It was a tedious, trying, tiring trip. But so worth the effort. There is a lot of misinformation that gets spread about traveling to this part of Kashmir because who the hell, is going to to go there and check, right? But I will try to be as honest as possible.
Let’s start from the beginning, first. Having covered the Mughal Road (which I will share in a later post), I spent a night in Srinagar and the next day I was on the way to Dawar. Driving as much as I do, does get exhausting but thankfully this time around, I was with a local, who couldn’t drive but was fabulous company. Anyone who tells you it’s safe or pleasant to travel to Gurez by yourself, whether you are a man or woman is making stuff up. I don’t take other people’s word for anything. Only once I had travelled to Kashmir by road a number of times with a maid, a cook, an assistant and my cousins did I start driving down by myself and even now, in December/ January I think a million times before doing so. Kashmir, IS A CONFLICT ZONE! Please, don’t listen to a sales pitch right now and think it’s all hunky dory.
Having warned you, let me also tell you, Kashmiri’s are lovely as are the Dard’s , the Shina speaking tribe of Gurez. They are warm and hospitable and they make great company. To reach this lovely, secluded area, you will have to first go to Bandipora, which is a couple of hours and a little more than 60 kms away from Srinagar. This is the dodgy area. The encounters and search operations in Bandipora, make it difficult for people to travel to Tulail.
Beyond this point, it’s totally militarised. There are multiple check points, where I hear people are turned back from, especially foreign nationals. In the past, I was turned back, but this time around, from the Army, to the JKP to the BSF, all seemed very friendly. Honestly, I was shocked at how, polite they were. Since, I was driving, I thought I would be asked to get off the car at the check points but they just asked my companion to take my ids with him, while they chatted (checked on me) with me.
Is it safe? Well, on the way back, in Bandipora, there was an encounter going on due to which they were redirecting the traffic. It’s safer to be a tourist in Kashmir, than to be a local!