral to Dir. Make sure you rent a solid land cruiser for this one. While most of the road to Dir is paved, about 2 hours before and after the Lowari Tunnel will give you a good shake. Also because the Lowari tunnel is still under constructionand lacks ventilation, you need a car with good air conditioning and windows that can be rolled up to avoid diesel fumes from the cars and trucks ahead.
Lowari Tunnel, Pakistan's longest Tunnel at 8.75km, only needs to be crossed IF the Lowari pass is closed. If you're travelling in Summer the Lowari pass in all likelihood will be open and you won't need to suffer 40 mins of bumpy, unventilated tunnel drive. Do check the status of the pass before you head out. Also, the Lowari Tunnel only opens for a window of 3 hours to allow traffic through, most local drivers will be aware of the timings but no harm in checking once again.
|Lowari Tunnel - Stock Photo|
|Lowari Tunnel in Winter - Stock Photo|
Leg 2 Dir - Islamabad: About 45 minutes after crossing Lowari Tunnel you will find yourself at PTDC motel Dir. If you're staying at Hindukush Heights in Chitral, the staff as in our case will help you organize another car from hereon. If not, it is still highly recommended that this arrangement be made before leaving Chitral. The car in our case was already waiting when we arrived at the PTDC Motel.
|Passing by Dir|
Luckily the road from here on is fully paved and the journey unlike the moutains before green and scenic. The drive through the Dir despite being one of the most conservative areas in the country is throughly pleasing. Given our unfamiliarity with the territory, we decided not to make any pitstops in this area till we neared Mardan.
I personally felt more comfortable wearing a head scarf as I drove through this area, primarily because once doesn't want to stand out in an area full of shuttlesock burqa clad pathan women.From Mardan we got on to the Motorway which saw us through to Islamabad in roughly 90 mins - 120 mins.
Would I repeat this journey? perhaps not, I'd much rather check the Weather and fly wisely... but if you do have to make it... it does have its own Charm. A Return PIA Ticket from Chitral, costs approximately 8k per person and this drive cost us approximately 18k one way having chosen to have gone in the most safe/comfortable cars available. While travelling by a Bus might sound like a more economical plan to most, I wouldn't recommend the Lowari experience in a Bus.