EP 4 Exploring Gurez Valley | Season -2 | Dawar | Offbeat Kashmir

EP 4 Exploring Gurez Valley | Season -2  | Dawar | Offbeat Kashmir

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The water current that I am looking at right now.... ...if I talk about it in terms of KM per hour speed... ...I believe the water is flowing at, at least, 45 KM per hour. So beautiful! So beautiful! Namaskar friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. Right now, I am standing in the Dawar village of Gurez Valley. Behind me, you can see the Log Hut Cafe. It is being run by the Indian Army.

Once we are back from today's trip, we'll have tea, coffee or evening snack here. I have found out that they have tea/coffee and sandwiches available right now. They operate from 8 AM till 8.30 or 9.00 PM. Our day will start with a visit to the Khandyal Top.

The top is located about 3 to 3.5 KM from here. From there, we will get to see a beautiful view. So, with this exciting thought we are beginning our Gurez journey.

We've reached the Khandyal Top. This place has tall mountains wherever I look. On this side, there are just trees, tall trees! Wow! What a beauty! This Valley has tall mountains on all sides. Look at this! The mountain top at which I am pointing finger is the Habba Khatoon Peak.

This mountain is different in colour & it looks like there aren't many trees on it. As compared to other mountains in the area. As I take a 360-degree look, no one mountain is similar to the other. Every direction has a different view. This is such a beautiful place! All the huts that you see down there make up the Dawar village.

As per the aerial distance, the Kishanganga river is about a KM from where I am standing. I could zoom the camera but it won't be clear enough. But when we left our homestay in Dawar... ....we saw Kishanganga river from close quarters. A while ago, I told you this is Dawar village. Actually not Dawar, but it can be called Khandyal village.

Since we are at Khandyal Top, so this is Khandyal village. And Dawar village is just next to it, at a distance of 2 or 3 KM. Right now, we are at Khandyal Top in Dawar Tehsil. And I am showing you the view that I am enjoying too. We will also visit the Tulail tehsil, which is nearby. There, we will check out the natural beauty of the place.

So nice! You are running a camping site here. Yes Sir! You are charging Rs 1500 for four persons. Yes Sir! And what would be the charge for just one person? Rs 1000 for one person.

1000 Sir! Alright! So what do you do for toilet facility? We have a washroom Sir. Alright, there is a washroom. Yes, it is built to the side. Yes, I saw it, it is in the back. Yes Sir! It is built away at a side because that way, it is convenient.

One doesn't feel the smell as well. Yes, that is right Bhai! Very nice! This location is lovely! Yes Sir, it is lovely! Nice location! So, your camp also lasts four months here? Yes Sir, absolutely! You must be starting in June? Yes, from June Sir. June, July, August...

September. September. For four months. Yes Sir. By the way, where do you belong to? Khandyal Sir. Ohh! You live here in the village? Yes Sir! Very nice! For a long time, we had been watching the Kishanganga river from the same height. We weren't at that high an altitude.

Now, as we progress in our journey up the mountain... ...the Kishanganga river is looking further down in the Valley. Let me show you from here. And you can also judge the water current yourself. Look at the speed of water! You can feel the current wherever water strikes against huge rocks.

The snow that you see atop the mountains remains as it is throughout the year. Right now, we are in the last week of June. So, the glaciers have started melting. The colour of water is as such because of the sediments travelling with it. In a month's time, from mid-July till August, September and October... ...the water of this river will have turned clear blue. You will get an idea if you google Kishanganga for photos.

In Pakistan, this river is called 'Neelam'. We often speak of this quote that the journey is more enjoyable than the destination! But the scene here is that the journey is as enjoyable as the destination. Now we are standing at a height to show you one such beautiful viewpoint.

From here, you can see the Kishanganga river flowing in an 'S' shape. The village that you see in the front is the first village of Tulail Tehsil. It is called 'Burnali.' If you are coming in from Dawar, and don't want to travel any further....

..you can come up to Burnali, see this viewpoint and go back to Dawar. If you want to explore further, you can go a little further, up to Sheikhpora. Like we are visiting Sheikhpora, so you will be visiting with us. Look at the scenes we are showing you from Gurez Valley. If you look there, you will see water coming in very fast. It isn't the Kishanganga River. Someone unaware could confuse it with the Kishanganga River.

This river is coming in from Pakistan. About 300 meters from here, it will join the Kishanganga. Now why have I come to Gurez? Because I wanted to visit that part of Kashmir, which is still living 50 years back in time. I haven't felt so till now but here I can feel as if I have travelled back in time. All these houses that you are seeing form a hamlet called PTL, Purana (Old) Tulail. On my way here, I saw a number of boards saying PTL.

So, we understood, it means Purana Tulail. All the houses are made of wood. None of them is made of concrete. All these are houses of Purana Tulail. Now take a look at the place from where I am shooting this video. These are the four walls of a house. These walls are made by stacking stones like we build our walls with bricks.

And rest of this house is made of wood. Since this area receives heavy snowfall, the roofs are made of tin sheets to remove snow easily. Earlier roofs were made of wood, but snow used to damage them. Now with tin roofs, snow doesn't stay up there, it melts and falls down. We've stopped again.

To watch another beautiful view! Do you see that village in the distance? It is known as Sheikhpora village. In front of it, you can see a different view of the Kishanganga River. Next to it, I am not sure whether it is operational or not but work is going on at a JKTDC property. The huts that you see are part of an upcoming JKTDC property. Mountains on this side are covered in grass.

These aren't rocky mountains. A while ago, we could see rocky mountains and river flowing next to them. This landscape is quite different. We've reached Sheikhpora village. Let me introduce you to Mohammed Yaseen Bhai and Irfan, who are with us. One, we want to visit your village.

Second, we would also like to have lunch. So, let us eat lunch first, then we will understand your village and your way of life. After that, we will take a round of the village. Tell me a few basic things. From here onwards, it is said that Chakwali is the last (Indian) village. Yes Sir! After that PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) starts? Right Sir! So, how far is it? Chakwali is 30 KM from here.

Beyond that, you are not allowed to go further, because it is Army post. So, though we aren't going, but if one were to go to Chakwali? Yes Sir! The view here is good. But will we get to see a different view there? Nothing different Sir. It is a mountain area, just like this one, and the view is not better than what you see here. Same level? Same level. Hmm! Right! I just saw a JKTDC property being developed here. Yes Sir! When will that be ready? Sir, that will be ready in a year or two.

Alright! Now let us walk upto your village. What is the population of this village? The village population would be about a 1000 or so Sir. Alright! So 1000! It means it is a small village. It is the smallest village of Gurez-Tulail area.

And one more thing I must tell you is that this is the most educated village in the area. The literacy rate here is 99%. That is an amazing fact! Thank you Sir! Any special reason (for that)? The reason is that during winters, families shift from here. Hmm! Secondly, in terms of jobs too, this village has 90% employment rate. As compared to the whole Gurez Valley.

The employment rate here is upto 90%. And the village has become a source in itself. Villagers who have left here and have settled in Bandipora or other towns... ...received enough exposure and thus decided to educate their children as well. Now I get it. This place has employment opportunities for which you need a minimum qualification. Yes Sir! Therefore, the parents encourage their children to focus on education so that they are job-ready.

Right Sir! That is the reason, right? Yes! That is a wonderful thing that you are so confidently talking about the 99% literacy rate. Well, we will visit the village and then understand it better. From what I can see here, most of the houses seem to be made of wood. Houses are made of wood Sir because during winter, we receive snowfall up to 5-6 feet. Because of that, people are forced to stay indoors.

We need to light up an iron-stove, called 'Bukhari'. Now, concrete gets really cold during harsh winter season. It becomes difficult to survive inside cement structures when it snows outside. Earlier we also used to apply a layer of wet mud on the inside of the wooden walls.

Now we use additional panels to keep the house warm. Got it! This is why we use wood! So, is this the way to go to your home? We can go either this way or that. These houses look like they were built long ago. These are old houses.

Built, at least, 25-30 years ago. Alright! I checked and saw that mobile network is available here. The mobile network is available Sir.

For the past two years, Jio network has been available here. Yes, Jio as well as Airtel. Yes, work is going on for Airtel as well as BSNL networks too. Shall we enter? Yes, let us go inside.

We have revised the seating arrangement. I have asked Yasin Bhai to take a chair next to me here. I am seated here, at a height, and watching the village below. This is how we will enjoy our food. Very nice! So, this dish is made with Lingda (Fiddlehead Ferns) and you call it what? Langu! Langu! Yes! So, this is Langu! So, you cook this Langu after -drying it? Yes, it is sun-dried and then used for cooking.

Alright! It is sourced from a nearby jungle, on one of these mountains. Even if you had not told me this is Langu, or you would have called it Lingda.... ...I could never have been able to identify this vegetable. The way we cook and eat mushrooms... There is a variety of mushrooms, which is cultivated and then, there is another variety, which grows in the wild. And is harvested for consumption. Both varieties of mushroom taste quite different from each other.

That is the kind of flavour I can enjoy in this dish. I was told that potatoes grown in Gurez are smaller in size But these potatoes are bigger in size! The potatoes grown here aren't really smaller in size. Some potatoes grow up to even 1 or 1.5 kg in weight. Alright! It means I misunderstood.

You've been misinformed. One potato of 1 KG!! Yes, 1 KG! Do you have any such potato to show? I will have to ask at home. No problem! Show it to me once we finish lunch. See, I am not an expert on potatoes.

But I can say this much the potato curry tastes good. It has a fresh feel. And as the food is prepared in villages, this food has a simple taste to it. While travelling in Kashmir, you would be told that... ...this Kadam Saag, also known as Haakh Saag (local green vegetable).... ...is a famous preparation of Kashmir. You must taste it because you will find it in Srinagar, and elsewhere in Kashmir Valley. The Rajma (kidney beans) of this area are smaller in size.

These are smaller in size, then there are varieties, which are slightly bigger too. There are different varieties. Very good! You know the best thing about this food, it has a homely feel to it.

Elsewhere in our trip so far, we have had food in restaurants. But this homely taste is amazing! It has limited spices! It has almost no spices! It has little salt, and I don't feel anything else, except that the food is juicy! This food is juicy! Rajma-Chawal (kidney beans and rice) is a staple food for North Indians. I think this combination is cooked at least once a week in every North Indian household. Last time I was in Jammu, I got to know that the rajma grown in a place called Bhaderwah are quite famous. Now that I am in Kashmir, I got to know that the rajma of this place are very famous! Every one has his own style of cooking as well as serving food. Rajma of Gurez Valley are famous too! This is a fact that quite a few people, in the past 2-3 days, have told me.

There is a bee-hive next to the place where we are having our lunch. I asked him whether I needed to be scared of the bees! He said there is no need to worry, I just need to keep my distance. It is still quite close. By the way, do you have any estimate of the number of bees in this box? Must be 2000-3000 in number! Alright! So, how do you extract the honey? We extract honey once a year! Now we are going to enjoy our lunch. Then we will take a round of the village. Thereafter we will carry on with the rest of our journey.

But before I leave, I want to see Jeera (cumin seeds) and the large size potato. Okay! You got the Jeera? Yes Sir! This is the famous Jeera of Gurez. It is fragrant even at this distance.

It is of very good quality. Really! Can I have some in my hand? See, eating this Jeera raw feels different. And after adding it to the dish while cooking...

Would have its own taste! It would be different! Yeah! It is a different flavour! The lunch that I've just had with him... ...I asked him how much I had to pay for it, and he says whatever I wish to. I asked him how is that possible. Anyways, I paid him but that is not what I want to mention. I advised him to work out a planned menu, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes... ...so that it is convenient for the guests to choose from. Even though it is your first experience but it is better that way.

There shouldn't be any confusion if someone wants to come here and have lunch at your home. So, you can message me on Instagram. Will do Sir! You can send me the message in 2-3 days, as convenient. For now, we will walk up to the car. And then we will take your leave. Okay, thank you! Okay thanks, bye-bye! Please come again! Uff! We were travelling in the car for the past one hour.

I wanted to make a halt but then I felt that we've already watched these sceneries. Thus, we kept travelling. But then I thought we have to stop here.

The water current here, if I talk in terms of KM per hour, ... ...I believe the water is flowing at, at least, 45 KM per hour. This is what I feel standing here. Now, the sun is left way behind. All that is left here is the shadow.

There is a narrow path here. We will go down to the river. Now we are near the water. So beautiful! So beautiful! Lovely! We have returned to Dawar. Dawar is 4 KM from here.

I am now going to show you the Habba Khatoon Peak. The one we saw from the Khandyal point in the morning. From the Khandyal viewpoint. In the morning, the peak was at a distance but now, it is right in front of us. Now, if I compare, in the morning, the peak looked dark from a distance. And now, the peak is clearly visible in the sunlight.

Now, let me tell you a couple of things about this place. On most occasions, when tourists arrive at Dawar, which is the main town... ...they want to visit the Habba Khatoon peak, right up to the famous spring. That there is the Habba Khatoon Spring. Many tourists travel 4 KM from Dawar, they go straight instead of taking the road to the spring.

Because they aren't clear about where to go. So we've stopped here to clarify things to you. So, what you have to do is this. There is a bridge in the distance. You need to cross the iron bridge. After crossing the bridge, do you see the cars standing at one place? You will also park your car there. Then, after covering a distance of about 400 m, you'll reach the Habba Khatoon Spring.

This is how you will reach the spring and the Habba Khatoon Peak. After visiting the spring, when we will go back... ...we will try to see this Peak again, before it is completely dark. So, there would be a chance that this Peak would look golden in colour. I was talking of today. Now let's talk of the road on which we are travelling. This road goes straight to Churwan-Shahpora. Now what is Churwan? It is the last village on the Indian side.

If I start walking from here, though no body is allowed to walk further,... ...only the Churwan residents are allowed to go in that direction... ...after travelling for 2 to 2.5 KM in this direction.... ...or may be after travelling or 3 KM... ...you will reach the country's border with PoK. This is the reason why entry isn't allowed further. I am telling you all these details because a lot of tourists... ...don't have enough knowledge about this place or even Gurez. These are details that we've learnt here and are now sharing with you. To visit the spring, we've parked our car right there. I had told you about a river flowing in from Pakistan? Here is its close-up. It is called Burj Nala.

Now we will walk up to the spring. We've now reached near the Habba Khatoon Spring. I couldn't locate the source of this spring when I was looking at it from a distance. From here we can see water gushing out from under the mountain. Lovely! Lovely! Aahhaa! The water is so cold! I just put my hand in it for two seconds. And it feels my hand has gone numb! Super cold! I have an empty bottle with me.

Let us fill up some spring water in it. Well, I have to admit that the taste of spring water is different. What a pleasure! (I am) so happy! And I would like to mention again the speed with which the water is flowing.

Here it is falling in a small step. A while ago, I was thinking of clicking a photograph from that side. It would be a lovely photo or even a video, if I shoot one. Wonderful! Lovely! That is the Burj Nala about which I've already told you.

This spring water is meeting the Burj Nala up ahead. But I don't have information about where the Burj Nala is headed. Now we will go back up to where our car is parked. Thereafter, we'll try to watch the view of the Habba Khatoon Peak again.

It is said that the Peak looks golden in colour during sunset. We will try to catch that view. We thought let's have a cup of coffee at the Log Hut Cafe, before ending our day. I had decided to end my day here when we visited this place in the morning.

So, I've ordered a coffee for myself. In fast-food, basically, they serve noodles, fried rice, sandwich, etc other than coffee. Nice! This coffee has a strong flavour. Usually, when tourists visit Dawar in Gurez Valley... ....they make it a point to visit this Cafe at least once during the trip. For one, it is because of the "I Love Gurez" sign outside,... ...which is a good photography point and otherwise... ...this place serves fast-food and coffee, which the tourists like. Very good! Now, let me tell you something more about this cafe! This is a cafe, obviously, run by the Army.

Secondly, the Cafe also organizes events, in which locals & tourists participate. The Army facilitates those events. For instance, if someone wants to share their thoughts.... ...on the development of Gurez, this is the point where people come & interact. Right! Coffee is good in taste! After finishing coffee, we will return to our homestay. Tomorrow, we plan to leave Gurez by, I think, 10 AM.

Because we have to visit a couple of places in the morning. Then, we'll leave for Srinagar, while visiting the Wular Lake on our way. After visiting the Wular and Manasbal Lakes, we'll reach Srinagar by evening. This is our tomorrow's programme, which you'll see in the next episode. Right! For now, I am saying bye to you here.

You must tell me your views about today's journey. Enjoyed it a lot! I mean we enjoyed it a lot & I am sure that after this episode, ... ...even you would like to visit Gurez. This is the best time to visit Gurez! June, July, August, September, as I've already mentioned it many times! I am repeating this so that you get an idea about the best time to travel. Right! I will now say bye-bye to you here. And we will meet again soon! Thanks for your time!

2023-08-14 16:18

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