We woke up early as it was our last day in Gurez and wanted to enjoy the morning in that heavenly land. Weather was sunny and our own Sunny Paaji was there, so it was all the way sunny . Had some photographic session with Sunny Paaji and his friend and then Sunny’s team gone out to Brigadier’s camp for getting their permit to visit Chorgaon advance post. Somehow they were denied the permit on that day, Army said they had some movement of higher officials on that day and they won’t be able to allow any visitors but to me more likely was as they were a big group of 15+ people, may be that’s the reason for permit denial. These are not tourist spots and army never wanted to project that way to allow a bus full of tourists to an advanced camp. If you are a small group, especially with family, getting permits usually becomes much easier, that’s my experience everywhere starting from Kashmir, Ladakh to Arunachal.
With Sunny Paaji and his friend at Gurez:
Bidding goodbye to Haaba Khatun and Kishanganga for time being:
Rajdhan Pass with season’s first snow:
Anyway we had our breakfast and started our long journey back to Srinagar but we thought of taking a detour from Bandipore towards Mansabal lake and then towards, Gandharbal, Kangan and finally towards Naranag. The return journey was smooth and dust was much lesser than what we faced 3 days back because of last nights shower. As we approached the upper reaches towards Rajdhan Pass, we started finding the snow, season’s first snow on the road itself. On the top one side of the ridge was covered with snow, which turned the scene completely from what it was 3 days back. We stopped there for a while, chatted with couple of CRPF Jawan and then further proceeded towards the Bandipore. We took a short tea break just after Bandipur again with a vast vista of Wular lake in front of us, hope someday after the cleaning activities, Wular would be a nice stop for the visitors. We soon crossed Mansabal Lake, that’s picturesque too but we didn’t have time to take a break there, continued and hit the NH1 soon and turning left we were going towards Kangan. The road was fantastic and after the bad road of Gurez, it was a welcome break, just couple of km before Kangan, the road towards Naranag takes left diversion, we took that, hit a very narrow yet well built road and reached Naranag around 4.00 in the afternoon. Naranag is more famous as the start or end point of famous Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. People usually start from Sonmarg and covers Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal lakes before ending the trek at Naranag. I have seen some amazing photographs of this incredible landscape and hope someday I will be able visit too. Naranag is a small village, very nicely located with few trekkers hut and a stream flowing rapidly through the dense forests and meadows, surrounded by high hills. The major attraction of Naranag is the temples built in 8th Century with ancient Aryan structure.
The Naranag temple is the main attraction for the tourists. It is one of the important archaeological sites of the country. The site consists of a cluster of temples facing each other at a distance of about 200 meters. Historians say that the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva by the 8th century ruler Lalithdatiya muktadiya. It is believed that the king Awantivarman paid a visit and donated a pedestal for bathing at Bhutsher. Its architecture reveals the art of the 8th century. The government has only constructed walls to protect it from encroachments and nothing else has been done. It is now left in ruins of which only faint traces have survived. This temple has the typical Aryan structure as was present in Aryan Kashmir.
Small Pool believed to be filled up with water from Gangabal Lake:
Eighth Century Ruins of the temples, see the Shiva Temple:
Naranag – Nice Valley:
We had a nice time there, visiting the archeological wonders, you would be surprised and thrilled to see how people brought those heavy stones way back in 8th century and made the geometrically accurate curvature with them at a height of 50 ft from ground. This is a place one shouldn’t miss on the way to Sonmarg.
We started our return journey as sun was tilting towards west horizon, we came back to the highway again and hit srinagar around 7.30 in evening with a huge traffic jam as usual. We were very hungry as we didn’t have our lunch so headed to Mughal Durbar and had a wonderful dinner with various types of Kababs. No journey should be completed without the great foods, we had it here after several days of skipping breakfasts and lunches.
This was practically our last day in valley and it was kept as a spare day in case if something pushes our plan. We initially planned to enjoy Srinagar, especially the Dal Lake on this day, but as we already lost a day in Aharbal due to a strike, we had to use this day if we wanted to visit Dudhpathri. So the question was Dudhpathri or Dal Lake, we chose the first and started around 8.00 in the morning towards Budgam. Dudhpathri is a newly identified spot which is still being developed as a full fledged tourist spot by J&K Tourism. To do that they have created a separate entity called Dudhpathri Development Authority and this entity is still developing this little known beautiful meadow to a well established tourist spot. Now they have already made good roads for most part, Dudhpathri is 61km from Srinagar and a day trip to this scenic location is very much possible and highly recommended. We reached Budgam (20km from Srinagar) in a short while and going further 26km we reached Khan Sahib, the known junction from where road to Dudhpathri diverts. From Khan Sahib you would get another 7km of well tarred road and after that bad / unpaved road started for last 10km. The road was still being made and some part of that was really quite steep and we found few of the small cars and also big buses could not reach till the end point, but looking at the pace of the work, I believe by starting of next season the whole work would be over and it would be a nice and easy drive to Dudhpathri from Srinagar. Nothing much could be written about this place, it’s a very scenic and gorgeous meadow which would keep you short of words, if you try to describe it. The meadow is quite huge and starting point of couple of good treks uphill. The river Shali Ganga flows through the meadows and dense forests in higher reaches surrounded by snow peaks made the whole ambience amazing. Probably May/June would give visitors even better view with more green and snows around. We spent almost whole day there, there are few pre-fabricated huts where one can have a lovely stay. To stay there you have to contact Dudhpathri Development Authority and as the location is quite remote, they would arrange for your foods and everything once you confirm your arrival.
Shali Ganga River:
Awesome Tourist GH at Dudhpathri:
Inside the Pre-Fabricated Huts at Dudhpathri:
New Wooden Huts are being built:
We didn’t have time to stay the night but wish we could, had some snacks, noodles, tea made by the caretaker of the GH who was a very nice person and we had a wonderful picnic on that day. We took Kazim’s son who was studying in Srinagar for this day trip with us and the young boy was really happy to be with us for the day.
Kazim and his son:
Lovely Meadow Dudhpathri:
We started our return journey towards Srinagar around 4.00 and by 2 hours we reached Dal Lake, lean season and some hard bargain, earned us a very sweet deal of houseboat stay in Young Golden Palace for just Rs. 1200/- But we didn’t have time to enjoy, as we rushed towards Sunny Paaji’s place for dinner, he invited us couple of days back and we were already late. Reached there around 7.30 and really didn’t know how we spent next 3 hours, it gone like a flash with delicious dishes prepared by bhabi and paaji himself and some intense chit chats on remote areas of Kashmir. Paaji is an avid trekker, has been trekking since his school days and showed us lot of wonderful snaps of his various treks from school days onwards, What a great and nice end to a wonderful trip!! I will surely return to Kashmir again, just to have those Kababs again at Sunny paaji’s place, Paaji thanks a lot for that great dinner, wonderful photographs and the warm get together. We came back to house boat around 11.00 at night and then suddenly I started feeling a void, no more planning, no more discussion with Kazim for next day, it became almost a habit for last 15 days. We have done what all we have planned, in some cases even more than what we planned, still we felt, it could be more, couple of days more!! Srinagar Airport was infamous for rounds of checking, so we had to realign our luggage accordingly, repacked those again and gone for sleep quite late.
Delicious Dishes at Sunny Paaj’s House:
Bhabi and Paaji, what a wonderful couple:
A fantastic get together:
Back to the House Boat:
We got up very early to catch the typical morning in Dal, wonderful experience it was, people started lives on water with small boats, selling flowers in a foggy morning in the lake made it fabulous. We enjoyed the lake for almost all the morning before we had to leave for airport. It’s a non eventful journey with some tiring checking in Srinagar airport (3 layers of checking where first layer would be by offloading your luggages from car and put into an X-Ray machine and reloading into the car again) and even more tiring wait time in Delhi Airport T3, took us back to Kolkata. We were very tired but it was really a wonderful trip with so many memorable moments and wonderful people and beautiful places.
Morning at Dal Lake: