Daksum (‘d’ pronounced as in ‘day’ and ‘s’ as ‘sh’) is a village of some seventy-odd houses of Kashmiris and Gujjars. It’s the last village in the Brengi River Valley, after which the road rises 32 km to Sinthan Top, a 12,450-ft-high pass en route Kishtwar. Daksum has a solitary Tourist Bungalow perched at the top, a narrow valley around and slopes on either side dense with conifers. River Brengi adds its musical hum to it all and numerous streams join her, playful and eager.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The area has three mountain rivers beside which you can take leisurely strolls for long stretches right next to the water. There is lush grass underneath and pleasant greenery all around. River, grass, plants, trees… it all comes together beautifully in this little Kashmiri hamlet.
There is a bridge to walk over to the other side and an attempt at making a garden on the hillside above. Leave all that behind and walk left along the river upstream. In a few minutes you will be on your own, except for the river music, abundant grass at your feet, pine trees giving you shade and sometimes a monkey or two.
If you turn right after crossing Brengi and walk downstream, you will get to Dessu Village after a few minutes’ walk. This is a delightful walk too — the river rushing on your right, streams coming off it, the riverside village, wide-eyed children staring at you, curious villagers in the fields, small kitchen gardens, water mills, fruit trees, old wooden houses, newer brick ones…. For a different perspective, a slightly detached one, you can also walk on the road just above the village.
Just below Dessu, a mountain stream called Mathar Nallah comes down from the southeast into the Brengi. A path goes up along the nallah, leading up to a local stone dam, which forms a charming tiny lake and fall. Paths move on from here into the pine forest. You will find some locals hanging out or collecting wood and some Bakarwals going on to Mathar, a meadow a few kilometres away which is a summertime pasture for these nomadic sheep herders.
Mathar Nallah is a nice narrow valley to explore. On the far side of the nallah are a few pretty houses with small fields. Watch out for the bridge made of just two logs close to where the nallah disappears into the Brengi.
The real attraction here presides under the mountain face that you see to the northwest, and if you pay attention you can hear the lovely sound that yet another of Daksum’s water bodies makes as it tumbles down a hilly path. You can easily walk down to this delightful stream called Rajparian Nallah or Mahawar Nallah — an amazingly beautiful tract with forest on either side of the animated water. Once in a while, a herd of sheep from the farm, with a couple of herders, passes you by. You can walk upstream for some time; there’s no fear of losing your way as you are walking next to the stream. Officially, you will be walking in a protected forest — the Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary.
The 16-km drive takes you into another valley — a relatively densely populated, but green and gorgeous, countryside. You will cross village after village, house after house with their gardens and fields and orchards all under the shadow of hills and escorted by streams.
Sinthan Top is the 12,450-ft-high pass that connects the Kashmir Valley and the Kishtwar region. The 32 km drive to the pass, on the relatively new NH1B is smooth and utterly beautiful. The road goes along the Brengi River through pine forest with snow getting closer all the time. Sinthan Top has snow from November till early July. It is gradually emerging on the tourist map. You can play in the snowfields here, ogle at the views — high mountains, snow at your feet, wooded valleys below — and have hot tea and equally steaming Maggi from two small shops.
The pass is open for traffic from April till the snow begins to fall in November/ December. A taxi from Daksum to Sinthan Top costs around âÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¹1,000 for a return trip. Shared taxis run from Vailoo (10 km below Daksum) to Kishtwar (83 km from Sinthan) and take about 4-5 hours for the journey. The taxis stop at the top and people pay obeisance to the glacial beauty.
If you are interested in trekking, about 10 km from Daksum on the way to Sinthan, a 3-km-long trail goes off the road along the Brengi stream to the Girsar Spring, whose waters also feed the Brengi. The beginning of the trail is signposted. Aarshan is a tempting meadow right on the roadside, 21 km from Daksum towards Sinthan as you go above pine country, after which only grass and the white-barked bhojpatra trees give you company.
When to go: April to September. Snow begins in December, but the Tourist Bungalow isn’t adequately heated
Getting There: It is located at 8,046 ft, just upstream of the confluence of Brengi River and Rajparian Nallah in Anantnag District, in a narrow valley overlooked by Sinthan Top, beyond which is Kishtwar
Distances 99 km SE of Srinagar, 42 km SE of Anantnag JOURNEY TIME By Road 2½-3 hours from Srinagar
Route from Srinagar NH1A to Khanabal Point via Pandrethan, Pampore, Barsoo and Avantipora; NH1B to Daksum via Anantnag, Achabal, Kokernag and Vailoo
Nearest airport is the Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport, Srinagar (106 km/3 hrs). The nearest railhead is at Jammu (287 km/ 8 hrs).
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