Machil: The Best Kept Secret of Kupwara

There is nothing quite as striking as viewing the valley for the first time while exiting the Zamindar Gali, a view that stretches all the way, beyond the densely forested slopes of Lolab, tucked in the extreme north of Kashmir, lies Machil

There is nothing quite as striking as viewing the valley for the first time while exiting the Zamindar Gali, a view that stretches all the way, beyond the densely forested slopes of Lolab, tucked in the extreme north of Kashmir, lies Machil

 Farah Zaidi 
Srinagar July 23 (KNS):  It was raining all night long, we were to leave for this expedition at sharp 6:00 am, and so we did. Come rains or snow, nothing can stop our team once we plan on a journey!
DAY 1 (16 th July, 2022)
Our group of total of 38 zealous travellers in 13 4x4 vehicles (comprising all men women and children) gathered on the decided meeting point and off we were, to explore yet another hidden gem of Kupwara district. The early morning rains and that tingling nip in the air made our drive through the emerald surroundings, even more stunning. We were now headed to Lolab Valley.
Lolab Valley: After about 2.5 hrs of drive, ex-Srinagar we entered the fruit bowl of Jammu & Kashmir, the breath-taking Lolab Valley. “Welcome to Wadi-e-Lolab”, the beauty of the valley was quite apparent as we passed the gate. The river kept us company and the pine and fir trees around us made the place look simply beautiful. After a few minutes’ drive, we reached Khumriyal, a small village. Here we were supposed to meet Mudassir, our J&K forest department accomplice, for our journey onwards.
Kalaroos Caves/ Satbaran: It was still drizzling and the way to the famous caves was mucky and totally smeared with fallen rocks and dirt. We had to park our vehicles at the foothill village and trek all the way up to the Kalaroos caves. Not much of a trekker myself and with constant rains, most of us staggered our way to the mountains. Falling and slipping half of the time, we managed to reach the Satbaran (Seven Doors). As it is located on the lower spur of the mountain, Satbaran, an ancient monument belonging to Kashmir’s Buddhist era, is easily visible from a distance. According to the legends, this place might have been utilized for mediation by the monks. After catching up on our breaths, we then further climbed all the way up to

Kalaroos Caves. The legend has that the caves lead from Kalaroos to Roos (Russia); a myth blasted by a group of foreign explorers a few years back. Our fellow travellers who tried to probe through the cave were dearly welcomed by resident bats.

Forest Rest House at Kalaroos Village: Already late for breakfast organized by J&K Forest department, we managed to have a hearty brunch amidst heavy rainfall but a warm welcome and a detailed briefing of our onward journey with DFO of the region, Mr. Zahid Moghal, who then accompanied us all the way to Zamindar Gali.

Zamindar Gali: In the course of incessant rains we were now driving through densely conifer- clothed Sarkuli Thiayan forest. Driving uphill was now turning magical as suddenly we were surrounded by thick mist emerging from the endless lush pine forest around. Finally at an altitude of 3150 Mts, we reached Zamindar Gali, also known at Z-Gali. This is the place where all entries are to be recorded with the army authorities. The pass is home to a large army garrison which is the base camp for logistics to the forward positions in Machil. As Zamindar Gali, the most delightful part of the view is that one can see Nanga Parbat, an 8126 –meters peak in the greater Himalayas.

Machil: Exit Z-gali, enter vast expanses of jaw-dropping meadows, green paddy fields and ethereal pastures surrounded by mighty Nuwan Moutain range, Machil it is. The moment we entered the huge gateway, we saw the locals working at their fields with huge smiles on their faces. There are small lakes and pristine meadows nestled within the mountains and hills. Numerous springs and nameless waterfalls come down these mountains. A few women looked at us from their windows curiously and returned smiles when I waved at them. Machil comprises a vast number of beautiful hamlets namely, Misri Behak/ Dudi/ Chuntwari/ Dabpal/ Hardrung et al, placed strategically one after the other.
Homestays at Machil: Houses in these villages are primarily constructed of wood, and look extremely picturesque in rural settings. Our whole group was divided into 4 separate homestays, where the house owners left no stone unturned with their impeccable hospitality and scrumptious home cooked meals, totally organic!

DAY 2 (17 th July, 2022)
Malik Mohalla (Last village): Early next morning after fresh rustic breakfast at our respective homestays, we packed our lunches cooked by the locals and bid tearful goodbyes to the villagers. We now headed to the last village of this stretch, called Malik Mohalla. This tiny hamlet is situated right on the sensitive LOC and had all of 3 rural houses. We all spent a good amount of time with the villagers who showed us around and filled us with us in with local stories and incidents. After our quick tea break with them, we moved upwards to the Nuwan Mountains and then back to Srinagar.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta. (KNS)
The Author is, Co Founder at Kashmir Off Road.

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