Watch the Ride. Feel the Thrill
Now we were leaving Himachal and while entering in the state of J&K, our doubts and fear possessed us. Primarily because of the bad road ahead. The thought of this area being a hotbed of terrorism in 90s was also playing in our minds.
Fear is a dangerous possession. Pollute someone’s mind with fear and fear owns that person for the whole life, sometimes beyond that.
Terrorism was wiped out of the Kishtwar Gulabgarh region almost a decade ago but fear is still there.
However, life is always full of surprises and like Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get”; we too were surprised to see the road laid out in front of us.
The first few kilometers of J&K road were horrible. The road remains covered with silt and if you are unlucky like us, overnight rains will make it extremely difficult to figure out the least dangerous spot on the road covered with muddy water.
The rest of the road is actually a rock cut wonder.
The J&K state government and the Border Road Organization have done a commendable job by constructing a road in the middle of nowhere.
A good number of laborers and engineers have sacrificed their lives for the construction of this road.
Here is a glimpse of the road. I bet you haven’t seen anything like this in your life.
The last post of Himachal Police is few kilometers before the Sansari Nallah, which marks the start of the J&K State. As soon as we entered in the J&K state we were unwelcomed by a Police check post where the officer and constables were drunk and they all were behaving like a bunch of fucking retards.
They did not note our vehicle number, never bothered about our identity cards and above all they did not have any register to make an official entry into. The officer was drunk and he said do not click photographs of the river, buildings, people, animals, and mountains because you might pose a threat to the national security.
Everything else you can shoot in your camera. He wanted to know about the reason of our presence in J&K and his drunken sense could not let him believe that we were riding because we just wanted to ride. We somehow escaped that police post and the same thing happened at the next three posts. No register, no questions asked, no one bothered at all.
Undoubtedly, Himachal Police is people friendly.
The Chenab runs along the road and a mere look at the river is more than enough to send shivers down the spine. There comes a point in the journey when you can only hear the noise of the river but cannot see the river bed.
That sight was scary and all of a sudden life seemed all the more precious.
Usually vehicles are chased by animals but we chased one cow for more than five kilometers. She would not buzz off the road and kept running in front of us. We waited for 15 minutes and the cow too waited with us so that she could continue her wild run to scare us.
I guess animals in that region are not habituated to vehicles, motorcycles in particular.
As I have already mentioned, the milestones we encountered were dubious. They do not reflect the distance in kilometers but in miles and that’s what, I think, prolongs the journey. Gulabgarh is the first village that brings sanity into the picture. Gulabgarh reminds me of Mandi town where the Beas enters and then disappears mysteriously. The Chenab too disappears in Gulabgarh and then appears mysteriously after a few kilometers. A pilgrimage starts from Gulabgarh that leads you to the heavenly abode of Machail Mata after a moderate walk of two days (edited). The journey starts in July-August. The trail is almost similar to the Manimahesh Kailash trail in Himachal Pradesh.
The distance from Gulabgarh to Kishtwar is 67 kilometers and the road is average but average looks excellent when you come from the Pangi Valley. Kishtwar is a small town where Chenab is joined by the Marau River and that’s where the real Chenab is formed. Until Kishtwar it is called ChandraBhaga by many people.
Kishtwar is a formed from: Kisht and War, Kisht means Peach and War means Farm. There is a
huge gigantic colossal multipurpose ground in Kishtwar, which is known as Chougan. Its ‘n’ times the Chougan of Chamba, or Sujanpur, or any other Chougan I have seen in Himachal.
From Kishtwar one can go to Leh via Pehalgaam by crossing over the mighty Sintham Pass, which I have heard is a wonderful illustration of engineering brilliance of Border Roads Organization.
Next day we had a flat tyre, I walked and JP dragged the motorcycle for seven long kilometers in 40+ degrees Celsius but that looked easy because the definition of difficulty changes one goes higher in the Himalayas.
Udaipur-Killar = 86 Kilometers/8 Hours | Killar-Gulabgarh = 80 kilometers/6 Hours | Gulabgarh-Kishtwar = 70 Kilometers/3.5 Hours
As I have already said, some of the distances might be in miles, so keep aside your worries if you think that it is taking a little longer than it should for the mentioned distance.
The trip is over, the journey continues 🙂
P.S. I will write more. I will travel more. There will be more TravelTales in 2012 🙂