Travelling to the unexplored has always been the flavor of my bike rides. I have been riding now from past many years and filling in my checklist with the untouched wonders of the nature. However the places we believe are untouched today will be the next destination spot for the travelers in coming years. This can be reflected by the places like Spiti valley, Rann of Kutch, North East India.
Nature has always been kind to me. I am a child of one of the best places in the country: Jammu of Kashmir. Growing up I used to think, why the beautiful places I see around aren’t listed in my books. As a curious child I have stored memories and stories of untouched places of J&K, which can be compared to beautiful valleys and hill stations of Himachal Pradesh. Now, as a grown up I have the answer to my question. These lovely wonders of nature are hidden because no one has ever talked about them. Lack of information to other tourists has still kept them unexplored. Finally, I heard that J&K tourism is organizing a motor cycle trip to the untouched places of Jammu. That was the moment when all my memories became fresh and were dancing in my head. I just wanted to join this trip.
I got registered for this trip as soon as I could and received an itinerary from them. I thought let me search what Google says about these locations. And as evident, there was nothing much on the places like Chattargala, Sarthal, and Sansari. And even for the places for which you can find information like Patnitop, Bhaderwah, Basholi, Gulabgarh and Kishtwar you could not figure out how much they have in store for travelers. My mind got dumbstruck! 20 damm years and still nothing to be talked about these places. It was then when I thought, post this trip I will surely write about these wonders of Jammu. You can call this my quest for redemption, my path to inspiration, a test of spirituality a way to become young fool again. This is my coming back home.
With these thoughts I began my journey along with 70+ other riders, vloggers, bloggers, and photographers from across the country. By now I knew this journey of 7 days is going to be an epic bike trip of exploring places, making friends, connecting to ourselves.
Day 1: Jammu to Basohli
There are a couple of routes which you can take from Jammu to Basohli; we took the one where will be passing via Surinsar Lake and Mansar Lake (Both major picnic destinations for school children). Visiting Mansar Lake and Surinsar Lake was going back in time for me as how as a kid I used to come to these places with my friends. I believe it feels good to revisit your childhood memories. This route to Basholi from Jammu is quite smooth except for few bad patches and can be easily covered in 5-6 hours.
Basohli is a small town in Kathua district but has lot to offer to travelers. Visit to Basohli Fort, Atal Setu (Cable Styled Bridge), Ranjit Sagar Dam Lake is must. For art lovers you can check out the revered Basohli Paintings.
Day 2: Basohli to Sarthal
Journey from Basohli to Sarthal has a major halt, which is called Bani. Basohli to Bani is a gradual climb with some bumpy patches. All along this route there are views of Ranjit Sagar Dam Lake from different angles. As we cross Bani (the last town about google baba can give you some information) we are finally entering the villages and small habitats not found on maps. The climb gets steep with some real off-road stuff which I know all my biker friends would love. But dirt tracks combined with mesmerizing views of Himalayas and the valley make it a ride to remember. Enroute meeting villagers and getting to know about their life was a great experience. Some names or words fascinate you and the name of village Lowang is one of them. The stretch of Basohli and Sarthal is approximately 150 Kms.
So we finally reached Sarthal, which made us awe struck; a virgin beauty. Sarthal is a semi nomadic village with a beautiful valley surrounded by tall mountains. As I always say the beauty of any place lies in its people. Conversations with the locals helped me analyze how they live here for 6 months and during winters they migrate to low lying towns and villages, as Sarthal is covered with thick white snow. Another interesting fact that I came to know was that people from as far as Punjab come to these meadows during summers to graze their cattle.
Day 3: Sarthal to Bhaderwah
Journey from Sarthal to Bhaderwah is a stretch of around 50 Kms which can be broken into two parts- Climb from Sarthal to Chhatargalla and descent from Chhatargalla to Bhaderwah. Ride from Sarthal to Chhatargalla (highest point in this region at a height of 10,000 feet above sea level) is a dream for any rider. It’s full of off roading, water crossings, steep climbs, and hair pin bends. And there is a set of loops before the top which can be called as small cousins of the majestic Gata Loops in Ladakh. Meeting the brave soldiers of Indian Army at the Chhatargalla Top and having a cup of tea was an experience of life time. Standing at Chhatargalla Top one can have 360 degree view of the Pir Panjal Range.
Descend from the Top will take you to the beautiful hill town of Bhaderwah. You will be taken aback by the beauty, cleanliness and calmness of this town. Bhaderwah is also known as mini-Kashmir because of it breathtaking beauty. Bhaderwah is also known as “Nagon ki Bhoomi or the land of snakes”. As we were on a scheduled trip we could only explore Bhaderwah Fort, Vasu Nag Temple, Chandi Mata temple. But to explore the beauty of Bhaderwah you need minimum 4-5 days where in you can explore Jai Valley, Padri, Kailash Kund, Seoj Dhar and many other places.
Day 4: Bhaderwah to Gulabgarh via Kishtwar
Journey from Bhaderwah to Gulabgarh via Kishtwar offers everything to a biker, be it smooth curvy roads, gravel, deep gorges and beautiful valleys. At Pul Doda you will have your first encounter with the Mighty Chenab. From there onwards you will be riding along the Chenab River throughout rest of our journey to Sansari. Road from Pul Doda to Kishtwar is quite smooth, passing through the small towns of Prem Nagar, Thathri, Gandoh. Kishtwar is the last major town in this route where you can find essentials for yourself and your motorcycle. After Kishtwar road become treacherous passing through narrow valleys and deep gorges testing the riding skills of riders. But at the same time the breathtaking views of Chenab Valley will force you to stop and take notice. This route also offers a chance to go face to face of some of the biggest Hydropower Projects be it Lake of Baglihar Dam, Dul Hasti power project.
Gulabgarh is like a small town on the banks of Chenab and seems like a bowl surrounded by mountains on all sides. It acts as a base camp for Machail Mata Yatra. You can also visit Tata Pani Village to take a dip in hot water springs.
Day 5: Gulabgarh to Sansari and Back
Journey from Gulabgarh to Sansari on the Killar Kishtwar circuit is the highest point of the trip. I was able to sense the excitement and anxiousness of every rider about ride. Ride on this circuit will test the skills of every rider whether he or she is a pro or amateur-so better be prepared with all your gears and bike checkups. Highlight of the ride was the Cliffhanger patch between villages of Tayari and Ishtyari which is considered as one of the deadliest roads in the world.
This stretch of 35 Kms will take you around 4 hours to complete as you will be encountering steep ascends and descends on narrow gravel roads with numerous water crossings. But do make sure to not to miss out on the breathtaking views. Continuing on this circuit will take you to Killar in Pangi Valley of Himachal Pradesh. From there one can also ride to the Famous Sach Pass.
Day 6: Gulabgarh to Patnitop via Kishtwar
As we have to follow the fixed itinerary so have to reach Patnitop taking the same Gulabgarh Kishtwar Route. From Kishtwar the route to Patnitop is via Batote. The route is smooth all along. Main highlight of the route is the New Bridge connecting Doda. Do not miss a chance to feast upon the yummiest Rajma Chawal (famous dogra cuisine) at Ramgarh. Patnitop is the most famous weekend gateway for people of Jammu. It is famous for its meadows and pleasant weather during summers and snow capped peaks during winters.
Day 7: Patnitop to Jammu
Riding along the steep road for about 14 Kms will take you to Natha Top the highest point of the region. Stopover for a panoramic view of the Pir Panjal Range. Ride ahead will take you to Sanasar which is another weekend getaway. Few nearby attractions are Sudh Mahadev and Mantlai. But you should not miss a chance to witness one of the modern marvels of India the Chenani-Nashri Road Tunnel (India’s Longest Road tunnel with a length of 9.28 Kms). Do stopover at Kud to buy some Patissa (local sweet). And if you are fond of non vegetarian food do stopover at Manthal for a hefty feast of desi murga.
Distances on the Route
Jammu-Surinsar Lake-Mansar Lake-Basohli (160 Kms) 5-6 Hours
Basohli-Bani (85 Kms) 3 Hours
Bani-Sarthal (40 Kms) 2 Hours
Sarthal-Bhaderwah (50 Kms) 4 Hours
Bhaderwah-Kishtwar (90 Kms) 2 Hours
Kishtwar-Gulabgarh (70 Kms) 2 Hours
Gulabgarh-Sansari (35 Kms) 4 Hours
Gulabgarh-Patnitop (190 Kms) 5 Hours
Patnitop-Jammu (110 Kms) 3 Hours
Some important Information
- Accommodation: All towns on this route have guest houses, hotels, and dhabas so finding accommodation will not be an issue on this route. At Sarthal only option available is TRC Camp and Guest House.
- Mobile Connectivity: Prepaid connections do not work in this region. Post-Paid connection that too BSNL and Airtel will be your best bet on this route.
- Fuel or Petrol Pump: Fuel or petrol pumps are available at Jammu, Basohli, Bhaderwah, and Kishtwar.