EP 3 Srinagar to Gurez Valley- 140 km journey, Season -2 | Razdan Pass | Offbeat Kashmir
Standing below there, we weren't sure about the weather condition on the top. Standing here, you can see the clouds touching mountains. I have a feeling that up there, it would feel as if we are walking in the clouds.
You could keep watching this scene for hours but it won't be enough. So beautiful! By the way, you know where we are going? It won't be clear from here but.... ...we need to cross a couple of hills in that direction before we reach Gurez Valley. Namaskar friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. We left Srinagar this morning. We travelled a distance of 30 KM. And we are in Sumbal right now.
Today, we are going to Gurez. I've taken a halt here to watch the Jhelum river closely. We crossed the bridge to come to this side.
The Jhelum river will go further and join the Wular Lake. The Wular is Asia's largest freshwater lake. But we aren't planning to visit the Wular Lake today.
We will stay near Wular Lake on our return from the Gurez Valley. Right now, I am standing at a crossing. The left turn will take us on the road to Gurez. Just 7 KM further on that road, there is the Manasbal Lake on the right. We will visit that as well on our return from Gurez.
We will be going straight to Gurez now. If we take a right from here, instead of left turn.... ...the Kheer Bhawani Temple would be 10 KM from here. If we go straight from here, we will reach Sonamarg. One can go up to Leh via Sonamarg. That is the route plan I thought I should share with you. Maybe you already know that the Jhelum river originates in Verinag.
In the coming days of our journey, we are also going to visit Verinag. There, we will show you the origin of Jhelum river. The place where the river originates.
Nice! There is a vendor selling a "Masala Roti" across the road. Let's go and taste it. Then we will start our journey. Mooli (radish), pyaaz (onion), Laal Mirch (red chili powder) and dahi (yoghurt)! Yes, Dahi and Dhaniya (coriander) too! Dhaniya too! Very good! OK this.... This is Chana (boiled chickpeas).
This Chana is also sold with Matar-Kulcha combination? Yes! This is similar to the Matar-Kulcha you eat back home. And you call it what, Masala Roti? This is called 'Masala Roti' in Kashmiri language. You are completely up-to-date. You have written the IFSC code as well for online payments? Very good! Nice! This bread is different from the one we eat as Matar-Kulcha back home. That kulcha is different in taste. This kulcha is made with maida (refined flour) but tastes like a roti.
The main taste comes from Matar (or chana). The chutney & the mooli in it is also lending good taste. There is little curd in it. But it isn't that sour either. Good taste! How is it? It is good bhaiya! We have covered about 45 KM distance from Srinagar.
And we've reached the viewpoint of Wular Lake.... ...from where we can enjoy our first look of this beautiful lake. Oye hoye! Wow! So beautiful! I've already told you Wular is Asia's largest freshwater lake. Look at this beautiful view! Uff! This viewpoint is located on the way to Gurez! If we go 20 KM further on this road, we will reach Bandipora.
And beyond that, of course, we will go to Gurez. When we will be returning from Gurez.... ...we will be able to get a closer look at the Wular Lake. For now, we thought let us enjoy a view of this lake, as is written here, it is a Sunset Point.
One can watch a beautiful sunset from this point during evening time. Nice! This is the direction from which we came in. And we will travel in this direction. For past some time, we've been travelling through the Bandipora district.
I had told you about the Manasbal Lake & Wular Lake. Both are in the Bandipora district. This is the aerial view of the main town of this district, obviously known as 'Bandipora.' All the houses that are visible from here are part of the Bandipora town.
Earlier, it was a part of the Baramulla (Varmul) district. Later, it was declared a separate district. Gurez, where we are going, is also a part of Bandipora district. Bandipora is popularly known for three things - Aab (water), Adab (courtesy) & Ilm (knowledge)! Aab means water body! Adab means respect! Ilm is for education! The locals told me 'aab' is for the two large water bodies in the district. And this area is also famous for its hospitality.
We will stop here for 5 minutes and then move on to Gurez. I am most excited to visit the Razdan Pass. Because our way to Gurez will pass through the Razdan Pass.
While enjoying this beautiful journey, we've reach Tragbal. I can see there are 10-12 dhabas here. People stop here to satisfy their hunger pangs. Do you see this Iceland Hotel? This is where we are going to eat maggi. For a while, look at the scenery around me with your own eyes. It is so beautiful to look at.
Wherever you look, you will see either sky filled with clouds.... ...or tall trees under the sky. Right now, we are standing at a height of 9600 feet. Let us go in and order our maggi. Then we will enjoy our maggi. The maggi is here. I had noticed them also selling Chhole-Bhature! So, I asked for just Chhole in a separate plate for tasting.
It is a well-cooked maggi. No doubt! Often, when you add too many vegetables, the taste gets lost. That way, the maggi is good.
It has tomatoes, onions, maggi masala, and kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) for added flavour. Lovely! Chhole are highly simple in taste. It has no spices. Chhole were boiled, then added to a simple onion-tomato gravy. And some salt! It was a good decision to order chhole too as it would be filling too.
This is our lunch for today. Now we have 10 more KM to go before we reach Razdan Pass. The road to Gurez passes through Razdan Pass.
Right now, we are 4 KM away from the Razdan Pass. We've stopped our car here. In front of me is the Peer Baba Dargah (holy man's shrine). And next to it is a temple, maintained by the Indian Army. I checked the view on my either side as soon as I got down from the car.
And I am stunned to see this view. Look at the meadow on this side. And sheep too! What a beautiful view! All this water that you see here comes from a nearby spring. This is how the water pours out.
I have such supply connections to spring water at several places in Kashmir. As per the requirement. It is beautiful! Let us check the view from there & then we will go inside. This board has information about Peer Baba Ziyarat (shrine). In 1933, Peer Baba came to this place from Pakistan (erstwhile undivided India).
They have written the exact place from where he came here. He reached the Razdan Pass and at that time, his age of 40 years. And he breathed his last here because of heavy snowfall. As I told you, this place is maintained by the Indian Army.
This is Peer Baba's Ziyarat. And that is the temple next to it. I can't explain to you the amazing view that we've been enjoying in the past 4 KM of our journey.
We just kept driving while looking at mountains, clouds, and the beautiful valley on our right. We have now reached the Razdan Pass. You can look at this place and imagine how beautiful the surroundings are! Right now, we are at an altitude of 11,672 feet. A mountain pass connects one place with another.
A pass is basically a way between two hill ranges. Razdan Pass connects Bandipora to Gurez Valley. It is also the highest peak between Srinagar and Gurez. Between November & March, Gurez Valley remains cut off from Bandipora and rest of the country. Once the road opens in March, the tourists start visiting from April onwards.
But April comes with the risk of sudden snowfall, so the tourists might get stuck at Razdan Pass. And due to this sudden snowfall, the tourists can't even turn back to Srinagar. If you are planning to visit Gurez during April or May month,....
...it is advisable to seek advice from the TRC (Tourist Reception Centre) in Srinagar. They will tell you about the correct road and weather conditions. Or you can talk to the D.C. office in Bandipora for the current situation at Razdan Pass. Or you can also talk to the people in Gurez where you book your accommodation in advance.
You can plan your journey in April or May month accordingly. This is to give you an idea about how to plan your Gurez journey. During winter season, the temperature of this place falls down till -20 degrees. And this place receives 10 to 12 feet of snowfall. These facts should give you an idea about how cold this place must get during winter.
I was told that if I travelled through this Pass during Sept-Oct or April months.... ...and the weather turned suddenly, such high-speed winds blow here.... ..that it would be difficult to stand out in the open even for 10 minutes. Such high-speed wind blew here! See the clouds in front of me! Because of this, I am not able to see the Harmukh glacier clearly. If only the clouds moved away. Do you see that small piece of snowy mountain? It is part of a large glacier that would be clearly visible if there were no clouds in between.
We will spend 15-20 minutes here. Then we will leave for Gurez. After spending two nights in Gurez, we will return to Srinagar on the day after tomorrow. We've travelled for 45 minutes from the Razdan Pass. I wanted to stop the car and watch the view after every 5 minutes. We used to slow our car and enjoy the view while moving on slowly.
Now, I saw some people playing cricket down there and I thought we must make a stop here. It would be worth it to go down there and watch this amazing scene. What a wonderful location to play cricket at!! The match is between proper teams on a huge field.
And just next to it, whether it is a river or a rivulet, I don't know. But the water is flowing at a high speed. Scene of the day! No other phrase would justify this! This is the first village that we've seen since we left the Razdan Pass. Isn't it beautiful? The village doesn't have more than 25-30 houses. Shaukat Bhai, tell me one thing.
I can see some people there. And there are two cars standing at a distance. Yes, Yes! What is it? A guest house? No, no, it isn't a guest house Sir. Actually these vehicles, the Sumo cars that you see are employed in the service industry. Service means? For instance someone has come from Bandipora and the car drops him here. Tomorrow, he will pick them up from here, this village.
So, these cars are available for pick and drop from one location to another. You mean to say these people aren't tourists, they are locals. It is for locals. I've just realized that we are at least 500-700 m away from water if I talk of aerial distance. But we can still hear the strong flow of water clearly. One can only imagine the beauty of the view if we were to go near it.
We are still half an hour away from Dawar village. We've stopped here to take a look at the Kishanganga river. Look at the water current.
It is very fast. We crossed a check-post about a KM back. Videography wasn't allowed there. Our driver, Shauqat Bhai, showed our I-Ds there.
And we received some tokens. There, the river current was so fast that I can't explain it to you. I wanted to shoot a video there but I didn't since it was prohibited. But I was amazed at what I could see with my eyes. The same water body meets Kishanganga river here. After passing through Dawar in Gurez, Kishanganga flows upto Bakhtoor.
Beyond that, the river passes through Korgbal, the last village on the Indian side, before entering PoK. I am talking about the Kishanganga river. We will plan to visit the further area in the coming few days. There is a dam in that area, from where the water is diverted. You will get some idea about it if you read online. The water is diverted to a hydro-electric project in Bandipora.
Once electricity is generated, the water is sent further to Pakistan. So 75% water of this river goes to Pakistan from that project and remaining 25% from this side. Let us not spend too much time here. Let us move on now. It is already 7.20 PM. Being late here would mean we will reach our destination even later.
Come! Our tonight's accommodation is booked in Dawar. It is just 2 to 2.5 KM from here. So, we decided to visit the camping site that we saw on our way there. I have with me Ijaz Bhai. This is Kishanganga river, right? Yes! So, all these camps along the Kishanganga river belong to you? Yes, these are mine.
Alright! Let us go near the river. Sure! How many camps do you own? We own a total of 20 camps. And charges are Rs 1200 for a 3 person group.
How long have you been working here? I have been running these camps for the past three years now. Do you have meal facility? Yes, I have food facility available in both veg and non-veg options. What do you charge for food? The charges Sir are Rs 150 for dinner and Rs 100 for breakfast. Alright! Nice! The river current is very fast here. Right now, the glaciers are melting, so that is sending a lot of water down into the rivers.
The water will start receding from August onwards. The whole water will start looking blue in colour. Alright. Neela (blue) water reminded me that the Kishanganga river is in this form right now. When does the water start turning blue? From the end of July Sir. Okay.
And by August, it turns completely blue. Right! In Pakistan, this river is known as 'Neelam', after the blue gemstone Neelam! Precious stone! And here it is called Kishanganga. Kishanganga is its name! From there it turns back towards Karnah-Teetwal side. Hmm! There also, it is called Kishanganga. Hmm! Very nice! Good! I've heard that this place receives snowfall for 6-7 months in a year! Yes, for 6 months! During what time do you operate here? We start camping here after end of May. This means you begin in June? Yes! We start in June and are here till end of August.
In a way, you start camping for 3 months in a year. June, July and August! Yes Sir! Can you show us a camp just to give an idea to our viewers? Please come! The weather here is cold so are these camps suitably equipped? We have everything to save you from the cold, including blankets, you can see. Ahaa! Nice! We also have the toilet facility here Sir. Alright! Indian or western? It is Indian Sir! Alright! It is very nice! Tourists who are learning about Gurez these days are showing keen interest in visiting here. Yes! In fact, only yesterday I met a few tourists who had had a very good experience of visiting Gurez. It was nice to meet you and check out this camping site here.
So, we'll leave! Thank you Sir! Thanks! Now, Dawar must be 2-3 KM from here? Yes, only 2-3 KM. Okay then, let us go to Dawar. That is where our homestay is. In Gurez, we've booked our accommodation at Kaka Palace. As soon as I checked in and entered my room, they asked would I like to have water or Kahwa! And I said Kahwa please! So, I will show you the room with this cup of kahwa in hand. This room is double occupancy, though three persons can also be comfortable here.
Two plus one! I have also checked the washroom. The tariff here is Rs 4500 plus taxes. It is because I generally ask for GST billing. We booked two rooms so our bill is Rs 9000. We will stay here for two days. Two nights in fact, tonight and tomorrow night! We will leave here on day after tomorrow, as I told you earlier.
Now, after finishing my kahwa.... ...I will go for dinner. That will be good! Now, the electricity facility isn't reliable here. The electricity comes on and off. So, they run their power generator for 3-4 hours in the evening, when it is peak usage time. Like right now, everyone will sit for dinner! The rest of the time, they use solar power.
Right now, the lights are on because of generator power. Nice, great! I will finish this kahwa and join you while I eat dinner. For dinner, we've ordered 4-5 dishes for myself and my team members. Two more members will join us later and we'll order more food.
Rajma (kidney-beans), Matar-Paneer (Peas and Cottage cheese), Mushroom! This is Paneer in tomato gravy, Bhindi (lady finger) and chicken! All this will be eaten with Jeera Rice (rice cooked with cumin seeds). See the Bhindi is good in taste. But the oil is a bit too much! Rajma is completely simple in taste.
Its taste is like home-cooked rajma, with minimal spices. The spices are as minimal as possible. For me, it is alright because these days, I prefer to eat simple food. I am trying to lose weight right now. And if I continue to eat spicy food, my weight isn't going to come down and that is for sure. That is why, at home as well, I ask for minimal spices to be used in cooking food.
This chicken is very well-cooked! Very well-cooked! Its taste is amazing! Jeera rice is flavorful! Good taste! In today's dinner, the things that I liked the most were chicken, jeera rice, and rajma! Rajma is good because it has less spices and it is upto my preference but.... ...usually people prefer to eat spicy rajma! Now I will say bye-bye to you here! I am highly excited about my local Gurez journey tomorrow. I had been planning the trip to Gurez for the past 3 months. So, it is natural to be excited about it. Okay, bye-bye! Thanks for your time! The water here is so cold! I put my hand in the water for just two seconds.
And I can feel my hand going numb. Super cold!