18th September 2015 (Friday)….Dawar to Baramulla…200 km
After a fabulous sleep at TRC Dawar, got up quite early in the morning. A brief walk in the market and two cups of tea later, I decided to explore the area the other side of the river. There is a BSF checkpost on the far end of the bridge. They told me that tourists are not allowed to go on that side of the road. However, on my request I was allowed to go with the condition that I should return back after driving for few kilometers.
The drive was along the river and passed through a village. From the expression on the face of people I could guess that they were not used to seeing civilian cars in the area especially red colored with a PB registration number and a solo driver.
After returning back to the bridge and thanking the BSF men I drove towards Tulail Valley. The drive was all along beautiful Kishanganga river on its right bank. Driving under the shadow of huge Habba Khatoon mountain a few kilometer later, I crossed over to the left bank of the river.
Driving through the narrow passage, the valley opened up and widened near village Barnoi. The first village of Tulail is situated on the confluence of a nalla with river Kishanganga. The village looked quite big and had a dispensary. Met some very friendly young boys at the village and then drove further towards Purana Tulail.
An army jawan from west bengal took lift in the car. He told me that more than the threat of conflict with Pakistani army and infiltration, the tough terrain and vagaries of nature pose even a bigger threat. Most of the army camps are situated at the top of hills and there are frequent accidents while climbing up and descending down from these camps.
Young boys of the village were well educated. Most of them were happy with their lives. They did not have many grievances against the army like majority of people in Kashmir have. Infact they look up to army for help in case of any eventuality.
There was another army check post near the bridge in village Kashpot. The army jawan posted at the post asked me to stop but after noticing army jawan seated next to me, allowed me to proceed further.
One thing that distinguishes Tulail Valley from rest of the places is the unique architecture of wooden houses. In midst of mountain of different shapes and sizes, mostly changing their colour with sunlight, are situated the log houses of mud and brown colour. This, the locals say, is the identity of Tulail Valley.
The architecture, with logs of wood one over the other, is the same in villages of Tulail, some of which are situated atop the mountains while a few on the river banks. Endowed with meadows and mountains of green and brown tinge, the place makes a picture perfect postcard.
From Kashpot the road lies the barbedwire.
I dropped the army jawan at an army camp and continued driving further. I was stopped at another army check post and advised to go only till a bridge and then return. The road was pretty bad, loose dirt but dry. The road would be very tough during rains and snow. Pretty soon I reached an underconstruction bridge and knew that it was time to return.
People in this Valley have to encounter extremely tough living conditions, especially during the months of winter when it snows too heavily. The snowfall, according to locals, blocks their movement for almost six months.
On my way back I met a old man with young kid. I offered a candy to the young kid who jumped with joy and allowed me to click. It was wonderful seeing the boy jump with joy.
The village of Sheikhpora (Tulail) situated on the banks of river Kishanganga looked fabulous from a distance. The road to the village was steep descend which discouraged me from venturing down into it. Instead spent some good time on the road appreciating the beauty of the valley from a distance.
Another view of village Sheikh Pora, River Kishanganga and beautiful Tulail Valley.
It was time to click Lalpari parked near the Sheikhpora signboard registering its present in Tulail Valley. Not many of her compatriots gets the chance to be clicked at such a remote place with LOC hardly few kilometers on the right.
The houses in Gurez were mostly all wood houses. This one got my attraction as an army camp was right behind this house. Fluttering national flag can be seen in the picture.
The landscape of Tulail (Gurez) is just amazing. The River Kishanganga flows right through the valley before turning into Pakistan near Kanzalwan, where the river is called Neelum in Neelum Valley (Pakistan). The road in the picture is Dawar-Tulail road which extends to Dras (Kargil) connecting Kashmir with Ladakh. For the time being this road is not open for civilian movement as it lies just below the sensitive Indo-Pak actual Line Of Control (LOC). Army does allow tourists and the people of the area to drive up till a certain point keeping in view the current security situation.
I was lucky to be driving on this road that day and did hear loud sounds of shelling here where Lalpari is posing in the picture. I mistook it as a routine matter but later in the evening I heard on fm radio that a major encounter did take place near this place in the afternoon in which five intruders were killed by our army.
The road to Tulail is dilapidated. At several places, it seems to have been dug and left as such. The rocks and stones, of all shapes and sizes, are scattered in abundance around the way.
Gurez valley, situated at a height of about 8000 feet above sea level, is 5 kilometers long. The valley is extremely picturesque, as the river Kishanganga comes dashing along through a rich meadow, partly covered with lindens, walnuts and willow trees. The slopes of limestone mountains around are covered with thick fir and deodar forests.
Lalpari posing in the beautiful valley depicting the landscape and the road it was driving on.
It was beautiful afternoon sunshine, sky was azure blue, perfect time to click the legendary Habba Khatoon. The mountain is imposing and looms large almost everywhere in Gurez valley.
Habba Khatoon is the most formidable mountain of Gurez, around which legends abound. This pyramid shaped peak was named after the Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatoon. She was a beautiful and intelligent woman. She spent most of her time in poetry and singing. She used to wander near the peak looking for her lost lover.
Kishanganga River, known as Neelum River in Pakistan is a river with crystal bluish water originating from Krishna Sagar Lake near Sonmarg. The river is 245 kilometers long out of which 50 kilometers is in India and the rest is in Pakistan.
Lalpari posing in front of TRC Dawar at the time of leaving the beautiful Gurez Valley.
I left Dawar at around 3pm afternoon. Since I was not wanting to stay for the night at Bandipora, I decided to hurry up and reached Kanzalwan in an hour. Deposited xerox copy of my identity card with the army check post and reached Razdan pass in a jiffy. Took a break at Tragbal for tea and egg omelette. A policeman tried to play smart just before Bandipora but could not stand his ground for long and had to let me go.
By the time I reached Bandipora it was 7pm night pitch dark. At first I had planned to stay for the night at Watlab and spend morning exploring Wular Lake. However, did not like the feel of the place and continued driving further. Sopore looked like a busy place but some well wishers advised me not to stay in Sopore.
Reached Baramulla at around 8.30pm and found a parking place in a parking lot on the main road, passing through the town. Parked the car, put the covers on and slept inside the car. This is what I wrote on my facebook status that night:
“Sleeping inside the car parked at taxi stand, Baramulla…..enjoying ‘aap ki farmaish’ on vividh bharti”!!!