Taking advantage of the May 1st long weekend, we planned to visit Leepa valley this time. This was my second trip to this area. First valley happened back in 2006 I guess when on a fine weekend, I picked my day pack and touched Leepa on public transport with overnight stay at Reshian.
Last year, we had planned to cross into Leepa at Moji from Jehlum valley side via Kafir Khan range, however were sent back by the border army post near Kafir Khan citing sensitivity of the area as reason. This year, we were in no mood to take any risks so arranged permission and accommodation beforehand and preferred jeep ride over trekking.
Leepa valley is a small valley right at the line of control. This proximity to LOC makes it really sensitive. Till few years ago, non-local civilians with CNICs were allowed to enter after showing their cards however now a prior NOC from DC office is required. The best possibility is to go through army and enjoy their hospitality and protocol.
Starting from Muzaffarabad, Leepa can be accessed from Jehlum valley. From Reshian, there are two options – one is to go straight via Reshian gali and enter main Leepa at Mandal, while the other road goes through Sher gali that descends into Moji. Both roads are jeep only roads and cannot be used by normal cars. In total it takes 4-5 hours from Muzaffarabad on one’s own jeep. Public buses come till Reshian only from where one needs to switch to jeep which makes the journey a bit longer.
For 5-6 months of the year, Leepa valley remains cut off from rest of the world because of heavy snow at the passes. The only access is possible via army aviation helicopters.
Traditional village homes of Leepa valley are all made of local wood with nicely done crafting over it. Some of these houses are about 100 years old. People of this area have specialization in wood work and handicrafts and generate some very fine output.
It is an interesting experience to visit the border area and see the two rival forces facing each other. At one ridge, the top is occupied by Indians while just few hundred feets below, there is Pakistani post with no natural boundary in between.
At Moji, there is a shrine known locally as Treda Sharif. Behind the wall of this shring is Indian held area. Till earl 90s, people from both sides of Kashmir used to gather at the Shrine for annual Urs. This liberty was taken back after the star of militancy in the area. The shrine is surrounded by Indian army posts from three sides leaving with only single access for locals to come and visit it. Villages from occupied Kashmir are seen busy with their daily routine on the other side. Sometimes, the cattle who don’t understand border sensitivities cross into this side and are sent back voluntarily we were told.