Lolab Valley, North Kashmir: A Bike Trip to the Land of Love and Beauty
January 3, 2019
After exploring the North-West
edge of Kashmir, Tangdhar and Teetwal in Karnah, I decided to head to a valley
that is probably the most popular in Northern Kashmir, the Lolab Valley (known
by locals as “Wadi-e-Lolab”).
Lolab Valley is a beautiful oval- shaped valley, nestled between Kashmir and Neelum Valleys in the Kupwara District. This means that I had to go back to Kupwara and then ride towards north.
Usually, tourists do a day trip to Lolab Valley from Srinagar. Since I am a slow traveler and I wanted to explore this region more, I spent few days here.
Initially, while riding towards
Tangdhar from Kupwara, I saw a board around Teepee village showing the way/diversion
to the virgin valley of Bangus. However, since I wanted to reach Tangdhar
before dark, I decided to explore Bungus Valley on my way back.
As soon as the early morning
showers stopped, I left Tangdhar. Rains had made the ride difficult. Soft
cottony clouds completely covered the snow-capped mountains of Tangdhar Valley
on both the sides of Sadhna Top. From Sadhna Top, although the descent was
filled with mesmerising views, it was equally dangerous.
After struggling with the
descent, finally I reached the Bangus Valley diversion by noon. Of course, I
had to take the diversion; I’ve heard so much praise about Bangus Valley
already. Ride of around 10-15 min. took me to the first Army check post in the
area, where I was stopped.
Although Bangus Valley does not require any special permit to visit, I was not allowed to go further. However, the friendly and surprised Army personnel welcomed me and offered me a hot cup of tea. I was informed that because of an avalanche during winters that had blocked the main road, the Army had to temporarily stopped tourists from going deep into the Bangus Valley till the path is cleared.
So, after taking a much need break and hot cup of tea, I took a U-turn and moved towards my next destination, the Lolab Valley, with a resolve in my mind to come back to explore this mysterious valley next time.
Reaching Lolab Valley
After crossing Kupwara, I entered
the Lolab Valley, where I could visibly see the difference in landscape.
Of course, Lolab valley has the
natural picturesque beauty of lush green forests and high mountains; it also has
vast pastures, stretching across nearly 25 kms from North-West to South-East,
varying in breadth from few meters to 5 kms.
By the time I reached Lolab Valley, it had started drizzling again. So, I quickly made my way to the Tourist Bungalow, operated by the State Tourism Department, at Chandigam (although there are several tourist huts in Lolab valley, only tourist hut at Chandigam was open during monsoon when I visited this region).
Since it was off-season, I was the only person staying in the entire property, apart from the care-takers.
Thankfully, I reached the Tourist Bungalow at Chandigam just before it started pouring. Seeing my struggle, Abdul Hamid, one of the care-takers at the Tourist Bangalow, came running to help me take off my luggage from the bike in the rain.
Soon I found myself cozying up in the warm bed, sipping the freshly prepared noon-chai (salt tea with dry fruits in it), while looking out of my window the clouds-covered mountains and hearing the melodious sound of the rain. It was bliss!!
What a relaxed end of the tiring day!
Epic bike disaster waiting to happen?
The next day, after morning
showers, I decided to explore Lolab Valley on bike.
Chandigam was surrounded by huge deodar,
pine trees and majestic mountains and had unparalleled scenic beauty. In fact, Wadi-e-Lolab
is one of the most scenic valleys in Kashmir.
But, in these picturesque mountains all around, sometimes even a small rough patch of road is enough to instil fear in you. That’s exactly what happened when I found myself and this beast of a bike in front of a mud track, which was for around 10 kms.
I was literally shivering with
the fear of having to ride this beast in such mud-mixed-with-rain highly
slippery road. I could see four bikers (I later came to know that they had come
from Haryana on their bike tour) carefully treading their way, with their boots
all messed up with mud.
And slowly and steadily I started, while praying out loud to calm my nerves. I got this strange emotion of being speechless with the surrounding beauty of the valley and the rice paddies, and at the same time, blabbering because of the fearful thought of falling and getting my legs smashed under the bike’s weight!
Can’t express the joy and sense of achievement I encountered after finishing that stretch.
Once done, I continued further to explore the little paradise called Lolab.
Exploring Lolab Valley – Doing the full loop
Not just to tourists, Lolab
Valley is an area of attraction to Bollywood fraternity as well; and I can
understand why. Many saints, poets and philosophers have praised the beauty of
Lolab. Poets have referred Lolab Valley as the land of love and beauty.
With huge valleys all around and
green rice paddies in between, no wonder this valley is being developed for
tourism. Several tourist huts and camping sites are under construction in the
I did a full loop of Lolab Valley crossing Sogam – Chandigam – Tekipora – Tekiya Khurhama – Nagmarg – Khruhama – Rednaag – Lalpora – Darpora – Krusan.
The entire stretch was dotted with walnut trees, with tiny green walnuts hanging on them. I was told that the harvest season of most of the fruits is in September, which is a good time to be here!
Not just walnut, but apple,
peach, apricot and cherry trees are also commonly found in the Lolab Valley; no wonder Lolab
Valley is also called the Fruit Bowl of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Lolab Valley is surrounded by huge mountains, but the plains in between are used for rice cultivation. In fact, I got quite surprised seeing rice paddies here as I never thought of Kashmir as the producer of rice. Well, now I know!!
Since, hardly any tourist come to
these deep lanes of the valley, all curious eyes were fixed on me and then on
my bike. But, their curiosity also helped me in having conversations with them.
The entire loop was not only picturesque, but allowed me to soak in the daily life of the locals – farmers working on the paddies, women carrying stuff from farms, children going to school, bustling local markets, gatherings in the small mosques and youngsters playing cricket.
By the time I came back to the
Tourist Bangalow at Chandigam, a hot noon-chai with freshly baked cake was
already waiting for me.
Many people from village had
already come to meet and talk to me in the late evening. We had endless
conversations about Kashmir, Kashmiris, their struggle, their hopes and India.
Hardly one-two young guys have ever been to Delhi for higher studies; rest of
the people, never got out of Kashmir. They shared their fears based on the
experiences (not exactly good experiences) these guys had in Delhi.
It was one of those moments when
I realized, if only people from Kashmir travel to other parts of India; at the
same time, people from mainland, travel to Kashmir, without preconceived
notions. Travel can really help the communities to shed their false notions and
know about each other properly. IF ONLY!
As I watched the night slowly taking over the evening, I could not help but thank everyone and everything for bringing this moment at this place in my life.
I was simply overwhelmed with emotions seeing the pristine beauty and the slow-paced life of this place. I was at peace!
Do you want to visit Lolab Valley? Are there any concerns you have about this place? Let me know in comments.