By Shah Younis
Heaven veiled in the lap of mountains; overlooking mesmerizing greenery on the both side of the roads is none other than Tehsil Gurez ,located on the highest peaks of district Bandipora. The district gazes within the high Himalayas; it us about 86 kilometres far from Bandipora, 123 kilometres from Srinagar in Northern Kashmir and Southern Gilgit –Baltistan and is situated at about 8000 feet above the sea level . Gurez is surrounded by snow -capped mountains- a perfect form an aesthetic natural beauty.
During the journey, a black road leads through Bandipora, Razdan and then ultimately meanders towards Gurez. This road accords some of the most spectacular views of the Wullar lake, one of Asia’s largest fresh water lakes. This 40km (25miles) road stretching at Razdan almost 11672 feet above the sea level , we catch a glimpse of the Harmukh peak- highest mountain peak of the Valley.
Gurez is very rich in diverse fauna, flora and wildlife including the Himalaya brown bear and the snow leopard. Nature has bestowed Gurez with amazing beauty, natural resources which can be used for medicinal purposes such as Aurvedic medicines , pitres, manal, muri, shalamisri and also black zeera.
This adventurous destination is also a gate way to the famous silk route across Central Asia. The pyramid shaped peak named after famous Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatoon is the most fascinating peak of Kashmir symbolizing a tale of love and loss. It is said that Emperor Yousuf Shah Chak entered into the Valley through Gurez. Being deceptively imprisoned by Akbar, this compelled Habba Khatoon – Chak’s beloved and wife- to wander from pillar to post and finally led her to these peaks in search for her love. It still seems as if these peaks are wailing for the terrible loss along with Habba Khatoon and the roaring mighty Kishan-ganga river across the valley. The surrounding mountains can lull one to a sound sleep.
The traditional Indo-Aryan wooden houses, are indeed another indicator that makes Gurez no less than a European country in terms of its structural dimensions.
Moreover, some of the mountains have an absolute challenging scope for rock climbing. Trout fishing is a frequent sport among the locals. One feels delighted to catch a brown trout which can be seen even with the dusty eyes as clearly as anything in the Kishanganga river or the streams meandering down from the mountains.
Gurez has lovely camp sites. The tents can be pitched near the river. The awesome village of Tulil has wooden log houses perfectly adding to magnificent crystal view of pine trees.
But due to an unfortunate lack of tourism policy coupled with neglect, this hidden heaven gets cut off from the Valley almost for six months merely on account of slightest rains, lack of amenities, infrastructure development and bumpy roads. However, having a tremendous potential for adventures and rural tourism this destination can be shaped into a world class tourist destination for water rafting, trekking , paragliding, rock climbing. Last but not least, Gurez’ lifestyle , culture , music, folk dances and its unique language “shina” are features which can make anyone fall in love with the place.
—The author is studying Tourism and Travel Management at Kashmir University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org