6th September 2015 (Sunday)….Inshan to Anantnag…165 km
It was a cold night at Inshan. FRH Inshan is situated right at the entrance of the valley and the only road to the valley passes right besides it. The department has put a barricade out there to check the movement of all means of transport out of the valley. The movement of nomads with their herd was a constant affair which kept Abdur Rahman awake throughout the night. Still I managed to have enough sleep to wake up fresh in the morning. Mohd Munawwar Lone, the cook, quickly brought noon chai with kashmiri bread. Both these people Abdur Rahman and Mohd Munawwar took real care of me.
Since there was no electricity and mobile connectivity in the valley I was not keen on staying for another day in Inshan. I decided to cross margan top before noon and cover as much part of the valley as was possible before that as high mountain passes becomes difficult to cross after noon. So checked out of FRH early and drove towards Churaman taking road before the bridge and along the left bank of Dariya-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, have been provided with satellite phones. There seem to be a good television connectivity 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 of the 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 here 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 at Inshan 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 waved me for lift. He was Hazi Wali Mohd Lone, a shopkeeper and a wise old man. He told me lot of things about the valley, its people and the problems being faced by them. 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.
Hazi saab told me to park my car near his shop in village Churaman and requested a young man, Aijaz Ahmed Koka to accompany me for walk to the nearby meadows. 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 childern and living happily under the same roof. He has a solar powered batteries and loves to watch television with the entire family. He loves to work as a guide for the tourists and knows a lot about 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. They had lots of complaints however and most of them were against the govt. The two major problems they faced are 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 men 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 crossing a locally built very dangerous trembling wooden bridge over furious chenab river.
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 the drive and everything it was time to head back to the mainland as I was missing internet connectivity and has not spoken to my wife for the last two days. Normally we talk twice a day. So I could not afford another day without mobile connectivity. So drove back slowly but steadily out of warwan. It was still overcast and drizzling at times. So there weren’t many photography opportunities. Therefore progress way back was quite swift. Soon I found myself at margan top, clicked few pictures and continued driving. At the army check post, id was checked again and name ticked in the register
Reached main road in between Daksum and Vailoo well in time. Now the question was where to spend the night. I wanted to visit Kokernag spring and garden which closes in the evening and also Verinag and Achabal. 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 Islamabad (Anantnag). Evening had set in and it was pitch dark now. First thing up, got the diesel tanked 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 a little and soon found the dhaba 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!!!