Part 4: Udhampur to Nunwan Base Camp (Pahalgam)
Next morning we wake up early at 5AM and after taking bath we all get ready by 6 AM. We put all our bags and belongings on the carrier at rooftop of the vehicle and covered them with plastic sheet and then tied tightly with rope. After taking a cup of tea and biscuits we started onwards journey. We had planned to have our breakfast at Batote, a small city on the highway. As we have reached Udhampur directly without going to the Jammu City so now onwards from here our journey was on the Jammu Srinagar Highway. This is very dangerous highway of India and have very sharp turns. This highway gets closed many times due to heavy snowfall in winter.
We reached Kud town at around 8 o’clock. Many shops were closed in the market at that time but only a few were open. We purchased 2KG Patisa from Prem sweets which is one of the oldest and famous shops at Kud.
“Kud, a place of extraordinary scenic beauty, is located on the Udhampur Srinagar Highway, Jammu and Kashmir, India. This popular resort is situated on the Jammu-Srinagar highway at an altitude of 1738 meters. It is 95 KM from Jammu and 37 KM from Udhampur city; it is just short of the tourist spot of Patni Top while driving to Patni top from Udhampur. Kud is famous for its sweet shops that make hot and fresh Patisa, which is very popular with the tourists.”
A little before Kud, you will start feeling change in atmosphere dramatically. The temperature fell several notches down from 40 degree C. Pleasant and cool winds welcome you.
Just after 10 KM from Kud we reached to famous hill station of Patnitop. There are many hair pin sharp turns between Kud and Patnitop. The area at Patnitop is surrounded by great long green pine trees. We did not stop at Patnitop this time as we want to remain ahead of the Yatra convey which had started from Jammu and as per our estimates that was one hour behind from us. There was massive traffic Jam just after Patnitop and it took us half an hour to come out of that Jam.
Tip: If you are coming by your own vehicle, try to remain ahead of Yatra Convey coming from Jammu. The Yatra Convey starts from Jammu between 4:30 to 5:00 AM, It consist of 50-100 vehicles depend on rush and have many vehicles of security and if you are lagging them then it is sure you are going to be stopped again and again due to increased chances of traffic Jams. Security personnel do not allow you to cross the pilot vehicle if you are in other than J&K vehicle.
“Patnitop is in the Lower Himalayan Range close to the Pir Panjal range, 47 km from Udhampur and 112 km from Jammu. This famous hill resort is perched on a beautiful plateau, at an altitude of 2024 m across which the Jammu-Srinagar Highway passes. 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.”
Some Pictures of our group at Patnitop in previous year.
We reached Batote town at around 9 o’clock and stopped at one Bhandara. This Bhandara is organized by J.P. industries every year. They have built neat and clean toilet and bathrooms permanently there so we are used to stop at this point every year. Food provided here is very hygienic and tasty. Some of our members got refreshed here and after that all of us went for breakfast in the Langar section. The hot Aalu- Puri and Halwa were served to us and we all enjoyed taking it and after a round of cup of tea we again started our journey.
“Batote is located at an average elevation of 2,006 meters (6,584 feet).It is located on the National Highway from Jammu to Srinagar. It is 123km from Jammu towards Srinagar. National highway 1B (To Doda) also originates from Batote. While driving from Jammu it comes after passing Udhampur, Kud and a famous tourist spot Patni Top. There is a sharp descent road to Batote from Patnitop. Batote is very famous for its beauty and weather. Many people come here to spent their summer vacation and enjoy its cool and pleasant weather. The region is famous for its pleasant weather during summer and its all surrounded greenery. The region is also famous for its high quality kidney beans or Rajma.”
From Batote to Ramban journey was uneventful. We covered this distance of 40 KM in about 1hr. The road till Ramban is either descending or plane. The town is located on National Highway-1A (now NH44) at about 150 km from Jammu and about 150 km from Srinagar making it almost a central point on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. Few Km before Ramban the Chinab River comes in sight and keep flowing right side of the highway till Ramban. In Ramban after crossing a bridge, the river comes on left side.
After Ramban we again started to climb up towards Banihal and stop once again for a short tree break just before Banihal. We precede our journey again and passed through Banihal, Sherbibi and Gund. After Banihal road again started ascending. We were just few KM away from Jawahar tunnel when we were stopped by some security personnel and were asked to park our vehicle in a queue. We came out of our vehicle and saw a long line of vehicles standing in a single line. We took the opportunity to click some photographs.
After a good break of 1hour, vehicles start moving again and after just 2-3 turns we reached Jawahar tunnel which is around 2.5 km in length. We came to know later that due to some Violence and stone pelting incidence in Kashmir region, curfew was imposed in Qazikund, Anantnag and other areas till Pahalgam. So the security forces were not allowing vehicles to go alone and they were sending vehicle in convey with full security.
“Jawahar Tunnel or Banihal Tunnel, named after the first Prime Minister of India, was constructed for round-the-year surface transport between 1954 and 1960. The Jawahar tunnel has been operational since 22 December 1956. The length of tunnel is around 2.5 km (1.6 mi), and it is situated between Banihāl and Qazigund. This facilitates round-the-year road connectivity to Srinagar from Jammu. Later the tunnel was renovated by the Border Roads Organization under the project BEACON in 1960. It was first meant for 150 vehicles per day; the number is now 7000. After renovations, the tunnel now has a two-way ventilation system, pollution & temperature sensors, a world-class lighting system and with Emergency Phone Booths for any assistance from Border Roads Organization.
It is guarded by military round the clock, photography or video-graphy inside or nearby the tunnel is strictly prohibited. Once the vehicle enters the tunnel, it has to maintain the same speed throughout the tunnel. CCTVs are installed in the tunnel for continuous monitoring.”
After crossing this tunnel, we came from Jammu valley to Kashmir valley and climate changed completely. The road after the tunnel is sharp descending till Qazigund and after Qazigund it is totally plane area till Srinagar or Pahalgam. The road is good and wide till Anantnag.
From Anantnag, the road bisects. Left side road is Jammu Srinagar highway and goes directly to Srinagar .Road on right side goes to Pahalgam. From Anantnag Pahalgam is 43 kms away.
Just after few kilometers away from Anantnag the Lidder River comes in sight and remains along left side of the road till Pahalgam. The Lidder has crystal clear bluish water flowing at speed. The sound of water was as the river is singing the classical music. The flow of river was opposite to our journey. The Lidder River runs westwards until it meets the Jhelum River at Gurnar Khanabal village of Anantnag.
There was no traffic on the road due to curfew and all the vehicles were moving at constant speed behind the pilot security vehicle. After some time we reached at a security check point where all the bags, belongings and vehicles were checked thoroughly and then they allowed us to proceed further. Around 3:30 PM we reached at the base camp of Nunwan. We had planned to reach at this camp till 2PM so that we can get a vehicle till Chandanwari as we wanted to stay this night at Chandanwari but due to some unavoidable incidences (Curfew, traffic Jam and stoppage at Tunnel) we could reach at this point only at 3:30 PM and at that time no local vehicle is allowed to carry Yatris towards Chandanwari.
Tip: Try to reach Nunwan base camp till 2PM and if it happens, take local jeeps /van from there to go Chandanwari and go to any Bhandara and stay there for night. There are two benefits of reaching Chandanwari at evening. First it has much better climate, atmosphere and less crowded place and you can start tracking early morning. Second, in the morning you will be saved from the heavy rush of pilgrims at Nunwan base camp, pushing each other to get in local vehicles to reach Chandanwari.
We were all tired so we took bath in Lidder near Parking, changed clothes and repack our bags. All the necessary items required for Yatra were packed in rucksack to take along the Yatra. All other items were put in main bags and all these bags were loaded in the Tavera. We asked the driver to move to Baltal camp in the next morning and promised him to meet at Baltal parking three days later as we have decided to ascend via Pahalgam and descend via Baltal route.
We all took our respective rucksack and moved towards entry gate of Nunwan base camp. It has fort like security around it. We were again checked and prequised before entering the camp. Pilgrims also have the option of staying in hotels at Pahalgam.
“Nunwan base camp is situated 3 Km before Pahalgam and is a small town in itself. It has all the facilities like drinking water, toilets, bathrooms, medicine center, tents for stay and a number of Bhandaras for free food. It has also mini market from where the entire basic and essential thing for Yatra can be purchased.”
We booked a whole tent for Rs.700 and took some rest as we were very tired after a long journey. After some time we went for dinner. There was a good variety of food available from South’s Dosa to Punjab’s Makki ki roti .We took dinner as our taste and returned to tent and slept.
That finishes our second day of Yatra. In next post I will start Amarnath Yatra from Pahalgam. Till then Jai Bhole Ki……………