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Gurez Valley –The unexplored Kashmir
4/8/2021 12:36:41 AM

Sunil Vaid

Gurez is a lovely valley located about 123kms from Srinagar City. At about 8000 ft above sea level, the valley is surrounded by snow capped mountains. It has diverse fauna & wild life including brown bear and the snow leopard. The KrishanGanga River flows through the valley. The population of the area is estimated to be about 30,000 and is scattered among fifteen villages. Due to heavy snowfall in winter, (approximately 6-7 ft.) the valley remains cut off for six months of the year. During my official visits to Bandipora, I had an opportunity to visit this Paradise in July 2012, which I have pleasure to share.
I along with my colleagues & friends started our journey for Gurez from Bandipora at about 1PM after having light lunch .Our first stop was the famous Wular Lake. Wular Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. It is located in Bandipora district and its size varies seasonally from 12 to 100 square miles. We finally reached Wular Lake in about an hour and a half. The lake is one of the 26 Indian Wetlands designated as a Ramsar site and is an important fish habitat as well as also sustains a rich population of birds .To our surprise, we found water covered with grass and only site of some boats made us realize that it was a Lake.
Our next destination was Razdan Pass; the only high altitude Pass between Srinagar &Gurez; at a height of 11,672ft above the Sea level. The Road over the pass, called Bandipora- Gurez highway, connects multiple remote villages, including those near the LOC with Bandipora and Srinagar. The pass is beautiful sight and drive was scenic and a memorable one. As we continued on our way and pretty soon were climbing up the Razdan pass. We also visited Peer Baba shrine, a spiritual treat which falls a little before the Pass and Is sitting quite phenomenally well over looking the valley in front. The roads to Gurez valley were in terrible condition and badly broken. So for however, we travelled on smooth roads which started deteriorating as we climbed up. We stopped at a hotel and had tea and snacks.
Just as we started tumbling down the Pass came Army check post .The traffic had been halted due passing of the convoy of a VIP.As we were carrying official ID card, we were allowed to move on. The condition of the Road got bad after the Razdan Pass. It turned into dirt trail with so many pot holes that our backs started to hurt. Check Posts continued to arrive after regular intervals and we finally arrived at Dawar at 6 PM. Water falls tumbling down, ridged slopes, snowy mountain peaks towering at a distance; beautiful fields of potatoes and maize bordered by dazzling wild flowers; small wooden villages dotting the landscape. This is what people visit Gurez for. People were very warm and inviting us to their homes. For them tourists is a rare sight and kids were quick to chase us. We stayed in the Army guest house in the night.
Next after having breakfast in the lovely valley of Gurez were ready to explore the beauty of the valley. While travelling through Gurez valley, we were running extremely close to the border; so close that we could see Pakistan occupied hills. Scenic beauty exists in plenty in Gurez. Being so close to border, it is actually what you may as well calla forbidden beauty. Vistas leave you spellbound at every turn. Snow capped peaks of Habbakhatoon hills standing proud, Kishanganga river flowing through, a gush of cold winds and dense forests around, Gurez is a place that seems like straight out of a painting. It is hard to describe in words but the scenic beauty Gurez is but different from other hill stations. One can also see Army posts on the hills and our brave hearts guarding our borders in extreme treacherous conditions. Our salute to them. After obtaining permission from the authorities we also visited a Army post and met the brave soldiers there. They were quite happy and encouraged as hardly any civilian visited them. After Dawar, we drove about 60 kms through Tulail district till the village of Chakwali, the last village on Indian Border. This is where the Road ends and where one can see the hills controlled by Pakistan.
In the late evening, we were back in our Guest house totally exhausted. As we had to leave for Bandipora early in the morning, we decided to have round of Dawar town. Dawar is central town ship in the heart of Gurez valley and has almost 600 odd households. Literacy rate of Dawar is about 86.80% and people there very docile, cooperative and warm. Languages spoken by them are Kashmiri, Shina and Urdu. The simple life of the locals’ elevated our minds of stress and tiredness. The wild wooden houses made our idea of luxury and comfort change. After a little stroll of the bazaar, State Guesthouse and a little shopping mainly black cumin seeds we were back to our Rest house. After having dinner and a get together with the officers and Jawans, after thanking them with their warm hospitality were back to our rooms and retired to bed.
Early in the morning, along with our friends left the lovely Gurez valley, with Kishanganga River flowing through it and on either side tower mountain scraps of indescribable grandeur with heavy heart.
The beauty of the place is so awesome that Gurez would be Kashmir’s most popular tourist destination. But unfortunately due to never foreseen circumstances and neglect of the administration Gurez is still waiting the cap it reserves.
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