12 Villages – Spiti Summer Exploration – 6-13 May 2017

About Spiti Valley

A valley in the middle of mountains, home for some amazing villages, lakes, Monasteries, peaks and wild life. Situated at North Eastern part of India, in state Himachal Pradesh, its a beautiful but rough high altitude mountain desert.

Beautiful in all seasons, Spiti gets into it’s full form in summers when you can expect to see some green in the desert Accessible through roads only, from either Shimla side or Manali side.

Know about Spiti

Spiti

What’s in it for you?

  • Beautiful views and vistas through 12 amazing villages in Spiti valley.
  • Access to some unique and unseen places/villages, based on the weather condition.
  • Unlimited photography
  • Enjoying the local cuisine.
  • Unlimited photography mentor-ship by YellowPeak’s team.
  • An overview session on Basics of Photography and Adobe Lightroom.
  • Understand and experience the rural life in Spiti.
  • A fully managed trip, with no hassle of worrying about logistics.

Itinerary

06-May Saturday – Chandigarh to Kalpa

  • Start the long drive from Chandigarh to Kalpa, passing through the beautiful mountains towns of Shimla, Narkanda, Rampur and Karcham dam.

07-May Sunday – Kalpa to Kaza

  • Time to leave Kinnaur and enter Spiti valley. Driving by Nako, Tabo and Dhankar. Night stay at Kaza

08-May Monday – Kaza to Kibber

  • Drive from Kaza to Kibber, explore around Gete and night stay at Kibber.

09-May Tuesday – Kibber to Langza

  • Lets move to another beautiful village Langza, but not before exploring Hikkim and Komic.

10-May Wednesday – Langza to Demul

  • A beautiful hidden village is the target of the day, and if time permits, a walk towards Lallung village.

11-May Thursday – Demul to Gulling

  • Our last beautiful village of the trip, a beautiful home stay, local food

12-May Friday – Gulling to Kalpa

  • Gulling to Kalpa, time to head back home

13-May Saturday – Kalpa to Chandigarh

  • Last day drive

Inclusion

  • Local Transport in SUV/MUV for the whole trip plan from Chandigarh to Chandigarh.
  • All governments’ fees and taxes for normal journey within Spiti.
  • All basic meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), morning and evening tea.
  • Daily need of water, to be filled in reusable bottles to avoid excessive plastic bottles
  • Accommodation on double sharing basis, in 3 star or equivalent hotels/Home Stays.
  • We will share list of all accommodations after you complete the registration and confirm with payment.
  • Banners and Stickers
  • Walkie Talkies in each Self Drive vehicle.
  • Toilet Tents for ladies.
  • Support Vehicle for the whole trip.
  • Just in case if you need a single occupancy room, it will be at extra cost and we need to know it well in advance.

Exclusion

  • Flight or travel expenses to reach India and Chandigarh.
  • VISA expanse if any Travel or medical Insurance.
  • Vehicle, Fuel and Breakdown maintenance for Self drive vehicles.
  • Any fine or challan to be paid by the driver or participants (in Self drive cars) in actual to authorities.
  • Any medical emergency or rescue cost.
  • Photography equipment of any kind.
  • Hotel and Other costs added to the trip, in addition to proposed plan, due to road blockage, Political unrest or landslide, has to be paid on actual basis, by participants.
  • Any tips and gratuities to staff. Extra meals, visits and activities not indicated.
  • Items of a personal nature, including alcoholic beverages, laundry and telephone calls.
  • Anything else not mentioned in the inclusions
  • A refundable security deposit of INR 5000 for the Walki-Talkie, to be paid by one of the participants from each Self Drive car. In case of Loss or damage of handset, appropriate amount will be deducted from security.


Terms & Conditions

  • All the participants should have a valid passport or a government ID
  • We will request for a scanned copy of the same during the registration process
  • Photography is restricted for some of the areas and objects like bridges, Army camps and office, some for the restricted zones Please ask before taking a picture of or with an Army personnel or local.
  • Final decision on the logistics, plan, options remains with the trip organizer. All need to abide with the proposed plan, unless there is need to change the plan under unavoidable conditions.

 

Cancellation Policy

  • 75% Refund for cancelling the trip 8 weeks before the start date 50% Refund for cancelling the trip 4 weeks or less, before the start date
  • In case of the trips getting cancelled due to unavailable circumstances, we will refund the money after deducting the administrative changes

FAQs

Q: How do I know more about Spiti

A: Please go through our page http://yellowpeaks.com/spiti

Q: What will be the expected temperature and weather?

A : Day temperature will hover around 15-20 degree Celsius, while night temperature can go down to 10 degree.

Q: Roads remains open in Summer?

A: Yes,but its always unpredictable and needs to be tracked

Q: What are the precautions for photography gears?

A: You don’t need to worry much about the professional gears much, they are built to sustain such extreme weathers. For basic gears, just keep that battery at warm places like inner pocket and avoid sudden transition from cold to warm places. Battery tend to drain faster in colder conditions

Q: I had no time to prepare, can I buy warm cloths in Spiti?

A: Not recommended, better plan an buy in advance, worst case we will help ypu get it from Spiti but the availability is not guaranteed.

Q: Is there some trekking involved in this?

A: No, only casual walks through the places for photography

Q: I have medical history related to breathing, blood pressure or anything significant, Can I travel at such height and low temperature?

A: Please consult your doctor for the same.

Q: What about the phone connectivity?

A: Only BSNL/MTNL works beyond Kinnaur and in all Spiti region

Q: What kind vehicles will be used for the trip, will they have snow chains if required?

A: We have the trusted Utility vehicles lined for this trip. For the snow drives, vehicles will have snow chains. Drivers are experts in driving under snow conditions.

 

 

For more details

Download Brochure

Limited seats available

Book Now

 

White snow covered Spiti in Winter- February 2017

Dates : From 18th February 2017 to 25th February 2017

 

Background

Spiti, known as the “Land in the middle”, lies between Tibet and India, boasts for having one of the highest inhabited village in the world, highest post office in the world and some unique mountains, rivers and lakes. Approachable through Shimla side, via Kinnaur and from Manali side via Lahaul.

While Spiti valley is considered as travelling destination for summers, this places can get much more beautiful in winters. As part of  this exploration, we will try to observe the places, nature, life that goes during harsh winter.

Winter in Spiti in winter is not an easy going exploration, with temperature plunging to -15 degree Celsius, limited resources and roads getting closed. It needs alot of planning, local resources, and a good team to make sure that we do this trips safe and still enjoy it to the fullest.

 

Caution (Read before you decide to join):

  • This is not a regular season trip, we will be exploring Spiti in one of the most off season, hence you will not be in your comfort zone at all.
  • We will have to alter our plan based on the the weather conditions at that time, at no cost we will put the group into any sort of risk.
  • Stay options will be very limited.
  • As the temperature will be below freezing point, water pipes will be completely frozen, hot water for daily needs will be provided in buckets. Be prepared to use dry toilets at most of the places.
  • As its a highly unpredictable trip, we will keep the group small and will close it soon, on first come, first serve basis.

 

Day wise Plan:

Date Plan Night Stay at
18-Feb-17 Saturday Shimla to Kalpa Kalpa or Recong Peo
19-Feb-17 Sunday Kalpa toKaza Kaza
20-Feb-17 Monday Kaza – Kye – Kibber – Chicham walk – Kaza Kaza
21-Feb-17 Tuesday Kaza – Lancha – Kaza Kaza
22-Feb-17 Wednesday Kaza – Attargu – Dhankar – Gulling Gulling
23-Feb-17 Thursday Explore around Gulling Gulling
24-Feb-17 Friday Gulling to Kalpa Kalpa or near by possible options
25-Feb-17 Saturday Kalpa to Shimla Drop at Shimla

Note : We might have to change the plan based on the weather conditions

 Route

 

 

Expected Weather Conditions:

  • Minimum Temperature : Around -15 degree celcius
  • Maximum Temperature : Around -5 degree celcius
  • Sunrise : Around 7:00 AM
  • Sunset : Around 6:00 PM
  • Snowfall expected on few days

FAQ:

Q: Where is Spiti?
A : Spiti, known as the “Land in the middle”, lies between Tibet and India, boasts for having one of the highest inhabited village in the world, highest post office in the world and some unique mountains, rivers and lakes. Approachable through Shimla side, via Kinnaur and from Manali side via Lahaul.

Q: How do I know more about Spiti
A: Please go through my Spiti page

Q: What will be the expected temperature and weather?
A : Day temperature will hover around -2 to -10 degree Celsius, while night temperature can go down to -15 and at some places to -20 degree.

Q: Roads remains open in winter?
A: Yes,but its always unpredictable and needs to be tracked

Q: What is AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness)?
A: AMS is result of sudden exposure to reduced air pressure and lower oxygen level at high altitude. General symptoms are Headache, Fatigue, Nausea, and Loss of appetite, sleeplessness, heavy breathing. Descending down and inhaling oxygen can cure it faster. Fortunately as we are ascending gradually before we reach Kaza, we should be good.

Q: What are the precautions for photography gears?
A: You don’t need to worry much about the professional gears much, they are built to sustain such extreme weathers. For basic gears, just keep that battery at warm places like inner pocket and avoid sudden transition from cold to warm places. Battery tend to drain faster in colder conditions

Q: I had no time to prepare, can I buy warm cloths in Kaza?

A: Not recommended, better plan an buy in advance

Q: Is there some trekking involved in this?
A: No

Q: I have medical history related to breathing, blood pressure or anything significant, Can I travel at such height and low temperature?
A: Please consult your doctor for the same.

Q: What about the phone connectivity
A: In most of the areas, BSNL is the only network, after we cross Spillow.

Q: What kind vehicles will be used for the trip, will they have snow chains if required?
A: We have the trusted Utility vehicles lined for this trip. For the snow drives, vehicles will have snow chains. Drivers are experts in driving under snow and cold conditions.

 

Cost:

28,000 INR Per Person for individual participants. (Confirmation against full payment only).

26,500 INR Per Person if joining as team of two people , together.

25,500 INR Per Person if joining as team of four people, together.

500 USD for Non Indian participants

Please call us at 9910036654 or 996826664 or write to us at rajiv@yellowpeaks.com for more details

 

Refund Policy:

  • 60% refund in case of cancellations 4 weeks before the exploration. No refund after that
  • In case of initial plan getting cancelled due to the bad weather, we will execute an alternate plan.
  • In case the alternate plan is also not possible, we will refund the money after deducting the minimal administrative charges.

 

Inclusion:

  • Local Transport in SUV/MUV for the whole trip plan from Shimla to Shimla.
  • All governments’ fees and taxes for normal journey within Spiti, Non-Indians will have to pay little extra for the fees.
  • All basic meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), morning and evening tea.
  • Accommodation on twin sharing basis, in limited availability during winter, standard hotels or guest houses. During our trip we might end up in triple sharing, if only we have to change our plans due to weather conditions.

 

Exclusion:

  • Flight or travel expenses to reach Shimla.
  • Travel or medical Insurance.
  • Any medical emergency or rescue cost.
  • Anything not mentioned in included section.
  • Winter cloths and accessories.
  • Tips and phone calls.
  • Photography equipment of any kind.
  • Hotel and Other costs added to the trip due to road blockage or landslide, that has to be paid on actual basis, by participants.

 

Other T&Cs

  • Spiti in winter is highly unpredictable, and plans can change due to snowfall. We might have to change plans and locations while on trip, based on situation.
  • Most of the stay arrangements in remote areas will be with guest houses and home stays. We will ensure it’s clean and hygienic, but room heating will be very limited with no or limited running water. At places we might only have dry toilets.
  • Photography is restricted for some of the areas and objects like bridges, Army camps and office, some for the restricted zones..
  • Please ask before taking a picture of or with an Army personnel or local.
  • We will need a copy of an ID proof issued by government organization for permits and other processes. You need to carry the same ID all the time during the trip.
  • You are responsible for keeping Spiti clean and we would need your help to bring back all our garbage back to base where it can be disposed off properly.
  • Winter is tough time not just for humans but for local wild life. Do not disturb or provoke wildlife for the sake of a good picture.
  • Final decision on the logistics, plan, options remains with the trip organizer.

 

 

 Cloths

Upper Body
Layer 1  : Warm Inner
Layer 2 : Body fit sweater, I use a ultra warm but thin, high neck sweater
Layer 3 :  Warm Fleece, thick one
Layer 4 :  Down Jacket, this is absolutely must

Quick Notes:

For last few years, I am using the 100% merino wool inner, and with that, you can remove “Layer 2” completely. Though 100% merino wool inner are almost 3-4 times the cost of normal inner. ONN and few other companies are selling genuine 100% merino wool stuff.

Down or duck feather jacket is a guarantee for warmth, but a good quality synthetic foam filled jackets will work as well, just keep an extra layer of inner in that case

The important point to note is, that the layers of cloths should allow the free movement of limbs and blood circulation. Don’t go for tight fits.

Lower Body
Layer 1 : Warm Inner, I again use 100% merino wool lower
Layer 2 : Foam Filled Lower, I have a synthetic foam filled paint, which is pretty loose.

Quick Notes:

If your foam filled pants are little larger, you can wear a fleece pants between inner and pant, if you feel cold in two layers.

We can get the foam filled pants custom stitched in Delhi, if we have 3-4 orders, I did that few years back

Hands
Layer 1 :  Thin Inner layer fleece gloves, Decathlon sells it for 300 Rs I guess
Layer 2 : Water Proof thick gloves, again you can buy the same from Decathlon.

Two layers of gloves will keep your hands cozy, if not warm.

Feet
Layer 1 : Nylon Socks: pure nylon socks will keep the humidity out
Layer 2 : Woolen Socks, get those thick woolen socks
Layer 3 : Good quality shoes, with double layer of socks , you will need a size bigger shoe, don’t worry, a size bigger shoes works well once you use them with single layer of socks in summer. Quechua forclaz 500 are quite famous, but your regular trekking shoes will also work.

See the point is, no layers of socks and shoes will make your feet warm in that kind of cold, all you need to target is that your feet and fingers don’t feel cold.

If your feet start feeling cold, just walk a bit and you should be fine.

Head
Balaclava, that monkey cap, is the best inner layer

You can use muffler for covering neck, my jacket has a neck restraint, which is foam filled and covers the neck
Thick woolen cap, that covers your ears completely

Sun glasses are must

Other Stuff

A towel, I prefer that thin “Parna” type towel as it gets dry quickly

 

Medicines and Toiletry

SPF 60 sun lotion, very important, and good quantity.

Mustard oil, another very important item, it will be cold and almost zero humidity, skin will dry up very, and only the the pure mustard oil will not freeze at that temperature.

Toilet Paper Roll, you will need that, I guarantee 😀 , we will buy and keep few in our vehicles. You can buy it from Kaza market

Rest of the medicine list is for your reference and as per your requirement

Diamox

Cheston Cold
Oxyflocin
Crocin
Paracitamol
Soframycin
Anti alergic
cough/cold
Anti vomiting
Brufin

 

Camera and Electronics

Camera and Lenses
Batteries, keep few extra, cold reduces the performance of the battery by 30-40%. I will share the tricks to handle cold.
Extra Memory Cards
Tripod
Charger
Solar Charger
Torch
Tent light
Head Light
Extra AA Battery

Other important essentials

Sun Glasses

Rubber water bottle, used for warming up sprained body parts, works very well for warming up the quilts as you get inside for sleep for the night, it’s works awesome if your feet feel cold, just put one near your feet inside quilt and you will be cozy.
Extra Power Glasses (if you wear power glasses)
License/Personal IDs/Debit/Credit Cards etc
Hot Flask 500ml or 1 Ltr, I carry boiling water in it
Hot Flask 1 ltr, carry lukewarm water for drinking, water will freeze in non-insulated water bottles in minutes, plastic bottles will not work
Nutrition Bars of your taste, just to munch in between
Dry Fruits mix, just for emergency, not necessary though, I carry it when I travel alone

 

Good to have

Chemical warmers: my experience is mixed with them, it works good when you insert them in gloves or socks, while you are inside room.

Family drive to unseen Kashmir – Aharbal, Lolab Valley, Gurez Valley

Kashmir for many means only four things Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg and Dal Lake, but if you haven’t seen this hidden Kashmir, you are missing something awesome in your travelling life.

 

In continuation to our last few drives of Kashmir covering Doda, Kishtwar, Sinthan Top, Daksum, Aru, Aram Patri, Doodhpathri, Yousmarg, and our Winter Drive to Aru, Sonmarg and Dachigam National Park, This time we planned to cover the Northern Part of Kashmir, mainly Lolab and Gurez valley. The plan was to drive through Mughal Road instead of congested NH1, cross Pir ki Gali and stay at Aharbal for couple of days before moving to Northern Kashmir.

 

SX4 was all set for yet another tough but beautiful drive. Nothing much was required to purchase as we had everything from our last trips. We stocked up the food, medicine, a kitchen with all other stuff. Tents, mats, sleeping bags were also packed, just in case we plan to get little more adventurous 😀 .

 

Day 1 (6 June) : Gurgaon  – Akhnoor

First days is always a boring drive under extreme heat. We left home around 5 Am and  did that boring drive all the way till Jalandhar. Meanwhile got to know from a friend that there is some trouble in Jammu as a result of a protest, and we had to cross Jammu to reach Akhnoor. We continued our journey with a little restlessness on how will we cross Jammu, when a friend suggested another route which bypassed the trouble point completely. We reached Aknoor around 7Pm and stayed at Army facility arranged by a friend.

Day 2 (7 June) : Akhnoor – Rajaouri – Bafliaz – Mughal Road – Pir Ki Gali – Aharbal

Trip actually started from today as we explore some of the unseen places in our past trip. From Akhnoor we tanked up fuel quickly drove all the way to Rajouri through narrow but empty roads. Road condition started deteriorating from Rajouri onwards and it was all broken hell, till we reached Bafliaz. From Bafliaz onwards road has smooth tarmac with few bad patches in between. Post Pir Ki Gali, roads are all butter smooth.

 

There was residual snow on the sides of the road bringing the temperature down to almost 7-8 degree Celsius. Pir Ki Gali was the coldest and windiest point in the whole Mughal Road section we covered. After 30 minutes of our break at top we headed straight to Aharbal, where Mr Khursheed was waiting for us. He made wonderful arrangements for our stay. You just can not ask for any more beautiful stay than what we got, surrounded by green trees.

As we reached quite late, we decided to have a quick food and rest for the day, and it started raining as well.

Pir Ki Gali, Mughal Road

Pir Ki Gali, Mughal Road

 

Pir Ki Gali, Mughal Road

Pir Ki Gali, Mughal Road

 

Pir Ki Gali, Mughal Road

Pir Ki Gali, Mughal Road

 

Day 3 (8 June) : Around Aharbal

Finally a relaxed day in our trip, no rush or hurry to take out the car or start on time. We prepared our breakfast inhouse in our mobile kitchen and decided to take a walk towards the upper meadows of Aharbal, on the treks that goes towards Konsernag. I so much wished to do the trek for Konsernag but not today, we will do it some other day. Today we will do just a casual walk with kids and soak into the nature. We walked inside the woods till around 1 Pm before returning back to our hut. Freshened up and headed for the lunch at the restaurant where Kursheed ji was waiting for us to take us around and show some more hidden places. We explored some other beautiful huts available for tourists and finally the majestic Aharbal Waterfall.

 

Unfortunately the waterfall is all fenced out so you can not touch the water, but it is for the safety of people. Perhaps there are reasons for doing suicide in this lovely place. Whatever it is, we enjoyed the lovely views and gushing water of the waterfall.

 

Kursheed ji also shared with me some wonderful details on the offroad drive towards Kongwatan and a wonderful trek for Konsernag, that got me all excited for another quick trip to Aharbal soon, very soon.

 

Post a quick dinner, we went inside the hut as it started raining again. I guess rain god decided to accompany us on this journey, we don’t mind that, after all he is a GOD.

Trekking around Aharbal

Trekking around Aharbal

 

Sangam Meadow

Sangam Meadow

 

Sangam Meadow

Sangam Meadow

 

More beautiful views as you walk around Aharbal

More beautiful views as you walk around Aharbal

 

Aiming for the Sky, yours truly

Aiming for the Sky, yours truly

 

And the Junior

And the Junior

 

Sun in glory

Sun in glory

 

Wonderful sitting area at Aharbal Restaurant

Wonderful sitting area at Aharbal Restaurant

 

Three Musketeers

Three Musketeers

 

Dream Hut

Dream Hut

 

 Day 4 (9 June) : Aharbal – Shopian – Pulwama – Kupwara – Chandigam (Lolab Valley)

Time to explore the Northern region of Kashmir, something I was waiting for long time. It was matter of just 140 Km of drive through some lovely roads, so we started lazily, with a late breakfast and a warm goodbye to Khursheed. Avoiding NH1 we took the Pulwama route and merged back to NH1 just before Pantha Chowk, and took a left towards Kupwara. Absolutely wonderful roads with some narrow and under construction sections, nothing that can make you worried.

 

We stocked up eggs, bread and few other stuff from Kupwara market, but stay at Chandigam was not resolved yet. We entered Kupwara Tourist Reception Center to confirm the stay and received a very warm welcome from the staff. Stay assured in few minutes, we freshened up and continued our journey towards Chandigam. Lost in last 15 kms, we took some interior roads passing through the fresh rice paddy fields. As they say, you find yourself the best, when you are lost, so don’t be afraid of taking unknown turns.

 

Reached Chandigam Huts and once again a warm welcome by the staff. It took us some time to adjust the saturation meter of our eyes, green is greener and blue is blown blue. For sometime you start doubting your ability to absorb colors, but then reality stuck very fast.

 

Ladies and gentleman, get ready for awesome nature and overdose of colors.

 

In the evening a Major posted in Lolab valley visited us as they were quite interested to see HR and RJ cars in these far corner of Kashmir. And guess what, yet another round of hospitality, this time by Army. We got an invitation for a tea party day after tomorrow, at the unit near by, which we accepted with a big smile and happy heart.

 

But that is day after tomorrow,  evening is still young here at the guest house and all my cameras were out. Lets soak in

 

A wonderful morning at Aharbal

A wonderful morning at Aharbal

 

Tourist Reception Center Kupwara

Tourist Reception Center Kupwara

 

Beautiful Drive through Lolab valley

Beautiful Drive through Lolab valley

 

Tourist Rest House- Chandigam

Tourist Rest House- Chandigam

 

Walnut Trees

Walnut Trees

 

Tourist Rest House- Chandigam

Tourist Rest House- Chandigam

 

 

Day 5 (10 June) : Around Lolab Valley, Nai meadow

Another Lazy day in hand, it feels so good when you know that the day’s drive is just 15-20 km. Atleast I can focus more on photography and less on driving and route calculations.

 

But didn’t I told you we had a company, of Rain God. And he was in full happiness, so much so that he showered all his happiness on us, but not before a lovely morning walk.

 

I was up by 6 Am and decided to take walk through the super green walnut trees, a very rare things you can do in your daily life. By the time I came back, Nandini was also up and in full form, and so was the Rain god. It started raining heavily and we knew that next 3-4 hours we have to be under cover.

 

But we had a lovely wooden shade at our disposal where we spent almost next 3 morning hours, with tea and breakfast served in the middle of rain. Life felt so awesome and colourful.

 

By 11 Am, Rain God decided to have some mercy on us and went down for walk, leaving us alone to enjoy a sunny day. We decided to take this opportunity and drove to a near by Nai Meadow, only to meet the Rain god once again. While returning we decided to visit the local bakery at Sogam, kids were excited to something new and how they receive that lovely bread on their breakfast table.

 

Unfortunately we forgot to pack Umbrella this time, and we needed it right now. Post 5 minute discussion with few locals around, we saw five umbrellas coming to us for sale on the spot, and we bought it all. It doesn’t happen very often 😀 .

 

Walk to Nai Meadow was not very interesting and was full of slush, we didn’t liked it much hence we decided to return back to huts, to find a huge crowd gathering in the garden of the premises. There was a fish pond auction happening that day and locals gathered for the bid, and we saw some more locals checking in, the place was buzzing, not to our liking. But then it gave another opportunity for some portrait photography right at our door step.

 

Night was enjoyed with a simple dinner and star photography.

Good Morning Kashmir

Good Morning Kashmir

 

Wallpaper from Lolab Valley

Wallpaper from Lolab Valley

 

And the Junior was up by the time we came back from walk

And the Junior was up by the time we came back from walk

 

I can live here all my life

I can live here all my life

 

Javed, the ace baker in Sogam village, bakes wonderful Girdha and Sheermaal

Javed, the ace baker in Sogam village, bakes wonderful Girdha and Sheermaal

 

And I also decided to try my hand in baking

And I also decided to try my hand in baking

 

Only to be followed by a hot cup of tea

Only to be followed by a hot cup of tea

 

Nai Meadows

Nai Meadows

 

Majestic Look

Majestic Look

 

More Foxes on the way

More Foxes on the way

 

Day 6 (11 June) : Chandigam – Kupwara – Seelo – Watlab – Bandipore – Tragbal – Dawar (Gurez Valley)

Another exciting day, starting with a lovely breakfast hosted by CO of Lolab valley specially for us, meeting lovely families of the unit people, followed by a wrong drive calculation blunder. Major who invited us for the Tea Party sent a Casper to be followed by us to the unit. We were up and ready in best of our cloths (generally I complete whole 10-15 days trip in one single jeans, luckily I had a spare this time). Followed Casper upto the unit and were surprised by the grand breakfast offered. We had wonderful time talking to CO, some of Unit members and their families.

 

By 11 Am we started our drive towards Bandipore, while our stay at Dawar was yet not confirmed. I was in touch with the Dawar TRC caretaker Mr Lone who confirmed nothing available for next 3 days. But I was not in mood to turn around so we decided to reach Dawar and find something else, but no change in the plan.

 

I planned to meet another Major friend posted at Drugmulla on the way but unfortunately he had to visit the fields and we could not connect. We drove out of Kupwara and took the turn for Watlab and Bandipore. Meanwhile had a chat with the CEO of Gurez Development authority and he gave me a shocker. From Bandipore to Dawar is 82 Km and I kept 3 hours for it, while he corrected me by telling that it will take minimum 4-5 hours to cover that 82 km. And he suggested not to take SX4 there. That was demotivating, but may be he was not aware of my background and the history of SX4. So we moved on.

 

Roads disappeared from Bandipore onward, and it was all broken trek with deep holes to swallow small cars. I did the recalculation and realised that it will take us around 6 hours to cover that 82 km, and we are not reaching Dawar anytime before 8 Pm. With a lot greater pain and patience, we reached Rajdhan pass and took a longer break. The drive till now are bone breaking and absolutely no pics. That’s what I hate about drive trips, when roads are bad and you have sedan, all your focus goes into reaching destination safely in one piece and photography goes for six, straight out of stadium.

 

At Rajdhan pass the Jawan confirmed that its another 40 km of much more worst road and my heart sank couple of feet down. It was 6:30 Pm at the pass and we had 45 Km to covers. But slow and steady wins the race, its all about the patience game and we had seen this many times in past, so we can do it this time as well.

 

Slow and steady we moved own, navigating through the mess, stopped at checkpost just 15 km before Dawar, we were offered tea and biscuits while out identity were verified.

 

At around 8 pm, we reached Dawar and went straight to Tourist Reception center, where I met Mr Lone, who surprisingly kept a big dormitory all for us. I was so elated to see the stay arranged for us already and no need to run around for stay or pitching tent after that cruel drive. It took us 6.5 hours to cover that 82 km, some of the worst roads I have driven on.

 

TRC doesn’t serve food as yet, so we had dinner at a near by hotel. As of now there are only two places to stay in Dawar, TRC (2 big dormitory, 6-7 rooms) and a hotel near by with 7-8 rooms.

 

Night was cold, I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold in June, it must be around 7-8 degree Celsius at night, but days were warm with a max of 24 degree Celsius.

 

Tomorrow we will explore Gurez Valley, time for some much earned sleep.

A busy day at Wullar Lake

A busy day at Wullar Lake

 

Plenty of sheep as we approach Rajdhan Pass

Plenty of sheep as we approach Rajdhan Pass

 

Finally Rajdhan Pass

Finally Rajdhan Pass

 

Finally Rajdhan Pass

Finally Rajdhan Pass

 

Day 7 (12 June) : Around Dawar

Another lazy day, I love these lazy days in between our long drives. Gives me a little breather from driving and more time to take out my camera. I woke up at around 6:00 Am while everybody were in deep sleep, took my camera and went out for a walk. It was cold outside but sun came out with that much needed warmth of the morning. I walked for around 2 km doing some early morning sunrise photography, while everybody watching me in surprise but with a smile, and a “Assalam alaykum” from my side makes that smile on the other side much much bigger. People are very friendly, always ready to strike a conversation and I had good time talking to some local folks, who even offered me the tea.

 

Came back to hut after a refreshing walk and took the role of Chef from driver/photographer, making multiple stuff for kids and us.

IMG_20150612_093114857_HDR IMG_20150612_093150530_HDRIMG_20150612_093057205_HDR

 

Plan was very simple today, actually there was no plan. We just roamed around, drove in any odd direction. but best thing we did was drove upto Barnoi village, and received another set of super hospitality from the locals. Kids enjoyed navigating through the streets of the village and crossing the wooden bridges, and finally a lovely tea at local house.

 

Barnoi is the village from where Tulail valley starts and goes far ahead. With a population of 900 people, this village have seen couple big fires burning many houses down, but people have built the village back again and again. School kids were amused at us but equally helpful to help us showing places around the village.

 

By 5 pm we came back to TRC and decided to cook some tasty Pulao with egg curry, a wonderful meal along with Rain God. Oh sure he was not leaving us anytime soon

 

Beautiful morning at Gurez Valley, with Habba Khatoon peak in the center

Beautiful morning at Gurez Valley, with Habba Khatoon peak in the center

 

Exploring Gurez Valley

Exploring Gurez Valley

 

Barnoi Village, near Dawar

Barnoi Village, near Dawar

 

Views around Barnoi Village

Views around Barnoi Village

 

Views around Barnoi Village

Views around Barnoi Village

 

Views around Barnoi Village

Views around Barnoi Village

 

Clouds over Dawar today evening

Clouds over Dawar today evening

 

Beast enjoying the sun and rain

Beast enjoying the sun and rain

 

Double Rainbow, Clouds, Rain, Sun, Habba Khatoon peak. Perfect setup for Gurez Valley

Double Rainbow, Clouds, Rain, Sun, Habba Khatoon peak. Perfect setup for Gurez Valley

 

Day 8 (13 June) : Dawar – Tulail Valley – Dawar

Another new place to explore today, but with a new plan. Mr Lone confirmed that SX4 can not go to Tulail Valley, which I was not ready to agree. He suggested to hire a Sumo, good idea, lets to talk to driver first. Talked to  the driver and he himself was quite hesitant to go to Tulail, why? may be its really bad. After talking to few more people I surrendered the idea of taking SX4 to Tulail and hired a sumo, arranged by Mr Lone, and what a wise decision it was. If I would have taken my SX4 to Tulail, it would have been a last drive for the beast. And I am not exaggerating, it was so bad that Tata Sumo was scrapping at every turn. Slush was monstrous and deep.

 

But the views were just amazing, I didn’t even expected it to be this beautiful, I was feeling very sad that I only had a day in hand to explore Tulail. It needs a week to explore 5% of Tulail valley, specially when you are a photographer.

 

We drove till Badugam and road after was just impossible, I suggested Muqbool (pilot) to stop and turn around, we don’t want to tick mark places in my checklist. Instead of struggling and spending all that time driving, I decided to keep us limited to some part of the valley and just soak into it. We took a longer break at Shekhpora which is a big village in Tulail valley, and to my surprise had a Guest House there as well. Next time I am staying there for sure, very soon.

 

We took a walk through the village and reached to a very nice view point, giving us a lovely view of the whole village along with lush green fields. it was almost 4 pm and we didn’t felt the need of lunch, we were so involved in the beauty of the nature. Had a cup of tea at Shekhpora and we drove back to Dawar with a very sad heart. We wanted to spend more time there, much more, atleast a week, but alas next time.

 

Muqbool was leaving for Bandipore next day and we decided to convoy and drive together just in case if I needed any help if I get stuck, he is one gem of a driver if anybody need a driver in  this region, ping me if you need his number.

 

We stocked few raw vegetables from the market for dinner and cooked another wonderful meal our-self, while watching Kung Fu Panada on tab, for some reason I was not in mood of night photography today. I think I was just too overwhelmed by the beauty of Tulail valley that my mind was refusing to settle down. I wanted to go back, and my mind was making a plan with a devilish smile.

 

Villages on the way to Tulail Valley

Villages on the way to Tulail Valley

 

magical Tulail Valley

magical Tulail Valley

 

Yours Truly trying to capture some of the beauty of Tulail Valley

Yours Truly trying to capture some of the beauty of Tulail Valley

 

Friendly Locals

Friendly Locals

 

Lovely Houses

Lovely Houses

 

Magic Unlimited

Magic Unlimited

 

Nature so beautiful

Nature so beautiful

 

Day 9 (14 June) : Dawar – Tragbal – Bandipore – Manasbal – Ganderbal – Srinagar

We planned to start little early today so that we reach Srinagar by noon, the plan was to reach near Kokernag and then try Warwan next day. I tried connecting with Maqbool over phone, he confirmed that he will wait for us near Dawar bridge, but then phone lines snapped, and no communication after that.

 

Meanwhile I was worried about the fuel. tank had petrol just enough for 110 km and we need to do only 80 km for nearest petrol pump. Though Lone ji arranged 20 ltr of petrol for me in jerry can, I wanted to keep the car as light as possible to navigate through those really ugly patches.

 

Anyways I decided to leave with just that 110km fuel in tank, we have to take a chance here. Tried calling Muqbool many times but no connectivity, something was wrong. We tried searching him around Taxi stand without any luck, hence decided to move on.

 

Return journey was little better, I guess Rain God was done with our company and decided to stay in Tulail, leaving us alone. How mean, I also wanted to stay in Tulail. No worries, we are fine without Rain God, and with dried slush. Our return journey was little faster but Murphy Uncle shows up when you want him the least.

 

I had a cough bout problem which sometime get aggravates all of the sudden, and it happened right when we reached the worst spot. No choice, cough or no cough, we have to move on. I was very worried as my cough was bad and bad was the road. She this time tried a clove treatment for my cough and it worked like wonder, and it worked this time as well.

 

We reached Bandipore by 2 Pm, filled by the fuel tank and drove straight to Srinagar. Plan was to stay near Dal lake and enjoy the evening Shikara ride and then drive straight to Warwan tomorrow. I was in touch with the DFO Marwah region and he assured us a stay.

 

We reached Srinagar by 4 Pm and Boulevard road was all jam packed with traffic, took a bypass through Lalit Hotel and drove straight to Mughal Darbar for some food. Most of my know Houseboats were fully booked and we were loosing time. Right then I received a phone call from my mom which changed our plans. There was an urgency at home, we had to cancel our plan for Warwan and decided to drive straight to home.

 

But we needed a place to stay tonight, I asked the parking attendant for any hotel near by and he suggested to take a room in Mughal Darbar itself, quick negotiations and we were inside a cozy room with a street view

 

Tomorrow we will drive back home.

My  Windows Wallpaper, clouds looks a sheep watching you

My Windows Wallpaper, clouds looks a sheep watching you

 

Pir Mazar at Rajdhan pass

Pir Mazar at Rajdhan pass

 

 Day 10/11 ( 15/16 June) : Srinagar – Gurgaon

As usual a boring drive back home, heavy traffic around Ramban, a night halt at Jammu and finally at Home

 

And my Sincere thanks to the

CEO of Aharbal Development Authority, Md Yasin 

Ground Man of Aharbal, Mr Khursheed Bhat

AD of Gurez Dev Authority, Mr Iliyas

Caretaker of Gurez TRC and a gem person, Mr Lone

Last but not the least, thanks for the super valuable inputs from Amit Tyagi, Kaushik Shil and Jagjit Singh

 


 

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