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Old 8th September 2012, 11:14   #106
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

ADC, great going. Do you have the GPS tracks of your journey?
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Old 8th September 2012, 15:32   #107
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Dawar, Gurez, to Tarabal, the last village on the Izmarg side of Gurez via Kanwalzan


Today we are exploring the other side of Gurez, the Baghtore side of Gurez. No GPS data so wikimapia and the position of Tarabal, near LOC beyond Baghtore meadows and village. The road is via the fork of Kanwalzan.

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Today was a cloudy day and after a breakfast at Sikander hotel we move on to Dawar side LOC villages

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Brilliant colours of fall at Gurez

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The caretaker of Gurez JK TRC had a talk with the Commanding Officer, asking for permission if we can get to one of their forward posts and have a look at the bunkers of Pakistan on the other side! and he did get that permission!!

So excited we all were going toward that forward post near Dawar, Gurez, to have a peek at the forward posts of Pakistan just the other side of LOC.

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Overcast clouds made me click this B/W. - a village en route to the LOC forward post

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The track left behind.

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We reach there, show our permit from the Commanding Officer and are taken up to the soldiers manning and always keeping an eye on the Pakistan bunkers. This forward post is under the valiant Gorkhas - only picture of course allowed was this at the guest book sign place. But then we had seen the forwards posts of Pakistan, another great event of this travel.
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Gurez is known for infiltration and skirmishes and this area had a huge encounter some 2 months before our visit. [ http://articles.timesofindia.indiati...d-alert-troops ]


Back now at Dawar we are accompanied by a relative of the caretaker, Mr Ghulam Mohd. Lone. We take the road back towards the Kanwalzan fork for villages of Izmarg, Baghtor and the last village of Tarabel

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We cross the Baghtore meadows, but since it was drizzling did not click much. Anyway on return back tomorrow we can cover again - just hoping the sun shines tomorrow.

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Beyond Izmarg and Baghtor, is the last village of Tarabal on this side of LOC
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The road ends at Tarabel very near the LOC

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Now our caretaker's relative, who is also from this Baghtore area, requests and insists on visiting their home and having lunch.

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and the reception and the openness that we got there was overwhelming.

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And after a great time spent among some of the most common but most welcoming people from the post interior parts of Kashmir, it is time to say bye to these wonderful people.

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Back towards Dawar again via Kanwalzan

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The newly constructed TRC, it was just inaugurated a few months ago and even the Srinagar tourism reception guys had informed us before going that it has not been completed yet. But then if we had listened to them, we missed many a land, people and travel.

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A great dinner of Rogan josh again at Sikander hotel and of course the care that we got from them everyday has been astounding.
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contd...

Last edited by adc : 8th September 2012 at 15:55.
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Old 8th September 2012, 19:20   #108
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Dawar, Gurez - Baghtore meadows - Razdhan Pass - Bandipora - Kupwara -- approx 250 km


October 21, 2011 on a clear day again we start our big journey towards Kupwara via Bandipora. Kupwara will be our halt as we explore more of Lolab and then Bangus

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Seen here is Mr Ghulam Mohd. Lone, the ever caring personnel of JK tourism under whom is the Gurez TRC

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And the Sikander Hotel of Dawar who saw to us that we are fed with delicious dinner everyday of our stay out here

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And soon on the return journey and again taking the turn at Kanwalzan we reach the Baghtore meadows. It was absolutely brilliant weather today unlike the rain yesterday

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Brilliant Baghtore meadows...
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And we move around happily, we don't care about time or anything - having a big journey to Kupwara still left and don't even know where we will stay. But then advance planning has never been my forte!

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After some 45 mts spent over there, we finally again take the road towards Bandipora via Razdan Pass -> the only way to enter and exit Gurez by road

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And again and again we stop... beautiful is an understatement

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Finally again at Razdhan Pass. It closes during the winter months

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And leave the land of magnificent Gurez... we will be back again someday for sure

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Peer Baba is located on the Bandipora-Gurez road, we skipped while going to Dawar.

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It's an inter-faith meeting place and it is said all wish comes true over here, and ...
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Promptly son asked 3 things for Peer Baba for this upcoming birthday in December, which again he is not supposed to say out to anyone. Till now around 2 has come true for him, is waiting for the third wish to be fructify!

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Again we spend some time over here, there was some spiritual calmness over here. Have a beautiful video with Muslim soldiers offering namaz on one side and the views from Peer baba. The soldiers over there were pleasantly surprised to see us, offered us puri breakfast and of course much needed tea.


Mr and Mrs ADC, clicked by Master ADC - at Peer Baba Army camp on the Bandipora-Gurez road

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And the downhill journey towards Bandipora continues as we evening comes around... we dont have much time, have to make it before night fall at Kupwara and fix up a place to stay

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Back at Bandipora, I park outside the police station, to acknowledge and say thanks to the young Kashmiri ASP who helped us so much for that permit of Gurez and beyond. He was in a meeting so just informed his staff that we have come back safely and are heading towards Kupwara now, some 70 km away, for Lolab and Bangus side. Here we meet a policeman who has come from Kupwara to do some official work. He was returning back to Kupwara by bus but then seeing we were going he took a lift with us.


As I say time and time again and has happened to all our travels till now, someway or other comes a person who is like God sent. With him on board we head towards Kupwara.


On towards Kupwara from Bandipora with the policeman who took a lift with us and was going back to his own village just on the outskirts of Kupwara
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Tried our luck at TRC Kupwara but was denied as still the interiors were not done.

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The policeman then directs us to the circuit house, talks with the head chowkidar, and manages a room a the circuit house of Kupwara. A brilliant coincidence of meeting him at Bandipora and all our problems of stay gets solved --- it was already late evening. As of 2011 there was no good hotel in Kupwara.

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The off-duty policeman who went that extra mile to see that we get a place of stay in Kupwara -- he had even said, dont worry - he even offered his house for stay if nothing would have come up. Time and again in our travels whether be at Ladakh or Arunachal or Chhattisgarh, there comes a person in most unexpected times..

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It has become cloudy again and it rains all through night, we retire early after a filling dinner

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But then no one's complaining... a preview of our next day's journey -we get snow !!
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contd...

Last edited by adc : 8th September 2012 at 19:48.
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Old 9th September 2012, 09:55   #109
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Thumbs up Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

ADC,

What an amazing journey this is! Dangerous one too. And great efforts to show this unseen land to all of us. Your attempt to show us the life along the LOC and the love and freindship shared by the locals is so pleasing to the heart and reiterates the beliefs that love is beyond borders and religion.

I belive the journies like these remove the barries, mindsets in the people and bring them together.

Hats off to you and a big thanks once again.


5*'s from my end.

Sincerely,
Manjunath
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Old 9th September 2012, 13:00   #110
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

ADC,

I'm guilty of lurking on this thread (and other logs of yours). So due apologies first up. Even though, I'd like to say we share for the love of it, response and appreciation is also very much required and for the effort you put into sharing these journeys with us there needs to be more of it on this thread.

Also, what I think happened to this thread was that once it lost its momentum in the first innings people stopped keeping track of it. That's an inevitable problem in the dynamics of a bulletin board with a massive body of content regularly churning through it.

Secondly, at least for me, your trips are a treat that needs to be consumed by the morsel, unlike what I often do with other threads that I skip-read. I like to read your threads when I can dedicate time to it.

In any case, please don't stop posting here. You are being read and read with a lot of pleasure!
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Old 9th September 2012, 20:34   #111
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Anirban, Absolutely agreed with Codelust, don't judge the value of this thread by number of responses, I am too spell bound to share my words of appreciation. I don't have enogh adjective to describe this thread but just like my last year Demchok/Chumur trip, my forthcoming Kashmir trip would also be inspired from your log.

Please keep going, I am checking this thread almost in every hour
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Old 11th September 2012, 14:50   #112
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Kupwara - Thregram - Chokibal - Mar Sari - Drangyari - Nastachinn Pass/Sadha Top - Kupwara


Location of NC Pass/Sadhna Gali/Top, Kupwara - click for a larger view.

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One of the objective of this mammoth travel was to see the new areas of Drangyari, Lolab and Bangus - absolute untravelled places still now for the tourists that the government was trying to develop.


It had been raining all through the night and morning it was as overcast as the monsoon clouds one sees in plains. So asked the caretaker how to go about these places - Drangyari, Lolab and Bangus. He said to go towards the Drangyari side today as with rain in Kupwara there is a high chance of snow over at Sadha Pass, the high pass which separates the villages of Drangyari from that of Karnah Valley.


Readers would recall that the Kupwara Tourist Centre was not open in 2011. was still under construction but this board was already erected, which does give an idea of the villages that one drives through while going to Drangyari and Sadhna Top. Team-bhpian Kshil, who is travelling these places in Oct 2012, does report that the Kupwara tourist centre is a fully functioning now.


A list of villages that one goes through to NC Pass/Sadhna Top which separates Drangyari from Karnah Valley of Kupwara

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Through overcast conditions and a drizzle now and then we drive towards NC Pass/Sadhna Top in hope of a snow

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This is just drive to a region called Drangyari and with textured fields and fall season colours it was beautiful

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Up towards the Pass and the drizzle becomes more frequent - a slow relaxing drive for us as we stopped still as possible.
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As we neared the NC Pass/Sadhna Top at 10,417 feet, we get the first signs of snowfall just starting - we just hoped that it gets heavier!

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This pass remains mostly closed during the heavy snow of winter months thus cutting out Karnah valley. Also has an Army camp at the top

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And then snow did get heavier and we all had a fantastic time there - and of course some hot tea offered by the Army guys - surprised no less to see tourists out here this time

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And so did our Safari VTT

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Drove beyond the Sadhna Top and took a small road going somewhere to find out where it lead to -- in all the mist and everything what turn we took, it ended up in a very secure Army camp from where we were told to promptly return back!

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Back to Sadhna Top/NC Pass for a return back to Kupwara circuit house

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So just a relaxing drive to the Drangyari region of Kupwara as we return back to Kupwara. We hoped for some snow and we got quite a bit of it.
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We drive next to the region called Lolab in Kashmir valley, an absolutely less known and travelled place as of 2011. Reports say regions of Bangus and Lolab far surpass that of Gulmarg and Pahalgam, we are out here in 2011 in month of October to find out exactly that.


contd...

Last edited by adc : 11th September 2012 at 15:12.
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Old 11th September 2012, 17:12   #113
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Kupwara - Lolab Valley - Kupwara



Quote:
Lolab, one of the most beautiful valleys of Kashmir, is located to the north-east of Srinagar. This valley, 15 miles long and 3 miles wide, is traversed by stream Lahwal, which flows down from the surrounding hills. Lolab has many pasture lands and a rich forest cover. Source
As said before, we travelled out after reading news item that these places, Lolab and Bangus, are the new areas of Kashmir. Kupwara is the base from where Lolab can be visited.



Location of Lolab. Do note Lolab is the region collective name and not of a particular town or village. Click to magnify.

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The villages that make up the Lolab valley region

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Hoped for a clear weather for Lolab photography, but again an overcast as we set forth for the region of Lolab

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As Lolab is a collective place, we take any road or track that comes up - there is no travel direction as such, just roam around and explore

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As we wandered around, asked about directions from an apple merchant - he hopped on board, plucked and gave us some great apples and said he would show us around some parts of Lolab!

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And we went here and there, roaming around in the Lolab.

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An Army Goodwill School at Chandigam village of Lolab

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Said goodbye and a thanks to the apple grower and we roamed around again, taking any road or track that comes up

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Over here at one of Lolab, came across Mohd. Saddiq Peer, a shepherd of Lolab.
He offered that to come on a clear day, he would take me to some inner valleys of Lolab where they go for the sheep grazing - absolutely unseen yet brilliant he said of those lands.
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Absolutely most common people of Kashmir yet most welcoming to us. I promised to find him out next time we visited these areas and trek to those inner valleys..

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Lolab at its grandeur...
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... this has been the desktop wallpaper for months.
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And we still roamed around Lolab, taking any road or track that came up. There's no hurry to return...

contd...

Last edited by adc : 11th September 2012 at 17:20.
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Old 11th September 2012, 17:53   #114
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Lolab Valley contd...


As said, we roamed around the Lolab - there's no particular destination

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As I asked another villager out there of a track and to where it leads, and asking the different parts of Lolab, we were again most surprised when he absolutely insisted to come to his house and have tea and spend some time. This is absolutely over the top - never have we thought, that as complete strangers out there in those lands we would get such a warm welcome each and every time.
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And some great moments spent in their house as they offered us tea and snacks

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And a warm send off as we left, it seemed as if we all know each other long such has been their openness. This is beyond anything that one can expect any travel.

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And we still roamed around. Just wished it would been a sunny day for better images - still this place is way brilliant in the month of October.

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A travel without interaction is just sightseeing - all these unexpected encounters just made this day brilliant - and Lolab and its people still had more surprises for us...

contd...

Last edited by adc : 11th September 2012 at 17:58.
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Old 11th September 2012, 21:40   #115
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Anirban this is the mostly exhilarating post done by you in Team-bhp as per judgement. The images are not only beautiful but they are just surreal.
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Old 11th September 2012, 23:44   #116
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Lolab seems to be the Kashmir that we all dream about. The Jannat.
Beautiful roads, valleys, colors and people. What more could one want.

Truly wonderful. Thanks for bringing it all to us.

One question: You encountered rain in October as well. What is a good time to visit Lolab, when one can get unhindered views and clear blue skies?

Last edited by aryasanyal : 12th September 2012 at 00:09.
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Old 13th September 2012, 16:41   #117
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Lolab Valley contd...


Continuing with our wanderering, we take as and any road that branches off from another road to see the complete splendor of Lolab, Kashmir

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Even if I had a GPS, I would have put it off, following pre-set tracks would be the most unwanted thing to do over there - just take any track and one would still be spellbound

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Now as we ask for directions, another great gentleman takes a lift and again, here is another person we meet who personally shows us this side of Lolab.

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We go till the end of road where the birth place of sufi saint of Shah Walli, a greatly revered saint of Kashmir

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By now it does not come up as a surprise that again that we are invited to this house, such has been the wonderful land of Lolab and its people.
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And we spent a fantastic time over there, meeting all - it was like we all knew each other for long!
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And he is the tough guy in this fantastic family - great fan of Sunny Deol!
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And what a lovely time spent again as we say a goodbye to them! This day in Lolab will remain one of the best days of travels done till now

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And set off to wander again over at Lolab on the return now back to Kupwara

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The place of Lolab and all the interactions has been overwhelming. We return back to Kupwara circuit house, what a great travel day it has been.
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Tomorrow we have plan to head off to another unknown and undiscovered place of Kashmir, the Bangus valley, right on the LOC, a hugely sensitive place. And again we never had a clue how to go about it, who to contact and how to get the permission...



contd...

Last edited by adc : 13th September 2012 at 16:52.
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Old 13th September 2012, 18:46   #118
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

The photos on this page beats Switzerland any day by many a proverbial mile. I mean the beauty of these places can leave anyone stunned to silence. Seriously now I understand why they said if there was heaven on earth it is here .... Simply mind blowing stuff. We cannot thank you enough for showing us such beautiful places that exist in our own country. On the flip side, the list of places I must visit just goes on increasing .

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Old 13th September 2012, 19:01   #119
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Kupwara - Handwara - Kalamabad - Reshwari - travel towards Bangus meadows


Early morning we say goodbye to the Kupwara circuit house caretaker...

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and the two policemen constables who were on guard at the gate...

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as we start on a clear day again.
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Now as we stayed over at the Kupwara circuit house, had a talk with the guards as well as the constables and came to know that to go to Bangus we have to go to Handwara, 23 km from Kupwara. It is there we have to convince the SP police of Handwara who can give the initial permission, the final again rests with the Main Army Camp at Nowgam, beyond from where the trek to Bangus starts.


Location of Bangus meadows from Handwara and Kupwara, Kashmir
. click to magnify.
Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October 2011-location-bangus-handwara-kupwara.jpg


Great to have a clear day again, we just hoped to have a chance to meet and get that permission from SP Handwara.

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And as luck would have it, SP Handwara had just arrived in the office and as such had some time to meet me, looked with some disbelief, asked me about if I am carrying any papers from Srinagar - told him that most people over there still dont know about this place and had told there is nothing to stay over there, but then again since here after seeing Lolab, it would be disappointing to go back without visiting Bangus.

Again one of best support we have got in this travel, he phones up the police station of Kalamabad, the local police station, and informs that we, a family of three are going and to make the necessary arrangements!!

Can things fall in place better than this - astounding has been our luck in all the unpreparedness in this travel.



Off towards Kalamabad Police station who would then guide us for a place to stay and later Bangus

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Officer in charge of Kalamabad who had already got the phone call from SP Handwara then gave us two policemen who would be with us and would help us to where to stay and then Bangus later on tomorrow!


Armed escort travel - never been a journey more exciting!!

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Since it is still early morning, we move towards Nowgam.

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Bangus meadows lies just beside the LOC and infiltration and skirmishes though may not be as frequent as before, but when it happens the encounters are on a major scale. As such at Nowgam, beyond Reshwari, there is a major Army installation. Beyond which all movement can be done only by Army permission, and we did not have any.

I go and try to meet the Commanding Officer, who is not there, another officer comes out, asks me to visit Gulmarg, he flatly says that nothing doing, anything can happen out here.

He instructed to let us go some part from where the road starts to climb and not go beyond that, may be just 1 km ahead but no going to Bangus tomorrow or anywhere near that side.

He was firm and I was too... Coming all the way from Kolkata to Sach to Sinthan to Zojila to Pensi la to Razadan to NC Pass, I am not going back without seeing Bangus. I am going to meet him up again tomorrow to see if any of the decisions change.


But for now as said by the Army Officer, we go another 1 km ahead of Nowgam and just spend some time over there.

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Mansoor, one of the policeman with the black AK-xx
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And our armed escort travel just spends some time over here... But my mind is still on Bangus and how to get that permission

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After spending some time over there, 1 km beyond Nowgam, we return back towards Kalamabad. At Handwara we had learned that there is an Tourist rest house at Reshwari, some 2 km from Nowgam side.

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Tourist rest house at Reshwari, and to think of it that on Oct 2011 the desk guys at JK tourism at Srinagar had no info about Gurez or Bangus Tourist Rest houses. I hear things are much more organized, kshil could post more info on this.

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With the day still left, we then head off towards Kalamabad for buying some provisions for our night cooking...

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also went by Mansoor's house. Seen here is brother at their house.
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Back at Reshwari, we just lazed around, even the gun was recumbent!!

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Reshwari Rest House and its surroundings.

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Watched a local cricket game...
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And as dusk fell, had a talk about the surroundings and of course about Bangus with the the local panchayat leader
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Another brilliant coincidence, I earlier had given the local police head Kalamabad about not being given the permission and that if he could talk with the Army personnel out there and get a way out. He said he would try and to call in the evening for an update. All this time I was pensive but then the call came, our permission is done. What a relief!!

Mansoor, our policeman who is with AK-47 would go with us and the panchayat leader over here pitched in by giving a call to the horseman who would arrange for horses for wife and child. All done and set. As said, things just fell into place in this travel anyhow!



We were all hungry now and we making funny face as Asmita came up with....

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hot khichri, aloo fry and omelettes, a perfect simple dish in that cold winter weather of late October.

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And this reminds us of our night cooking, in October 2008 trip - at the remote FRH of Ropa, Giabong, on the Kinnaur Kaza route.
[ http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ti-lahaul.html (Safari Dicor 2.2 VTT-TMT Grand One-Year Ownership Travelogue [Kinnaur-Spiti-Lahaul]) ] - still dont see people travelling over here while doing the spiti loop.





As night falls, its bitter cold in the last week of October 2011. A hurried night shot, with the camera on the bonnet of Safari, but then tomorrow is the d-day, the day we trek to Bangus. We all sleep heartily, after all that elusive permission is bagged

Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October 2011-img_0515.jpg




So whats next, the Bangus meadows and here's a short preview of the trek. Do go till the end of the video, as I exclaim just about as I get the first view of the meadow of Bangus...



PS: the video quality is quite horrible, on converting canon videos to avi format.


contd...

Last edited by adc : 13th September 2012 at 19:31.
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Old 13th September 2012, 23:48   #120
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Default Re: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition->Zanskar+Unknown Kashmir-> "off-season October

Quote:
Originally Posted by adc View Post

And a journey from Killar to Kishtwar along the most uncommon route towards Kashmir. It is no error part of the track!



These two words [chap and ja ta] are quite frequently used in our remote travels - 1. Chap rasta - stands for tracks that gives palpitation, where looking down out of the Safari window you look directly into the gorge. and the other word 2. Ja ta - stands for something fantastic, e.g. ja ta. chobi will be for fantastic photograph or ja ta jaiga - stupendous place and so on!! Deba, a good friend of mine, started using these words during the Spiti loop travel and has ever since been used liberally!


contd..
@ADC: Watching that video was terrifying. What do people do if/when there is vehicle coming in the opp. direction. And what speeds where you moving at in those road?
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