Exploring Teetwal: A Humble Border Village


Kashmir Magazine

Farah Zaidi

 

It took just one humble invitation from the Forest Department (Jammu & Kashmir) and we jumped at the very opportunity, and started planning our trip ahead. At Kashmir Off Road, we are always ready to go “off-the-beaten-track” and explore all those places that are still unknown to many around us. But this time around, what we were about to experience was rather different…sentimentally!

 

In acknowledgement of our continued efforts to promote lesser known tourist destinations and seeking provisions of sustainable and experiential tourism, the forest department of Jammu and Kashmir in association with Indian Army facilitated Kashmir Off Road’s exclusive trip to Teetwal Village and adjacent places, which are otherwise restricted for any civilian movement without prior necessary permissions.

 

On 7th of May 2022, we (40 adults plus 7 children) began our first ever two-day long expedition to explore the lesser known areas of Kupwara District. Our first stop-over was at the DFO office at Khemil (Kralpora, Kupwara); from here onwards we were accompanied throughout by the officials of the forest department.

 

We started our journey by visiting the famous Pharkian Gali, and then to Sadhna Pass via Chowkibal and Drangyari. In spite of the fact that we were about to visit a highly sensitive area -LOC, our journey throughout was swift and unhindered, thankfully, because of the forest officials escort and all the permissions sorted well in advance by the Indian Army.

 

The moment we started driving down ex-Sadhna Pass, the first thing we noticed was the shiny black serpentine roadway.

 

Apparently during this trip, we got to drive on the most amazing roads in the valley. As we kept driving further down, it was the sparkling cleanliness of the place that caught my attention (shame on us city people, we trash it all). This part of the country, so remote and yet so well maintained and breathtakingly beautiful.

 

Places We Visited

 

Drangyari – As soon as we crossed the rather crowded and busy Kralpora, we drove past Chowkibal and straight into lush green Pine trees packed Drangyari. Suddenly all the surroundings turned calm, gentle and vibrant green. We meandered our drive through the curvy roads, all the way up to Sadhna Pass from here.

 

Sadhna Pass – The sudden gush of strong chilly winds and paved roads, long queues of vehicles waiting for inspection and customary checking, high up on the mountains; Sadhna Pass it is. The gateway to the other side of Kashmir valley. This is one highly sensitive army post, which was again made easy to cross (for our team) with the help of prior permissions.

 

Tangdhar – Paved roads now started turning into shiny black tarmac, winding and bending, taking us all the way down to lush green yet warmer Tangdhar town. Newly made college/ school buildings, well planned houses and smiling faces all around welcomed us, the visitors, wholeheartedly. Here we were hosted for our lunch at the Indian Army base.

 

Teetwal -- At 4:30 pm we arrive at Teetwal Village. A warm welcome by the villagers, waiting by the Forest department cottage was heartening to see. While resting by the mighty Kishanganga River, Ali Sajid (Founder-Kashmir Off Road) enquired that “why did we not come from the bustling highway, right across the river?” He was told, - “Sir wo to Pakistan ka traffic hai, apke saamne wala sara unhi ka area hai.” And hussshhhh!!! We all went numb and quiet after that. There we were, all of us 40+ people enjoying our evening tea, right next to the LOC. None of us knew it would be that close. A lull for a moment followed by a sudden burst of excitement and magnifying gazes right across the river. There we were, seeing them, walking, talking, driving and waving at us happily, from another country, wow!

 

Home-stays --Post our tea, we were then handed over to several native people and forest officials, who took us around and showed us the ample options of home-stays available, all through the village. We had done this earlier, at different places, but for them, it was the first time to host guests at their heavenly abode. People who were not known to them, total strangers but whom they wanted to experience their warm hospitality, a cozy stay in their home and serve delicious organic home food, prepared by them, for us, their new guests. My family and 9 members of another family stayed at the house of an educationist, Mr. Aijaz, who lives there with his wife and two children. His house, spotless clean, was adequately equipped and had all the comfort to offer.

 

Food – As we were a large group of people, all our hearty meals were collectively prepared by the villagers and organized by the J&K Forest Department. All the produce served was organic, locally grown and tended to. We got to savour red rice, with an array of meat/ chicken and vegetable dishes, all cooked perfectly by them, right in front of us.

 

The Crossing Bridge – Followed by our night stay at Teetwal, we were due to visit an important site early next morning, The Crossing Bridge. This is no ordinary foot-bridge. Built first in 1938 then destroyed and later built again in 1988, is the one that connects the two respective countries, over Kishanganga River. A painted white plank in the middle signifies the border between the Indian and Pakistani side of it. No civilians are allowed to go atop or visit, unless given permissions by the authorities. We were the lucky ones.

 

Seemari – The last village on this side of LOC. Further up ahead of Teetwal village, the valley narrowed down around the Kishanganga River basin. On that lies this tiny hamlet named Seemari, with a bordering country literally just a stone’s throw away. Natives here spoke about having relatives living on both sides of the border and how often they manage to exchange greetings on all occasions. Simple people, divided by borders. Sigh!

 

Bonus Bangus – Day two, all the way back from Sadhna Pass, followed by a feisty luncheon organized by the forest department at Drangyari, we were in for our last treat by the officials. A quick trip to gorgeous Bangus Valley and Meadows, through the newly opened road by the authorities recently. Luckily, we were again the first group of vehicles to have explored Bangus valley, this season.

 

All in all we had a wholesome expedition with endless stories and memories to live with.

 


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