Kashmir was in news a lot during July/Aug 2010 due to civil unrest. However this didn't cause any changes in our plan, though it did cause anxiety.
Me and my friend went from Singapore at different days with an arrangement to meet at Srinagar airport. There are lots of airlines flying to Srinagar with an average cost of 2.5K Rs.
during this time, there was curfew and shoot at sight orders, so it was difficult and risky to get a vehicle to take us anywhere. Airport closes at 15:00 so you cannot stay there as well. No govt transport as well. One of the locals approached us with an offer of transport, stay in houseboat and night transfer to Pahalgam. We accepted it, even though the price was 5K, which is very steep on a normal day.
We did see some stone pelting and a huge crowd gathered protesting. We had to stop and then a made a fast break, when media started covering it.
House boat was excellent, it was on Jhelum river, food was cooked by the house boat owner. We spent rest of the day walking around, talking to CRPF/Army soldiers stationed everywhere.
We left for Pahalgam at 3 AM and reached Pahalgam around 5 AM. Then our long wait started, as the weather was not good, lot of raining and army didn't allow anyone to go for Yatra.
Moral of the story, go in early July, when the weather is good and do allow sufficient buffer. We spent 2 days in Pahalgam under curfew and rainy conditions. Pahalgam is a beautiful place beyond description. If there were better infrastructure and few cuckoo clocks, then it could have been India's Switzerland and that too at Indian prices.
Places to see, lots of mountains to climb, Lidder river to bathe in, Kashmir valley, Aru valley, Betaab Valley, Mini Switzerland(this place is awesome). You can go by horse to all these places at around 500Rs. There are about 100 waterfalls within walking distance.
There is a very nice small shop near toll gate to Chandanwari near Sangam lodge. Go in early morning to buy Lavasa, small roti freshly made, eat that with tea and its a great breakfast.
If CRPF/Army asks you not to go for Yatra, do listen to them, its for your own safety. We were allowed to go on 3rd day, and we made a run for it. We took a Pithoo( man to carry our bags for 2K till Holy cave and back). Since we were in a hurry, we lost the pithoo on the way and then for 2 days didn't've any spare clothes. We got thouroughly wet and cold with nothing to change.
Moral: DONT LOOSE the Pithoo. Keep him with you all the time.
We started at 8 AM, and reached Pissu top (4 KM steep trek) at 11. Then to Sheshnag(8 Km from Pissu top) around 13:30. Army does not allow to go beyond Sheshnag after 14:00. From Sheshnag to Poshpatri, we reached around 15:30. Its a steep climb, with lack of oxygen, so take it easy. Around 6 KM
Poshpatri --> Panchtarni, we reached around 17:30 and camped there. Around 8 KM. With no dry clothes, we bought some basic clothes from the campsite which got us through the night.
There are lots of food/drinks on offer throughout, also campsites.
Return plan was to come via Baltal or helicopter, but since we had to locate our pithoo, we took a horse and went all the way to Chandanwari at 14:00 and reaching 22:00. Take a torch with you. Horses can climb down mountains at night w/o problems. Its very scary, but the locals know there way around.
Security arrangement is brilliant, very friendly, helpful, and totally first class. There is absolutely no security problem what so ever.
Be practical, take good clothing, rain coat is MUST. Don't eat too much on the way, but small choclates, dry fruits, rain coat, ponchos, good shoes.
Being religious does not mean going there bare foot or in sandals, though lots of people do it. If you want to live through the journey, be prepared for weather.
the kind of scenery/nature you will see is unparalleled. I've visited 30 countries around the world, and I've not seen anything like it.
Army/CRPF/BSF jawans are very helpful and friendly. We had a great time talking to them. I'm very grateful to all of them for making the journey secure for lacs of people.
Special thanks to Jawans manning the Chandanwari toll gate, Panchtarni/Holy cave signalling center, J&K tourism staff at chandanwari for providing us stay/tea and food and helping to locate our pithoo.
Thanks to Pithoo, Gulam Ahmad Shah, horse men. People are very honest, friendly. They will not steal anything, and you will never loose anything, so go assured and enjoy the nature.
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Yercaud trip july 2010:
Yercaud is a highland with lots of coffee plantations and a moderate climate in the state of Tamil Nadu (India).
We ended up going there only because this was the only place where it doesn't rain much during this part of the year.
Yercaud is about 230 KM from Bangalore, roads are nice with lots of tolls. We took a detour to hogenakkal falls which is somewhere between Blr and Yercaud.
Falls is quite nice, provided there is enough water and you can go close to the big falls, we couldn't. Only 2 so called restaurants and they were very basic.
Go for the boat ride ( theppa), we paid 500/theppa and this accommodates 5-6 ppl. The boat takes you near water falls and then drops you to have some fun near a beach. Boatman gives you a spin, which kids will like.
We stayed in a plantation camp about 15KM from Yercaud, name was Gowri estate. The place charged us 15k INR for 2 rooms with 10 beds + food. Place is very rustic/basic with a thin mattress and a thinner pillow.
No network coverage around that area, perhaps Aircel and BSNL, but they also don't work. So make sure to get good directions and arrange for a meet up near some landmark.
We had campfire, trekking ( quite a short and family friendly, my 2 yr old kid could do it).
Spectacular views, lunch/breakfast arranged near a very nice view point. Overall, this can be a nice and relaxing weekend out with family/friends.
There are some nice water falls, if you have enough change of clothes, you can visit them as you will get dirty.
Pagoda point and the various seats(lady's, Gent's, family etc) are optional, if you want to go there for going sake, you could go, but if you don't, then you don't miss anything.
Night view is very nice, with a lighted city for view.
Transportation from Bangalore, if you are a large group, a tempo traveller (TT) is suitable, rate in july 2010 was 9.5 INR/KM with minimum 750 KM + 200 INR for driver.
Carry your own water/beer/liquor, as nothing is on way.
Map --> refer to google for directions