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Old 25th August 2012, 21:07   #241
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

BAIRAVGAD TO SARTHAL SECTOR


What was the day’s drive plan – July 25th?

Having reached Bairavgad as scheduled yesterday night, today we were targeting that we complete the loop and reach Kishtwar by nightfall. Needless to say, we were travelling on the route for the first time and were unsure of the road conditions & the time it would take. Further, we had no knowledge of any of the villages or towns en route. So target was Kishtwar, or maybe Bhaderwah before that.

You are still going with the River Chandra Bhaga?

No. Now we are in the green valley watered by the River Ravi which flows down towards the Ranjit Sagar Dam & reservoir cloe to Chamba & Pathankot.


Not going to Chamba – how come?

You do not have to go all the way to Chamba to get onto the road to Bahderwah or Doda. Just 30 kms before Chamba is the small tea-shop halt f Kothi, which is a junction where a road branches off to cross the River Ravi & goes to Bani/ Doda. Going to Chamba would have meant coming back all the way. But, as we were to discover later, it is also possible to take another road from Chamba via the Chimera Dam to reach Kyari directly, but more on that later.....


What is this new road you are taking? Is it on the map? How did you come to know of it then?

Till 10 days before the trip, I did not know about the Chamba-Doda road. I had intended to get back to Kishtwar via Chamba, Pathankot, Jammu, Udhampur back to Batote & then take the road to Kishtwar (same way we had reached Kishtwar earlier).

But then while talking to friend Ajay, he told me that there indeed was a direct road between the Chamba Valley & Doda via Bhaderwah. He also queried taxi drivers & some Govt officials he knew and they confirmed the existence of the road and that it was motorable. I was apprehensive that it would close down if it rained hard, but I need not have worried.......


I am confused – are you in Himachal or Kashmir?

Still in Himachal.


The milestone says Bhaderwah 53 kms – why do you say there is no road?

So we left the Bairavgad-Chamba road at Kothi & took the road to Bhaderwah – or what we thought was the road....

Firstly, remember that local populations are concerned with only their local economy & their local villages & towns. Do not assume that they know about the further destinations along the roads that go through their town. At most, they know the nearest large town or the place which is best connected by local taxis. You will be surprised that they may not even know the name of the next town in the wrong direction (i.e. most traffic is linear, towards the direction of the “market” town). The divorce depends when the road to the other side goes to another State, especially Kashmir where militancy has usurped normal life these last many years.

So the famous “Gramin” principle does not work.

I had a brief idea of the route – I had done quite a lot of research finding out names of places en route from various sources and the sign board that we saw at Pul-Doda 2 days ago also helped piece together the jig-saw puzzle. If you think what say is funny or strange, this is exactly the way I have driven all over India, especially difficult regions like the North East. And the Himalayan region.

If you see the map, there is a road from Chamba to Bhaderwah – you saw the sign board, right? – via Langera. When we crossed the bridge after Kothi, I ascertained with locals whether this was the “Doda Road” which I guessed – and rightly – was what this road was popularly known as.

Agent Vinod was running his MMI Navigator & said, “Kya baat hain – this road is there in MMI also??!!” We crossed Longera – which is where the fine tar road ended & the dirt track took over till we reached the ITBP check post. They told us the road ended............

What permission do you need to go on the “map” road which is “no-road” to Bhaderwah?

Sorry, there is no road from here to Bhaderwah. But you can walk if you get the permission of the ITBP office at Chamba. Eh? Walk 50 kms? But then why is there a mile stone pointing to Bhaderwah then?
Sir ji, once upon a time.....long long ago......maybe 2 decades ago, or even earlier, there used to be a road. But that road used to get snow-blockaded every winter. Then the militants started their activities in this region & the entire region became too dangerous for anyone to live in. So both the region – here is where Kashmir State also began – and the road were abandoned and the road fell into disuse. The ITBP guy said, you don’t believe me? Come, here is the road contractor’s supervisor, they are now rebuilding the road and maybe, next year it will be reopened!!!

He said, if you want to trek, go get the permission of my superior officer in Chamba and do it by all means. But for now, please turn back & return.


Good idea to stay at the ITBP check post itself or not?

What a lovely place it was! We would have loved to stay there. Apparently, this place gets snowed down during winter & they all move down to the place where we saw the warning board –“don’t go beyond this point”. The ITBP men were friendly, they made us some excellent tea. They also told us about some trekking paths in the area. They pointed up to the other side of the mountain & said that the road we should have taken goes on the other side! They also briefed us on the road that we should have taken.

How did you make this mistake? You are the Human GPS, aren’t you?

As I said, I was discovering this route & I had no prior knowledge of how this route was. I made the mistake of reconfirming that this was the Bhaderwah/ Doda road, and not asking for Bani – since I had some confusion that Bani was on a side road joining this road from Pathankot. But the funny thing was, I did have the correct route in the route plan I had prepared for this trip, just that I took a wrong turn & ended up going on the “old” road and not the “new” road to Bhaderwah!


This mistake must have cost you a lot in extra time?

You bet! That changed lots of things as you will learn soon.....

I did not see any photos of the place where you guys had lunch – where was that?

No lunch. Only breakfast at Kothi & tea at the ITBP camp beyond Langera. Where were the eating places – and when did we have the time?
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Old 25th August 2012, 21:38   #242
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

I know this routing is all very confusing, but unfortunately the maps do not show any of the roads we travelled in, especially the Khillar-Sach Pass-Bairavgad road. I have to pull out my GPS tracks (recorded in my GPS Data Logger) to show you the route, but I have been having "technology" trouble, so please bear with me till I process, analyse & revert to you with a map based on my GPS tracks soon!
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Old 26th August 2012, 08:35   #243
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

BAIRAVGAD TO SARTHAL SECTOR

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We left at first light, so to say. It had rained the previous night & there was some slush on the road, but from Bairavgad the road is supposed to be good, and it was. Tar roads from here on.

Last year, I had made a mistake a couple of kms after Bairavgad and gone off on the wrong road, but this time it was daylight & we were more careful not to miss the sharp hairpin turn. Unlike the Pangi Valley, this CHamba Valley was green all around & the River Ravi started making its appearance. This is a well-populated region and you keep passing small villages from time to time. This region also sees snowfall during winter. The weather was cool & pleasant. We had not felt the sun all of yesterday and today looked no different.

A couple of hours later at Kothi, where the roads to Chamba & Doda branched off, we stopped to have the usual egg-omlette breakfast. As usual, no one knew about Kashmir in these parts & their cursory nods don't not inspire any confidence. For want of any reference points, I kept asking for the Doda Road and indeed, this was the road to Doda via Bhaderwah...

After crossing the River Ravi, we passed a petrol pump where I decided to top up fuel. This road is on the other side of the Valley from the Bairavgad-Kothi road and it was in excellent condition. Bhandal was the last big village, after which Langera was just one more hamlet perched on the mountain side. Road after Langera became dirt & the landscapes sublime. Reminded you of the winding roads in the Western Ghats region in Kerala & Karnataka, except that there were more coniferous trees here.

At the first check post (turned out that this was the “winter post”), there was no one, so we moved on till we reached the “summer post”, which was in a place surrounded by mountains. The road ended here. As Lalu mentioned, we are famous for reaching ends of the road! Last year, it was the Nimmu-Chilling Road where we reached the end point after which blasting of the road was still going on!

Apparently, the ITBP check post had been established because the road ahead leaves Himachal & goes into Kashmir, and till recently militant presence was high & several massacred. Peace has since returned to the region, but the road ahead which was in neglect all these decades is now being restored and some 15-20 kms of road is currently non-existent. On teh other side, the road goes from Paddari to Bhaderwah. The ITBP personnel told us that all it needs is a hop over the mountain to get to Sarthal which is on the Kothi-Bani-Bhaderwah road which exists and was recommended to us.

We had no choice but to turn back from this point......but the drive was very much worth it despite the huge loss of time this would mean for us.
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Old 26th August 2012, 11:57   #244
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

sir, may be this news clip of 2nd jul 12 could help you for planning on this route .......The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - LUDHIANA
Quote:
Tribune News Service
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Old 26th August 2012, 12:17   #245
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Amazing Travelogue HVK and Lalu Sir. Quite scary road videos. Would be fun and nerve wrecking as well to drive on these roads. Hope to do them one day on my safari (4wd).

Goes without saying, a five star thread.

Naman
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Old 26th August 2012, 12:39   #246
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Quote:
Originally Posted by joie-de-vivre View Post
sir, may be this news clip of 2nd jul 12 could help you for planning on this route .......The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - LUDHIANA
Thanks, Doc. That is an interesting news item. It is the same road that we are also talking about. Let me reproduce the news item below:

Quote:
Pending road projects mar tourism industry
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 1
Work on the 50-km Bhaderwah-Chamba road has been going on at a very slow pace and completion of this project seems to be a distant dream. Although completion of this road would boost tourism in Bhaderwah and adjoining areas, the project is delayed due to the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities.

The administration has earlier claimed that the project would be completed by the end of June. “Due to poor road connectivity tourists are not coming to Bhaderwah,” regretted Rashid Ahmed, a resident of Bhaderwah. He said on the one hand the authorities organise festivals and other events to woo tourists but adequate infrastructure is yet to be provided to attract maximum number of tourists.

Another resident of Bhaderwah, Shabir, claimed that it was only during Ghulam Nabi Azad government that sincere efforts were made to explore tourism potential of Bhaderwah but the present government in the state has done nothing to complete the projects started by Azad.

Residents of Bhaderwah have reasons to complain because most of the road projects are still incomplete. Except Puldoda-Bhaderwah road, works on a majority of other road projects are going on at very slow pace.

After a gap of more than two decades, work on the Bhaderwah-Chamba road was resumed in 2010. The authorities had claimed that the route would be opened for traffic in June. The road connects Bhaderwah in Doda district with Chamba in Himachal Pradesh. The road project has been sanctioned under the Inter-State Connectivity Programme.

“We want that work on this road should be completed as early as possible because our culture and climate resembles that of Himachal Pradesh and we feel connected to the state,” said Deepak Manhas, a resident of Bhaderwah. He is optimistic that by the end of this year the road would be opened for traffic. “Once the road is complete, tourists can be convinced to visit popular destinations in Bhaderwah and adjoining areas,” he said.
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Old 26th August 2012, 18:24   #247
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 3
25 - July - 2012

After spending 1 hour with the ITBP guys, we kind of with a heavy heart thinking about the toll it is going to take on our time and a bit about the safety concerns driving in the night in this new territory we rolled on. It was 13:00 hours already.
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Chamba was 90KM away, but then we need not go all the way back, thankfully
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We enjoyed the sights and sped on

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We stopped near a bridge
, the bridge goes to our left, but we continue staright
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We need not cross this bridge, I just took a picture while waiting for Agent Vinod
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Bhalei was 8 KM from here, that's our route!
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Agent Vinod and Madam Safari catches up
, it was already 15:00 hours by now!
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continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 18:37   #248
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 3
25 - July - 2012

I walked back to the Scorpio clicking some more pictures
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Clicked a picture of our legendary steeds, they deserve a click too
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A sign board

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A hanging bridge en route
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We reached Bhalei by 15:15 hours
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More sign boards
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continued...

Last edited by laluks : 26th August 2012 at 18:39.
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Old 26th August 2012, 18:51   #249
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 3
25 - July - 2012

The river was still with us
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Suddenly out of nowhere a speed boat comes in

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No wonder, it was Taleru Boating complex
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We went through a tunnel

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We were near a Dam
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We saw another bridge
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The bridge will take us to Dalhousie in 25 KM
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But we have to go straight,
Kiyari is another 12KM
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These guys were amazed at us! Probably nobody goes that way
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Madam Safari closely following
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Nice roads

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continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 18:58   #250
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Day 3
25 - July - 2012

We reached another Dam
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We crossed a small bridge and reached a check post

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We paid Rs 70/-, Hey Rs 70/- seems to be so familiar.

Is this the toll for Kashmir entry?

Hell Yes!

Without even realising it, we have already entered Jammu and Kashmir !!

The Toll ticket
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Thus we have entered J&K by 16:00 hours.

continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 19:05   #251
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Day 3
25 - July - 2012

We drove on in JK roads!
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After a few climbs we stopped to take a look at the Dam and where we entered JK. I was confused like hell

The pipes that carry water from the heights
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The view of the settlement there

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HVK Scorpio relaxing for a while
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I found mango trees in this route with ripe mangoes. I never knew JK had Mangoes!

continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 19:23   #252
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 3
25 - July - 2012

NHPC maintains this roads I guess
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The roads were twisting through the mountain

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There were many hairpin bends
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Goats!!
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A little later in one of the hairpin bends



laluks : HVK stop! Take right else...
hvkumar : What! I cannot stop on the incline, Its very steep....
laluks : If you take it straight you'll run over a goat, it's lying bang in your left tyre trajectory
hvkumar: WHAT! @##$

Scorpio jumps over like it had jumped over a hump !! HVK jams the brakes.

SILENCE in the cabin

Romin gets out.

Romin : HVK you have a huge goat under your scorpio

shephered running towards us from somewhere...

Romin : HVK, move your Scorpio a little behind
hvkumar : Is this ok?
Romin :OK

By now the shepherd pulls the goat out. Goat is scared! So are we.


Shepherd: Mere nuksaan hua..

By now Romin gets inside the Scorpio and the goat runs away to the other goats in the herd. I was watching the goat running away. I had a sigh of relief, nothing happened, the goat is safe.

hvkumar : Dikao, tera nuksan wala Bakri ...

Shepherd runs around to find the goat. The entire herd by now was scared of the black Scorpio. They had already ran away. Sheperd could not find the goat.

hvkumar : dikao, dikao tera nuksaan wala bakri..

Shepherd was speechless. Inside the Scorpio cabin, it was pin drop silence.

By now Madam Safari too arrived.

Shepherd had no arguments, he sulks. Finally lets HVK go, muttering some local words...

We move on.

Moral of the story : HVK and Goats sleeping on Hairpin bends don't go well together!!

continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 19:31   #253
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 3
25 - July - 2012

After that eventful Goat Story we moved on!
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Why you must have a National Identity Card

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We move on

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We saw a bus
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This is the bus between Kathua and Bani
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We drove on, roads became muddy and slushy.

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The roads were getting widened...
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continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 19:39   #254
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 3
25 - July - 2012

We reached Kardoh Check Post -
no one was there by the way
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We drove on

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Roads were getting widened - Definitely this is going to be one of the alternate roads to Jammu once completed
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The winding roads that we have to take
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Madam Safari catching up
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Miles to go still
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continued...
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Old 26th August 2012, 19:47   #255
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Quote:
Originally Posted by laluks View Post
Romin : HVK you have a huge goat under your scorpio
By now the shepherd pulls the goat out. Goat is scared! So are we.
By now Romin gets inside the Scorpio and the goat runs away...
hvkumar : Dikao, tera nuksan wala Bakri ...
They had already ran away. Sheperd could not find the goat.
Moral of the story : HVK and Goats sleeping on Hairpin bends don't go well together!!
This was hilarious! Who would have expected a goat run over by a Scorpio to actually get up and run away?! For a moment I thought you guys had a good feast of mutton that evening, but alas...
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