Bandipora: An 'exposure trip' of over 150 tourists in 4x4 cars from Srinagar and Bandipora to Gurez was kickstarted on Sunday by Tourism authorities in collaboration with district administration to explore the tourism potential of the frontier valley in north Kashmir.
The authorities say that the week-long festival which involves the two-day car rally besides exploring tourism potential involves an introduction to the culture and beauty of the place.
The Gurez valley which borders Kargil and Gilgit in Pakistan administered Kashmir is home to the minuscule population of the Dard-Shina tribe, who have been living a hard life for a long due to scarce basic amenities.
Also being a border area, the entry for the outsiders to the valley was thrown open only some years back, otherwise the residents and everyone else would require special passes to cross into the garrisoned valley, which also kept it hidden for the rest of the world for many years.
The scenic Gurez Valley is tucked between the mountains on its either side with the Kishangangariver cutting across. The valley once stood on the Silk route network connecting Kashmir to Kashgar (now Xingjian province of China). Gurez valley is also home to endangered snow leopard, hangul deer, barking deer, musk deer, black bear, markhor, ibex and marmot besides several exotic species of flowers and plants.
However, a certain degree of modernisation and the construction of the mega 330 MW Kishanganga Hydropower project has impacted the isolated place. The project dam in Gurez forced dislocation of people in Budwan villages.
The Gurez residents who remain cut off from rest of the world due to blocking of road in winters for six long winter months have been demanding a road tunnel for year round connectivity. Furthermore, the infrastructure in the valley for hosting tourists is also not 'up to the mark’, which needs upgradation according to the locals.
With its gradual opening to outside tourists, and guns falling silent at the LoC, the valley has been witnessing an influx of tourists lately with many campaigning for exploring its beauty, which has largely remained unexplored till date.
Deputy Commissioner Bandipora, Owais Ahmad, while flagging off the car rally said, "it is a tourism promotion event for the beautiful valley of Gurez in collaboration with different stakeholders including the tourism department, district administration and 109 Brigade."
He said, 150 tourists in over 50 4×4 vehicles left from Srinagar and will be heading towards Gurez in a rally.
Owais said in this exposure trip, tourists will be camping in an eco-friendly manner for two days wherein they will be showcased the culture and beauty of the place which will help further refine its tourism potential.