Travelogue: Finding yourself ‘off the road’ at Warwan Valley

What’s your escape route? How do you move out of your comfort zone into the wilderness? What’s so intriguing about this other life that you live? What pushes you towards this madness, insanity, chaos… this adrenaline rush that elevates you to a different level?

As we left our comfort zones for a journey, we had no idea about the horizon in front of us. All I could see was how my life has been sucked into this system of a race that we humans have developed amongst us.

This time our group, the Moto Explorers Club, set our sails into the direction of the Warwan Valley.

Our convoy zigzagged through the highway into South Kashmir’s Islamabad. By the time we reached there, we knew we were in a place charged with emotions and rebellion.

I could see the graffiti on the wall: Freedom, tipping on every living soul’s heart and mind. And that feeling of being in a place of rebels made me feel I was heading home.

This is the time of the year, when wherever you look, a mighty Chinar would be shedding its golden light, on any path you take. Every turn you take, it makes you skip a beat.

The heart sings along with every pine you see, every stream that flows into your mind reminds of something. If only we knew what we were looking for. The quest of nature keeps us alive.

Vailoo Breng is a small hamlet after Kokernarg, the lowland to Margan Top. As expected the serpent roads seemed very brute.

As we passed, a boy came out of the woods carrying a foot long Trout fish in his hand. His young companions followed him, running with cheer and contentment. It is something that we don’t see in the city traffic jams and neon lights. The fine silky road had come to an end.

The best part of the Moto Explorers Club convoy was that it brought smiles on the faces of people around us. It felt as if they had an urge to know who we were and where were we off to.

Everyone seemed happy, us and them, both.

One by one we vroomed to the top beneath the dead Margan Mountain. It was cold. And I could feel it in my bones.

We came to a point where a steep downhill awaited us. The sweeper car went first and big puff of dust emerged from downhill, with its roaring sound echoing the five dead mountains around us. I immediately pulled out my radio and tried to connect to the car.

On ‘off route’ trails, the one without cover should lead the way, especially when it’s dust and rocks. Sadam, the driver, accelerated as we moved, avoiding the dust, and reached ‘The Dead Valley’.

It was dead in the real sense. There seemed nothing, just us, and the mountain, no tree, not even a small plant. Freezing air blew past our ears, as if it whispering to us, welcoming.

We were hungry and tired due to the 6 hour of treacherous up-drive. It was late afternoon and we decided to cook lunch. Our finger tips froze with every morsel we took. A cold boulder to sit on, and a golden sunset to watch. What else would you want from life? You ask this to yourself! Could it be any better than this? I bet not.

It was getting dark already, two more hours of downhill drive on a 10ft road, with a 200ft dead drop from the edges. Me and Sadam set off again as we drove to Warwan or Inshan. After 5 kilometers, we slowed down to a person who looked out from something that looked like a window.

“Salaam,” he greeted us, inviting us inside this Travellers’ resting place. This one was a cozy, a smoked cave type of a place.

Ghulam Hassan, the caretaker, wore a traditional Pheran preparing hot Nun Chai and Kulchas on a fire stove. I asked him what this place was. “This is a Sarai,” he replied, bursting into laughter.

This place had a huge bed carved out from the mountain itself, a few blankets and a fire stove in a corner, where piping hot tea and food were steaming. A small solar light bulb was hanging above his head, perfect for my picture of his.

I grabbed a cup of tea and sat outside on a rock, by the edge of a cliff, as One tree hill by U2 played on my pod.

‘You run like a river to the sea,’ I sang out loud to the mountains, as the silence of pines reverberated to me in a musical way. The two massive peaks shining on the horizon, Nun & Kun.

The tea, the woods, the smoke, ravens, those shining peaks and the air against your face, magical. I did not want to be anywhere else. I did not want to be someone else. The magic to the place, the gravity beneath my feet, the thoughts in my head, it felt like this was all I ever wanted.

After a brief stop at the Sarai, we drove down into the unknown, around the filling darkness and flickering lights at the bottom. We had arrived in the vale.

Surrounded by the local village folk as we de-boarded, there were smiles, excitement and questions about who we were and why we were here.

‘That’s a good question,’ we thought, something we keep asking ourselves often.

We pitched our tents and started preparing the food. Our German friend Tim, was in a trance due to the beauty of the nature.

“You guys are crazy, this is magical!”

To calm him down, I took him along with Commodore Shabir, Rambo Abeed and Bluish Tabish to find some wood in the forest. The stars gazed upon us. It felt as if we were free of all the cults and noise of the city.

They say when you want to be close to God, lie down and watch the stars. For some of you it might sound stupid but for us, the non-conformists, it’s all about getting out of that comfort zone.

The night passed away and the wood burnt with a cracking sound, as the tea kept boiling. I crept inside my tent.

In the morning I woke up to laughter, and sound of the rushing stream. The scene through my tent window looked exuberant, with sun rays peeking through fast moving clouds. Our Commodore Shabir had made us tea. We all sat besides the same fire looking at the commanding Sun that slowly rose above the mighty peaks. Warwan, she was utterly beautiful.

We left the next day. It’s always good to bring some sort of souvenir back home, so we stopped over at a town nearby. To have a better feel of these peoples’ lives in Warwan, I took a walk in the lanes.

A woman outside a wooden house, with a tiny blue coloured window, told me the stories of the times she had seen. The uneasy air that paused between us when I clicked her picture, I kneeled down to capture her on the porch.

I couldn’t breathe, or look at her through my lens, the pause or that silence had me right there at that very moment. No goodbyes or waves, I just walked off and she kept standing on her porch.

As we leave the valley of Warwan and reached Ghulam Hassan’s Sarai on pour way back, a hot cup of Nun Chai awaited us on the top, and season’s first snowfall bid us adieu.

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