Last stop before reaching Razdan Pass on my return journey!
Kashmir & Ladakh

Gurez Valley: A Hidden Gem in Kashmir

“I want to go to Gurez valley on bike,” I declared to everyone I met in Kashmir during my bike trip.

However, almost everybody was surprised by my decision to do something like that. “You must be crazy; even we hardly do it on bike; it is extremely dangerous due to bad roads; be very careful, especially during rains” – these were the common statements I heard from the locals.

Views in North Kashmir
Views in North Kashmir

So, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I had no idea about its extent.

But, it is said – good things happen when you least expect it. As it turned out, unintentionally, I saved the best part of the journey for the last. My bike trip to Gurez valley became one of the most adventurous road journeys I have ever done.

Read also: Kupwara: The Beginning of My Epic Journey to Offbeat Kashmir

Teetwal: Exploring the Edge of North-West Kashmir

Gurez Valley: To go or Not to go!
Gurez Valley: To go or Not to go!

Watlab and Bandipore

While returning from Kalaroos, my time got wasted at Kupwara in catering to a tyre puncture. Initially I thought of staying at Sopore, but I was advised by locals not to do so due to instability in the region. As it was getting darker, I hurried to reach at least till Watlab.

Watlab is a small town over a hill just before Bandipora and overlooks the huge Wular Lake. Wular lake is the largest fresh water lake in Asia and is surrounded by valleys from three sides.

Rest House at Watlab
Rest House at Watlab

I reached Watlab in pitch darkness. I hoped to stay at Tourist Rest House, but to my surprise, it was not open for public. A special permission was required from the SP office at Sopore.

But, seeing my condition at such late hours, the caretaker melted and gave me one of the best rooms. Thank God!

Next morning, I left for Bandipore early, since, as per J&K tourism’s official website, a prior permission was required before going to Gurez.

However, when I reached the office of SP, Tourism, I was informed that such requirement has been done away with. Yayy!!

Read also: Tangdhar, Karnah: Journey to the Wild (North) West of Kashmir

Lolab Valley, North Kashmir: A Bike Trip to the Land of Love and Beauty

Enroute Bandipore from Watlab
Enroute Bandipore from Watlab

En-route Gurez Valley

The total distance from Bandipora town to Dawar village in Gurez Valley was just around 85 kms, but it took me almost six struggling hours to cover it.

As soon as the city ended and I started climbing, little did I know that I would not touch the plains until my final destination; the entire route was a non-stop mountain ride.

The snake-bend climb towards Tragbal valley engulfed me in the mesmerising aerial views of Bandipora city and Wular lake stretching till horizon.

Bandipore Town and Wular Lake View
Bandipore Town and Wular Lake View
Beginning of Nightmare

But, as I turned towards the other side of the valley, I found a deep dark abyss towards my left. Just the sight of its depth filled me with fear that I literally started shivering.

Somehow controlling my nerves, I shifted a bit towards the centre of the road and forced myself not to look on the left side at all. It became manageable eventually.

But, soon I found myself struggling in the slushy roads due to morning heavy rains. A single thought of slipping with this gigantic bike was enough to start a panic attack in me. I started blabbering and talking to myself out loud. My heart beat sky rocketed and I struggled to calm my nerves.

At this moment, my thought was – what have I gotten myself into!!
This was the beginning of the nightmare!
This was the beginning of the nightmare!

Finally, my prayers were answered and the muddy stretch ended.

After a while, my further climb took me to an old shrine of Peer Bubo. Nearby was a small chai Tapri. How could I miss having hot Maggie in that cold weather! The backside of the tapri gave the last view of Wular lake.

From here, the much awaited Razdan pass was just 4 km away.

Read also: Kalaroos Caves and Satbaran: Unsolved Mysteries of Lolab Valley

Maggi and Mountains - The Perfect Combo!
Maggi and Mountains – The Perfect Combo!

Razdan Pass

Razdan pass, at an altitude of about 3500m, is the highest mountain pass on this route. Covered by thick layers of snow even during summers, Razdan pass was quite a surprise for me. It was my first ever snow experience.

Razdan Pass
Razdan Pass

As much as I wanted, I couldn’t spend more time at Razdan Pass.

The dense black clouds soon engulfed the sky. I knew if it started raining now, I would be doomed. And so, I quickly finished the formalities at army check post and moved ahead.

Some peaceful time at Razdan top
Some peaceful time at Razdan top

While descending, the scenery quickly changed from snow-capped mountains and milky white surroundings to green valley views.

My sole companions were herds of sheep and intermittently passing gypsies; and after a while, a snake like river, that was flowing almost parallel to the road, also joined the group!

After crossing the Razdan Top, last remaining fragments of snow!
After crossing the Razdan Top, last remaining fragments of snow!

Descent was always followed by another climb to the adjoining hill/valley. I never reached the plains until my last stop.

The views were stunning, but the roads were horrible; the only saving grace was that atleast they were dry.

Read also: 5 Reasons why you should travel to Chhattisgarh

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The constant descend and ascend after Razdan Pass
The constant descend and ascend after Razdan Pass

Rain Rain!

The moment I reached another army check post at Kanzalwan, it started pouring. Initially, I waited a while for rains to stop; but, since I was much behind my schedule, I decided to go ahead.

Honestly, walking would have been faster. But, neither could I leave my bike behind, nor could I drag it uphill. So, the best way was to drive it super cautiously at snail pace.

This photo was taken near the dam while returning as the sky was clear
This photo was taken near the dam while returning as the sky was clear

On one side I was being careful about falling stones from the hill and possible avalanche risk; on the other side I was struggling to stop the bike from falling on the wet slippery muddy roads.

This was the time when I had to cross a newly constructed dam. The  possibility of sliding and falling in the catchment area of dam was nerve wracking.

Riding on these roads during rains is really challenging!
Riding on these roads during rains is really challenging!

Dawar – The Final Stop

After struggling for over an hour, finally I got the glimpse of Habba Khatoon mountain, which meant I almost reached Dawar, Gurez, my final destination.

Crossing the bridge over Kishanganga river, I finally reached Dawar. It was fun to watch the curious eyes and faces of the locals while I rode past the tiny hamlet to reach the Tourist Rest House.

Finally - The glimpse of Dawar, Gurez
Finally – The glimpse of Dawar, Gurez Valley

The caretaker was stunned to see me at the gate. Of course, he wasn’t expecting a biker in the evening hours while it was still raining.

Seeing my condition, the first thing he did was – gave me a hot cup of kahwa with a huge piece of cake!

While sipping another cup of hot kahwa and admiring the beauty of Habba Khatoon mountain from my room window, only one thought came to my mind – One hell of a ride that was!!

Read also: Turtuk, Ladakh: A Village That Taught Me Life Lessons

Lanes of Dawar, Gurez Valley
Lanes of Dawar, Gurez Valley

Gurez Valley – So near yet so far!

There are many things to do and places to see around Dawar. But, such exploration takes time as the roads condition is bad and it takes a long time to commute from one place to another.

I spent my limited time walking around Dawar, going to the market, talking to the locals, seeing the adjoining tulip garden, and just chilling.

Tiny tulip garden beside the Guest House at Dawar, Gurez Valley
Tiny tulip garden beside the Guest House

Unfortunately, I could manage only one night stay at Dawar and had to return the very next day to be able to catch my return flight from Srinagar.

This meant that I did not get any time to really explore the area around Dawar and further up towards the northern LOCs.

But, it’s okay. I know I will come back again for more!

Lucky to have got sunshine on my way back from Dawar, Gurez Valley
Lucky to have got sunshine on my way back from Dawar, Gurez Valley

Return Journey

Based on my previous day’s experience, I decided to start my return journey early in the morning. Owing to early morning rains, I could only start after 9 am.

Thankfully, weather during my return ride was much better and I could see vast blue sky, dotted with white fluffy clouds and glowing sun.

Last stop before reaching Razdan Pass on my return journey from Gurez Valley!
Last stop before reaching Razdan Pass on my return journey!

Good weather also meant I could spend more time on Razdan pass, where I experienced fresh snow for the first time.

With clear sky, the surrounding snow-capped mountains became visible. I sat there for a long time admiring their beauty and watching the time go by.

Just chilling at Razdan Top
Just chilling at Razdan Top

I honestly had one of the best journeys of my life in those 5 hours of return ride.

With breathtaking views and fearsome reputation, the route to Gurez valley is definitely a must-do for all mountain-lovers, off-beat destination-seekers, and bikers.

It is an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for faint heart, lungs or legs!

Razdan Pass enroute Gurez Valley
Razdan Pass – We met again !
Have you been to Gurez yet? Did you know about Gurez valley? Have you done any bike trip to Kashmir? Let me know in comments.

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