I return to one of the most beautiful valleys in Kashmir

[wowslider id=”4″]

It took me a while to make my way back to the Marwah Valley. In order to get you guys interested in this story as much happens I am breaking it up into segments. In this note I am telling you a little about how one gets to the Marwah valley and why it took me so long to return .
One of my reasons  that I may have hesitated a  little is that I wasn’t that sure that by returning to what was a wonderful place last year might in fact turn out to be  something of a disappointment seeing it again. However I can state  straight away that this wasn’t the case. The Marwah Valley seems to me to be even more beautiful this year!
The main reason for the delay in getting to this trek was because after my trek with Gu Hyun from Aru to Sumbar (on the main road to Sonamarg)  I was a wreck. After finishing my toes had turned completely blue from punching in the ends of the shoes, toenails weren’t much good and soles of feet were very sore. That much I can still remember.

 

Our horseman leaves us- and then it is just down,down,down—–

You see Ali our horseman was only able to take us to the top of the saddle. I had hoped he would go further but it didn’t take us long to realise that horses couldn’t go where we were heading. There he left us to return to Aru leaving us with very full rucksacks which had every thing we had brought to India. Far too much to carry even though we were descending. And descending is certainly an understatement.

the only way now is down,down,down

Gu Hyun was a great travel companion. He had been working at Eureka Farm for 4 months and left for India about the same time as me. It turned out to be purely accidental that we were both going to India at this time. This was to be his last major adventure before returning to Korea and for me it has become somewhat an annual pilgrimage to see more of these Himalayas. So we agreed to meet in Amritsar and then travelled by bus and jeep to Aru where we did this very long walk in a very short time. I believe Gu Hyun hasn’t had that much experience doing this sort of thing but my observation is that he enjoyed himself very much.

Hopefully we will meet again- but thanks again for your company.

 

 

exhausted but we make it

Down, down, down only reaching the main road which would return us to Srinagar at dusk. A bus picks us up full of people returning from Yatra but we felt glad to be returning to civilisation and frankly still alive. Not much room on the bus though being actually very similar to my last year’s bus trip  return from Baital. But to sit down even if it is on an old rucksack was a relief to my body and I did make sure I didn’t lose my camera.

 

Sheik Palace on Dal Lake is eventually reached late that night. In spite of there being more tourists this year the older houseboat has room for us. A quick snack and Gu Hyun and myself get some very necessary sleep. It is the next morning that the full impact of yesterday’s effort becomes obvious to me. I could hardly walk!
Being on a houseboat in Dal Lake must be one of the great medicines that I know for recovery. It is one of the few places that you can escape the huzzle and buzzle of this big city and yet still be so close to all. After a couple of days Gu Hyun and I parted – he for Laddakh and me for Dr. Musood Shah’s place. And all of this happens when the old town is shut down for a curfew as it was Memorial day for the many innocent civilians gunned down by the Indian army some 20 years ago I think. These sort of days the army and police are out in great numbers and look to be very trigger happy.
I remained tender for days. The Aru 2 day walk finished on the 10th. However the walk to Marwah Valley didn’t start until the 21st. Admittedly the time in between was well occupied helping my friend Musood develop Uplift Kashmir , a society which is setting out to provide medical facilities to some parts of Kashmir which are at present either under provided or not provided at all with certain medical facilities. But normally I would have been up and away earlier than this. And maybe the aches and pains from the Aru trip made me aware that perhaps my age was catching up with me. However as we approached this starting date I began to realise that I had better get my act together,  ignore any impending age crisis and go.
more to come—-

lets change kashmir

 

a letter to the English Kasmeri papers in Srinagar submitted 31/7/2012:

Isn’t it time Kashmir changed its approach to confrontation……

 

looking down on the Merau River from Yordu

I am writing this short article as an independent traveler from Australia who has fallen in love with the beautiful Himalayas that form a backdrop to much of Kashmir. For the last 5 years I have been coming to India in what is our winter time namely late June and July.  I come from a similarly beautiful part of the world namely Tasmania which is located in the southern most part of Australia and enjoys a similar climate to Kashmir although not as cold in winter and being in the southern hemisphere a 6 months time difference.

Being summer in India it didn’t take me long to realise that the best places to visit at this time of year was in the Himalayas and especially in those regions that were not two affected by the monsoons which predominate in the easterly regions of this country. So gradually I spent quite a bit of time exploring Himachal Pradesh , Laddakh and then finally Kashmir. For many years I avoided my wandering too much into Kashmir because of the emergency contingencies which waxed and waned from year to year. But all of that has changed for me these last two years when I realised that although risks did still exist from parties in armed conflict with each other that perhaps to a person such as myself they were no more dangerous than say crossing a road in Lal Chowk Srinagar.

Last year I traveled from Kishwar to Baital mainly by walking up the Merau River and passing through the towns of Sonder, Hanzal Yordu Inshen Sukhnoi before crossing the mountain range to Shesnag and falling in with the Yatra procession to Amarnath and finally finishing up in Baltal in a much exhausted but elated state. Somehow in the last couple of hours I mislaid my camera and that was my only disappointment with this trek. During the intervening year I resolved to go back to some of these places I had been through and meet some of those persons who had befriended me last year and of course take as many photos as possible. To that extent that objective has just been completed.

What I want to talk about now is how I feel about these people and how their lives have been restricted by this Contingency for so many years by all in control and not just the forces in the field such as the army, the J&K police but by the politicians and their bureaucrats.

approaching Yordu

the Mawrah Valley

It is really India’s Shangri-La by which I mean it is really a precious hidden valley which has probably escaped too much attention because it was shut down to tourists for perhaps more than 20 years because of the Contingency.

I often think to myself where would I like to be  if I served in the police or army. Of all the places in India this would be one of the best places to be stationed. Why then would one want an emergency situation to disappear? During my visit last week I have been told by the Army that there are 6 terrorists operating in the area. ( the police said 4 terrorists or maybe it was the other way around). The villagers however seem to hold a different viewpoint and say there have been no problems for several years. To be honest I sort of lean to their viewpoint.