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Old 6th September 2012, 20:50   #436
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 5
27 - July - 2012

We drove around Dal lake again
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We went to HazratBal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazratbal
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We returned from there by 20:15 hours to reach our hotel by 21:00 hours.

continued...
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Old 6th September 2012, 20:56   #437
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 5
27 - July - 2012

After a nice hot water bath we all got out for dinner by 22:00hours.

Hotel Mallik where we stayed (pardon the clarity - its camera phone now)
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We went to Punajbi Rasoi

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Had seasonal thali
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After dinner we strolled along Dal lake
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Finally by 23:00 hours we reached our hotel.

HVK Scorpio had some issues with its light switch, so the lights were not staying continuously ON. Also the next day was a bandh in Srinagar due to the firing incident towards Gurez. This meant we have to leave Srinagar at the first light. We wanted to leave earlier but due to the light switch we decided to leave at first light.

We all hit bed immediately for an early start the next day.
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Old 7th September 2012, 02:42   #438
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Nice narration, have a question...from Dal lake you can view the Shankaracharaya temple atop a hill isnt it ??, I visited Srinagar as a 10 year old and am slightly confused if one can see it from the Lake or from a famous park ( forgot the name ).
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Old 7th September 2012, 09:21   #439
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Quote:
Originally Posted by mazda4life View Post
Nice narration, have a question...from Dal lake you can view the Shankaracharaya temple atop a hill isnt it ??, I visited Srinagar as a 10 year old and am slightly confused if one can see it from the Lake or from a famous park ( forgot the name ).
Yes, the Shankaracharya Hill is one of the most prominent landmarks in Srinagar City, on the banks of the Dal Lake. From its top, you also get the best view of the city & the Dal Lake. One of the interesting sights is the River Jhelum twisting its way through the most crowded parts of the city. All the parks are alongside the Dal Lake.
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Old 7th September 2012, 12:11   #440
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Guys...this is truly an amazing TL - amazingly pictorial , informative and inspirational !! Thanks for sharing and rating it 5 stars !! KUDOS !!

One noob question...what is the log book you maintain HVK ? Some pointers on how and what needs to go into a log will greatly help. Thanks in advance !!
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Old 7th September 2012, 18:12   #441
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Quote:
Originally Posted by polopm View Post
HVK sir, you are truly the Indiana Jones from India
This is a good name for HVK sir.

Its a wonderful Travelogue HVK sir & beautiful photography by Laluksji.

Some 25 years back I visited J&K & can't remember much about the state. Thanks to both of you, after reading the TL, since yesterday I'm virtually in J&K again. While viewing the videos I had goose bumps. After reading this I'm all too eager to drive to Derjeeling which, is just within my ability for now.
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Old 7th September 2012, 22:48   #442
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

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Originally Posted by NIP View Post
One noob question...what is the log book you maintain HVK ? Some pointers on how and what needs to go into a log will greatly help. Thanks in advance !!
Place name, Odo reading, time, GPS marking, location info.
Hand-written.
Later on typed in excel format.
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Old 8th September 2012, 10:00   #443
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

KISHTWAR TO SRINAGAR SECTOR



I am puzzled – I thought you said that this is part of the dreaded tough “Mughal Rally” – but all I see from Sinthan Top are roads better than what I drive daily in my city?

Yes, this Sinthan Top-Anantnag road is part of the Mughal Rally route. The first part of the road from Kishtwar to Chingam was fantastic, but the road ascending to Sinthan Top was quite bad. Now the descent from the Top is a road that rivals any in the European Alps!

But aren’t you forgetting a few things?

- The Mughal Rally was started when this entire road was being built, it was being run even as the mountains were being blasted to make the way, and what you see today is the end result of that endeavour

- This is the month of July, but the Rally runs this way in June when the road has just reopened (between Chingam-Sinthan Top-Daksum after the snow blockade of winter) and the road....what road??.....will be in tatters, all slush & rock, with the snow melt on. So hold your opinion till you see the roads at that time. But the way things are going, with roads improving in general, I think the Mughal Rally organisers will have to start looking for alternative routes next year onwards, I think these good roads are here to stay. Don’t be surprised if they make it an all-weather road like the existing NH1A Jammu-Jawahar Tunnel-Srinagar highway.


This region looks like a foreign country, maybe Switzerland, you said this is Kashmir, right?

Splendid roads. Green countryside. Alpine mountain-sides. Sheep, Horse & dogs with thick fur. Hardly any people.

But you also saw the Sumo taxis. Urdu signages. “Jugaads”.

This is India. Kashmir. As soon as you cross Sinthan Top, you are in the Kashmir Valley, which is at higher altitude than the rest of Kashmir. Lots of framing in these parts, mainly rice & corn. Apple orchards everywhere. Pears too. A bustling local economy, don’t think that Kashmir is as dark as the media portrays it to be. Everywhere, peple have to work & play, that is how they shrug off insurgency & g about their own business. More signs of normalcy, we saw lots of school children going to school, so many new buildings coming up, mobile operators splashing the entire country side with their advertisement hoardings & glow signs & the Sumo taxis (and mini buses) bursting with people.


Are sign boards all in Urdu?

The Kashmiri language uses the Urdu script. All road signages are in English, you won’t face any difficulties finding your way. Even shops & establishments have multi-lingual boards, which is more than what you can say in my city, where they are progressively becoming only local language. Kashmir cannot yet be called tourist-friendly, but one can see lots of efforts being made to make the life of the tourist easier. Don’t be misled by those tourist attraction sign boards though, that is only in Srinagar city. Everyone understands & speaks Hindi (maybe Urdu), although Kashmiri is similar to neither, it is actually a Aghani-type language, closer to Pashtooni than any of the Indian languages.


Agent Vinod left you?

He did not want to go to Srinagar. Said he had run out of time. I think the Madam Safari was also grumbling (she does have “period”ical problems). Probably there was also a Home Ministry summons.

So he was anxious to turn back home. We had also heard that the “Mughal Road” was closed, so he also thought the trip was “over” and it is a good time to head back home.

Before Achabal/Anantnag, there is a short cut to get to NH1A direct from a place called Lesser, so he decided to turn off and go on his way.


I am now confused - what is the Kashmir Valley?

There is a sharp divide in JK State into 3 regions: Kashmir Valley, Ladakh & Jammu Region. The fissure is not only geographical but also cultural & ethnic.

Jammu Region:
This is the “J” & the southern part of JK State. Mostly plains, as hot as the Punjab plains, almost similar to it, except where the foothills start when character of the region starts changing. The foothills start after Jammu towards Udhampur (NH1 highway to Srinagar), Ajhnoor/Rajouri (towards Poonch, the Paki border & “Mughal Road”), Kyari (on the Chamba-Bani-Bhaderwah road). The Jammu region is already in high altitude at Sansari, where HP ends on the Khillar-Kishtwar road. Doda, Kishtwar, Patnitop, Banihal, Rajouri, Udhmapur, Bani are all towns in the Jammu Region. It is also considered as a predominantly Hindu-populated region. The capital of JK shifts every winter from Srinagar to Jammu.

Kashmir Valley:
A broad Valley.
What are its perimeters.

NH1A, the main highway: After Banihal, cross the Jawahar Tunnel (under the Banihal Pass), and reach Titanic View Point & Qazigund

Rajouri sector: Take the Mughal Road from Jammu via Akhnoor, Rajouri & Bafliaz. Pir ki Gali is teh high pass you cross to enter the Valley – to be welcomed by the town of Shopian

Bani sector: The Kyari-Bani-Sarthal-Chatergala-Bhaderwah-Doda is all in the Jammu Region itself, so entry to the Valley on that road

HP region: The Khillar-Sansari-Tyari-Gulabgarh-Kishtwar road is also entirely in the Jammu Region

Sinthan Top: The road from Kishtwar enters the Kashmir Valley when it crosses the Sinthan Top.

Ladakh:
This is an isolated region, which many don't realise is also JK State.
Geographically cut off, ethnically so different (even the Muslims there are a different breed from those in Kashmir Valley).
Enter Ladakh when you cross Zoji la on the Srinagar-Sonmarg-Zoji la-Dras-Kargil road.
Enter Ladakh when you climb up the Gata Loops after Sarchu on the Manali-Keylong-Sarchu-Gata Loops-Pang-Leh road.
Even in Ladakh, Dras, Kargil, Suru Valley are all predominantly Muslim, but the Zanskar valley (after you cross Pensi la on the Kargil-Padum road), Leh region & the rest are all Buddhist. All of Nubra Valley is also Buddhist, but one small corner - like Bodang & Turtuk - are populated by Balti people (Muslim).
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Old 8th September 2012, 11:32   #444
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

KISHTWAR TO SRINAGAR SECTOR



Did you cross Pahalgam?

No, we don’t.
The road from Sinthan Top comes down to Daksum, Achabal, Kokernag & Anantnag. Anantnag town is quite messy to drive through, no bypass, but after seeing only mountains for such a long time, it is good to see some human activity++ also sometimes.
Road to Pahalgam branches off from Anantnag to the north east, whereas we have to take the road north west to Srinagar.


Why did you not go to Pahalgam?

Can you believe it – I have been several times to Kashmir (lost count), but never been to Pahalgam! This time, I had this outside idea that we go to Pahalgam on the way to Srinagar, but as things transpired, it eluded me again!

Why?
Blame it on the Gurez Valley & the “Mughal Road”!

On the move, I had decided to tweak my original drive plan & include Gurez Valley. This is north of Srinagar towards the Paki border, and has Bandipora as the main town. So I said, we are running ahead of schedule, roads looking good, why not skip Srinagar & go to Gurez?

So I called up my friend Ajay in Jammu & requested him to find out current situation since has a good network in these parts. Alas, there was some firing that very day in Gurez Valley, someone got killed, the entire region was under curfew & the situation tense. To go to Gurez, you need a permit and the SP of Police at Bandipora was not issuing any today, tomorrow or till such time things were brought under control. All this confabulation was going on as we drove down towards Anantnag. Looked like Gurez Valley was out, but we still held on to some slender hopes.

We could still have gone on to Pahalgam, but for one more problem.
News was that the “Mughal Road” was closed past1 week due to major landslides, etc, and our well-wishers who were following our Drive had cautioned me that the road could not be taken. So I was determined to find out the truth....and the quest for that truth meant I had to reach Srinagar in time during broad daylight and make enquiries with the sources-who-know as to the status of the road.

Thus, I floored the pedal and set course for Srinagar intending to arrive there before lunch time. And I also had a tyre to change......


Are these the famous Chinar trees of Kashmir?



When I was a kid, the first lesson in my English Non-Detail reader in my Standard 1 was this story about the highway to Kashmir which was lined with Chinar trees! That left an indelible impression in me, and who knows that must have fuelled my desire to travel too!! This is that section on the Jammu-Srinagar NH1A highway, shortly after crossing Khanabal, where these trees still line the road – and I hope they do not cut them down because of the road widening that is going on! Another section where you can see such a tree-lined road is the Srinagar-Gulmarg road.

I realised my childhood dream when I drove on this highway in my Matiz in Dec 2002, it surely was an exciting experience, something I relived this day too.

Let me show you a photo I took in deep winter of Dec 2002 of me in my Matiz in the same section, with the leaves all gone:

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I thought Saffron (or Kesar) grows only in Spain – did not know it grows in India too?

It happens only in Incredible India.
A stretch of 10 kms alongside the NH1A highway to Srinagar around the Pampore Town is known for growing Saffron. A very very expensive product. It grows sometime during Sep every year, and the farmers are supposed to stay on guard in their fields 24x7 to ensure that no one steals the crop during harvest time. Nowadays, there are sign boards that announce the place.




But be careful when buying Saffron in Srinagar or any of the towns in this region. Firstly, it may not be really cheap when compared with prices in your town. Secondly, I hear that the best saffron is exported out of Kashmir and what you see on the shop shelves is not the real thing, there is a lot of “synthetic” saffron too, which is sold at lower prices to satisfy the bargaining “kitna deta hain” crowd.

BTW, the road you see above witnessed a 2-hour gun battle between the Army & the militants just 1 month before our trip, and the highway itself was closed for a few hours as a consequence. So things are not as peaceful as they look.



Tell us more about the Pantha Chowk


This is virtually the “dwar” or gate to Srinagar.
At Pantha Chowk, which is 15 kms from Pampore, you will see the Srinagar “bypass”. The bypass that curves to the left is on NH1A and is best if you want to go to Srinagar Airport or Gulmarg, but if you are looking to go to Ladakh, the optimal route is straight as indicated in the sign board itself. Also the safest route even during the worst times because the road ahead goes through the most heavily guarded Army Contoment area in India – Badamibagh – and the place where all key Ministers & big-wigs in Srinagar stay, like Guptkar Road & the Dal lake itself.



Can I avoid Srinagar city if I am going to Ladakh?

You cannot. And there is no need to. Srinagar City is so lovely that you MUST go through Srinagar city even if bypass options exist – and the “bypass” from Pantha Chowk also goes link up with the Leh road, but that goes through some congested areas and what I term “unsafe” parts of Srinagar, so best avoided. On the other hand, if you go straight from Pantha Chowk towards Srinagar city, you can go past the Dal Lake & its beautiful gardens to link up to the road to Ganderbal/Sonmarg/Leh.


A GA – or Goa – taxi in Srinagar?

As Lalu says, “Its common that the vendors move to Goa when it is offseason in JK”



You must have seen “genuine” Kashmiri carpets being sold by Kashmiris in your town. These are Kashmiris who have fled the Valley to escape all the turbulence of the militant times. They can be found in places like Goa & Kovalam in Kerala.

Hotels in the Kashmir Valley & Ladakh circuit are open only during summer and most of those who run them – many of them “outsiders” – migrate to Goa to run similar establishments/ businesses there to cater to the busy winter season in Goa. That is why you see many GA-registered cars and mobikes in Kashmir, these keep getting shifted up and down like the owners themselves.



Wow! Srinagar has a hill named after the great sage from Kerala, Adi Shankaracharya?

In the 8th Century AD, the wandering Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya walked to Srinagar too – he also walked to Dwaraka (West), Badrinath (Himalayas) & Puri (East) too, apart from Srinagar (North). The temple atop the Sankaracharya Hill on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar has its idol consecrated by none other than the great Sankara himself. Maybe that is why we Keralites wander all around the world, especially India.......blame it on this Advaitic scholar & young man who was probably the first to explore so much of India 1500 years ago!


Lalu says cryptically, “HVK took details about Mughal route and also about Gurez. We were advised not to go to Gurez since there was a bandh and a shoot out the previous day. Mughal route was given a green signal by the taxi guys.”
Please explain!

The moment we drove into Srinagar, these were my priorities:
1. Thanksgiving for a safe drive at the Temple atop the Sankaracharya Hill
2. Enquire about the status of the Mughal Road, to frame next day drive
3. Buying a new tyre for the Scorpio
4. Lunch
5. Hotel room at either Srinagar, Pulwana, Shopian or wherever.

Gurez Valley was out, thanks to the firing, killing and curfew. Worse, there was a hartal and bandh scheduled to mourn the victims deaths tomorrow in the Kashmir Valley – and you know, bandhs here are worse than the WB & KL varieties. Total shutdown of businesses, including petrol pumps. Not even food available. Police & Army out in full regalia & strength. Gun battles on the streets. Stone throwing & burning of cars. Effectively a no-go zone. So we MUST get out of Srinagar....and fast!

The “Mughal Road” status?
I have some techniques to ascertain routes & route conditions.
First, I ask my friends.
Then I accost as many taxi drivers as I can, and ask.
Then I approach Police & authorities & confirm.
If all this does not yield results, I still go on the route I want to!!

I went first to the TRC (the main) taxi stand where taxis for different parts of Kashmir – and this was the one which served West Kashmir – and asked the Taxi Association chap there, “Road kula hain kya?” – Yes, his answer.
Then I walked across to the TRC Office (for tourists) and asked the main guy there, “Road kula hain kya?” Blank looks, but on my persuasion he called up the Police and asked. NO. They said road is closed, but let us check and tell you.
I am unperturbed, pose for Lalu's photograph, then I trotted out, drove to another taxi stand near Lal Chowk – this one also catering to local taxi traffic – and walked into the Association office there. They are very hospitable people here, that is Kashmiriyat – and they said, come in, sit down......and Yes, the road is indeed open, don’t worry! The road was closed all of last week, but they opened it yesterday, your Scorpio can do it, be happy!

Enquiries about hotels in Pulwana, Shopian or Bafliaz drew a blank, so we decided to stay back in Srinagar – not an exciting thing, but the best thing to do in the circumstances.


Identify this one.

Which building is this?



That is the J&K Bank Head Office in Srinagar.
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Old 8th September 2012, 12:42   #445
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

SRINAGAR




Kashmiri Wazhwan food – did you try it?

The Ahdoos Restaurant – supposed to be the best in Kashmir Valley.


I told the Team, for a change, let us have a 5* lunch, let me take you to the “best” place.
The Team is startled – much as they are used to munching on some random food particles once in a while, occasionally, that too at some dhaaba...
HVK, are you fine?
HVK, Do you have AMS?
HVK, are you upset because of the Gurez affair?
HV, we are not hungry, you know, we can manage till the night...


But, No, I was determined, so I drove past the beautiful Residency Road on the banks of the River Jhelum – which flows through the Srinagar city – and we went to Ahdoos to savour the Kashmiri Wazhwan cuisine.
We were not disappointed.
Old world charm. What hospitality! The waiter who served us was an old gent, reminded me of Jeeves (PG Wodehouse is my mentor), and he walked us through the best things on the menu. And of course, mutton-based delicacies are what make the Kashmiri cuisine, but vegetarians will not be disappointed. This was the most expensive food session we had, but I think it was entirely worth it.


Tell us the The Tyre story in your words.

Lalu said,
“One interesting conversation between HVK and the Tyre fellow went like this.
HVK : I need tubeless tyre
Tyre dealer : No problem I will take out the tube and give you tubeless ”


Exactly that is what transpired, as Lalu has explained above.

As you recall, I burst a tyre on the way up to Sinthan Top. I decided that it was pointless to repair the tyre, decided to buy a new one. So that agenda was on the top of the list of things-to-do when I arrived in Srinagar.

I knew from past experience – and that is another long story I don’t wish to bore you with now – that Srinagar has a large spare parts bazaar, so I went in search of some tyre shops there. Did not find anything inspiring, landed up at one shop in middle of the busy bazaar. It was like some kind of “space walk” astronauts have out of their spacecraft! Stop the car a bit, move it out a bit, nudge it a little, get pushed a lot more, etc etc, so that the time taken to stop before the tyre shop itself is 15-20 minutes!

The only Yokohama the tyre shop had heard of is that of the town in Japan, not the Yokos tyres.
He tried to sell me some Good Year & Apollo tyres, which I staunchly refused.
Only choice was Bridgestone.
He said, “Tubeless what?? No one here has heard of tubeless, they don’t buy tubeless here." And then those famous Indian words "Chalta hain" I stood my ground, I want tubeless. That is when the priceless statement was made by the venerable shop-keeper.
You want tubeless? No problem. I will take out the tube & hey presto, it becomes tubeless!

By now, I am used to seeing so many bulls & cows on the highways of India, so I have developed the traits of the firmness of the mule!
I said NO, give me tubeless or else....
Please, he said, this works...
I glare at him, maybe my lenses would have cracked.......as Billy Bunter would have said!
Phone calls made, he says tubeless is on the way...
Over an hour of gup-chaap. Discussions on Kashmiri situation. Lots of abuse heard about Omar Abdullah, the family & Govt everyone seems to hate in the Valley. Lots of praise for Mufti Saheb, the ex-CM who is more known as the person who inspired Mani Ratnam to make that one scene in his movie Roja....
Also the important nugget of info that next day was hartal due to the firing at Bandipora in Gurez Valley....so you see, gossiping has its good things, you learn so many things, and am good at such conversations!!!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got a tyre, a tubeless tyre, not the AT type which is what the rest of my tyres are, but never mind that.....


How can cops be so bad? Don’t they want tourists in Kashmir or what?

Let us first remember, cops are doing their job, they are earning their living, it does not matter to them whether tourists come to Kashmir or not. (why should they?)

In the past, I have always had bad experiences with JK cops, so this is nothing new, I always expected “encounters” with them and was pleasantly surprised that we had come out unscathed so far.

As described by Lalu:
“Episode of the cops
Suddenly two traffic cops jump out of nowhere and asks us to stop. HVK showed all documents and toll tickets. Every document was in order. The cops did not like that. They started finding fault like the number plate is muddy and not visible etc..etc.. and started harassing. Finally they left only after taking some money. It was intriguing to see the traffic cops splitting the money in front of us and putting in their pockets.”


This was the Police chowky at the entrance to Dal Lake.
They saw my MH-registered vehicle & stopped us.
Realised that my DL and car documents are in order (they did not even see it).
Demanded to see the toll ticket for the Lakhanpur entry point to JK State. That also I had. No luck there for them.
Then they demanded to see the Lower MUnda toll ticket. I told them I did not come that way, I came via Bani, and I can show them the Kyari toll ticket. They were non-plussed. No luck there too.
In the meantime, I had adopted an aggressive tone, saying they were harassing me for nothing since I was a tourist. They did not like that. They decided to make my life as miserable as they could.
He was wondering how to take this further. No sun film also in the car, so that could not be one more excuse for harassment.
Smart bloke he was, he saw my number plate was dirty, and the reverse light glass was broken (although tail lights work perfectly!). That was my offence!
(Never mind that local cars were plying merrily around:
- without number plates
- with blue & red number plates
- with weird characters in their number plates
But this Bambay-se-aaya-mera-dost car has to pay for his sin of having come to Kashmir)

He took first Rs 500, then demanded Rs 200 more. Rs 700 without receipt.
One of the passerbys smirked and remarked, “These guys are form Jammu Region, that is why they are so bad. Our Kashmir Valley guys are good chappies, you see” So much for regional chauvinism!!

This set of cops – a stout Hindu middle-aged baldish guy and a young bearded Muslim guy – have been harassing many at this point. Exactly 2 weeks later, one of my friends was also harassed by the same guys, an episode which caused a lot of affront to him & his wife (like questioning their association). And one more of our friends was also caught for something else a few days ago too.

I twitted this incident to Omar Abdullah, the CM of JK about both these episodes, but what can you say of a person whose only twitter message in the last 2 months is to wish his electorate Happy Ramzan. No reply from him till date, don’t expect anyway. So much for all this balh-blah about celebrities being on Twitter!


You finished your sightseeing of Srinagar sightseeing in 60 minutes?

Yes and No. I have been several times to Srinagar, but the others haven’t seen anything of it before. So we went on a “mandatory” tour – that included the Sankaracharya Hill, the Botanical Gardens, Chasme-i-Shahi Gardens & the Mughal Gardens (the last was closed by the time we reached there at sunset time). Ad also Hazrat Bal shrine. A little slice of taste of Srinagar to whet the appetite, not the big full thing. We had just an evening in Srinagar.


You had made a booking for your hotel rooms in Srinagar?

Ha, you must be joking! I never make any advance bookings. We do our research, know which places suit our budgets and go there direct. I avoid any place other than Dal Lake in Srinagar because that is the safest place.

JKTDC Hotel Heemal on Dal Lake is a lovely place, but the guy refused to come down from his 3K tariff. So goodbye to that.
We walked into Malik Palace next door. Good car parking, right on the banks of the Lake. 3-4K tariffs. Haggle, Haggle, Haggle. Down to Rs 1,500 a night. Decent place.


Hotel Malik Palace


After our stay here, we have directed all our friends to this hotel, they have haggled down rates to as low as Rs 1,100 a night (for a room advertised at 2,500-3,000). So you know what to do next when you travel.


...I am not done yet....some more to come
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Old 8th September 2012, 13:16   #446
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

SINTHAN TOP TO SRINAGAR



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After that refreshing breakfast, we left Sinthan Top.
Roads were "makkan" or butter-smooth all the way down to Daksum.
Little traffic, we started seeing Sumo taxis & mini-buses from this place named Vailoo after Daksum.
This road has some linkages with the main Jammu-Srinagar NH1A at Verinag near Qazigund.
For those who have seen the Titanic View Point as you enter the Valley through the Jawahar Tunnel, the pretty fields & forests you see from there are the region around this road we are travelling on.
We touch down onto the plains at Vailoo and some road widening is on, but there are neither diversions nor bad patches. Traffic is light and not annoying at all. Are we in India, I wonder?
We cross the JKTDC's Alipine cottages at Kokernag which also has some Botanical Gardens, definitely a nice place to stay in, hoping that the region is safe for tourists of course.
Agent Vinod goes off to do further nefarious activities (or so we guessed), turning off towards the Rest of India a little after Lisser - I guess he must have received some summons for some ultra-secret mission, so he had to go! He does not write TLs, so I think we have to remain in suspense, although I did hear later that he was found changing the wheel bearings in Madam Safari at some TASS in Amritsar the next day!!!
More & more traffic, lots of garages, people busy at their daily errands.
Anantnag town is a messy little town, but we did not lose much time.
We joined the NH1A highway coming from Jammu at Khanabal.
Lots of traffic, road widening. First-timers are always surprised to see so much of activity in Kashmir, they have so much of wrong impressions by the media hype around terrorism & trouble in the Valley.
The saffron fields of Pampore await the sowing of the crop soon.
For those worried about petrol pumps, there is at least one every km or so in this road.
Who would have thought that this same peaceful highway at Pampore was a battlefield just a month ago and militants had a gun battle with the armed forces?
Pantha Chowk is an important junction where the road forks away to Gulmarg & the Pak border at Baramullah-Uri.
We were in Srinagar at last, it was hot here!

Can you do this sector at night? Not sure about the Sinthan Top-Anantnag road, but after that it is safe 24x7. No check posts to stop you anyway. Or night drive restrictions evident.
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Old 8th September 2012, 13:52   #447
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Kishtwar (A)-Sinthan Top (B)-Anant nag (C)-Srinagar (D)


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Srinagar City - Our "sight-seeing" Circuit


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Old 9th September 2012, 10:15   #448
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

We all got ready and drove out of Srinagar by 05:00 AM. There were no signs of Bandh yet. We comfortably drove through the Srinagar streets and got out. We drove towards Mughal road and reached the entry point at 05:45AM

Mughal Road Takeoff Point
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We were already 51KMs from Srinagar

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Bafliaz where we exit Mughal Road is another 84KM from here

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HVK Scorpio ready to explore Mughal Road

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We were welcomed to Mughal Road
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continued...
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Old 9th September 2012, 10:20   #449
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

So very true
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Initial impressions of Mughal Road
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continued...
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Old 9th September 2012, 10:25   #450
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Default Re: Cliffhanger Himachal, Hidden Kashmir and a search for Mughal Ghosts

Day 6
28 - July - 2012

We continued our drive
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Somewhere near by we saw a small check post, where it was written "Drive at your Risk" Did not want to click that picture to invite attention by the check post cops.

continued...
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