A step towards promoting tourism in Poonch
K D Maini
Establishment of tourist base camp at Chandimarh is one the first serious attempts of Poonch Development Authority to exploit scenic and adventurous tourism in District Poonch. This base camp is situated exactly on old Mughal road near the ruins of Mughal Sarian Chandimarh. The famous Noori Chamb waterfall is about 500 meters away from this resort while present Mughal road is passing at a distance of 200 meters. This tourist camp cum picnic park is spread over 15 kanals in lower part of Chandimarh Township on the bank of gushing Chitta Pani Stream. The resort is surrounded by snowy peaks of Ganga Chotti, Rattan Peer, Chai Top, Chatta Pani Glacier and thick forest belt of Hussan Thumb range which is full of wild life. The cool climatic conditions, tribal hustle bustle and marvellous scenic beauty of this place shall attract the trekkers and nature lovers. B.C Huggle, the author of the book Kashmir and Punjab who had visited Chandimarh glen while going to Kashmir in 1842, wrote that the climatic conditions and natural beauty of this area resembles Shimla.
Keeping in view the above facts, Poonch Development Authority conceived a project of 6.30 crores for construction of base camp cum picnic park for hikers, trekkers, climbers, natural lovers and expeditions. Mohd Tanveer Chief Executive PDA told that tourism base camp cum Picnic Park is spread over 15 kanals . This resort comprises of three bedrooms guesthouse for tourists, twenty bedded doormatry for hikers and trekkers which shall be furnished properly as per the requirements of trekkers besides equipping it with treeking kits like rucksack, first aid kit, compass, torch, snow goggles, ice axes, tents and climbing ropes. The picnic park comprises of an attractive cafeteria, three main terraceswith green turf and ornamental plants, two deckers for sittings, taking fast food and having view of nature blessed glen.A parking place for 50 vehicles has been constructed for the convenience of tourists while a small canal (khul) is passing through the picnic park which gives a natural touch to this resort. The tourist base camp cum picnic park has been completed recently and is ready for inauguration. It is expected that this resort shall attract tourists of Rajouri Poonch and other areas.
Tourist base camp is also connected with Noori Chamb for the convenience of nature lovers, an old cafeteria and a terrace is also available for tourist to have a glimpse of milky vapours of waterfall of Noori Chamb. Tourist base camp is already connected with a small foot bridge towards Manhai forest area over Chitta Pani Stream from where the tourist would cross the stream and from the other side have a glimpse of beautiful Chandimarh glen and tourism base camp which has now taken the shape of a tourist village. This resort will also cater the needs of travellers of Mughal road who would stop at this place, have a cup of coffee, relax for a while and enjoy the beauty of glen while leading towards their destinations.
A number of trekking routes start from Tourist base camp Chandimarh.A 17 kms long foot route towards seven lakes starts exactly from this base camp via Noori Chamb and leads towards Bagnuwali Dhoke and Hussan Thumb forest up to transit station Panjtarni Merg. This is a 5kms long lush green meadow on 11731 ft height above the sea level which is surrounded by small snowy mountains and glaciers. During summer season this meadows becomes habitable when tribal and Pahari people encamp there with families and cattle. After spending a night in between tribal and Phari people at Panjtarni, next day again journey starts towards seven lakes like Nandan Sar, Chandan Sar, Sukhsar, Katora Sar, Gumsar and Akal Dashni located in between 11000 to 13700 ft height above the sea level.These lakes are surrounded by glaciers, bunches of flowers, small mountain ranges and crystal clear bluish water of lakes which in sun lights shines like stars on the earth. Katora Sar the smallest lake surrounded by glaciers is a source of Poonch river. Nandan Sar is the biggest lake and a source of Ranbir River which flows towards Kashmir Valley. The second route towards seven lakes also starts from base camp via Chai Top, Gali Girjan, Girjan Valley, Kaffar Katha, Ravi Wali, and Khuian.
Tatta Kutti summit, the highest peak of Peer Panchal Range is located in the north western side of tourist base camp and is about 45 kms away from this place. The trekking routes for expedition of this peak starts from tourist base camp via Panar, Bagla Pass, Bawan mountain and then Tatta Kutti Marg while the second route leads towards Tatta Kutti via Bufliaz, Kalali, Benota, Hillkaka, Pass Pathri, Bhawan Top and then Tatta Kutti Marg which is the halting place and remains inhabited by Chopans during summer season. From Tatta Kutti Marg, the trekking parties try to climb the summit from the southern side of Peer Panchal. This challenging peak remains the dream of trekkers. Only English trekker Erenst F Nave and his party had reached the summit on 10th August 1901.
There are three important passes in this track namely Seddu Pass, Nandan Sar Pass and Chotti Marg Pass which are opening towards Kashmir Valley like Aherbal, Dood Pathri and Yous Merg. The trekkers of Poonch Rajouri can easily trek these passes by getting the benefit of tourist base camp Chandimarh. Similarly the trekkers of Kashmir Valley can trek through these passes and halt at tourist base camp Chandimarh.
Beyond Chandimarh, there are a number of scenic resorts of marvellous natural beauty like Panjtarni Marg, Girjan Dhoke, Khuian, Sari Mastan and Tatta Kutti Marg. With the opening of tourist base camp it shall be convenient for nature lovers to visits these unknown hill stations of Peer Panchal. The world famous writer Krishan Chandar visited Girjan during late thirties of last century. He wrote a master piece short story ‘Girjan ki Ek Sham’ based on natural glamour and tribal lifestyle of Girjan and told that there is no place in Kashmir Valley with such a natural beauty. This short story has been translated into thirty Indian and foreign languages.
The natives of Chandimarh and surrounding villages are rejoicing on the setting up of tourist resort in their locality. Nambardar Kashvan Gir told that tourist base camp shall have good impact on the economy of people of this area. He hopes that the historic township Chandimarh of Mughal period shall again become the center of tourists, trekkers and nature lovers and its past glory and glamour shall revive in modern style.
Master Mohd Sharief, while welcoming the setting up of tourist base camp demanded that way side facilities towards trekking routes, Dhokes and Mergs like bridal paths, shelter sheds and viewing decks at Panjtarni, Girjan, Khuian, Benota, Pass Pathri and Bhawan Top shall facilitate the nature lovers who will visit these areas.
The District Development Commissioner Poonch Rahul Yadav with whose encouragement this project has been completed told that this tourist base camp cum picnic park in nature blessed glen Chandimarh shall exploit the adventure tourism and scenic spots of Peer Panchal range, will boost economy of the local people, provide opportunity of employment to youth, Poniwalas shall be engaged for riding and logistic support of trekking parties and business avenues shall be generated around the base camp and the people of this remote area shall start the journey of progress and prosperity with the opening of this resort.