When Danish Nabi aka Daniyal set out on a journey to follow his dreams, he had no idea he would become known as ‘Ibn Battuta of Kashmir’ for exploring Adventure tourism in the valley. An avid traveler of 30, Danish hasn’t spent a single Sunday idle in the last decade as he set out on foot or by bike to explore the valley, starting from his own home neighborhood – Bandipora.
The Dane became an explorer in his early twenties, just like Ibn Batuta, and therefore drew parallels with the famous explorer of Afro-Eurasian lands. The Danish has, to date, rediscovered more than a dozen Alpine lakes of the Himalayan ranges in the Bandipora district, thus making a small but significant contribution to the revival of adventure tourism in the Kashmir valley after a long period of inactivity due to political conflicts.
He said tourism in Kashmir was previously limited to visiting a few select and popular places including Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Dal Lake. However, the real Kashmir is in the mountains, which attracted European adventurers in droves before the valley was torn apart by militancy in the late eighties.
Every weekend, the Dane goes on a trip to the mountains by bike or on foot, explore the lakes and meadows and discover hitherto unknown tourist destinations.
“I religiously followed my schedule. I haven’t lost a single Sunday. Sunday is my day. No matter what, I go on a trip every weekend,” he said. So far, he has rediscovered more than a dozen alpine lakes in the Bandipora and Gurez areas of J&K, in the Himalayasthus increasing the prospects for adventure tourism in the Valley.
According to the J&K Forestry Department, there are 100 alpine lakes in Bandipora district but only one or two, including Sheerasar, have been visited by adventure tourists in recent years.
The Danish rediscovered Shalpooth lake, 3 Handmarg or Handmenger lakes, Kaul Sar lake, Kiser Sar, two Patalwan lakes, a Kothapatri lake in the Gurez sector and Shera Sar, Sarbal lake, two Kundapani lakes, Chamarsar, Zadsar and Salnai Sar in Bandipora region. He also explored Chota Amarnath and Bazar Hoi caves in Bandipora, Yemberzalwari cave in Sopore, Sheikhul Aalam cave in Budgam and Kalaroos caves in Kupwara.
Danish captures his expeditions on his GoPro camera and posts them to his YouTube channel for the benefit of other adventure tourists. The ‘Ibn Battuta of Bandipora’ explored these lakes many times and found multiple hiking routes for future travelers. All routes have been recorded and geolocated by him.
“I record trails and hikes in addition to posting them on YouTube for future travelers,” he said. Last year, the Dane became the first person in India and across the world to scale Razdaan Top (11,672ft) on a bicycle. He cited his passion for mountain biking as the reason for his streak of adventures.
He said he chose the Gurez area for his weekend expeditions for two reasons – firstly Gurez is in his home neighborhood and secondly it has been ignored by other cyclists and needs to be explored to huge sound natural beauty. He said he was in love with the mountains and explored new places to promote adventure tourism in Kashmir, besides fulfilling his desire to climb the mountain peaks.
“In the recent past, tourism in the valley was all about tourism. But there is beauty beyond the grasslands as there is huge potential for adventure tourism which can attract tourists from the west,” he said.
He said that during the dark days of activism in the valley, adventure tourism stopped and pristine places disappeared from people’s minds.
“People sitting at home still believe there is a war raging on the mountains. But the fact is that there is peace in the mountains right now,” he added.
He further added that after traveling solo to these places, he decided to record his trips and post them on his YouTube channel. His posts received an overwhelming response and more and more people started visiting these places.
The young traveler said exploring new places has helped locals earn a living. He said that after his visits to several lakes in Bandipora, many groups of travelers approached him for advice and the villagers found a source of income by acting as guides and providing horses and meals to the people. travelers.
“The people of Kudara have officially started providing traditional tea and Makki ki Roti to travelers in addition to accompanying them on their treks as guides and renting their horses,” he added.
His expeditions and follow-ups earned him many nicknames, including “Ibn Battuta of Kashmir”, “Mad Man” and “the mountain man”. The Dane said he loves his nicknames. It was due to his efforts that the Bandipora District Administration hired him in 2020 as an advisor to promote adventure tourism and a few localities including Daetwas, Sheerasar and Nagmarg have been prepared by the Department of forests for Trek. He said the valley, especially Bandipora, is an adventure tourist’s paradise because everything that fascinates an adventure seeker is here.
“We have mountains for trekking, two major lakes – Wullar and Kishenganga for water sports, green grasslands for site seeing and glaciers. Tourists get everything they want in Bandipora. We just need to highlight these places and that’s what I’m doing,” the “Ibn Battuta of Kashmir” said.
He said the new hiking routes will not only boost tourism but also the physical and mental well-being of the natives. He said a monotonous lifestyle often leads to increasing stress levels among locals.
“I wish people would save their Sundays for such trips and work for other days of the week,” he said.
“If people can go for such hikes on Sundays, it will reduce their stress levels and help them stay mentally and physically fit,” he added. He said: “My friends and family think I travel every day, but the fact is I only travel on weekends and work the other days of the week.”
Danish is a civil servant working in the mini-secretariat of Bandipora. He added that he idolizes Dr. Shariq Masood, a renowned SKIMS doctor and a great traveller like him, and urged everyone to follow in his footsteps.
He said the doctor had never practiced on Sundays in the past two decades because he saved it for his travels. “He could have made thousands of dollars on Sunday but refused because he likes to keep that day to himself,” Danish added. “Doctors usually recommend walks and physical exercises to their patients, but they even work on Sundays,” he said.
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