After an early morning departure we drive across the Shomali Plain north of Kabul. The Shomali Plain is approximately 30km wide, 80km long. This area was once known for its fertile land & rich water source, and used to supply the residents of Kabul with all kinds of fruits, and the vineyards were known for more then 36 different types of grapes. Today the Shomali Plain lies largely in ruins due to the destruction done by the Soviet invasion and subsequent fighting between the Taliban and the United Front. But bit by bit you will see houses being built and children playing in this once great fruit basket of Kabul. As we drive to city of Charikar we will stop and have an early lunch in a Afghan “Chay Khana” (Teahouse). After lunch we will be retracing a trail which centuries be- fore was part of the ancient Silk Road.
We will take the north route into the Shibar Pass which is 3285m above sea-level. The Shibar Pass is part of the ancient Silk route that has brought Buddhist pilgrims among others into the Bamiyan region. The first thing you will notice is the altitude, and how high we will be going instantly. The Shibar Pass represents the watershed of the Indus and Oxus river systems and you will start to see a series of gorges & valley, an idyllic picnic area, which will become wide and more fertile as we descend down the steep Shi- bar Valley into the Bamiyan Region. The scenery is something that takes the breaths of everyone away as we driver to Bamiyan. We will stop along the way for some photo taking opportunity, refreshments, speak to the locals and not forgetting have some mul- berry fruits that are grown all around the valley. After an 8 hours drive into Bamiyan we will have dinner in a guest house, relax & spend the night in a guesthouse with majestic views of the Hindu Kush mountain range in the background.
We awake in one of the most historical provinces of Afghanistan “Bamiyan”. One of the most inter- esting things you will see is the local ethnic group that predominates the area: The Hazaras. The Hazaras have mainly Mongoloid origins with some Caucasoid mixture. It is believed that the Hazaras are descendants of Genghis Khan’s army, they are also believed to be descendants of the Koshanis who ruled Afghanistan around 40 – 220AD. Under their rule Buddhism as well as trade to and from Central Asia flourished.
After breakfast we will visit the Bamyan Buddhas, which were built in the 5th Century by Buddhist monks in a classic blending of Greek & Buddhist art and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban. Even though the Great Buddhas are gone, it is still an impressive sight and can be seen clearly across the Bamyan Valley.
We will visit and explore the surrounding cliffs, which are dotted with caves containing carvings & frescos of the bygone Buddhist past. The niches are still very impressive, with complex of caves going up as high as 40m, we will still be able to see some frescos remaining on the wall. Many of the caves, however, have been torched and all that remains are blackened walls. We then have lunch or an Afghan style picnic before we move on to Shahr-i-Gholghola (City of Screams). In the 13th century the city’s 150,000 population was massacre by the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan to avenge the murder of his fa- vourite grandson. We then move on to the Valley of the Dragon (Darya Ajdahahar) which is about 3km from the Buddhas. There is a massive rock formation, one of the most remarkable natural sight that you will see. It is alleged by the locals to be the remains of a dragon that persecuted the villagers until Hazrat Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, killed it. The Dragon lies with a 300m crack on it head that has been bleeding ever since in a form mineral water pouring out from springs at the north end.
Another early start before a three-hour journey takes us to the extraordinary chain of lakes at Band-I-Amir. We will stop at a chaykhana (Tea house). They are astonishingly beautiful – the colour varies from tur- quoise to deep blue-black. Do not assume that photographs of the lakes have been touched up.
The waters of the lakes are tinted by mineral salts in their springs thereby producing these amazing colours. The lakes are themselves craters of volcanoes & the scenery is simply remarkable.
In all there are 5 lakes in the area and the mineral waters of Band-i-Haibat (Dam of Awe) are reputed to have miraculous healing properties, many pilgrims visit and bathe in the waters.
We spend time hiking around the lakes.