Category Archives: Travel

Breathtaking Baisaran & Lake Tulian (Tulyan) in Pahalgam

Baisaran and Tulian Lake
5 kms from Pahalgam is a lush meadow surrounded by hills and covered with dense vegetation. This region looks very similar to European resorts and is a good campsite.
There even have been Bollywood movies shot in Basisaran, the Kumar Gaurav starrer ‘Love Story’ 1891 ) comes to mind whose song ‘Phulon Ke Shehar me hai ghar apna’ was shot in Baisaran.
Pine forests dot this meadow which presents a picturesque view of the snow-clad mountains.
11 kms up a trek from Baisaran is Tulian or Tulyan lake – the make is mostly snow covered – other than summers – and is at an altitude of 3353m.
In recent years, there is now even a forest road to Baisaran and in summer months you could try and drive up there.

Forest Road to Baisaran
Forest Road to Baisaran
Beware that there are portions on the forest road where you may encounter a stream or two, with small boulders, and even some steep curves – so take your car on your own peril. The forest road ‘officially’ may be out of bounds for tourists – but don’t sweat over it, and just give it a try. Once you get there, you will even see some place for parking.
The drive to Baisaran can be rocky
The drive to Baisaran can be rocky

View of Pahalgam from the forest road to Baisaran
View of Pahalgam from the forest road to Baisaran

But when you are in Pahalgam, why would you even take your car up there? Usually people would make a day trip to Baisaran on pony, or just trek up there. Its one of the easiest and family friendly treks. Once in Baisaran, you can expect to find a stall or two selling snacks and soft drinks. There may even be an Indian army camp near by.
Trek up to Tulian could be another matter. Its challenging – some of the heights are tough, and there is no trek really laid out. Tulian could be covered in one day if you leave Pahalgam at dawn, and trek briskly, or just go on a pony. Or you could plan an overnight trek. Unless you have a very good sense of direction on hills and passes, its advisable to take experienced guide or go with local poly wallahs.
This video (courtesy Ajay Verma) shows a breakthtaking visual story of the trek to Tulian Lake. When you trek in Pahalgam area, don’t be surprised to meet a Gujjar or Bakarwal family in the middle of nowhere. And even more, you will be welcome as their guests over a cup of tea (as seen in the video), or can ask them about the area.

Travelogue – Starting for Amarnath Yatra from Pahalgam

Amarnath Yatra
Date: June 21, 2006 -> Tata Sumo is the vehicle of choice for going from Pahalgam to Chandanwari. The cost is Rs600 for the entire vehicle one way, or one could take a seat on a per seat basis (negotiable). For Amarnath Yatra, the vehicles line up at the security checkpoint at Laripora village (2km from Pahalgam towards Chandanwari) where they are allowed to go ahead at a certain time early in the morning (between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM). (Check for the latest arrangements on this account)

Local commuter mini-bus service is also available, but is generally used only by the locals.
The vehicles are reserved in advance from Pahalgam Taxi Stand. There are more than a hundred of such Sumo Taxis available, and most are generally busy during the yatra period, so booking in advance is highly recommended. The taxis make five to six trips to Chandanwari everyday during the Yatra period.

The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari has been notoriously bad for all these years – in fact there hardly has been any road. But in March 2006 the entire stretch has been laid well with good quality macadamized road, though its still one lane. But most of the drivers are very well versed with each and every curve and turn on the 12 odd km stretch. The steep curves and the high speeds can make the ride very exciting, but spend your time looking outside at the meandering river Lidder flowing below with gushing waters and steep drops. And don’t miss the view of the mouth of the lidder valley as you leave it behind when you take the height; and the many water falls you see on the way.
road-to-chandanwari Only in five miles you will see on your right a widening of the valley as the Lidder calms down over a flat land. Localites fondly remember the location for the “shooting” of the famous hindi movie Betaab. This was the place where the farmhouse that was the centerpiece of the movie, was set up. As you drive up, you will see directions to Shiv Temple Cave, at Shivmarg. This is not a well known temple, apparently having come there in past few years. Try to stop by and take a look if you can; but the taxi Sumos would not.
The taxi stand is one and a half km short of Chandanwari snow bridge. Expect to be encountered by a horde of “ghorewalas”. Now if you have not already arranged for a pony (or a horse, however you would like to call the animal), this is your “moment of truth”! Getting the right pony and the right pony-wallah is crucial to a good, well organized and safe yatra experience.
There are three basic categories of ponies and pony-wallahs.
The first category are the ponies and ponywallahs that belong to Pahalgam and surrounding areas. These are experienced ponies and experienced guides who have traversed the yatra route multiple times – even the ponies understand the route.

The second broad category is the gujjars who jump into the fray to make some money during yatra days. Their ponies are actually “ponies” – smaller built and also not too familiar with the route peculiarities. They may come at a slightly lower rate, but the gujjars lack professionalism – and that, like in any other service profession, has its own value. Professionalism means that the guy keeps an eye on the rider all the time, it means when to hold the horse or the rider during a steep climb down, it means to be not only timely with lunch breaks, but to be able to guide and suggest as to how much time is good for a break, etc.

The third type is the ponies and their owners who come all the way from Katra (in Jammu) specifically for Amarnath Yatra. Of course, their knowledge of local terrain, language and experience is limited.

By one account there are just 1,200 ponies which actually belong to the Pahalgam area, out of a total of about 10,000 that may be active on the route on a yatra day.

The ponies themselves are a stretched lot: not very long ago, the ponies were awarded a day of rest after every two or three days of labor, which means a day off for rest after every trip to Amarnath. But not any more. They work continuously for ten days and even more before they are rewarded with a day of rest.

Travelogue – road travel from Punjab to Pahalgam

Travelogue – travel to Kashmir (Copyright

Check out the drive in Pictures All thumbnails | Flash Slideshow
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.