Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir is rich in natural beauty. Almighty Allah has given high mountains, streams, waterfalls, charming lakes, glaciers, pastures, forests, and wildlife here. There are many places to visit in Neelum Valley. Today I am going to give you information about an area where very few tourists have visited. Yes, this beautiful valley is known as Gagai.
Gagai Valley is the largest pasture in the Grurez Valley, located in the last part of the Neelum Valley, between 6,000 to 13,000 feet above sea level. The pasture is surrounded by two major Nalas, one small Gagai (Dudgai Nala) and the other large Gagai Nala. It is bounded on the east by Qamri Pass, on the west by Taubut, on the southeast by the Line of Control (LoC) / Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, and on the north by Gujjar Nala Phulaoi and Riyat Astore. During the winter season, the land routes are blocked due to heavy snowfall (6-10 ft). In summer, locals from Dudhnial, Sharda, and Gurez Valley take cattle here. While here Bakrwal brings a large number of cattle from different parts of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. From May to the end of September, people live here with their livestock.
So let’s visit Gagai Nala now;
Friends, to visit this area, you will travel from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad. Taubut is the base camp for exploring and traveling to the area. Beyond Taubat Bala, there is no road in this area, only a footpath and a horse trail are available to travel. Those who want to see Dadgai (Small Gagai) will start their journey from Taubat Bala on the Nalla to the southeast.
Dudgai Nalla is a beautiful pasture. In this Nalla, there are beautiful pastures among them the Redwater “Ratta Pani” is a famous pasture. The water of the Ratta Pani stream is clear but the color of the soil under this water is completely reddish. In front of it is the area of Zian (Occupied Kashmir) which is included in the occupied Gurez valley there. (The pasture here is called “Bake” in the local Shina language).
We have to start the journey of Large Gagai Nalla in the eastern direction. On July 11, 2021, we set out on a trip here with friends. We parked the jeep at Taubut Bala and picked up our clothes bags etc. and started to travel towards Gagai. In this drain first comes the banks of the Taubut community and then the banks of the Parma community. On the way here, the Shakargarh Nalla separates to the south. The last elevated area of Shakargarh Nalla meets Riyat Astore and Gujjar Nalla Phullawai. Most of the Bakrwals go to this Nalla with their cattle in summer. On the same track, at the beginning of Shakargarh Nalla, there is an ancient graveyard of Bakarwals. If anyone from the Bakrwal community dies in the summer, they are buried in the same cemetery. After praying for forgiveness in the graveyard, we crossed the Shakargarh Nalla and continued our journey straight towards the east. On the way, some members of the Malik community invited us for tea. As we were tired, so accepted the invitation gladly. In their camp, we ate “chori” made from ghee with a delicious kind of desi tea. We asked their permission after regional gossip. Beyond this, there are the pastures “Choti Khorian” and the “Bari Khorian”. Along the way, you can see beautiful waterfalls, plains, avalanches, and noisy rivers. After a four-hour journey, we arrived at the beginning of the “Biloor Kassi” Nalla. People also take livestock to Biloor Kassi Nala. The area is rich in precious stones and herbs.
We intended to reach JalKhat, the most beautiful pasture (bake) of the area, by evening and enjoy the beautiful morning and evening views of the area. From here we traveled through a difficult mountainous area and reached “JalKhat” in another half hour. The temporary residents were very hospitable so we didn’t bother to take the tent and any kind of luggage with us. They welcomed us, and especially facilitate our stay. Staying up all night, we were served local food/dishes “Karri, curd, ghee, and cornbread. Short but the delicacy of such indigenous food may not be compared with the food of five-star hotels.
Hundreds of people from Marnot, Phullawai, and Dudhnial camped in Jalkhat. People here remain very engage with livestock. Along with livestock, people extract herbs from mountainous areas for livelihood, which are sold locally at reasonable prices. Its legal or illegal disposal is a separate issue. At dawn, the elderly men and women wake up and offer breakfast and then manage the cattle for grazing. In the evening, on the return of cattle, milk is extracted from the teats of the animals. People here mostly use lassi, milk, tea, karri, saag Karam and rice for food and drink. Most of the food is indigenous, simple, and pure.
There are precious stones along with herbs in this area. Some people leased out the area of BiloreKassi to extract stones here, and the most founded gemstones are tourmaline, bilore, and abraq. Beyond Jalkhat are the areas of Larryan and Saraat. From here the next area Qamri district of Diamer starts. Most of the summer people travel by Qamri route by foot. They also do small scaled trade with the locals. Beyond the Qamri Pass, the areas of Mini Marg comes and leads towards Dewosai. That is why this area is very important as well as beautiful.
These areas are very beautiful and rich in innumerable natural resources. Due to the negligence of the government, the local people are facing numerous issues, among these, the top three issues are related to education, health, and employment. There are no facilities for education and health in such a large area where thousands of people live in summer. The government should set up at least one rural health center (hospital) in the area’s base camp, Taubut, to provide them with timely medical care. Further, mobile schools should be established to provide education in this area. Improvement is possible if the government takes revolutionary steps in the field of mineral resources and tourism to provide employment. Government must construct the road so tourists can explore the area, as well as the local community, which will be facilitated in traveling.