Travelogue – travel to Kashmir (Copyright Pahalgam.com)
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Date: June 10, 2006 -> We started in a car from Jalandhar – which is about 5 hours of road or rail travel away from New Delhi and is one of the promiment, prosperous and big cities of the state of Punjab. Delhi to Jalandhar is a smooth journey – as is Jalandhar to Pathankot – which is a two lane highway. Left Jalandhar at 810 am. Drive mostly though Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. Cross Himachal pradesh twice between Mukerian and Pathankot. Gas prices are very high in Punjab, so just makes sense in buying gas anywhere, but not in Punjab. Cross river Beas at this point. It was dismaying to find that the entire big river was all but dried up. four laning of Jalandhar Pathankot highway is about to begin – we did see some boards laid out to that efect, but no work has started yet. A few kms again in Kangra. Got petrol fillled up which was Rs2 cheaper than Punjab. Cross Jai Ma Durge temple with a tall Shiv idol outside. 114 KM before jammu just outside pathankot 4km. Army training range outside. There is an airstrip in Pathankot ? the airport is about 4 km from city as per the directions. Most likely this airport is not for civilian use. Jammu is 105 from the other end of Pathankot. Time is 1020 am. And Srinagar exactly 400 km. In the early years, trains used to terminate at Pathankot, so this city had its own prominence. As of now, its just one major and last Punjab town that you pass through. There is no bypass to Pathankot, and directions within the city confusing at best. Sujanpur just outside has many petrol pumps. And some vaishno dhabas. So a place where one could stop by for a cup of tea.
Madhopur is the border on the Punjab side – Lakhanpur on J&K side. The excise toll post at lakhanpur is a pain. Can easily take anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes with just one lane open for cars (though there are 5 lanes). Just beyond is the famous market for ‘laddoo’ chaat – balls of dal or lentil flour. Stopped and savoured them. Left at 1130. The toll charge was Rs125 – which also included toll for Quazigund – for later on arrival in Kashmir valley. Entered kathua. 83 km short of jammu. Crossed other dry river bed, with a temple constructed on the side. The road just before kathua is low. And in rainy months one can expect to drive through channels of water on the crests on the road. One shiv temple under construction. And qanother temple 36 km febore kathua; this whole stretch has scores of temples of worship in all. Area is dryland with stone queries and brick kilns. Including gurudwaras and sai baba mandir 17 km from kathua (163 km from Jalandhar). Bein bridge under construction 13 km before Samba. Area has many excavations.
At 1235 crossed over to Dhar road which can save at least one hour by bypassing Jammu and connecting directly to Udhampur. The route is shorter by 30-35 KM, and one can avoid a lot of Jammu bound NH1A traffic. But there is a price to pay in terms of broken stretches of road. There are good chances that you would not be allowed on this road if you are amarnath yatra bound yatris. So don’t really have to say that if stopped and asked. Expect minimal roadside vehicle repair points. Would avoid most of heavy large vehicular traffic. 10 km before mansar lake is a small landslide spot. Very muddy hills, not good in rainy or windy days. 3 km from mansar. Road gets better after mansar. Could see Rail bridges 14 km before Udhampur. As we gained some height, Pine trees start and weather tends to get a milder durin summers. Some 228 km before Srinagar, the Dhar road joins NH1A. Time 2:05 pm. crossed chenani at 240, while gaining height quickly.
Kud is famous for its pure ghee ‘patisa’. Its totally a given that you need to stop and puy a few kilograms of ‘patisa’! You wouldn’t find this kind of taste anywhere. Reached Patni Top which is a hill station in itself. Crossed the Nashree viewpoint (area famous for mudslides and falling rocks) on way to Batote (pic697) . Like Patisa, another must do is to stop by at Peeda to enjoy the rajma-chawal (red beans and rice) which are made in pure ‘ghee’ and offered with ‘anardana chatnee’. We had that left for our final long leg at 5:00 PM. Next we saw breathtaking view of the huge hydro electric project called Baglihar project thats being constructed on River Chenab. Loosing height we come to low lying Ramsu at 6:05. Next highway town Ramban is low too. There is climp up and then down between two. At 640 we reached Banihal which is just a few kms to Banihal or Jawahar Tunnel which, for a long time, used to be the longest road tunnel in Asia (2525 metres). The tunnel is well guarded as its almost the only all-weather artery into the Kashmir valley. After the tunnel, there is a viewpoint to treat yourself to the view of the Kashmir valley. Quazigund is downhill 17 kms and then you bifurcate either to Srinagar or Pahalgam via Khanabal. In terms of Petrol/Gas average we did 297 kms for 1600 rupees or for 32.5 litres driving a Honda City.