Day3- Hanzal to Yordu
Today we walked from Hanzal to Yordu. Today is an equally beautiful trek still along the Marau River.
We left our new found friends early in the morning. A small breakfast of rice and then off we go with Farooq still carrying my rucksack.
The trek is quite easy going as the path is in good shape and the gradient easy. Quite a few horses carrying goods making for Hanzal as we head in the opposite direction. I later learn that they load up at Inshan where the road that comes from Anantag finishes. There are also quite a few travellers on this section of the trail perhaps visiting the other villages Nagerwal and Khum on the other side of the river.
Along the rivers edge deodars and birch and other deciduous trees grow. The river is a constant attraction as it changes direction and verocity. In places it passes swiftly through rocky restrictions and later it slows down in the wider sections and sometimes forms beaches of white sands. Underneath the canopy grasses and sometimes strawberries and mushrooms can be seen. The sunshine flowing through the canopy changes constantly. Sometimes it can be quite dark on the trail where the light cannot get through.
I have really been enjoying this and the previous day. Except for having to put up with Farooq who isn’t really a bad guy just a bit of a weasel. I guess the main reason is that my confidence has increased as I have managed to get fed, accommodation and found that the perceived dangers of terrorism etc didn’t materialize.
Just a few notes about this day. The valley is quite steep sided until one approaches Narwajan. The track we were on didn’t actually pass through this village which is higher up the ridge. I think this is because the landscape is better suited to cultivation where the village is located. As one approaches this area some houses appear and cultivation of barley I presume occurs behind rock walls with thorny bushes on top.
Next on the agenda is a large area of morrainal debris through which the path goes. Not large rocks but a more barren landscape where only small trees and bushes grow. We see girls and ladies collecting wood for fires. They cut the smaller bushes down and carry them back to their villages in what look like very heavy bundles on their heads. All the time chatting to each other it might appear to others that this is an easy and enjoyable activity.
We now have a view of a large wide valley to the north and can even see Yordu nestled as this valley close at the top end of this expanse. But before Yordu are several villages on our side of the river. The first one we reach is the village of Chanjer, district Marwah which is not mentioned on my map. Chanjer is on our side of the river and is just as delightful as was Hanzal.
Chanjer seems to have more shops than Hanzal with a more comprehensive range of goods. As we entered the town we walked past a primary and secondary school. They looked pretty run down and not a very stimulating place. But maybe that is just a poor assessment because the school children may have been on holidays.
The buildings aline a smaller feeder creek to the Marwau River and are largely made of deodar trees. Beautiful structures and this part of the village seemed quite tidy. On my way into the village I stopped at one of the shops probably to ask where we might get something to eat. Farooq was starving and begging me to help him find something to eat. I told him go and find something whilst I talk to this man.
Meeting someone with a command of English was just as desirous to me as eating. I was starving for words. I hope I have his name right as Mr. Manoj Koul. Anyhow Manoj invited me back to his house for tea. So we retraced our path back to one of the traditional homes that I had noticed on the way in. Tea prepared by his wife and family was served upstairs on the balcony. Manoj secured a chair for me and we sat on a earthen roof adjacent to the balcony and the main section of the house. As soon as we started talked other villagers came to join us and soon the balcony was filled with villagers old and young.
It was a beautiful afternoon, sun shining but not too hot. In the distance you could see the pastures and the morraine area we had just crossed. The balcony area overlooked an ancient apple tree underneath which was a carpenter’s shop. The carpenter’s shop was not like anything with which a westerner would be familiar. No electrical tools and just a few hand tools. The most difficult part of a carpenters life here would I imagine be preparing the wood as it is all cut from logs.
Nibblies and tea with out sugar (always hard to get) and lots of friendly people wanted to know about my life and why I was here. A familiar topic by now but still difficult to talk in depth because of the usual language barriers.
I enjoyed their company very much and wished I could help them obtain better communication. It is obvious these people want to know more about what is happening elsewhere in the world. No mobiles here, no internet, no books, no newspapers no communications. Only the army and police telling them what might be happening. They have really very little say in their destinies yet India decides often what is going to happen to them. Maybe it is this situations which creates some resentment to government Policies and even lead to terrorist sympathies which the army and police still seem to think exist in this region.
Farooq eventually caught up with me and we walked a little further until we came to the next village which I believe was called Nowpachi. As we came to Nowpachi my first assignment was to find some food for Farooq who was squealing loud and clear that he was hungry. I still don’t really understand why my appetite was so small.
Whilst he had the usual dal and rice I sat down with another group of villagers and talked about lots of things over a cup of tea. It was a bit messy around the dhaba and I explained the story of Ian Kiernan and Clean up Australia. I am not sure if I got my message across but they really got to do something about the mess. These towns are really in pretty good shape and if they can get some tourism it is important that they clean up their villages. The more remote villages are often clean and can co-ordinate cleanups but I think as towns get bigger everyone gives up or these sort of public duties.
Eventually we got away again. I think this was the biggest forum I had attended. But we didn’t go far befor e we had to stop at the police station and military post. First the military post where we sort of lounged around for a while shaking hands, checking passports etc before going a yards and then having to repeat the inquisition with the army. A few things happened here. We were assigned a police escort who stuck with me for the next 24 hours. Not sure why but he was unarmed and had changed into plain clothes so I am not even sure how much help he would have been in a crisis.
The other thing that happened was the Army major got on my nerves so that I was showing quite a bit of impatience at once again being delayed. Not really his fault just that I was getting sick of these delaying formalities. Anyhow he didn’t have a book to sign me in so I requested that he get one. I was not allowed to be signed in the usual book as I was a foreigner. I said you won’t be able to remember my name and details and therefore it is important that you have a record. So eventually he produced a book and there you are I am his first entry. Wonder when the next one will be? After this he said courteously ‘Is there anything else I can do for you’ . Naturally I couldn’t resist and said ‘yes – a Mango milkshake would be nice. ‘ He then said ok we will make you one. I had to quickly eat my words as I didn’t want him using up his special mango. (no readily available in this area).
Off we go now to Yordu in company with my tall laughing policeman and a couple of teaches and assorted others. Its not long before we reach Yordu.
As you will have noted we are in the district of Marwah. I have since tried to investigate what sort of terrorist problems might have occurred in this district. The internet supplies some answers. There certainly have been some killings of persons by the army who are stated as being jihads from possibly Pakistan here up to no good trying to affect people’s thinking. Its probably a lot more complicated than this but on the ground as I saw it they all appeared to be a very friendly lot and at no time did I feel uncomfortable.
From Nowpachi the track is easy going across an open valley which slopes down to Yordu. Yordu is across the river which is spanned by two bridges the old and the new one. The old one is built of deodar logs. It is an interesting contruction quite common in Kashmir. To create a large span each successive layer of logs is cantilever perhaps half its length out from the one it lies on top of thereby gradually closing the span as successive layers are added.
On the last stretch I am in company of a group of young men who ply me with lots of questions. Two of them are teachers and speak good English. Another is a young student named Bilal Ahmed Malik.
I wasn’t too sure where to stay when I reached Yordu. Kharid, the policeman who was with me wanted me to go one way. I felt I wasn’t being able to decide myself and when this happens I get worried. So eventually I told them as much as I was able to convey that it would be my decision where I stay.
At one stage it was suggested that I stay on this side of the river but on inspection I couldn’t find anything that I liked. So then I crossed the river and walked up to the shop located amongst other building along a ridge. Again people gathered around me and a portly gentleman suggested that I stay at his house or the Forestry Rest house. However the Rest House didn’t look as if it had been used for some time and was still closed.
So I decided to find Bilal who had previously offered me accommodation and walked in what of I thought was the direction of his home. And it was. Bilal came out to meet me and I was soon taken to his home where I met his family and made welcome.
What a great decision and how often fate lends a helping hand. It was nice to be in a comfortable home and able to relax. We all slept in Bilal’s room that night on the floor except for the policeman who got Bilal’s bed. Not sure what all of this security thing meant as Kharid apparently had family and lived nearby.
One thing that did happen is here Farooq left me so we negiotated and I paid him out. He said he wanted to get paid and start heading home. After some serious talking we shook hands and he left only to return when dinner was being served. I expect he had his money and could get cigarettes which he craved. After this he couldn’t be bother going anywhere.
The best thing about this stay is I met Ualfat, Bilal’s older brother who offered to be my guide and porter for the next two days which would then take me to Suknoi. But thats enough about this days trek. I am sure I have left lots out but all of these days were jam packed with adventure.