Self-Drive Exploratory Expedition Travel -> Incredible Zanskar + Absolutely Unknown & Enchanting Kashmir-."off-season" October 2011 ///a.k.a./// Safari VTT-TMT 2.2 LX 4-year Grand Ownership Travelogue

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One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down and the more quickly time seems to pass.

-The Possibilian by Burkhard Bilger in The New Yorker (April 25, 2011) [here "he" is "David Eagleman, Professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston]

David Eagleman and Mysteries of the Brain: The New Yorkerl
Reading this fantastic subliminal article, I got the reason for why I recall clearly some quite interesting incidents. For example, I remember the day in almost very clear detail, aged 10 or 11, hurting down towards ground from the first floor roof as a pipe that I was holding on to while getting down gave way, me looking directly to bricks and hard concrete ledge as I was going to crash down in less than a second. In that second somehow by reflex caught some part of wall ledge and though my skin and hands were all scrapped to blood, I could walk away. Similar close shave was one of Bullet rides when much younger and still there are couple of incidents more, like if we take this forum domain - some incidents with our Safari VTT-TMT whereby we also have come out unscrapped - incidents which could have gone wrong greviously. And I almost remember each and every moment clearly, though many other less volatile situation memories have dulled out as I grow older.

And then the above quote and article in general made it all clear, I remember in detail because of amygdala of my brain being in overdrive!!

Now what the heck has all these to do with or about a travel or a travelogue?

As part of that text says: "The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down and the more quickly time seems to pass."

All these 4 years of travelling to some of the most lesser known places, from less travelled Chhattisgarh forests of Udanti and Sitanadi is search of wild bufflaoes to Valmiki Tiger Reserve in the Indo-Nepal border of Bihar and the experiences there encountered to Ropa valley while completing the Kinnaur-Spiti Loop or while going towards absolutely empty high altitude plateau of 17k feet along the Indo-China border towards Demachok during our Ladakh and Changthang travel to going to the Bonda tribal market of Koraput district to driving up to the Bum la border of Arunachal to discovery of that fantastic white sand beach in the middle of a dense forest at the origin of a river at Sunabeda and a few more - these have been unfamiliar territories - and all these incredible journeys have and will remain long cherished and we remember the details of all these unfamiliar places.

So when I read that New Yorker article, made a corollary like, till as possible, we are going to travel to some of the most unfamiliar territories and vistas - to keep recording the memories much better in the amygdala and thus remember more as we advance in age towards senior citizenship!!

In fact, any travel whether it be a known touristy place or an unknown location, removes us from the familiar surroundings of our daily city or suburban life. Travel initiates the "unfamiliar", whether be it of the land, the people and/or the experiences - and thus to say it again - travel helps to keep ourselves fresh and active - as more information is stored in the mind!
And after that stupendous Ladakh and Changthang drive, the wild frontier of Zanskar got itself chosen quite naturally this year as being the "unfamiliar terrain" and then we began to think - Ladakh again was out after being travelled last year, so parts of Kashmir could be squeezed in while on the return. Now my wife asks me what are the unknown or lesser known places in Kashmir, we all know about Dal Lake, Gulmarg and Pehalgam from the magazines and these can be travelled any time. Are there any unfamiliar places and even if there, can be travelled to by all of us [wife, our 6-year old son, and me]?

Soon enough a little research on the net and I have come up some of most "unfamiliar" places of Kashmir, names that dont come up due to the terrain and/or also due to the "situation" as that we percieve through our always "breaking news"

And how do we go towards Kashmir, is it the known routes of via Leh or via Jammu. Why not being a little "unfamiliar" here?

And of course, the month itself is "unfamiliar" - October - when almost all travel cease. We never met a fellow traveller or tourist in all of Zanksar and of course in the regions that we travelled in Kashmir.

And with all those "unfamiliar" points we decided to travel, - a journey that we remember for long - again as per Dr Eagleman "unfamiliarity" being the most important factor as I recollect each and every detail of the wonderful people and their land - the visceral thrill of a someplace new!

As I have said in another post, As and when I get time, do come across quite a few extraordinary travel tales from ordinary citizen travellers -sharing and reliving the experience - and thus encouraging all us to undertake a similar beautiful journey. Thus too is one of purpose/reason why I write this travelogue - as I write about these almost never to lesser travelled places, do hope more of us make this journey - so many a stereotyped ideas about a land will be trashed, many a beautiful places revealed, many a interactions recorded and told again.

And of course, one is discernable enough, one may say the "familiar" part of this travel would our vehicle, the one and only Tata Safari 2.2 LX 2wd VTT-TMT. Why not that being "unfamiliar" But then again it is now a part of the familiy. We all know that I could sell it now and still get around 4 lakh at least to fund my always aspired 4-wheel vehicle, but then, as said, VTT-TMT is now a family member. What to do!

As again and always, it took went through whatnot and whatever to bring us back all safely in the cold month of October, the last of window for a road travel - but then it has been doing such a thing regularly for the past 4 years of onwership. And thus again, this travelogue is too named as the Safari 4-year Ownership Travel.

We three [wife, me and our 6-year-old son] were the travellers when one of my good friend, Surja, joined in for some part of this travel. An impulsive poet and a traveller, he wanted to experience all that comes with an unknown travel - having read our past travelogues. So we were four altogether, with me being the driver.

And thus we left on September 30th, 2011, at 8 pm, on an overnight journey from Kolkata towards Delhi.

The places and the schedule that we followed:

[start of travel]

Kolkata - Murthal [beyond Delhi] - An overnight journey, reaching Murthal at noon due to an mind stupefying traffic jam on the Durgapur expressway at the middle of the night. It took 10 hours to travel 250 km and all the advantage of leaving at night was gone.

Murthal - Khajjiar [overnight journey across Punjab and entering HP off Pathankot]

Khajjiar - Sach Pass - Killar

Killar [HP] - Tyari - Golabgarh - Kisthwar [JK]

Kisthwar - Sinthan Top - Margan Top - Warwan Valley - Inshan

Inshan - Daksum - Anantnag - Srinagar

Srinagar - Zoji la - Sankoo [Zanskar]

Sankoo - Tangole

Tangole - Kun base camp trek - Tangole

Tangole - Rangdum - Pensi la -Padum

Padum and around

Padum - Srinagar [ 30 hours of driving day and night and day in the mountains as we got stuck due to Himlayan Car Rally and more due to a almost kaput clutch spring, the clutch pedal was not coming up - anytime it would given way]

Srinagar - Bandipora - Rajdhani Pass - Gurez

Around Gurez and Bagtore

Gurez - Kupwarwa - Bangus
A trek to Bangus and a drive in Lolab Valley

Bangus - Sopore - Srinagar

Srinagar - Doodpathri - Srinagar

Srinagar - Dal Lake - Palwal [ a night and day journey, reaching Palwal about 50 km away from Delhi on NH2.

Palwal - Mughalsarai - Kolkata

[end of journey]
And whats a post with no images. Here's a couple of highlight pictures to complement this post.

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and of course our travel ride, the one and only Safari VTT-TMT as it journeys proudly and without a fuss at Gurez, interior Bandipora, Kashmir.
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And more to complement this first post, a video of the journey from Killar to Kishtwar along the most uncommon route towards Kashmir. It is no error part of the track!

Those dont know, Deban, one of my good friend first coined these two words [chap and ja ta] during our Spiti Loop self-drive travel - 1. Chap rasta - stands for tracks that gives palpitation, where looking down out of the Safari window you look directly into the gorge. and the other word 2. Ja ta - stands for something fantastic, e.g. ja ta. chobi will be for fantastic photograph or ja ta jaiga - stupendous place and so on!!

Anyway more highlight texts and pictures coming up next and then we go into the details of this stupendous journey.