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The coming three days of Amarnath Yatra and Pahalgam were the best part of my life. Although there were few terrific and daunting incidents, very huge pains and high level of discomfort due to sarcastic climatic conditions and horrible arrangements, the happiness and satisfaction I have got in these three days I feel those were the best days of my life.
30 th July 2012 , Monday.
Early Morning Pahalgam
Now time had come when we actually start , the most difficult as well most entertaining part of our journey that is the ultimate trek to Amarnath Cave via Chandanwadi. Yesterday we slept around 10.00 pm an were supposed to start our journey at 6.00 oclock. The sleep was very pleasant due to the climate and temperature plus the soft and fluffy blankets provided by the Hotel manager and also due to tiredness we had . Once got inside the bed , we didn’t want to get out in the morning. It was very cosy and warm inside the bed. But we had to leave this materialistic luxury to achieve the ultimate supreme spiritual luxury that is union of Infinitesimal Soul with Supreme Soul. So no options but to get ready and start the mighty journey. Our plan was to get up at 5.00 AM and move towards Chandanwadi at 6.00 AM. As per the plan I woke up at 5.00 AM , had a bath with hot water arranged by the Hotel Manager. Then after having bath I woke up Sonali and my father in law and told them to quickly pack the things and get ready to move. But packing itself took lot of time. We had to keep that luggage in the cloak room. So packing took around one and half hours and we left our Hotel at 7.00 AM towards Chandanwadi.
From Pahalgam you get lot of share taxis in form of Chevrolet Taveras and Tata Sumos who charge 80 Rs. / person to Chandanwadi or Rs. 800 / full car. But since those were the final days of the yatra , there were very few pilgrims and that they must have started from the base camp early in the morning. Now we were already late so no taxi driver was coming at the sharing option. He told that we have to go backwards towards market to catch some more passengers if we wanted to travel by sharing. So instead of going back I decided to hire that full car. But negotiation is infused my blood by my loving mother in law. So instead of rs. 800 I got that Tavera in Rs. 500 , even it was off season for him. We left our three suitcases in the cloakroom of the Hotel at Rs. 20 / piece. And carried two shoulder ones with us which majorly contained warm clothes , medicines , some fruits umbrellas and raincoat for Aarya. We started from Pahalgam towards Chandanwadi. JAY BHOLE.
My camera was in neck. I wanted to take as many pictures as possible on the route to Chandanwadi from Pahalgam. Sandeep Jatdevta had told me that the scenery between Pahalgam and Chandanwadi is mind blowing and eye popping and also advised to walk down from there via coming. So I was ready to take the pics on my way to Chandanwadi. Our car started and we crossed Pahalgam village towards Chandanwadi where the trekking is going to start. Now I may become tedious again and again in explaining the beauty of Kashmir , Mountains and Amarnath Yatra because of my limited vocabulary but please bear with me because this is my first Himalayan tour. I was absolutely amazed by each and every place , corner and inch of this beautiful heaven on the earth. Now I don’t want see to heaven, I LIKE MY EARTH. ITS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLANET IN THE UNIVERSE BECAUSE IT HAS KASHMIR, HIMALAYA AND LORD AMARNATH WITH DEVI PARVATI PRESENT HERE EVERYWHERE.
A small briefing on Chandanwadi through my soul, mind and senses
We were having pin drop silence and just staring at the valleys. Again as I told you before that we are going to track this beautiful Lidder river all the way towards its source, she was with us all the way , only difference was that she was flowing in the direction opposite to where we were going. Chandanwadi is around 16 kms from Pahalgam and here the road ends . So no vehicles are allowed or they can’t go beyond Chandanwadi. Chandanwadi is the last stop after Amarnath yatra. No one stays there , but yes its a very beautiful sight seeing destination after the yatra and there are many food shops . The beauty of Chandanwadi is miraculous , right now in Amarnath yatra period , greenery everywhere , gushing sounds of fast moving beautiful Lidder river, little little conglomeration of snow at the heights, white clouds hiding the sun most of the day and pleasant cool breeze continuously blowing at a day temperature of around 15 degree C .The fresh air fills up your lungs and giving you the power of freshness to start your journey. The journey is only half as beautiful as the Valley of Chandanwadi. Camping on raw and rugged terrain by the River Lidder is what Chandanwadi is famous for.It is a very scenic trail with moderate grade trekking involved.Exactly the same what we used to see in old Bollywood movies , the dream scene would be with our beloved and have a small colorful house with ” यह हसीं वादियां , यह खुला आसमान , आ गए हम कहा , ए मेरी जानेजान, इन बहारो में दिल कि कली खिल गयी , मुझको तुम जो मिले हर खुशी मिल गयी. ” a wonderful song from Tollywood film “Roja“. Just while writing this I feel that I am in Kashmir and am shivering due to cold remembrance of Chandanwadi, that effect has Kashmir played on my mind . Here you can hear only two sounds one of singing, roaring and gushing Lidder and few mild sounds of chirping birds many a times lost in the force of the mighty sound of the green river. Just look at the few pictures taken via going to Chandanwadi in Tavera.
As we started for the journey, helicopters were flying over our head every 10 minutes towards Panchtarni and coming back through this route of valley. This will go on till Panchtarni. Every 10 minutes we used to hear sound of the Helicopter . So traffic was still there for the yatra.
Then we came to the point on the road where we arrive at a place called Betaab valley . Actually the name of the place is called Hagoon valley initially before 1983.But in 1983 a bollywood film named Betaab was shot here with Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh in debut plus lead roles. That film was Blockbuster and highest grosser of that year. Almost 70 % of the scenes were shot here. And from thereafter the named changed to Betaab Valley. I am going to present this wonderful place in one of the coming posts when I will be touring Pahalgam. Till then just have the glimpse of the valley from the top.
Here we finally arrive at Chandanwadi. Imagine the view below when it is completely covered with snow in the winter. ASTOUNDING !
CHANDANWADI in Amarnath Yatra (9500 feet)
Amarnath Legend :- At Chandanwadi Lord Shiva left the moon behind (He caries the moon in his hair). Once again, this place takes its name Chandanwadi from this legend.
We were supposed to start the trek at 6.00 AM Now it was already 8.00 AM and we were very late and trek still not started . We paid our car driver and went to Chandanwadi gate where BSF does all checking of our luggage to be taken up. After checking our luggage All BSF people welcomed us in a very warm way as if we were the last yatris of these tour. Yes because no one was there with us with just 3 days to go. They were specially welcoming Aarya and started playing with her. First of all when we enter Chandanwadi gate , there are lot of bhandaras or langarwalas( langars), all of them invite us. In fact all of them come to us as if they want to sell you something but it is totally different .But they want to serve you food offered as a prasad of Lord. Yatris stay overnight in their tents which are arranged in the Langars itself. STUPENDOUS !
But it was Shravan Somwaar ( Monday), so we all had fast, but then also we decided to go inside and check the atmosphere.Also My father in law wanted to have tea. What we saw was a great view , All BSF soldiers were dancing on music, hugging each other , sharing smiles and laughs. As if there duty was accomplished here. In the meantime we saw a BSF soldier with a huge off white or say light golden Dog . The breed was Labrador and the name of the giant animal was Buzo. He was very well trained military soldier , But he used to obey only his master sitting there in the picture shown. He didn’t follow anyone else’s command. He was warm and played with Aarya and me for sometime .
Whenever his trainer used to say Jay Bhole , he used to pray Lord Shiva on his two feet.
Now Before going further I will share with you some journey details of coming places and points on the way to the cave , so that you may be aware where we are going further.
Important Destinations of the Amarnath Yatra
1) Pahalgam ( 7200 feet)
2) Chandanwadi ( 9500 feet) 16 kms from Pahalgam via road in good condition
3) Pissutop :- ( 11000 feet) 3 kms steep rocky trek from Chandanwadi.
4) Zajibal :- ( 11000 feet) 5 kms Straight rocky walk from Pissutop.
5) Nagakoti :- ( 11300 feet) 2 kms A small climb from Zajibal
6) Sheshnaag :- ( 11730 feet) 2kms A small climb from Nagakoti
7) Babaltop :- ( 13800 feet) 3 kms steep and rocky climb from Sheshnag.
8) Mahagunas top or Ganesh Top :- ( 14500 feet) 1.6 kms rocky climb from Babaltop
9) Poshpatri :- (14000 feet) :- 1.6 kms small rocky descend from Mahagunas Top
10) Panchtarni :- ( 12000 feet) :- 3.4 km long rocky descend
11) Sangam Top :- ( 14000 feet ) :- 3 kms most dangerous climb of the Yatra from Panchtarni
12) Amarnath Cave :- ( 13o00) :- 3 kms small long descend plus walk from Sangam.
Total = 32 kms from Chandanwadi and 48 kms from Pahalgam
Negotiations with Horsemen
Then after our tea session from the Bhandara ,we were ready to start the most awaited yatra from here, So we started looking at horses. As we came out from the Bhandara towards the road , some local people followed us for renting horses. We said that we wanted 3 horses . They told us 3500 rs per horse. I said NO WAY and started walking away from them in the forward direction . Meanwhile a cop from J&K police came along with us. Those horsemen were still following us. Then asking how much I would give. I said I am not giving more than Rs. 1800 per horse for going to the cave and coming back through Chandanwadi route. And then negotiations were on. Finally the deal was made on Rs. 2000/ horse for going and coming back. But instead of 3 horses they were asking for 4 horses as it was impossible for Aarya and luggage ( 2 shoulder bags)to be accomodated with us on our horses. So I said I am going to pay only rs. 1000 more for extra horse for Aarya and luggage (Rs. 7000 total for 4 horses). They were not agreeing to that. Then the cop that followed us scolded them “अब सीसन खतम हो गयी है . इतने पैसे बराबर है. समजा क्या. चल अब लेके जा इनको.”( Season is over. This much money is enough . Understood.Now take them to destination.) and then he told us if they did any problem we can definitely contact any of the three authorized bodies responsible for Yatra’s safety i.e. BSF, CRPF and J&K police. I took their Identity cards alloted by Amarnath Shrine Board and started for the journey. ( This is very important. If you have horse man’s identity card then he will behave properly with you. If the horseman does not have identity card by the shrine board don’t hire him.) All those four horsemen were each other’s cousins.
Start of journey on horses towards Pissutop
When we sat on the horse for the first time , some strange feelings in stomach and mind started like mixture of being imbalanced ,tickling, and scary feelings. Somehow I was looking at my family and smiling and laughing like anything. After siting on the horse I just thought that this was going to be impossible for me to complete. But as the journey started we got used to the travel on our horses. In between once again we had to get down before the climb to PissuTop for security check. Once that was over we were ready for the start of our journey to Pissutop.Time was around 8.30 AM.
Now before coming to the yatra I had thought the path of foot to Amarnath Yatra would be smooth ( cleared with stones and rock in the path) as this yatra goes on for last 150 years. And BSF does its preparation . But to my surprise the whole path till the cave was rocky , craggy and slippery. At each and every step below it was rocky and covered with stones . The foot of horses were landing on the rocks and slipping but they balancing it. Oh! No the whole journey is going to be scary. Each and every inch has to be scrutinised and then moved forward. So now our lives were in the hands of Horsemen and most important on that horse. It was really frightening and sometimes even made my teeth chatter . We were heading towards Pissutop. I had heard lot of frightening things about Pissutop that it is one of the deadliest climb in Amarnath Yatra. Many people get flat just by seeing its height and think of returning back. So I was very anxious to see the vision and height of Pissutop from base in Chandanwadi.
Can you see how lucky I am ? Search Google or internet for the pictures of Chandanwadi or Pissu top for Amarnath Yatra and see the Traffic. You will find no place to walk. Again this was all because of the mastermind of experienced Sandeep Jatdevta that he told me to do the Yatra in last 3-4 days.Almost Zero traffic, pleasant climate with less snow and reasonable cost everywhere. No words can describe my gratitude for him and ghumakkar.com.
The journey of climbing Pissutop is very dashing, fearsome and thrilling . I will be covering that in next post. Till then
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