Udhampur To Srinagar (Curfew in the city)








Important Notice: While on the trip out of goodwill I had shared my pics with some of fellow travelers. It might well be possible that you might see my pictures that are shown here, posted somewhere else on the web too. It was not very wise of me to share my pics without proper attribution (watermarks) done, but if you do see such pictures please report it to me.


Day 4: 7th July
Udhampur To Srinagar (Curfew in the city)
So today was the D-Day, why because I was heading towards probably the most dicey route of my trip. Not because of natural difficulty but rather more man made difficulty. Generally one can prepare himself to face the natural obstacles but one cannot prepare himself for the obstacles created by a humans. Have been hearing till now a mixed reports of the situation in Srinagar. Expecting anything I started preparing for the day's journey. As mentioned earlier I was supposed to cover approximately 220kms plus anything that extra distance comes in my way. I started with plan of having my breakfast on the way. By this time my bike's fork had got lose and it was sounding whenever I went over any bump on the road. The fork bearing were already up for a change even before the trip. I stopped in a roadside dhaba for breakfast. The dhaba guy had only rice and dal which was okay for me. I asked him to prepare the food and tried fixing the lose fork myself but I didn't have the right tools for it. Had my breakfast clicked couple of snaps and moved ahead.


Just an example of my disastrous photography :). I messed up both these pics :(
In previous days when that unfortunate incident happened (me dropping my bags on the way) I had burnt my fingers especially right hand middle finger very badly while tying my bags. I couldn't find the band-aid strips that I had packed, I just had to wear the gloves directly on the wound due to which it had made it all worse.
Every other kilometer I would see an army personnel standing. I was going in a decent pace when I thought of stopping for a drinks break and also I'll have a chance to speak to the army guys and get a feel of the situation ahead. The army person was very helpful, he called his co-personnel who was placed further towards Srinagar. His friend told the situation and the person told me that situation is very tense as there were 3 people killed in the firing but I don't need to worry much because army will be there to help the tourists and travelers. He said to me, just believe in God and go ahead, everything will be alright. That motivated me very much to go ahead and hope for the best. The vistas en-route were just awesome. I wanted to capture them all but no matter how much you try you won't be able to :D
Another disaster :(. I managed to mess this amazing view in this pic
Soon I reached Patnitop and then started coming down to the place called Batote
I filled up petrol in a petrol bunk and as usual asked questions to get know more about the tensions. Again I got mixed reports. I had to again make a short stop at a puncture shop just to check the tyre pressure where I asked a mechanic to tighten bike's fork too.
I asked one of the guy to click my photo on the bike:



I moved ahead and noticed that the traffic was piling up slowly which after sometime worsened more and eventually came to a stand still. I asked around and the guys told the traffic is totally still and it is like this for many further kilometers but being on a bike I could sneak in the traffic and could move ahead slowly. I moving ahead but still in such a slow pace that I was surely losing time but nothing can be done.

Every now and then I'll get these kind of open roads:


And then again I'll be surrounded by vehicles. Didn't want to take any pictures of the traffic jam.
Whenever I'll get annoyed by the traffic I'll stop and this time I stopped at a place where one old guy was selling some kind of fruit, they call it "Khubani". I bought some from him and spoke to him for a while and as usual I took his picture :)


I continued and then the traffic started piling up really bad which was a clear indication that I near Jawahar Tunnel or The Banihal Tunnel, One of the longest tunnel in Asia. The traffic so bad and it ate so much of time and the overhead sun wasn't making it easy. I had lost a lot of time but still continuing to move ahead, crossed Jawahar Tunnel and then came up to the Titanic View Point which says "First view of kashmir valley". I parked there and saw two more bikes parked there. This was the first time I saw other bikers with the same route.
Took some pictures and yet again I was bad at it :(,  processed this one a little dramatic.
Will upload more after processing.
I met the guys on the bikes and they told they were riding all the way from Maharashtra which was amazing; I always wanted to ride all the way from Bangalore but couldn't do it because of lack of days put in the trip.
I met one more guy who was working there and I asked him about the situation and he told it is bad and people are pelting stones on the travelers too. He too was so much frustrated with all the chaos that was happening there. He just said nobody wants to do this, neither the local public nor the administration, except for the politicians.
The two other bikers told me it would be best to be with the convoy of people going for the Amarnath Yatra so that you can get past the problematic areas under the eye of the army. I took that advice and moved ahead. I pushed off a little faster so that I can reach Srinagar early and see if it possible to stay in Srinagar or if I have to push further towards Sonmarg.
I kept going faster and stopped only at a petrol bunk which was open otherwise it was all closed and there was this strange silence around. It was such a shame to see such a beautiful place in such mess.
I filled whatever empty bottles I had with petrol because I wasn't sure where the next open petrol bunk I'll get.
Then after some time traffic again started again piling up and this time everything came to a stand still. First I thought it was just another jam due to more traffic at this time of the year. But soon after it was apparent that it was the intentional blockade done by the army guys. Apparently there was more tension and disturbance ahead and the army didn't want the tourist and yatra guys to move forward.
The blockade was a long one and meantime every body started talking each other asking where have the others come from and as usual my bike attracted attention. The two bikers I met also joined me and we all had a nice time talking about so many things.
While waiting for the army guys to clear the route for us I finally got introduced properly to the bikers who were riding with me all this while. They were Parag (riding a Yamaha FZ16) from Pune and Rajan (riding a Honda Unicorn) who was Parag's relative, from Mumbai. This was Parag's first trip to the mountains and Rajan's fourth, two times on a bicycle and second time on a motorcycle.
There was an interesting discussion that broke; one of the guys asked us why do we do it i.e. riding all the way on a motorcycle to a place like this bearing so much of discomfort. 
Well obvious answer to that was asking him a question in turn: why does he do it :D i.e. coming to a place like this bear so much of discomfort. His answer was it is his way to reach to God. We in a chorus gave the same answer :D IT is our way to reach God :D i.e. Riding to this place, bear all the discomfort and see Heaven On Earth.
After about two hours or so the traffic was allowed to go further. It was around 5 o clock that time and as advised by the other bikers I was supposed to be with the convoy which meant not able to stop where I wanted. I was going through Heaven On Earth and it was a pity that I couldn't stop to capture some of the vistas :(
But still I managed to click some. 




Seeing these two pics above in my camera I felt relieved that I finally captured something that did some justice with the actual beauty.
I clicked these and immediately climbed back on the bike to follow the convoy. While riding I promised myself that I'll be back to this place again next time and enjoy all that I am missing now because of the tensions around. I have been unfortunate twice that something was planned for this place and tensions in the valley have spoiled it.
Again we were stopped by the army and we were asked to park in a big empty ground, it seemed that the miscreants were at it again. One army officer saw me fully geared and riding with so much of luggage, he smiled and said to me with a chuckle in Hindi "oye tu kahan ja raha hai ladne" (hey kid where you going to fully geared, to fight somewhere?).
After about half an hour the traffic was again allowed to go further. Everything there was closed and it was evident that I wouldn't be able to stay in Srinagar. I will have to go beyond Srinagar and stay for the night.
The army guys led us through the Srinagar city and the most famous Dal Lake, one more link. Again it was such a pity that nobody was allowed to stop and take a pic or two :(
 Missed this place, the char chinar. Posting this one from the web

Missed The Mughal Gardens
Finally missed the stay in a House Boat :'(
After circling around the Dal Lake we were guided out of the city by the army guys. I was planning to move ahead to Sonmarg. It was 7:30pm and the day was almost over which meant I was required to ride in the dark. No other option but to do it. While riding through the city I actually saw the CRPF guys beating up some of the guys very badly on the street. Don't know if those local guys deserved that beating but it was sad to see that sight.
Sonmarg was 55kms from Srinagar. I reached a village called "Manigram" after 30kms of travel from Srinagar. I saw a lot of crowd there and I was stopped by army guys yet again and this time they checked my ID cards and they even checked my luggage. This was the place were the yatra guys were supposed to spend the night in the facilities provided. I told the army guys that I want to go further to Sonmarg but they said nobody is allowed to go as it is dark and I'll have to spend the night there only.
I parked my bike near the army tent and soon after the bikers whom I met on the way also came. There were thousands of people there and most of them going in the amarnath yatra. There were guys providing tents and we took one where all three of us could stay. For dinner all we had to do is join the crowd and have free food in the facilities provided. While going inside the premises the security guys checked my bags and took out the petrol bottle that I had kept as reserve and they didn't allow those bottles. I had to put the petrol where it belonged and i.e. bike's tank :)
We had nice FREE dinner :D and came back to our tent and slept. I decided to wake up as early as possible so that I could start early and skip all the crowd and so did Parag and Rajan.
So I had passed the problematic area so the worry also had passed. 
I had already covered around 270kms for the day. And the next day was short in terms of distance to be covered and also through some very beautiful places. 
Route on Map:

View Larger Map
Visit my flickr album for better quality pics (selected ones) : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumitplall/


Day 3 Amritsar To Udhampur | Day 5 Srinagar (Manigram) to Kargil via Sonmarg, Drass


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