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Thread: Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition Travel -> Zanskar & Unknown Kashmir, "off-season" October 2011

  1. #21
    We were on a strict budget due to the nature of this unknown travel, and such had to give a miss to the paraglidings [around Rs 2500 cost] or a stay in Bhoot Bangla.

    However, as we drove in we did find a great budget hotel on a hillside, with a side view of the Khajjiar meadow. Clean and neat rooms and with the off-season October month we got a good discount too.

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    And that inset "Switzerland certificate"
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    Anyway, next day, October 5, 2011, after simple yet refreshing breakfast, we head off to catch some more moments of Khajjiar before we start the day's journey to Killar, Himachal across the most remote Sach Pass.

    All fresh and ready for the day's experience and travel
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    Early morning dew and nature

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    and magical morning sun rays
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    So after a brief few moments spent, we head again on the road to Killar

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  2. #22
    Oct 4, 2011, early morning we were no headed towards Killar or Killad of Himachal in Pangi valley. However to cross over from the Chamba valley side to Pangi valley one has to go via a dreaded and remote pass, called Sach Pass. And this more true consider the late season of October.

    On towards to Pangi Valley via Sach Pass and we stopped frequently to just see around.

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    And we come across this small temple where local people were handing over delicious prasads.
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    And the journey continued
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    But not without a few stops as we left these lesser travelled places; more so in October
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    Proper road ended soon enough and the track of a road began.

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    Satrundi check post is where the most reliable last minute information about Sach Pass is asked and it really great relief to know that Sach Pass is just about open at this late season of October

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    Soon the ascent to Sach pass becomes much more steeper and the terrain in October was brutal, but then nothing like a drive in a remote land.

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    Which in fact made Surja to penn this few lines as we made up the rough track

    this bumpy ride shakes up my inside
    but spreads peace on my soul
    this wondrous form of earthly love
    these glorious hills behold.

    And then finally at Sach Pass, at around 3 pm on October 4, 2011 we were on Sach Pass.

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    All through this journey we never came across another vehicle. Complete solitude and calmness. A customary visit to the temple on top of the Pass, we descended on towards Pangi Valley.
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    Pangi Valley

    Full of grandeur and tribal majesty is the land locked valley of Pangi, 173 km from Chamba via Sach Pass (4414 m). It is one of the sub-division of Chamba district surrounded by the Peer Panjal & Zanskar ranges. Killar is the sub-divisional headquarter of Pangi Valley. The native Pangwals and Bhotis are robust, hardworking, handsome people who keep the valley’s unique culture alive in folk songs, music and tribal dances. Beyond the reach of tropical monsoon rains, the valley is one of the off-beat challenging tourism destinations in the State. Approach to the Pangi valley is across the high mountain passes like Sach, Chehni and Rohtang Pass. The Valley is remained land locked for about six months due to heavy snow fall.

    Towards Pangi Valley now after Sach Pass, for a stop at Killar
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    then around evening we descended on to the greenery of Pangi Valley towards Killar.

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    Killar, the headquarters of the Pangi sub division, is situated in a deep and narrow gorge of the Chenab River in Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh.

    By the time we reached it was already dark. After some asking around and being denied a stay in the PWD, soon learnt that the only hotel that is open in this off-season is the Chamunda Hotel. Plus it had a restaurant which doubled as a bar too!- Surja and me made good use of it celebrating this great drive.

    It is of importance since it serves as a transit point for people heading towards Keylong, thus joining again on to the Manali-Leh highway after Rhotang pass. But then we were not headed towards that side - tomorrow we will be taking a track/road that few go through, a road that militancy used to rule even till recent year, a track where you could get stuck for days, whether be it a vehicle problem or landslides.


  3. #23
    October 5, 2011, is the day when this self-drive travel goes into exploratory expedition mode. We are entering the Kashmir valley, not through the usual routes like that of Jammu-Srinagar highway via Jawahar Tunnel or by crossing Zoji la from Leh towards Srinagar - but we are taking the forest and mountain track that connects Pangi Valley in Himachal to Paddar in Jammu and Kashmir.

    A brief idea about the location of Killar, Himachal and Kishtwar, JK can be had from the maps and Wikimapia from the previous post. Map routes will show a very round about road through Chamba to Jammu and then to Doda to go to Kishtwar. However, as said, we are taking the most remote route via Gulabgarh and Tyari to enter Jammu and Kashmir.

    Lets go through the maps again to get an idea. Getting Idea or whatever would be of no help as for most part of the journey being in remote lands, no mobile connection works. And without a GPS, wikimapia is used.

    Killar, Himachal - Dharwas - Luj - Tyari - Sohal - Gulabgarh- Kisthwar, J&K

    From Killar towards Kishtwar via Tyari

    Tyari to Gulabgarh

    Gulabgarh to Kishtwar

    Let us know more about Paddar now.

    History of Paddar

    Paddar valley is the farthest corner of district Kishtwar on touching the Himachal Pradesh, Zanskar valley of Ladakh and Marwah-Wadwan Valley. On the South-Eastern side Paddar is known for sapphire deposits and other forest products like zeera and Guchhi. Although vast areas of the valley is under forest cover yet few villages are also known for producing green dry vegetables pulses such as Peas & Rajmash.

    No concrete material is available about the early history of Paddar. However, it is said that there was no one in Paddar till 8th century. It was just a meadow. The people from nearby areas such as Bhaderwah, Lahol and Ladakh were attracted to see the fascinating grazing lands. So., they used to come here to graze their cattles. With the passage of time, they settled here permanently. Some historians say that it was known by the name ‘Palder’ in the beginning. Later the name was changed to Paddar.

    source: Paddar
    Machail Yatra

    Paddar is famously known for the Machail Yatra of Goddess Chandi. Maa chandi resides in the remotest corner of Paddar at an altitude of around 9500ft above sea level. It is a trek distance of around 30 kms on foot from the Gulabgarh Village. This is the last village connected by road. Every year thousands of devotees pay visit to the Holy Shrine with the faith undeterred and to receive the blessings of Mata machail waali. The number of pilgrims with each passing year has kept on increasing manifolds.

    Beautiful sunny October morning start from Killar for Kishtwar at around 8:30 am

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    And we paused often for beautiful vistas like this
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    And we reach border police camp between Himachal, i.e., Pangi and Jammu Kashmir. Entry done, the policemen were pleasantly surprised to see travellers on a self-drive all the way from Kolkata on a fine winter morning. This road was militant prone till even recently
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    From this check post we picked up a driver and his helper, as they Matador van broke down over here. They had to go to Tyari which is on the Kashmir side and was patiently waiting for a ride. Gladly gave them a lift and the journey continued hearing all the local stories.

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    Beyond that check post is the Sansari Nullah which actually marks the border between Himachal and Jammu & Kashmir
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    Fantastic! Entering Kashmir through the most uncommon route, not from Jammu or Leh but from Pangi to Padar.
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    Pangi and Paddar though people in the two areas were one till 1836. It was in this year that Gen Zorawar Singh marched to Zanskar from Paddar and burnt the bridge over the Sansari Nullah thereby snapping the main communication link between Paddar and Pangi. Paddar became a block of the Kishtwar subdivision of Doda district and part of Jammu and Kashmir state while Pangi became part of Himachal Pradesh.
    Seen here is the other driver whom we gave lift. Simple people, simple joys. Amazed were they that we had come out to here from Kolkata!
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    And then we came to the Jammu & Kashmir side of the check post.
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    The track climbs up and down as we go through virgin forests in this remote track. Not a single vehicle we have come across till now.
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    The remote and lonely cliff edge, from beyond Tiyari towards Kisthwar, J&K
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    A short video of the journey from Killar to Kishtwar along the most uncommon route towards Kashmir valley.

    It is no error part of the track! A mistake and you would fall down a gorge deep enough to make a call back home, of course if mobile signal would have been available in those parts. A host of "kaichis" or switchbacks and a 6-mt turning radius takes the Safari to end of the track.

    As the cliff edge road continues, at a distance do see a birds, but wait they are vultures! Well there is that squeamish, uneasy feeling on these in this no-error track! With no vehicle on this remote road, they are on their leisurely afternoon meal

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    And all that "uneasy" feeling gone, when clicked the majestic Himalayan Griffon Vulture.
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    Soon we reached the small village of Tyari, Jammu and Kashmir

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    Stopped at this small wayside grocery store whose owner doubles up as a photographer too!

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    We dropped of the two drivers whom we gave lift from around Killar side over here at Tyari and our journey continued along this uncommon route to Kisthwar, J&K

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  4. #24
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Calcutta, India, India
    Excellent writing and nice crisp pictures, I must say. Only if my car could have a higher ground clearance to be able to conquer these roads!

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by rahul4640 View Post
    Excellent writing and nice crisp pictures, I must say. Only if my car could have a higher ground clearance to be able to conquer these roads!
    Rahul-da, you will be able to drive with you sedan in all these roads in the travel months, i.e. from june to september. Our travel was in October and that is the last window for travel in these high mountains before they get closed for 7 months. As such in some places the drive was a bit dicey where the terrain got bad due to inclement weather..

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