25 May - 30 May 2011 Bhadarwah

South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Jammu & Kashmir
Bhadarwah aka Nagon Ki Bhoomi or Place of Snakes 
Hotel Broadway +919419224585
Adequate double room with private balcony for INR 500.- or US$ 11.40 per night.
Friendly and helpful staff; very good English.
Beer: 500-ml cans of chilled Haywards 5,000 Super Strong Beer (c. 8.5 % alc./vol.) for INR 60.- or US$ 1.20 per large can from the town's only bottle store.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hotel Broadway in Bhadarwah and for directions:

Exploring the sleepy but beautiful mountain town Bhadarwah (touted as “Little Kashmir Valley”) with its friendly, mixed Muslim and Hindu community, meeting our friend Kalyan from the Bhadarwah Development Authority (“Bhadarwah - Heaven Untouched”) +919419169216 who invites us to visit Bhadarwah’s annual cultural festival (crudely politicised with patriotic pro-Hindu overtones and interspersed with nationalistic propaganda speeches by some big wigs, but still authentic enough, with us being the only foreign visitors amongst hundreds of excited locals), shrugging off the heavy police/military presence and enjoying the cultural shows: (i) applauding the brilliant folk dancers perform ecstatically the local dhakku and ghurai dances, (ii) resonating to the rhythm of dhols and bells, (iii) watching the Kashmiri wrestling contest which happens 35 km away from the untouched heaven in the picturesque and remote Jai Green Valley at the breathtaking altitude of 2,500 m above sea level, (iv) listening to sweet Chaista and many other talented singers and folk musicians at the local song contest and (v) visualising Abdullah Noman and his bhand pather from the razed village of Pachigam "...where Boonyi danced and Shivshankar sang and Shalimar the clown walked the tightrope as if treading upon air..."

“The inevitable triumph of illusion over reality
that was the single most obvious truth about the history of the human race.” 

Hiking the scenic environs (i) south of Bhadarwah near the majestic, snow-covered Kailash Kund peak (altitude: 3,980 m) and (ii) north of Bhadarwah above Chabra, a traditional mountain village surrounded by thick deodar-cedar forests on very steep slopes, and learning that the storage rooms for meat and food grains in the local houses are made from untreated deodar wood, due to its natural anti fungal and insect-repellent properties.

Taking the worn Bee Tee Gupta bus from Bhadarwah to the small town Batote (80 km, 2 ½ hours, INR 70.- per person), located on the National Highway and famous for its firm kidney beans (!), thereafter a crowded local no-name bus from Batote to Ramban (30 km, 1 hour, INR 20.- per person), famous for nothing, thereafter another local no-name bus from Ramban to Banihal (30 km, 1 ½ hours, INR 30.- per person) and sharing eventually a 4x4 Tata Sumo for the final leg from Banihal through the 2,500-m long strategic Jawahar Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in India, to Khanarbal near Anantnag (70 km, 2 hours, INR 100.- per person), already located inside the once beautiful but increasingly pockmarked Kashmir Valley: (i) ugly and messy construction areas, (ii) unfinished road works, (iii) heavy truck traffic on narrow mountain roads, (iv) litter, dirt and neglicence everywhere and (v) countless sinister police and military facilities with “... fences and barbed wire and sandbags and latrines ... Brasso and spit and canvas and metal and the smell of semen in the bunkhouses…”, at least according to Salman Rushdie.

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