“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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.