Sonamarg, Golden Meadow of Kashmir

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We enjoyed the morning amidst the splendour around the hotel and decided to see the view points in the afternoon. Here, all the viewpoints come on the way to its main attraction ‘Thajiwas Glacier’. To reach the glacier, one may go either by riding pony from Sonamarg town or by a cab which drops near the spot “Ram Teri Ganga Maile”. A nice motorable road is available upto this spot and thereafter one has to hire pony or walk down to the base of Thajiwas Glacier. Walking from there is much preferable to riding pony because it is only a short distance to cover and walking is mainly through the plain roads.

Like most tourists places, pony rides as well as the cab rates are overpriced here and one has no other option but to accept an unreasonable price after much bargaining. How tough it was to agree with a price of Rs.2100/- for a ride of 6kms, to and fro! But did we have any option?

We started the journey and soon saw the beautiful Sonamarg Club, a popular staying option for the bollywood stars when they are here for shooting. Surrounded by the giant conifers and beautiful mountains it locates on a hillock by the side of the road to Thajwas Glacier.

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Ghumakkar Insight –Let’s wander! But be vigilant too

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So if we only drop the ball and do not come forward demanding action for the better future and for future travellers, it is we and our generation next to suffer. If we predispose that nothing will happen and do not come forward with our feedback to the right authorities, I see then little hope for the changes. The right authorities may never know a fact if we do not give our feedback. In the present case of mine, I doubt the field officials would have reported the Governor about the above facts. So there lies the importance of feedback. I too hope like Ghumakkar Team and believe that if we keep performing as a dutiful citizen then things would really improve for a better future and for future travellers.
Will you then come forward? Will you too contribute for the better future of travelling?
The last thing, I believe, all of us would like to see people throwing coins or notes on Akbar’s grave. Alas! He was the richest and most powerful king of his time. He never would have imagined that people would throw coins on his tomb stone. And not also we would like to see people scribbling love messages on our historical monuments. Can’t we start protesting against these nuisances? Can’t we preserve our heritage for an Incredible India?
“Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.”______Mark Twain

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Amarnath Yatra :: Panchtarni to Holy Cave

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The test of faith on Lord Shiva continued all the way to Shrine. To reach there, it’s another kilometre through slippery snowy path by the side of river Amaravati, and when we reached below the cave, we saw long stairs to climb and a longer queue to follow. The cave is located at an elevation of 13,500 feet above the sea level and its opening is a large semi-circular hollow into a cliff.
It was about 60-70 stairs before the cave we saw the base hospital and a young man of 33-34 years. He could not make it to the cave and took his last breath there. I looked up inside the cave and the belief became firm again. To reach at Shiva’s feet, one must have his blessings; one must have got his calling.

I entered inside the cave with my two friends. The floor of the cave was extremely cold and wet. In deepest right corner of the cave, I saw Lord Shiva, in his unique shape of ice-lingam about 11-12 feet tall. I bent at his feet (the ice base) and offered Billa leaves. I stood quiet there for some time with folded hand but I forgot to seek anything from ‘Mahadeva’ and came out happily from the cave with a sense of fulfillment.

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Amarnath Yatra :: Ganesh Top to Panchtarni

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We saw pilgrims tired and exhausted, moving slowly resting after every step or two and painfully looking at the steep ascent of Ganesh Top, thinking might be about the steps left, some were searching the shortest route and other going slow but steady. The pain was much less for us except sore back due to long horse riding. Suddenly, we saw a U shape mountain just before the Ganesh Top, standing tall and high, looking at the pilgrims as if it was a gate to heaven. Slowly we climbed up to the highest point of Amarnath Yatra route, the Mahagunus Top or the Ganesh Top at an altitude of 14500 ft above the sea level. The Army had a post there too and was at the services of pilgrims.

It is believed that Lord Shiva asked his son Ganesha to stay at this mountain peak and moved further with Goddess Parvati to the cave. Lord Ganesha might saw them off from here. He might have seen them descending to the valley of Panchtarni.

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Amarnath Yatra :: Sheshnag & Wahbal (Babbal) Top

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For the first time at Sheshnag we felt shortage of oxygen, we were breathing short while climbing the nearby areas, that’s due to rapid climbing of altitude, more than 2000 feet in less than 5 hours, that’s for sure was against the general norms of mountaineering which suggest climbing of not more than 1500 feet a day. We knew that, and therefore were on AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) preventive drugs “Diamox 250mg” (not to be taken without consultations of physician) from the previous day. We took the second dosage immediately here, because higher the altitude, greater the risk and ahead of us was the Wahbal Top and then Ganesh Top at an altitude of 13500ft and 14500ft respectively. Not to get dehydrate we took plenty of water and ORS. I am writing this not to make anyone scare, but to let all know that there is a little scope for heroic action in climbing high altitudes.

True that, every single life is precious and it is the responsibility of the Government as well as the authorities organising the pilgrimage to care for that, but we must also know how precious the life is to ourselves and to our families who pray every day back at home for our safe return. So it is essential that one have the knowledge of AMS, first aid medicines and their uses before undertaking the pilgrimage or otherwise they should go slow, get acclimatized, not over stress the body and report immediately to the nearest medical camps on the route in case of physical discomforts.

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Amarnath Yatra :: Pishutop, Zajipal & Nagakoti

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These Bhandars provide tea, snacks, breakfast and hot vegetarian foods to the pilgrims, free. They camp all major places on the way to the Holy Cave to serve hot foods to the pilgrims. A holly attempt, I must say, may be the path, to their belief, to receive grace and blessings of Lord Shiva. The holy songs of Lord Shiva in the tunes of most modern bollywood songs were playing in these Bhandaras and were lifting up the spirits of pilgrims.

Pilgrims, who climbed up on foot the first steep mountain ‘Pishu Top’, were standing exhausted there. But they had an aura of achievement too, the aura of victory over the first hurdle, ‘Pishu Top’ and for some of them it was no less than the climbing and conquering of Mount Everest. They were proud pilgrims, posing for snaps before and on the stone painted with welcoming message “Swagatam Pishutop”. They deserved that too, but for us who came here on horseback, it was not a party time yet!

We set off again and it was now an easy road along the East Liddar River. Soon we left behind the beautiful Pishutop, I looked back, may be for a last sight in my life. I was enjoying every bit of this route and realized beginning of the most beautiful journey of my life.

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Pahalgam, in Kashmir

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Collect your entry tickets and then wander around the meadow or sit for a while, take tea, snacks or cold drink from the stalls here and enjoy misty clouds and a cool breeze. Baisaran is a lush green meadow with undulating hills and dotted with tall pine and deodar trees all around. It presents a picturesque view of the snow clad mountain on the backdrops.
You slowly start relating all bollywood songs, especially 1960’s, 70’s and even of early 80’s, which were shot here with both male and female protagonist running towards each other from opposite side, ended in holding each other’s hands and singing some great songs.

Special guests are here too who will fill your photographic hobby and the very little cute rabbit will come at Rs.10/- for as many snaps as you can take within a limited time. Horses are at free of cost for photo shoot.

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Days Out in Brahmaputra Valley-Nameri & Tezpur

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I have seen elephants so many times, fed them bananas, saw Mahout riding them and heard their trumpeting, but that sound was not like trumpeting. It was more like roaring of tigers or lions that I heard in zoo. So I was not at all convinced with the judgement of Jainul Abedin. I thought it’s better to keep my eyes open and brain in action for own safety, especially because we were accompanying by a forest guard with a very little on field experience. But he was at the helm and we needed to follow him. A single man with a 3not3 rifle, GOD knows, if loaded or not, the ratio was 5 of us to him. He suggested Kamal and Prakash to move ahead of him and me, Chandra & KKD to follow. We were moving cautiously and quietly. It was a serious situation, no animal was visible yet, only the heart shaking rumbling sounds. We all were trying to escape somehow and were following each other’s steps. Jainul was looking confident to handle the situation, he pointed towards the bush to spot some wild elephants hiding there. I immediately made up my mind of running zig zag in case of an attack. They were growling loudly and we all were maintaining absolute silence yet moving forward. . How could I not click a snap of them? I looked through the lens, not sure of how much could I zoom in. But before I could click Jainul pulled me and virtually taken away from there. He cautioned, “Are you carzy? Elephants will not spare, if caught.” He forced me to go fast to catch my friends who were far ahead by now. I did in the end catch up with them and we did escape safely. It was perhaps Jainul’s quality training that enabled him to be alert on time, identify the noise correctly and handle the situation brilliantly.

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