SRINAGAR: Though many foreign countries have put travel advisories on Kashmir, their citizens find no harm in visiting the Valley along with their friends.
Currently a group of 13 travellers from Australia led by prominent adventurer and author of many books Garry Weare are in Kashmir enjoying the stay here as they would enjoy in any part of the peaceful destination in the world.
To Garry, travel advisory on Kashmir is a misplaced regulation by many countries on their citizens.
“If there is a travel advisory on Kashmir, then why there is no travel advisory on travelling to Mumbai or Delhi. Kashmir is more peaceful than those places as locals here are very warm and most hospitable. We feel as if we are roaming and travelling in our own place without any issue,” says Garry. “I will want our country to lift advisory on Kashmir. I am brining in tourists here so that promote Kashmir and help in lifting travel advisory.”
Garry has travelled extensively into the Indian Himalayas and has led over 100 trekking groups into Kashmir Mountains since his first group to Valley in 1973. However, travel advisories have made his task difficult to bring tourists to Kashmir.
“There is no problem here with the tourists and I convince them to visit Kashmir. Whenever they visit here they go back with beautiful memories.”
The stay in houseboats, Mughal Gardens, handicraft centres and skiing in Gulmarg has been the prime attraction for his groups.
“My group have been very delighted to stay in houseboats here. They visited handicraft centers, various local gardens and liked the rich cultural history of this place which is a wonderful dimension of their visit to Kashmir.”
“Why would someone be barred from seeing such rich cultural heritage and unmatched beauty?”
The foreigners are also mesmerised by the local artisans who weave magic with their hands in handicrafts.
“We visited local handicraft centers, where we saw how artisans here are weaving carpets, shawls and making papier-mâché products. The experience was amazing and which makes this place a very important tourist attraction,” says Garry.
After travelling to Kashmir extensively, Garry has authored many books including A Long Walk in the Himalaya: A Trek from the Gangotri to Kashmir, Everest: Reflections From The Top, Trekking in the Indian Himalaya, Rethinking Africa’s Globalization, Volume 1: The Intellectual Challenges.
During his travels into Himalayas, he discovered many trekking routes in mountain ranges here which later attracted travellers from many countries. He has also written another book exclusively on Kashmir’s rich culture, art and craft and landscape.
“My new book on Kashmir has been sent for publication. I hope the readers will get insight about Kashmir as a best tourist destination and make up their mind to visit this place.”
Johan Bahnisch and his wife Allison Havvey are also delighted to have visited Kashmir the second time and found nothing wrong here. Earlier, they had visited Kashmir in 1977.
“We did not visit Kashmir due to disturbances. But my wife and I wanted to visit this place again. When we were told the group is ready for Kashmir, we jumped the chance and here we found we are completely safe as we were 40 years ago. People are as friendly as they were on our first visit. Nothing has changed.”
Garry’s friend in Kashmir Rauf Trmaboo who is the group’s tour escort says some of the members who visited Valley first time were amazed after seeing this place.
Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmmod A Shah also interacted with the Australian group and assured them off all the assistance here.
“We are happy many foreign tourists are now visiting Kashmir and they don’t pay heed to what is fed to them through some TV channels. Currently, we have few foreign groups and they are really amazed at the hospitality and the warmth of the people,” said Shah.
Director Tourism said they are planning to tap more foreign market by organising road shows and showing them the testimonials how tourists are enjoying their stay in Kashmir.