Travel to Patnitop – Popular Hill station of Kashmir
Okay, so we've had a really adventurous beginning to our trip to the well known (and controversial) Kashmir Valley. The other day, we began with Jammu at 8am, wishing to remain in Srinagar by early evening. We were in high spirits and were gladly enjoying the landscape, when our motorist, Ashok, stopped by a temple to pay his respects. And when he came back to the car, he surprised us by saying that he had simply heard that there is a strike in Srinagar!
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The very name Srinagar invokes pictures of both absolute charm and absolute horror! This region is stated to be among the world's prettiest and most luring ever! Nevertheless, since partition, there has actually been a continuous battle between the 2 countries over this piece of paradise.
The Indian govt has in some way handled to decrease militancy in the location over the previous couple of years and tourism, mainly domestic, has actually slowly been on the rise also however there has actually constantly been some sort of tension in the air. In the summer of 2008, some minor issue caused the entire Kashmir valley to flare up and go on a strike for almost 2 1/2 months! No vehicular traffic was allowed or from the location, triggering complete chaos for all visitors, not to mention the fear of being stuck in an unpredictable area. So when Ashok first told us about the strike we nearly asked him to turn around immediately.
Nevertheless, we held our nerves and got him to ask around some more relating to the strike. We later on discovered that the strike was contacted us to object they see of Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, who was set up to check out Srinagar the same day (such was our luck!); there was a great possibility that the strike would get aborted as soon as he left the following day.
Some 110kms northeast of Jammu, on the way to Srinagar, is a hill town called Patnitop. In summer season most Jammu visitors escape to Patnitop for its cooler environment. Ashok's preliminary recommendation was that we hang out there for a few hours and then leave for Srinagar later on in the afternoon.
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This would guarantee that we get to town around 10pm or later on in the night when the guidelines of the strike would be somewhat unwinded. Obviously, during strikes cars caught plying in the city might be subjected to stone-pelting and even worse! We were appalled at his idea; there was no chance we would sneak into a strife-ridden town that too in the middle of the night! Instead we informed him that we would choose to remain the night in Patnitop or Pahalgam (another pretty location along the way) and go to Srinagar only when the strike is cancelled. Between the two, Ashok felt that Patnitop was far better so Patnitop it was!
Located a few kilometers off the highway, Patnitop is a really attractive little village that has been totally usurped by domestic tourism. We enjoyed the drive up to it and its wonderful landscape of Deodhar and Pine trees however were similarly saddened to see unsightly hotel structures and disorderly commercialization.
The place was ringing with Indian families, a number of whom were likewise driven here like us due to the Srinagar problem. But many were there to spend a couple of days away from the heat of the plains. Ashok initially took us to a local temple committed to Nag Devta (Snake God). It is said to be hundreds of years old. As we got out of the automobile, we were greeted by street-stall vendors who instantly started calling out to us, asking us to visit their stalls. Even though we politely declined, they pestered us continually till we got to the temple. This was our very first taste of Patnitop and it wasn't good!
The temple stands in a circular substance in the middle of Patnitop's lower market. It is a simple structure built traditionally of stone and wood with carvings of serpentine figures on the outside. Individuals connected red little bits of fabric to the stone screens outside the temple as a mark of their fulfilled or waiting-to-be satisfied wishes. Regrettably, no pictures were permitted. So we paid our respects, hung around for a couple of minutes and left!
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Ashok then drove us a number of kilometers uphill to where all the hotels are positioned. Here we hunted around for a decent place, found them all to be quite over-priced, old and badly preserved (some were stinky!), and then lastly settled on one called Hotel Jaishree. We dropped our bags in the room and then stepped out for lunch. Apart from the on-site restaurants offered by hotels and road-side Dhabas, there are no dining establishments or cafes in Patnitop. So we selected a little dhaba a few meters from our hotel and consumed there; it was an average meal!
Later at night Ashok offered to take us around to Patnitop's 'sights'. The first stop was a Children's Park. It was a sloping meadow by the side of the road and was entirely filled with households. It was a loud, chaotic scene and we weren't sure if we wanted to action in. But we ultimately strolled through it, weaving our method in between big groups and bugging vendors; we were in and out in less than 10 minutes! The next stop was also a park however this was better and bigger. It was fringed with Deodhar trees and the lawn was green and rich; extremely pretty! Children playinged around while some people played badminton or cricket; others chomped on snacks provided by Bhelpuri, Chaat and Butta suppliers. It was a scene quite like any in a park throughout the world. If it weren't for the sound level and the number of people around, we would have actually taken pleasure in the place.
Lastly, Ashok brought us back to our hotel and pointed to a sloping meadow across from it. He said that if we followed the horse trail that went up the slope, we would get to an apple orchard and a viewpoint from where we could get outstanding views of the mountains around. Happy to be on our feet once again, we triggered instantly. The meadow was right by JKTDC's homes, which we had not discovered before. They were spread over a green yard surrounded by trees, neglecting the meadow; the setting was perfect! We wanted we had seen these before and had at least examined them for accessibility.
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The walk up the sloping meadow and into the wooded location beyond was quite great. It was a short, uphill climb and along the way, we passed a personal home with a grassy lawn and fruit trees in the front. It was protected by high walls and a gate. Simply beyond it, a few feet uphill, a couple of horsemen stood with their customers, who were taking images and relatively taking pleasure in the view; this obviously was the 'viewpoint'.
When we got up there, we were disappointed to see that because of cloudy weather we could not see any of the snow-clad mountains in the range. And since of a thickly wooded forest, there wasn't much of a view of anything below either! However the area was quite and the walk up had actually been nice too, so we didn't baby crib. We asked the horsemen concerning the apple orchard, wondering if it was even more up the hill.
They pointed to the private home we had actually passed and stated that the apple orchard was within their residential or commercial property. While seated atop a horse, visitors can actually peek in and view it.
Later we spent a long time in the meadow, sitting on the benches that had been attentively offered. As the evening wore on, the crowds thinned and the place felt quite serene. We enjoyed the greenery around us and recognized that the landscape in this state was far prettier than that in Himachal. Here everything is even more green and lush, giving it an astounding feel.
The following day, Ashok took us to a location called Sanasar, which is about 20kms uphill from Patnitop. We weren't really excited about the journey as we made certain it would be crowded and disorderly also. However given that Srinagar is still closed and there was absolutely nothing else to do in Patnitop, we went along. And I'm so delighted we did! Simply the drive up to Sanasar is definitely stunning with green mountains and lush meadows all over we looked. Small streams streamed down from the mountain-side with homes of the nomadic tribe called Gujjar along them.
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Their mud houses had flat, turf roofing systems, which was rather weird and distinct. According to Ashok, they reside in the mountains tending to livestock during the summer season months and after that head down to the plains for the cold weather.
Sanasar is a large meadow, quite like the one in Khajjiar however much prettier! It is fringed with Deodhar trees and has a little mass of moss-filled water in the middle. A number of horsemen proded us for almost twenty minutes after which we quit and hopped on a few horses for a half an hour trip of the meadow.
They took us to a small temple, once again dedicated to Nag Devta and after that beyond it to a large, grassy patch, which was incredibly pretty! Here sheep and horses coming from Gujjars grazed about slackly; it was a lovely scene. Green mountains surround the meadow, which sits like the base of a bowl between them.
The horsemen took photos of us as well as let us hold and family pet a newborn foal that was following his mom, the mare that I was sitting atop.
Later on, after the horse flight we walked across the lower part of the meadow, noticing that the govt had fenced specific locations for flowering plants. Some of these remained in flower and were definitely beautiful! Here we likewise met my Shayna's look-alike: a lovely, friendly golden-retriever-like canine with practically the very same coat as Shayna.
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We discovered a shaded area under a tree near the border of the meadow and sat there for almost an hour delighting in the appeal prior to us. Thankfully, unlike Patnitop, Sanasar is not crowded and not awfully crowded by street stalls, so we had the ability to enjoy it quietly.
After a late lunch of Rajma Chawal at a dhaba beside the temple, we headed back to Patnitop and were back at around 4pm. In the night Madhu enquired at the hotel's reception desk and discovered that the Srinagar strike has now been aborted.
We had actually decided if things didn't enhance or worsened in Srinagar, we would ask Ashok to drop us back at Jammu. We would then alter our route from Srinagar- Kargil-Leh-Manali to Kullu-Manali-Leh-Kargil-Leh. This would not just cost us in regards to both money and time, however it would likewise indicate that we would need to drop Kashmir valley for great from our schedule.
This was a disappointing thought and Madhu and I had actually brooded about everything day. Now, thankfully, it looks like we will be able to see Srinagar after all. Ashok has actually cautioned us that the city is unstable and can have problem any day or time, however we've decided to a minimum of offer it a shot! After all, we might most likely never ever make it this far again in our lifetime.
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