But things are changing now.
Lolab valley is studded with natural beauty and warm, hospitable locals. Minus the throngs of tourists. This part of Kashmir is as virgin as it gets.
Wooden houses with tinned roofs surrounded by rice fields. And Himalayas over the horizon.
Reshwari, a border town in Kashmir
The tourism department of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is encouraging visitors to give this place a try. We stayed at the tourist bungalow run by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department.
This was the view from our window. At the stream local kids were having their everyday after school swim. We shared a mutual curiosity with them. This made for an interesting conversation. Starting with their swimming skills and favourite subject in school. And them wanting to know the cost of our camera!
Reshwari is set on a hilly forest. It is advisable to be back in the tourist bungalow before nightfall. For dinner, we had piping hot rice and Roganjosh.
Driving through Lolab valley
Women set out to the fields in Lolab valley.
Firewood is still a major source of fuel in the houses in rural Kashmir. Women make several trips in the day collecting wood for daily use in the kitchen. Around August, they also start stocking wood for the winter months.
Initially surprised at seeing us, they soon became pally. It was amusing for them, that we wanted to click their pictures. But they were relaxed and actually enjoyed being photographed.
Chandigham in Lolab valley
It is a perfect place for a lunch break just as we did.
However, if being surrounded by the fir forest at the back and the rice fields in front, catches your fancy, just stay on here.
Kalaroos village folks
It’s very rare that a car of tourists drives by these village roads.
And everybody is curiously peeping out of their windows!
This actually is a pretty rare sight in Kashmir: a female with the head not covered!
Satbern/ Satburn in Lolab valley
Not for money, mind you! Just for the pleasure of guiding – and showing off their local attraction!
Satbern is a rocky structure with seven doors. These doors lead to nowhere. Mystery seems to be its only purpose. This whole structure is supposedly traced back to the time of the Pandavas – from Mahabharat!
Kalaroos caves in Lolab valley
It was our first cave experience. This made the steep climb through the dark cave even more exciting.
The Kalaroos caves are still archaeologically unexplored. Folklore says they extend all the way to Russia!!
Kalaroos village view
Khumriyal in Lolab valley
Sipping some pink coloured namkeen chai (salty tea), we watched the sun set in the Himalayas. Flocks of birds were returning back to their homes in the firs and pines surrounding the tourist bungalow.
The entire village came to visit us. Along with the staff they were all eager to cater to our needs. The kids wanted to play with us (and the camera!). The women particularly told us to let them know if we needed anything!
In such pristine surroundings, there’s little else that one could want!