This was possibly our last day of cycling in Kashmir and the roughness of the road was bugging us before the ride. It was suppose to be uneven, narrow, twisting and abrupt; for which we had to be careful. We got our gear set early and got ready for the ride. We had to cover 42km towards our destination Sharda, on a comparatively difficult route; we set off at 8:45am.
After the two main villages Lawat & Dawarian we we were losing our communication contact with others. Luckily we found a telephone booth in Lawat to inform family and friends that we were travelling safe. Most of the telephone networks do not work in Neelum Valley, the ones which work, they have limited coverage and they go offline with load shedding, interesting enough, we keep moving into no signal zone.
View from our room in Karen. You can see Jammu Kashmir across the river.
Local people of Neelum have no access to the latest electronic technologies (up to this date); Here, . Humans accompany humans. They sit together and for long gossips after at the end of the day; something which is absolute in big cities.
People appreciation played a huge role in getting us through.
People got surprised and appreciated the idea of Cycling.
We reached Dawarian around 10:30am; the track to Ratti Gali Lake starts from here. The lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Azad Kashmir. We also happened help a group of gentlemen when they needed tools to fix the vehicle. We got invited to their office which we refused to take because of time constraint. It feels so good to help someone you don’t know and to whom you never going to see again.
Reading question paper of 6th class in Dawarian.
Somewhere near Dawarian
Changan, a beautiful small village where we stopped for lunch about 20km after Keran. We were invited by a local to his home which he uses as a guest house. In lunch, we were presented local food which took more than usual time for getting ready. The corn bread was thin and crispy and the Saag was juicy and delicious and was worth waiting for. Lazy altogether after lunch, we decided to move towards our next destination Dudiniyal at 3.20pm.
Traditional lunch (Karam) in village Changan
Dusty road after village Changan.
We met Mr. Imtiaz who was serving in army; he belonged from the similar district like ours. He insisted us to stop for a drink and upon insisting that we were getting late, He said, “no matter how late you are going to be, I will not let you leave without a drink, Stay with me if think you are late.” Other than the drink, it was his love, respect and brotherhood which we enjoyed the most. With a pledge to meet someday in the district, we left Mr. Imtiaz with only two hours of sunlight left towards Dost village.
Along Mr. Imtiaz, Dost village
Stopping consistently at every village we come by, we reached village of Khawaja Seri. We were only 5Km away from Sharda then, sigh of relief. We stopped at Khawaja Seri when we saw those very old houses, called typical houses of Kashmir. Those were perfectly made houses were 90-100 years old. People still have managed to survive the harsh weather conditions in these homes. Latter in the village, we meet Molana Habib-ur-Rehman who greeted us with the apples from his village. “You will not find such apples elsewhere, they were filled with the juice of Khawaja-Seri” Molna mentioned. Rightly said, they were found to be very juicy and sweet. We were pleased to meet him & loved his beautiful and peaceful small village of Khwaja Seri.
Near village Khawaja Seri
Molana Habib-ur-Rehman who greeted in his village Khawaja Seri
“This is the only village where we speak Kashmiri language, elsewhere they do not speak Kashmiri, but Parari language. I walk 3-hours everyday to reach my college in Sharda and same on the way back. I feel lucky if I find bus on the way, but it is very rare”. College boy in Khawaja Seri.
Near the destination Sharda
Reached at destination, Sharda
It was 6pm when we reached Sharda, town was wide and peaceful. It was almost dark when we actually found some suitable place for stay. We explored the town next morning, but the “Pedal-out Neelum” had it end at Sharda. We saw the beautiful places along the way and meet some most hospitable people of Kashmir. The last sunset at Sharda was bittersweet, But we greeted each other with hope that the road of adventures will not end here.
Sunset at Sharda which set an end to "Cycling through the blue gem of Pakistan"
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"Cycling through the blue gem of Pakistan: Neelum Valley" (PART-1
- Content and Photos by Author.