Fresh air, bluish water, greeny Margalla hills and a place surrounded by ruins which dates back to 4th century CE; Yes, you are at Khanpur. Stepping out of the hectic city routine and traveling for seven long hours; you could have not ask for a better place which was so peaceful. Soon, all the peace, remoteness and silence of this place was going to overrun when the team Arbisoft conquered the place for their annual summer trip 2016.
Early morning view of Khanpur Dam & the tent city.
Completed in 1983, 51 meters (167 feet) high Khanpur Dam, located 40KM away from the Islamabad on the Haro River. The water of the Dam is an important source of water supply to Taxila, Haripur and Islamabad. Water is transferred through tunnels to filtration plants and then to the corresponding cities. Number of activities for tourists at Khanpur Dam makes it as an important visiting place especially during summers.
Reaching Khanpur is easy. When coming from Rawalpindi just before Taxila underpass; a road turns right and leads to the Khanpur Dam. Famous historical places of Gandhara Civilization which includes Jaulian, Sirkap and Taxila Museum come in the way to Khanpur Dam.
It all started pretty soon after the welcome drinks, when the first event “Raft Building” took place. We were cheering with joy which gave an end to the peace and quiet of the place. Members were divided into four teams, each of which had to build a raft, race it and finally unassemble it. Whoever does first, wins. The whistle gave everyone a Go-Race call which started the competition. Everyone was jumping and cheering for their team and it never felt anyone was exhausted by that long travel.
Team-4 group photo before competition
Team-2 breifing before compitation
Build-A-Raft: Team-3 (L) and Team-2 (R)
Team4 managed a narrow escape over Team2 when they got so close to overrun them. In the end they were the ones who won the competition with all the applause.
Trekking to Bhamala Village
Trek to Bhamala village
People who were into trekking, decided to take an 8KM round trip to Bhamala village. More than 500 priceless ancient artifacts are uncovered from this village including a Maha Puri Nirvana (death of Buddha) statue measuring 14 meters in length. The history of this village can be traced back to 2,000 years. Some of the main discoveries were found to be damaged due to earlier illegal excavation. “The most remarkable discovery from Bhamala was the Maha Puri Nirvana statue. It is the largest such example found in the Gandhara civilization,” said Mr. Paveez & Mr. Waqar (Owners of Gandhara Castle Resort).
Few drowned places in the Dam
The trek follows the base of the Marghalla hills with Haro River flowing on the other side. It passes through a remote patch before ending at Bhamala village. There are many spots where one can sit, relax and admire the beauty of the River while the hills stand right above it. The round trip can be completed in 2 - 2.5 hours easily.
Trekking to Bhamala village
Buddhist stupa in Bhamala
The Death Scene of Buddha statue measuring 14m
Ancient archeological discoveries at Bahmala
Ancient archeological discoveries at Bahmala
Cricket with locals at Bhamala
Splendid view along Haro River, Khanpur Dam
It was almost evening while getting back and you could expect splendid views during the sunset. There was scenic beauty all-the-way which kept us going.
Sunset view along Haro River, Khanpur Dam
“This trek is recommended if you want to explore some history and want to spend some time with yourself. It was undoubtedly the greatest experience in our trip”.
Rappelling was a daring and challenging experience altogether. The first step, the feeling of letting go and trusting on just the two support ropes required a lot of guts.
Rappelling - A challanging experience
“We did rappelling from a height of 60 feet, enjoyed it so much that I did it again the next day and the instructor praised that I did better than last time. I am not scared of heights so looking down while rappelling was an amazing feeling and was worth every minute of it. Would definitely like to do it again but in a more challenging situation.” Ayesha shared her experience.
Masjid Rajgan (1872)
Just a 20min walk from the Gandhara Castle Resort, Masjid Rajgan is located on the edge of Khanpur Dam reservoir. The historical Masjid was built by Raja Sultan Jehandad Khan in 1872. The structure of the Masjid is still in good shape but at the same time it is neglected and abandoned by the local people. “People occasionally gather here for Eid prayers, but it is not in daily use.” Locals explained.
Patch leading to Masjid Rajgan
Masjid Rajgan 1872
When the Khanpur Dam was built in late 70s the people of Khanpur migrated to the present day Khanpur by leaving the Masjid and their homes behind. Although Masjid Rajgan stands tall but lack of maintenance and the ignorance of authorities are indicating it will not last for too long.
Side view of Masjid Rajgan 1872
View of Masjid Rajgan from boat
Mid-night caving; a spooky yet tremendous experience. I had watched caving episodes over National Geography plenty of times but had never thought I would get to experience it myself. When we were heading towards the place, I had built up my imagination of Khewra mines alike cave because I was unsure what I was about to experience. On the way; the instructor started giving us instructions about how we should walk through it. His opening statement, “Caving; (a dramatic pause) not an easy job. (again a dramatic pause) Your one tiny mistake could take your friend’s life”; took our breaths. He told us that we were not supposed to shout or haste while inside, as it might cause rocks to fall on us. We hiked up the mountain to the cave opening under moonlight, turned our headlights on and took a deep breath to begin the journey. We were around 20 people with two instructors; one leading us and guiding through the passage and each one of us was supposed to pass on his message behind us. It was funny as we were playing Chinese whisper in unusual surroundings. The passage was slippery, damp with rain water; rocky, full of bat shit (ughhh) and of course bats flying over our heads, very narrow at places that we had to push our bodies through it. The cave was half way deep down the mountain and the next half started to open back up to the opening. While at its deepest depth, I had an awful thought, what would happen if earthquake comes, I am too young to die blinking eyes. Oh My! that was the craziest thought but I managed to shook it off my head, it was not the time to panic. I could tell that we were close to the opening as I felt the fresh air against my face. That was the most pleasant feeling; the feeling of survival through something crazy. Reaching back on top; we shouted out loud “Yayee! we made it through” and the sound echoed through the dark mountains." Wajeeha shared her experience.
One other interesting activity at Khanpur dam was cliff diving. Take a 15 min boat ride from Gandhara Resort to reach the spot for cliff diving. For a non-swimmer this could be a challenging task which make you nervous once you know the facts about water depth. During the high tide, the water level can go as deep as 65 feet. You have to run from couple of yards and JUMP. The training team being present in River and participants were wearing life jackets wasn’t enough unless you get have “last-second-courage” which no one could provide you, but yourself.
Cliff Diving, Khanpur Dam
Cliff Diving, Khanpur Dam
“It took me a couple of minutes before I finally decided to go for it. When I took the jump, I was totally blank, the feeling I can't explain in my words. For an instance I thought everything has finished, vanished and there is nothing left. When I gathered my senses I found myself in the water yelling with joy then I knew it was over. It was awesome & marvelous experience and I am so glad that I was able to do that. I tried the jump twice and would definitely try to experience again. Highly recommended.” Attiya shared her experience.
Reflections over the Khanpur Lake
Unforgettable sunset view over Khanpur Dam
There were also number of other activities like Jet-Ski, Shooting and Archery which participants actively took part. The overall experience of the thrilling trip was amazing and everyone felt excited about it. Time flew so fast at Khanpur and then the time came when everyone had to leave on Sunday afternoon. Everyone had their own memorable events of trip, but for me, the sunset over Khanpur Dam was unforgettable when the sun seemed to be a disc of gold. The reflections on the water and the unhindered view created variety of colors and that scene will always remind me of Khanpur Dam.