6th September 2015, Sunday….Day (6)Inshan-Margan Top-Vailoo-Daksum-Kokernag-Anantnag…165 km
Night was pretty cold at Inshan.
FRH Inshan is situated right at the entrance of the valley and the only road to the valley passes right in front of it. The forest department has put a barricade to control the movement out of the valley. Nomads with their herd of sheep, goat and mules kept Abdur Rahman awake throughout the night.
Still managed to have enough sleep to wake up fresh in the morning. Mohd Munawwar Lone, the cook brought noon chai with kashmiri bread.
Since there was no electricity and mobile connectivity I was not very keen on staying for another night in Inshan. I decided to cross margan top before noon and cover as much part of the valley as was possible before that as the high mountain passes tend to becomes difficult to cross after noon. So checked out of FRH early and drove towards Churaman taking the road before the bridge and along the left bank of Darya-e-Chenab.
There are 17 villages in warwan…Inshan, Marwah and Aftee being the most prominent ones. Inshan is the first village of the valley and has two accommodations. One, where I stayed, the forest rest house and the other a dak bungalow.
Army is stationed at Inshan. BSNL tower installed at Inshan was not operating properly. Most of the villages, however, are provided satellite phones. Television connectivity seemed good as I saw dish antennas on top of many houses in the valley.
There are four roads in the valley, two on the either side of the only motorable bridge on river Chenab. Most villages are situated along the river on both sides. The first road is the road through Margan top which is the only motorable link to the valley. The second road runs along the river before the bridge which continues for about 12 kilometers till village Churaman after crossing villages Uran and Bryn.
The road ends at Churaman and a bridge is under construction which would connect the remaining villages of this side of the valley. Sukhnai village, a base for trek to Zanskar Valley and also famous for views of Nun and Kun peaks also lies on this route.
The 12 kilometers road to the left after crossing the bridge goes to Aftee which is being developed as a model village and has the only 10+2 school in the valley. It also has a dispensary. The 30 kilometer road to the right after crossing the bridge leads to Marwan, another famous village of the valley. All these roads are best suited for a 4X4 vehicle.
Since I drove to village Aftee the previous evening I decided to drive to village Churaman first up in the morning. Soon an old man, Haji Wali Mohd Lone, waved and took lift in my car. He told me that many politicians including Chief Ministers have visited the valley and met him but almost all of them have disappointed the people of the valley.
Haji Saab asked me to park the car near his shop in Churaman and requested a young man, Aijaz Ahmed Koka to accompany me for a walk to the nearby meadow. Aijaz was a fine young man. He told me many things about the area. He told me how Amarnath Yatra was a boon for the people of the valley. Many people in the valley own mules and horses which give good employment opportunities to them during month long yatra.
Aijaz told me he follows cricket and knows about a player of the same name in Pakistan team. He told he has two wives and four children and living happily under the same roof. Their home has a solar powered battery and loves to watch television with the the entire family. He loves to work as a guide for the tourists and knows a lot about the beautiful pastures, meadows and lakes perched high up on the nearby hills.
I found the people of the area very warm, welcoming and helpful. Almost all of them offered me something or the other to eat or drink. However, They had lots of complaints against the govt. The two major problems they faced were unemployment and poverty.
The valley remains cut off from rest of the world for over eight months due to winter’s, snowfall and closure of the only road linking the valley. The area has vast potential for tourism. If the road network, mobile connectivity, electricity supply and other related infrastructure was improved there are good chances of improvement in the quality of people’s lives living in the valley.
On my way back I stopped for a while at village Bryn. Two young boys offered to take me to the Bryn meadows along the river chenab. On the way the boys plucked few ripe walnuts from low hanging walnut tree and offered me fresh nuts. They tasted real good. Soon I had my adrenaline rushing while crossing a locally built very dangerous trembling wooden bridge over furious Darya-e-Chenab.
The meadows of Bryn were as good as those of Churaman. While Churaman meadows had lot of trees, grass, the one at Bryn had lot of shrubberies and a fish pond. The shrubs were similar to the one’s I saw in Nubra valley in Ladakh full with ripe lehberrys. The pond of fish was devoid of any fish at this time of the year though.
There was still some time and my heart wanted to stay for some more time. So drove back, crossed the bridge and drove towards Marwah. Sky was overcast, some bakarwals were camping along the road on their way down from high mountain pastures. Drove till Nayapul and then returned back.
The road was all along beautiful river chenab. The villages on the way were neat and had few shops on the road. People were busy harvesting ripe crop. Women were seen carrying hay stacks on their backs.
Although I was enjoying, it was time to head back to mainland as I was missing internet and had not spoken to my wife for the last two days. So drove back slowly but steadily out of warwan. It was overcast and drizzling at times.
Progress way back was quite swift though. After about an hour or so I was at Margan Top, clicked few pictures and continued driving. At the army check post, id was checked again and name ticked off from the register
Reached the main road well in time. I wanted to visit Kokernag, Verinag and Achabal, which were all closeby. But the question was where to spend the night. Thinking all this soon I was in Kokernag, did not feel like stopping and continued driving, Achabal arrived but did not feel like staying there either.
So continued driving and reached Anantnag, locally called Islamabad. Evening had set in and it was pitch dark by then. First thing up, got the diesel filled up and started looking for suitable place for eating and sleeping.
Anantnag felt like a good happening city. Driving on the roads of Anantnag in the night I was feeling good, still was not able to decide where to stay for the night.
Someone suggested Khanabal. I found a good Punjabi veg dhaba run by a Sardar ji. Felt good, parked the car nearby, walked a little, ate something and when I came back, the dhaba was closed. I was in a fix again. Drove the car here and there and found a suitable place on the road to Anantnag Railway Station.
You know what’s the best thing to do when one is hesitant and in a fix…take few drinks and relax. That’s what I did. I already had had a great day and a great drive. The feeling was enhanced by the bacchus drink which took me to the heavenly abode and soon found myself snoring in deep reverie………..!!!