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Old 13th September 2012, 23:59   #481
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

SRINAGAR TO BAFLIAZ


How did you drive through a hartal in the Kashmir Valley?

The previous day, when we were in the tyre shop, we heard that the next day was a total hartal in the Kashmir Valley because of the Bandipora firings. That meant big trouble, it is virtually impossible to drive in such circumstances, I have heard of instances when our friends have been pelted with stones by miscreants.

So what do we do? I hatched the plan that we leave at first light – 450 am on Jul 28 – so that we get out of the Kashmir Valley (perimeter being Pir ki Gali some 100 kms away) before the rest of the world woke up and started looking out for vehicles to stone & burn.

Even the cocks & crows were sleeping as we drove past empty streets of Pulwana & Shopian, these are indeed well-populated areas in the Valley. People here are supposed to be pretty pro-Pakistani, if evidence of frequent gun battles & militant activity is to be believed.


Places like Shopian and Pulwana are always in the news for some trouble or the other – did you feel scared driving through dangerous areas?

I have always held that the media exaggerates news, and some places attain notoriety over the years as being hot beds of terrorism, massacres of civilians, army atrocities and so on. Being close to the Pak border meant that these places are particularly prone to infiltration by militants and see highest intensity of violence in the rural hinterland. However, we were surprised to see hardly any military presence and nothing scary other than what you see in any typical Indian village or town.

If one likes to play safe, then perhaps you should keep away.


But why go on this obscure Mughal Road when you could have gone on the regular NH1A highway back to Jammu?

Do you think we will do anything ordinary?
Don’t you see us as “explorers” who love to drive on new roads & discover strange new regions?
You do not feel the pulsating excitement of travelling through such beautiful country side?
This is not even much longer in distance.

Well, to answer your Q, there is nothing to see or do in the various towns were passing by. Remember, Kashmir has been tourist-unfriendly for over 2 decades ever since the onset of insurgency.

Yet the Mughal Road seems to represent the regaining of normality in Kashmir, if one were to go by the sign boards & the painstaking care with which they appear to have built this road. They have wonderful sign boards all over the place, yet we are the only vehicles & only people on this road. Really ghostly that hardly any one uses this road although it is not much longer than the direct road & road condition is quite good.


What is the state of facilities on the Mughal Road?

Hardly any. I did not see any hotels. No petrol pumps. Nothing for a tourist, except vestiges of a buoyant rural economy. No tourist to be seen. Not even the locals are to be seen travelling anywhere outside their own homes. After leaving Srinagar, there is no petrol pump till Rajouri.


Bad roads?

Roads were fantastic for most part, but for some distance approaching Pir ki Gali, the roads turn into mud. But surface was dry, although I would shudder to go this way if it rains hard, I expect that the mountain sides will simply dissolve into water & blockade the road. Even as I write this, I hear that last week’s heavy rains have resulted in closure of the Mughal Road due to landslides at several points. I am not surprised, Lalu’s photos would have shown you how fragile the environment is, landslides can happen any time.

But roads were quite OK, just that it was firm mud when we went by. But that was only for a short distance after crossing Heerpora Check Post where the road starts climbing.


Looking at all those smooth green slopes, I get the feeling that this region must be receiving heavy snowfall?

You are right. I was telling Lalu that the slopes are so smooth & gentle that this could out-rival Gulmarg & Auli as skiing destinations. And true to my word, we did see a few sign boards announcing that the slopes were great to ski on. The road gets closed down beyond Shopian till after Bafliaz due to heavy snowfall and like all high mountain passes, reopens only in mid-June.


What is the significance of the 3500 mtr high Pir ki Gali?

The highest point on this road, it also marks the dividing line between Kashmir Valley & the Jammu Region, the equivalent to Banihal Pass & Sinthan Top in the central & eastern sides respectively. You can see some lovely rolling views of mountains, perhaps all the way to the Pak border.

There was nothing atop the summit. Except that there was strange-looking bearded man who thumbed us for a lift. But we did not like his looks, never can say if my low-flying Scorpio could get hijacked to Kandahar!!!


Where are the Mughal ghosts?

This was the road the great Mughal Emperors used to ride their horses to the Kashmir Valley from Lahore or Delhi. I am sure they left some ghosts behind, but we were not keen to make their acquaintance. The PWD Dept had thoughtfully identified those places which were resting places for the ancient convoys on their long journey up and down the Punjab Plains. This is probably the only historic highway in India which has so many mementoes – especially Sarais – from the past.


Did you visit the Pak border?

No, that is still far away from Bafliaz which is the first town you reach in the Jammu Region after descending from the Pir ki Gali. At Bafliaz –again not a town with the usual tourist facilities – the road turns away towards the west to the Indo-Pak border town of Poonch (infamous for army-militant battles) & in the south direction is Rajouri & Jammu.
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Old 14th September 2012, 00:17   #482
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

SRINAGAR TO BAFLIAZ


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145 kms in 3 hours! That is pretty good, I guess, for the kind of roads here, but we were driving at the crack of dawn & there was absolutely no traffic & not a soul around.

When I left this morning, I was in a hurry to reach Jammu.
First, I had to beat the hartal in the Kashmir Valley & get into the Jammu region quickly.
Second, I decided to get my headlight switch repaired at Jammu & I set course to arrive there before the workshops closed for the day (I need not have worried about that part though)

The Mughal Road is designed well. Broad roads. Gentle curves. Hardly any sharp hair pin curves. Lots of culverts under construction. No water crossings.

However, the road is still under construction even as we start the steep ascent to Pir ki Gali after Heerpora check post. Unfortunately, we did not know abut this magnificent waterfall of Aharbal which is located just 12 kms off this road!

I would rate the Mughal Road much better than the road via Sinthan Top because the unfinished portions are quite firm road, although I am worried that the road could become a sea of mud if it rains hard or the snow melts. No snow anywhere, even the mountain tops are all green with conifers interpersed with greener meadows.

Descending down from the summit is also a delightful experience & today it was bright & sunny too. Honestly, we did not have the patience or the interest to stop by & check out the various places where the Mughal Emperors are supposed to have rested on their way to Kashmir.

Bafliaz was a neat little town with lots of school children & bicycles, but still not many vehicles. Had it been any other day, I may have been tempted to go till the Poonch Border, but this day I was in a tearful hurry to go further ahead towards Rajouri....

Don't waste your time trying to locate this road in any of the Maps - it does not exist!
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Old 14th September 2012, 01:37   #483
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post

Don't waste your time trying to locate this road in any of the Maps - it does not exist!
Assuming you are referring to Mughal Road, Google has it in their map. Had searched on Bafliaz and see the road from Shopian to Bafliaz marked as Mughal Road. Do not know the accuracy though!

Link: http://goo.gl/maps/qcy9x
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Old 14th September 2012, 08:25   #484
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Quote:
Originally Posted by arindamray View Post
Assuming you are referring to Mughal Road, Google has it in their map. Had searched on Bafliaz and see the road from Shopian to Bafliaz marked as Mughal Road. Do not know the accuracy though!

Link: http://goo.gl/maps/qcy9x
Very interesting! This was not there in G Maps when I left on my trip, the road used to end a little beyond Shopian and resumed somewhere near Rajouri, Bafliaz was not shown to be connected by road then (just 1 month ago!).

But yes, that is the road we went by.
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Old 14th September 2012, 20:41   #485
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

We continued on our drive towards Jammu via Rajouri
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DKG is another 1 KM.
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All I know is about DKG is that there is Distinguished BHPian by that handle

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Old 14th September 2012, 20:45   #486
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

Rajouri is another 35KM, Jammu is far away
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Old 14th September 2012, 20:57   #487
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

We stopped at Gutha Viewpoint

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Old 14th September 2012, 21:08   #488
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

I walked up to the view point
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Some views from there
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If you press these fruit it makes a liquid which is thick and looks like blood
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Old 14th September 2012, 21:22   #489
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

It was only 08:30AM.

We decided to have our breakfast from a teashop near the view point.
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Maggi - our staple diet
, but this one was special with vegetables and chillies and egg!
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With some nice sauce too
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Chai in coffee cup

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All under the supervision of this guy

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HVK Scorpio was being closely guarded all these while
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By 09:00AM we drove on.

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Old 14th September 2012, 21:28   #490
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

Nice house

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Loan for gas connection - very useful indeed

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Look at the number plate
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Heavy vehicles are not allowed inside the town

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We reached Rajouri by 10:00AM

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Old 14th September 2012, 21:33   #491
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

We drove through the town
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BDS (Bangalore)
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Old 14th September 2012, 21:43   #492
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

Rajouri is 46Kms from Bafliaz.
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Jammu is another 148KM

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Distances the other side.
Rajouri, the land of kings. Anyone who knows the history here?
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We drove on, the roads were excellent
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Bus service exists too

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Excellent roads
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Old 14th September 2012, 22:05   #493
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

seems like you guys were under constant surveillance/security ring. Nice!

That land of kings and emperors - something to do with Mughal emperors and Persian Kings gifting the land/visiting often?
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Old 14th September 2012, 22:11   #494
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

We were listening to radio stations of our neighbour in this route
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A small warning
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Which river is this?

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We are still far away from Jammu
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Some advise for us - in case we tend to forget

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We reached Lamberi
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Old 14th September 2012, 22:24   #495
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

Another advice
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Jammu is another 69KMs
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If someone told me JK had good roads I would never have believed it. Now I know the truth
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