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Old 27th August 2012, 10:11   #271
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by harjeev View Post
Some of the maps are there on Openstreet Maps, but just... They are not routeable and though some people have downloaded them onto their handheld devices, but I am not able to understand that.
Anyways, Like the Killar -- Teesa Sach Pass section shows up as a path, but its there. Also the road to Langeera is there, but Langerra is not marked.
Wikimapia - Let's describe the whole world!
Patience, Patience. I will analyse my GPS tracks & show you the full route.
Unfortunately, my lap top is not as good as my Scorpio, it breaks down every time I run my tracks on the Google Map, even the super-cold AC in my office is not enough to cool it down.....too stressed, I guess.
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Old 27th August 2012, 10:55   #272
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by laluks View Post
...no more run over tests
Why? You/HVK turning vegetarian, or the next trip will be in a car with a more fragile bumper?
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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
hvkumar: Stop that singing, go get the goat out.......
hvkumar
: Come, sit in my seat, and show me how you will see goats...
Shepherd: You can call the IG or DSP for all I care
HVK, does your car DVR show up the goat by any chance? Evidence, after all...
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Old 27th August 2012, 11:07   #273
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Why? You/HVK turning vegetarian, or the next trip will be in a car with a more fragile bumper?

HVK, does your car DVR show up the goat by any chance? Evidence, after all...
As Lalu said, the video could be used as "evidence" prejudicial to my interests!
Who knows, some animal activist in the future may quote this a an instance of excessive cruelty inflicted by me to animals....hence, the car cam video will remain classified. Happily, the video does not take the under carriage of the car!
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Old 27th August 2012, 12:09   #274
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by laluks View Post

We got our stay arranged here
Attachment 975739

This is the new tourist complex
. Only issue is there is no water in the toilets. But hey, there is a stream running behind the place!!
Attachment 975740

The village was Sarthal. Looked like a charmingly calm place. I felt the same feeling when I landed up in Chitkul here. Asked HVK, can we start late tomorrow, so that we could have a look at this place. HVK readily agreed. He too seems to have liked the place.

I was checking out the place when the caretaker came towards me.

caretaker : Aap log kahan se ho? [Where are you guys from?]
laluks : hum Mumbai, pune or bangalore se hein. [We are from Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore]
caretaker : Aap log yehaan pehele aaye ho kabhi? [Have you guys come here before?]
laluks : nahin to. Kyun? [No, why?]
caretaker : woh black scorpio chalane wala aadmi ko yehaan ka sab kuch malum hai lagta hai. Unhon ne mere ko naam se pooch raha tha. Usko kaisa yeh sab kuch pata hai? [That person who was driving Black Scorpio seems to know about everything here. He was looking out for me. He knew my name. How does he know all this?]
laluks : (giggling - I wanted to say that was HVK for you, but controlled) Woh aisa hi hai. Usko Sab jagah mein pechchaan hai. [He is like that. He has contacts everywhere]
caretaker : bilkul... [very true]
My version of events......

We crossed the scruffy town of Bani.
I enquired around, they confirmed that Sarthal had "lots" of hotels to stay.

We crossed the scruffier town of Lowang.
I enquired again, they said, "Absolutely, lots of hotels in Sarthal...."

So we landed up in Sarthal, a settlement in a cup-shaped Valley surrounded by high mountains, a place which is buried under snow during winter.

I turned into the rickety "road" that lead towards the settlement - I dread to say "Village", which it was not....A little in, I saw this spanking new building, and luckily, I saw a guy in the next compound (turned out to be a sheep breeding farm), who confirmed that this is THE hotel! But where is the caretaker?

"Hafeez - the man with a flowing beard, he is the caretaker."
But where is he, I ask
"Ah, go down to the "village" (what a joke!), ask for Hafeez & he will come.."
So, I go down to the "village" which can be summed up as follows,
- 1 temple
- 1 masjid
- 2 tea shops
- 6 houses or some such buildings

So I walk in there like one of those cowboys trotting his tired horse (with head drooping down) into a old western town - with those in the town eyeing this new stranger warily, "hey, johnyy, we'e u think you're going, eh?"

So I start asking any human being - looked like there were more stray dogs there than people - where is Hafeez, the man with the flowing long beard?

Hafeez? Oh, he was here 30 minutes ago, he was there 15 minutes ago....but look, it is now namaaz time, so why don't you check if he is in the Masjid. So I go peek into the masjid, no Hafeez there. A few more desultory random searches & someone finally tells me that Hafez is gone to the nearby town of Bani which we had crossed 1 hour ago!

Now that this Sarthal does not have "lots" of hotels, so how do we get into the hotel or tourist bungalow that we saw? One of the guys I met there said, don't worry, I will open it up for you...and that is how we got the 2 rooms in this tourist bungalow which had opened only a year ago.



Quote:
After we settled between ourselves the rooms, we went to have dinner at one of the shops in the village.


The shop owner was very happy to host us, and was even ready to cut a chicken for us. But we were not in the mood to have heavy dinner. So we stayed with veg food that day.

Agent Vinod and me listening keenly to the stories from the owner (

Little did I know that Sarthal was the hot bed of militancy and almost all the youths were killed. It is peaceful now, but once in a while still some tensions arise.


Amidst all the disturbing thoughts sleep took me over sometime.
Apparently, this was one of the worst affected of areas during the years of peak militancy & 90% of the youth have been massacred by the militants. It is only this year or two that peace is settling down here.

But unlike Lalu, I sleep very well (my sleep is disturbed only something is wrong with the Scorpio) ......if the militants do show up, I am sure I can keep them entertained with tales of my various drives across India - and who knows, I may end up knowing more about his "native" village (happens often to me) than he did himself!
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Old 27th August 2012, 15:01   #275
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

BAIRAVGAD TO SARTHAL SECTOR

So you had to go all the way back you came?

70 kms from the Kothi Bridge 925 am to the ITBP Check Post 1155 am.
And 70 kms back from the ITBP Check Post 1250 pm to the Kothi Bridge 255 pm. So that is 140 kms extra & 5.5 hours extra. Time well spent, we thought. The feeling in the car was, let us hope we get lost more often like this, we get to see more & more interesting places!

I knew we were now badly late – we did not have any hope of making it to Bhaderwah or Kishtwar, our original target destination for the day. But then I don’t think any of us really cared, we were so thrilled by the enchanting landscapes we had gone through, we were unmindful of where we would sleep that night.


How did you find this new route?

Funnily, the correct route was in my route plan all along. I made a mistake in not referring to my own route plan which I had prepared for this trip after so much research, and let myself be misled by asking the wrong questions about the “Doda Road”, when I should have been looking out for the “Kyari” or “Bani” road. The ITBP guys also pointed me to the correct route although initially they were also confused but with my prompting about place names like Bani, etc, they also confirmed this road existed.


Were the Scorpio & Madam Safari going together all the time?

Yes, of course. We follow convoy discipline scrupulously. We keep within visual distance of each other, most of the time the Scorpio leading the way. I drive a little faster sometimes, so I do have to slow down and wait. No one was perturbed about this one, since that gave lot more time to take photographs, answer nature’s calls & generally enjoy the landscapes.


Aren’t you blocking the road here?


Before anyone asks us this Q -
- Not really, the Safari stopped there for hardly a few seconds, and both us & the other motorists had a clear view of the vehicles standing side by side with no fear of any “blind” curve concerns. We drive safely – as you can also make out from the team-bhp sticker DRIVE SAFE in the rear windscreen of my Scorpio.


The boating – which River & which Dam?

River Ravi, Chimera Dam. Part of the vast Ranjit Sagar Dam & Reservoir. On the other side is Dalhousie/Chamba, for which there is a bridge from Kyari ahead on this road.


I am thoroughly confused – where exactly is this Kyari?

Not to be confused with Tyari, the “cliff hanger” village on the Kishtwar-Khilar road. Kyari is a dam colony town where there is also a bridge to go on separate roads to Dalhousie & Bani. One side of the Dam is HP, the other is JK. No other facilities.

Roads here are Kyari-Dalhousie or Kyari-Bani-Sarthal.


The goat episode after Kyari – Who was right? Who was wrong?

Much has been written about our encounter with one bleating goat under the mighty muscular Scorpio, a belligerent shepherd & a mutton biryani meal that did not happen.

It was a sharp hair pin curve, with a 45 degree ascent.
I turn around blind in first gear, and I run headlong into this herd of goats coming down the slope. Remember, goats don’t honk.
Before you could say “Ku” in Kumar, one of the goats was under the wheels of the Scorpio, and I stopped instantly, holding the gear & brake in the slope. The goat was trapped under the wheel, but we moved the car that much for it to release itself – it panicked & was bleating till it would have got a hoarse throat. Finally, the shepherd had to extricate it. The shepherd threatened to throw a stone and break the windscreen, but could not produce the goat which was supposed to be injured – and prove his “nuksaan” (or loss).

What would you have done?


So much of road widening - What is the strategic significance of this road to Bani?

I think this Chamba-Kyari-Bani-Bhaderwah-Doda highway holds a lot of strategic significance. This could be one alternative road to the Pathankot-Jammu highway towards Srinagar. As you probably know, on the existing NH1A highway, there is a “chicken-neck” situation in the Pathankot-Kathua-Samba sections where the gap between the Pak border & the high Dhauladhar mountains is hardly 5 kms or so, and in a war situation, the entire NH1A is a sitting duck (am I running a farm here – goats, chickens & ducks???) which Pak could shell or cut off, severing all road links from the Punjab plains with both Jammu & the Kashmir Valley further down. On the other hand, this road which we travelled on is sheltered between the Dhauladhar mountain ranges & hidden from any onslaught. Judging from the way the road widening was going on in the Kyari-Bani sector, I guess there must be some long-term plans to widen this road and make it motorable all the way to Doda and thereon to Srinagar itself. I will elaborate on this aspect more later. And getting this road into a civilised condition is not going to be easy as we find out as we drive further down this road......


Is this an all-weather road?

But alas, this road closes down during winter as snow fall envelops the entire region between Bani/Lowang & Bhaderwah, shutting off places like Sarthal & Chatergalla – the road is open only for 4-5 months every year.


Where can you stay overnight on this route?

There are 2-3 dams and dam colonies. Not for civilians to stay in.
The towns of Bani & Lowang look large, but none of them appeared to have any hotels. Hiwever, you can buy groceries, take photocopies, make SD calls & the like at these towns, which also have taxi services to the Jammu & Pathankot side.



Tell us more about Sarthal?

Sarthal is written about in tourist brochures of JK Govt nowadays, as one of those green meadow places. Definitely not a Gulmarg or even a Sanasar, this place is a long way from “development”. It is a saucer-shaped valley which is closed during the winter snows and is the kind of place which only the true trekking enthusiast would go to. I have described how pitiably small the place is, the saving grace is the tourist bungalow (THE hotel) where we stayed in that night.
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Old 27th August 2012, 15:53   #276
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

BAIRAVGAD TO SARTHAL, from Langera onwards


Name:  sarthal.jpg
Views: 1851
Size:  38.3 KB


The view forward is quite different from the view backward.
So it was a different set of views we enjoyed as we turned back from the ITBP check post – end of the so-called Chamba-Bhaderwah road after a pleasant break for nearly an hour, chatting with the jawans & enjoying their hospitality. They said, you have to go over the hill to Sarthal, but climbing up the hill is not possible for a Scorpio even if it had 4 determined travellers in it, so that “over the hill” drive was to take us 181 kms ONLY!

Yes, we were to travel 181 kms over the next 7 hours!

When we went through these villages like Sundla, Bhandal & Langera a few hours ago, we created a sensation – all locals stopped & gawked at these “outsiders” (maybe they must have thought we are the road contractors) going by. Now they must be even more bemused as they saw us returning.....we got back to the Kothi Bridge pretty quickly. In between, some JK Policemen stopped us to ascertain who we were, but they waved us away when they realised we were harmless tourists.

At the Kothi bridge, now we went the other way – that is where the mistake had happened in the first place (instead of turning left towards Kyari/Bani, we had turned right towards Sundla/Langera). The road from hereon went along the River Ravi’s bank as it widened into the reservoir around the Chimera Dam. It became a little sunny for the first time that day, and we ran the AC too in the car. At the dam in Kyari, there wassome confusion as to which way to go since the sign boards were not clear, but we found our way through back into JK State after spending almost a full day in Himachal since the previous day afternoon.

Roads had been good all along. Now the road started climbing steeply, giving us panoramic views of the Valley, and it was on one of those hairpin bends that we had the encounter with the shepherd & his goats. Otherwise, the region appeared to be totally uninhabited & had sparse traffic. The roads then became dirt but were being widened. I guess it will be quicksand once it rains and we were quite thankful that the monsoons were delayed in these parts. It is most likely that this road will face repeated land slides & many sections may be non-motorable if it rains hard. Definitely exciting to zig zag up and down the mountains as we flitted from one valley to another, the valleys created by the rivers ploughing through the Dauladhars.

We had absolutely no idea what lay ahead. The town of Bani looked large, but we did not see any facilities there. No hotels. No restaurants. No petrol pumps. I had an outside thought to stay back here, but it was still good light and hence, tempted to go on, and on querying a local gentleman, he confirmed that Sarthal 2 hours ahead did have some places to stay. So we decided to push on.

The road became even more exciting as it started climbing steeply, but not before crossing the last village of Lowang.

Reaching Sarthal – what a lovely climb it was before we entered through a passage in the mountains into the Valley which sheltered the settlement of Sarthal. The place looked surrealistic in the light of the dusk, and we said, let us stop for the day & check out what is in store for us in Sarthal.

After finding the tourist bungalow and not finding the missing caretaker Hafeez, we parked our cars & decided to have early dinner at 1 of 2 tea shops. The tea shop owner turned out to be very cheerful, regaling us with tales of the region and we had a delightful dinner before retiring for the night.

Oh, I forget to mention that the tourist bungalow had lovely toilets, but the toilets did not have any water...................
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Old 27th August 2012, 20:52   #277
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Sarthal was a real beauty.
Attached Thumbnails
Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-img_2656.jpg  

Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-img_2664.jpg  

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Old 27th August 2012, 22:09   #278
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by laluks View Post
Sorry Guys, been away for a relaxing holiday in the Queen of Hills. Shall continue with the log soon.
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Originally Posted by AlphaKilo View Post
(little OT: Laluks saar where is your "queen of hills" photolog?FYI, i am from TN and I have never been to ooty, given that I was in coimbatore for over 4 years! so will visit with you! please make it soon. I wont be visiting these places anytime soon either!)
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Originally Posted by AlphaKilo View Post
No sir, if you manage to do another trip in the near future, 700 kya I will even become a senior BHPian all depends on you and laluks. I guess 750 odd I will reach soon, because, laluks sir has his ooty trip and this log is yet to complete also I have slowly come into terms of posting in technical and 4x4 section. So i guess anymore mile crunching will not be a problem.
AlphaKilo - be ready for more mile crunching. The ooty travelogue is getting updated with 2012 pictures

Read it all here. Post 371 onwards fro 2012.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...fted-ooty.html (Swifted : Ooty)
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Old 27th August 2012, 22:25   #279
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Mutton curry incident was hilarious. Sir, NH1A is one road to the top which was under huge media coverage during Kargil. This is not just the chicken-neck but was once the lifeline of the troops up in the forward posts.

I guess that is the reason BRO and Army engineers have pushed the case with govt. to speed up the development process for other approaches. Here its seems the roads are mostly built by PWD and not by BRO/Army sappers.(construction style, sign boards)
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Old 27th August 2012, 23:34   #280
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Mutton curry incident was hilarious. Sir, NH1A is one road to the top which was under huge media coverage during Kargil. This is not just the chicken-neck but was once the lifeline of the troops up in the forward posts.

I guess that is the reason BRO and Army engineers have pushed the case with govt. to speed up the development process for other approaches. Here its seems the roads are mostly built by PWD and not by BRO/Army sappers.(construction style, sign boards)
Yes, you re right.This Bani-Sarthal route is being maintained by the PWD, not the BRO. Lot is being said about how GHulam Nabhi Azad did some wonderful development work in Kashmir - like building new roads & establishing tourism infrastructure - when he was CM.
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Old 28th August 2012, 13:34   #281
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Dear Lalu ji and HVK sir,

Everybody has already written every good thing (and exhausted all the adjectives!) about this beautiful log of this wonderful trip. So I wouldn't use much bandwidth by repeating the same long messages of appreciation and admiration. To keep it short and simple, I too am enjoying it all - Laluji's wall paper quality pics (as usual), awesome and fast, yet, precise planning of the trip, and HVK sir, I am as big a fan of your narration style, as of your driving, planning and helping people. Yes, you write rarely, but, whenever it happens, it is super crisp, sweet and fluent - a delight to read .

Last edited by LongDrive lover : 28th August 2012 at 13:38.
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Old 28th August 2012, 14:04   #282
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

A lot of story telling while waiting for hot dinner at Sarthal


Sheep-herds at Sarthal
Attached Thumbnails
Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-img_2647.jpg  

Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-img_2685.jpg  


Last edited by Romins : 28th August 2012 at 14:14. Reason: Picture posting was not correct
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Old 28th August 2012, 15:55   #283
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Map of the Kishtwar-Gulabgarh-Khillar sector,
based on our GPS tracks


Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-kishtwarkhillar.jpg
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Old 28th August 2012, 16:22   #284
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Map of the full Kishtwar-Gulabgarh-Khillar-Sach Pass-Bairavgad sector,
based on our GPS tracks

This is what we covered the full day on Jul 24, 2012


Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-kishtwarbairavgad.jpg
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Old 28th August 2012, 16:35   #285
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Map of the full Bairavgad-Langera-Bani-Sarthal sector,
based on our GPS tracks

This is what we covered the full day on Jul 25, 2012

You can see the wrong route we took from Kothi to Langera & the ITBP check post (from where we had to return because of the incomplete road), and then the correct road via Kyari & Bani to Sarthal. As the ITBP personnel told us, Sarthal was just the other side of the hill!


Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts-bairavgadsarthal.jpg
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