Lolab Valley: Kashmir Unexplored
Lolab valley is in the northern district Kupwara of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Being very close to India’s most disputed border, Kupwara unfortunately ignites a lot of fear.But things are changing now.
Lolab valley is studded with natural beauty and warm, hospitable locals. Minus the throngs of tourists. This part of Kashmir is as virgin as it gets.
This is an idyllic summer scene in rural Kashmir.Wooden houses with tinned roofs surrounded by rice fields. And Himalayas over the horizon.
Reshwari, a border town in Kashmir
On our first day in northern Kashmir, we stayed at a border village named Reshwari. It is locally also known as Nowgam. (Not to be confused with the Srinagar railway station.)The tourism department of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is encouraging visitors to give this place a try. We stayed at the tourist bungalow run by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department.
This was the view from our window. At the stream local kids were having their everyday after school swim. We shared a mutual curiosity with them. This made for an interesting conversation. Starting with their swimming skills and favourite subject in school. And them wanting to know the cost of our camera!
In the evening we had tea / namkeen chai / kahwa and local bread in the surrounding lawns. Then set out for a stroll among the deodars that line the village. Pluck some walnuts on the way. Apples were sadly yet to ripen!Reshwari is set on a hilly forest. It is advisable to be back in the tourist bungalow before nightfall. For dinner, we had piping hot rice and Roganjosh.
Driving through Lolab valley
Women set out to the fields in Lolab valley.
We saw them while roaming through a village road in Lolab valley.Firewood is still a major source of fuel in the houses in rural Kashmir. Women make several trips in the day collecting wood for daily use in the kitchen. Around August, they also start stocking wood for the winter months.
Initially surprised at seeing us, they soon became pally. It was amusing for them, that we wanted to click their pictures. But they were relaxed and actually enjoyed being photographed.
Chandigham in Lolab valley
After driving through the lush green fields of the Lolab valley, we headed to a small town called Chandigham. There is a beautiful tourist bungalow here. This one is also run by the tourism department of the Jammu and Kashmir government.It is a perfect place for a lunch break just as we did.
However, if being surrounded by the fir forest at the back and the rice fields in front, catches your fancy, just stay on here.
Kalaroos village folks
After resting for a while in Chandigham, we headed to a village named Kalaroos deeper in the Lolab valley.It’s very rare that a car of tourists drives by these village roads.
And everybody is curiously peeping out of their windows!
We saw her entering the house, while walking around in the village. When we took the camera out to take her picture, she stopped and posed. Then she ran into the house.There were no words exchanged.This actually is a pretty rare sight in Kashmir: a female with the head not covered!
Satbern/ Satburn in Lolab valley
Once in Kalaroos, we had to ask around for Satbern. Word got by and were soon surrounded a group of youngsters, eager to be our guide.Not for money, mind you! Just for the pleasure of guiding – and showing off their local attraction!
Satbern is a rocky structure with seven doors. These doors lead to nowhere. Mystery seems to be its only purpose. This whole structure is supposedly traced back to the time of the Pandavas – from Mahabharat!
Kalaroos caves in Lolab valley
Further up from Satbern/Satburn are the Kalaroos caves. These caves are even more mysterious than Satbern.It was our first cave experience. This made the steep climb through the dark cave even more exciting.
The Kalaroos caves are still archaeologically unexplored. Folklore says they extend all the way to Russia!!
Kalaroos village view
This was the view atop the hills that house the Satbern and the Kalaroos caves. Green carpets rolled all the way to the horizon!
Khumriyal in Lolab valley
The spacious tourist bungalow in Khumriyal village of Lolab valley was the last stop of our day.Sipping some pink coloured namkeen chai (salty tea), we watched the sun set in the Himalayas. Flocks of birds were returning back to their homes in the firs and pines surrounding the tourist bungalow.
The entire village came to visit us. Along with the staff they were all eager to cater to our needs. The kids wanted to play with us (and the camera!). The women particularly told us to let them know if we needed anything!
In such pristine surroundings, there’s little else that one could want!
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