Date of Journey: 17/06/2008
Starting from: Bhilai
Crew: Pawan, Rajkumar, Rishikant, Santosh, Sudarshan, Kamal and Akhilesh.
We started our journey at 6 pm on a train from Durg to Nagpur and reached Nagpur at 12 in the night. We took another train from Nagpur at 2:30 am for Jammu. We reached Jammu at 10 am the next day. From Jammu we took a 12 seater van from Jammu to Srinagar. On the way to Srinagar we saw Kud. Kud, a place of extraordinary scenic beauty is situated 103 kms away from Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, India. This popular resort is situated on the Jammu-Srinagar highway at an altitude of 1738 meters. Kud is famous for two places, one is chashma and the other one is Soan papdi or Patisa made from Shudh Ghee. The sonpapdi was very tasty and the water was amazingly sweet. A wide range of trekking options is available in Kud. Next, we arrived at Patnitop at 6 pm. Patnitop or Patni Top, is a hill top tourist location in Udhampur district on the National Highway 1A, on the way from Udhampur to Srinagar. It is located in the Shiwalik belt of the Himalayas. The river Chenab flows in close proximity to this location. Origin of the name Patnitop is a distortion of the original name of “Patan Da Talab” meaning “Pond of the Princess”. In olden times a pond existed in the meadows and the king’s princess often used to have her bath there. Part of the pond still exists near the youth hostel. It may be that the British had difficulties recording an English spelling of an Indian name correctly in their revenue records. Over the years the name changed from “Patan Da Talab” to Patnitop. It is in the Lower Himalayan Range close to the Pir Panjal range, 35 kilometers from Udhampur and 112 km from Jammu. This famous hill resort is perched on a beautiful plateau, at an altitude of 2024 metres across which the Jammu-Srinagar Highway passes. Patnitop was covered with fog. We were not getting Government Guest house there. Then, we went a little down from Patnitop and got a room for just Rs. 700 for 7 people. Then, we had a nice dinner at a nearby hotel. The next day we took the same van and started our journey towards Srinagar. On the way we saw Jawahar tunnel. Jawahar tunnel or Banihal tunnel, was constructed for round the year surface transport. It is one of the longest tunnel-road in Asia, links Jammu to Kashmir Valley. The Jawahar tunnel is operational since 22 December 1956. Length of tunnel is around 2.5km, situated between Banihal and Qazigund. This facilitates round the year connectivity to Kashmir valley. The tunnel gets closed at night time so the only way to go is to go in the day time. Nearby a tunnel construction was going on and it is supposed to be a 20 km long tunnel. After a long day we reached Srinagar at 2 pm. At Srinagar we saw a lot of military guys carrying guns and also we saw a large number of Indian army vehicles.
We took a house boat in Srinagar and dropped our extra luggage over there as we can’t take so much luggage for Amarnath. To go Amarnath there are two ways, one is to go via Baltal and the other is to go via Pahalgam. The route will be like this:
Route 1: Srinagar to Amarnath via Baltal: Srinagar—115 km. drive—> Baltal—14 km. trekking—>Amarnath Cave
Route 2: Srinagar to Amarnath via Pahalgam: Srinagar—90 km. drive—>Pahalgam—16 km. drive—>Chandanwari—3 km. trekking–>Pissu top—10 km. trekking—>Sheshnag—11 km. trekking—>Panchtarni—6 km. trekking—>Amarnath Cave
Although Route 2 involved about 30 km. of trekking we still chose it as to see the beauty of the mountains and the rivers. We took a Sumo for Rs. 350 to reach Pahalgam. We reached Pahalgam at 6 pm. Pahalgam is a town in Anantnag district. Arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth, the town of Pahalgam (Village of Shepherds) offers breathtaking views. One can just enjoy the town of Pahalgam or trek to some of the most beautiful places on earth. One can trek to Lidderwat, Kolohoi Glacier or to Sonmarg. Snow skiing is an attraction during the winter months (from December to late February). There is no way to go to Chandanwari in the evening time. So we took a room and stayed over there. There was a huge rush and we managed to get a hotel room after a lot of search. We went to dinner at a nearby vegetarian restaurant. There was a very long queue over there. There was a token system over there. They gave a token and after some time the waiter called us. The food was lovely. After a nice dinner we went to a garden in Pahalgam. Also, there was Lidder river nearby. You can see the view of the clouds in this picture:
We met a guy named Bilal who was a service boy at the hotel. He told that he came down from the mountain in search of a job. He also mentioned that he got married a couple of months ago. He had to leave his home and came down for the sake of money. The next morning we had to take a mini bus to reach Chandanwari. There was a huge rush in the buses to go to Chandanwari. After a lot of search we got a mini bus. On the way we saw hundreds of mini buses going towards Chandanwari. After traveling for few hours we were stuck in traffic. The military people cleared the traffic. Then, we reached Chandanwari. Chandanwari (2,895 m), 16 km. from Pahalgam, is the starting point of the yatra. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible on foot or by pony. There are three ways to go to Amarnath, one is to go by foot, second is to go by palki and the third is by pony. We decided to go by walking as it would be more exciting than the other two. In Chandanwari we took sticks for Rs. 10 each and started our journey.
After a three km. of climbing, we reached Pissu top. It is at an altitude of 3377 meters (11000 feet). It is said that to be first to reach for darshan of Lord Shiv there was a war between Devtas (Gods) and Rakshas (Demons). With the power of Lord Shiv, Devtas could kill the Rakshas in such large number that the heap of their dead bodies has resulted in this high mountain. From Pissu top, it was a 4 km. vertical climb. The climb was quite tedious and we rested and climbed throughout. After walking for few hours we reached Posh Patri. The weather was quite clear at that time. There was a nice Langar over there. They were having all sorts of food items. The food was great and moreover free of cost. They were also distributing medicines for free. After a nice meal we moved ahead. Suddenly the weather changed and there was hail storm and heavy rains. We covered ourselves with rain coats to get rid of the hail storm. After 10 minutes the rains and the hail storm stopped and after some time the sun comes up. But again after an hour or so the sun was gone and the clouds cover the sky once again, and it started raining. The climate in this place changes all the time. For us there was no option but to continue our journey. Now, the route was steep and slippery and if someone slips he will end up in the valley. Moreover, to my amazement the people who were returning from Amarnath were using the same path. In these critical circumstances people were carrying their 4-5 year old kids. I strongly feel that the kids should not be carried as its no way a spiritual journey for these young kids as they don’t even know where are they traveling to. When I see these young kids crying I felt that this is cruelty and parents should think twice before taking their young ones in such extreme conditions. It is believed that by the grace of Baba Amarnath there are no major accidents in this area. In the middle of rush we all got scattered and I was with Santosh and the other guys were somewhere else. After a few hours of climbing in this unpleasant weather we reached Sheshnag lake at 8.30 pm. Sheshnag is an amazing mountain lake. It is situated at an altitude of about 3,658 m above sea level. The waters of this greenish blue lake is cold and clear and are are covered with ice till June. Sheshnag derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling the heads of a mythical snake. Legend has it that, Sheshnag Lake is the place where Lord Shiva left his Nandi on his way to Amarnath Cave. Sheshnag mountains look like seven heads, the lake looks like the body of the snake coiled up and the stream looks like the tail of the serpent.
It was strange that it was not dark at that hour.
There were camps nearby Sheshnag lake where one can get tents for resting. The government rate of a tent is Rs. 165 per night. From the base camp there was a beautiful view of the Sheshnag mountain. It is believed that Sheshnag has lifted earth in his shoulders. Also, Sheshnag is the one who was incarnated as Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama in Treta Yuga and also as Balrama the elder brother of Lord Krishna in Dwapara Yuga. It is also believed that Sheshnag still lives here and some people had the luck to see him.
This post was contributed by: Pawan