Historic “trekking for trees” expedition takes off today
Group To Pass Via Tosamaidan, China Gali Enroute To Poonch
Srinagar, Jun 18: The first ever trekking expedition comprising of both foreigners and locals from Khag, Budgam to Poonch is taking off on Saturday.
The group of 17 to 19 will start five-day trekking from Khaga Budgam on Saturday. The group includes five foreigners, eight local trekkers, local guides and porters. The highly ambitious and historic trekking event is part of J&K Tourism Department, Rural Tourism Development program. The theme of trekking is same as that of the previous Rafiabad program “Trekking for Trees” through which local timbers smugglers are given opportunity to become trekking guides and are made aware about saving trees.
For the project, Carin Jodha Fischer was hired by the J & K Tourism Department to work on rural tourism development at Khag. Part of this is to prepare a detailed project report on infrastructure requirements and activities for tourists in that area.
“Instead of doing the trekking survey on our own, we have put together a pilot trekking group to help us explore virgin routes and make suggestions as to how we could best turn the area into a trekking destination for adventure and eco tourists. There will be several foreign trekkers and some locals from Srinagar helping us with this task,” said Carin.
“We have spent the last two weeks organizing and training local guides and porters, most of whom engaging in timber smuggling. They have agreed to reform if we can provide them with an alternative livelihood. Thus once again we are calling our programs at Khag “Trekking for Trees,”” she said.
The five-day trek will take off on Saturday from, Khag. On first day group will trek around 25-kilometers upto Tosamaidan. On second day, they will trek from Toosamaidaan to China Marg (glacier and lake) distance of 25-kilometers. On third day trekkers will start from China Marg upto Loren and Mandi (Poonch) a distance of 17-kilometers. The trekkers after staying for night in Poonch will start return journey next day from Mandi to Soujam to Jedan a total distance of 30-kilometers. On fifth day, group will trek from Jedan to Khag a total of 35-kilometer distance.
It is historical event as never before a trekking group of foreigners as well as locals of Kashmir have gone through area for trekking. The area has been out of bounds for trekkers due to security reasons and was also never on Tourism department radar. During peak of militancy the area was transit route for militants. Currently route is safe and timber smugglings are going on large scale in and around the area. The terrain varies from villages to sparsely to not populated (Glacier area). Bakkerval nomads will be along the way.
“This trek has never been used by tourists before. Many years ago it was a major transit route for militants but it is totally safe. Timber smuggling is done in many areas. There have never been any foreigners allowed on this route, and it was also never on the state’s tourism development radar before despite its breathtaking beauty,” said Carin.
“There will be four experienced older guides (timber smugglers willing to reform) and three younger guides. In addition there will be porters/ horses and cooks. There will also be a young doctor trekking with the group. We have notified the army and the tourism department and the local MLA have submitting a letter to headquarters” she added.
She said that Tourism department has been very helpful and provided all kind of necessary things which are needed to make this trek a success.
“The tourism department has been extremely helpful. Especially the deputy-director tourism Mehmood Shah, who himself is an avid and experienced trekker, has extended all the assistance required for our venture” she said.
The route of the trek is both breathtaking and also has historical importance. The most sought after in the route is Tosamaidan pasture. Tosamaidan is not only famous as a pasture but also for its historical background. Bounded by dense forests, it is situated about 10-Kms from Khag in the mountains of the Himalayan range. After crossing the upper mountain reaches of Drang, Zakhora and other small villages, one reaches the pasture of Tosamaidan. It is one of those pastures which the shepherds of other countries also used to visit in ancient times. The Mughals used to go to Poonch using this route. It is said that they had constructed a seven-storeyed building -Dam Dam - here. The Basmai Gali (13,000 ft) is the pass which leads into Tosamaidan. Another pass - Poonch Gali - on its right side leads to the valley of Poonch. This pass was deemed to be the safest, easiest, and nearest to reach Punjab in ancient times. From here a path also leads to Nilnag. Tosamaidan is the largest pasture in its surrounding areas, 3 miles in length and 1.5 miles in width. Sky touching deodars fence this pasture presenting a view of a green carpet during summer. During summer, the camps of the Gujjar community and shepherds are grazing their sheep in the pasture presenting a riveting look. Also, the fragrance of wild flowers refresh the environment.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 18 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 18 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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