“Find what you love and let it kill you.”
The Kashmir valley is a gigantic green expanse of land winding through the Himalayas in Northern India following the Pakistani boarder. It is an absolutely beautiful area, a sanctuary of nature and tranquility in such an overpopulated country. Like Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu are disputed territories, but unlike the Buddhist Ladakh which is comprised of Tibetans, Kashmir hosts Muslim Arabs who would much rather be part of Pakistan.
Now for today’s history lesson: In brief, when the British left in 1947 no one knew what to do with Kashmir. At the time the Muslim majority state was run by a Hindu King who decided that instead of joining up with Pakistan, Kashmir would be part of India. After many wars, many of which are still going on today, Pakistan owns one third of Kashmir, while India has claimed two-thirds of the Muslim majority Kashmir valley.
As you cycle through the region you realize that the skirmishes are far from over. There are dozens of military checkpoints a day, and convoys of enormous trucks that pass you daily. It is said that in Kashmir alone, India has deployed 400,000 soldiers, and that over 100,000 people have been killed (though statistics and numbers are very hard to come by). Pakistan thinks India is repressing the people’s desire to become part of Pakistan, while India believes it’s defending a it’s territory against the jihadi militants. It all boils down to the fact that neither side wants to give up this heavily disputed territory.
Though the history of it is indeed interesting, I’m here because of the mountains. Throughout the next few weeks Kevin and I will first cycle through the valley, and then down a detour into a different mountain range, Zanaskar, which hosts some of the most remote villages in the world. It is an area where some tribes are still nomadic, and where, at over 3,000m, the villagers survive the winter deep in snow. After that we will continue on our way towards Ladakh, a region I fell in love with last summer when I briefly got to cycle through parts. After leaving Srinagar, we will be cycling over 3,000m for the next two months as we make our way through some of the worlds highest roads.