The destination for today was very close but still we did not start very late. By 7.30 AM, we were on the awesome roads and with cool weather and mild fog around, it was a pleasure to ride. To add to it, the sight of Chenab flowing side by side.
The road, as soon as it leaves Ramban, becomes a mix of ‘good’ & ‘ok’ and at some places, becomes ‘bad’. As we moved on, the more & more beautiful vistas came up for us to enjoy :).
One thing I noticed was, there was quite a bit of Army presence for the next 20-30kms from just outside Ramban and even the traffic movement was being managed by them. Every 100mts., there would be a group of 3-4 armed jawans walking with a red flag and communicating via wireless. As we moved on, the road at quite a few places, demanded more attention while riding so in order to enjoy the surrounding beauty, we had to make random stops wherever we saw some space on the road.
The views were really beautiful and the small villages en route were adding to the beauty surrounding us, mainly the design and the bright color of the houses made them look like I have previously seen only in TVs and those of Switzerland and Nordic countries.
Green hills, cloud and then, somewhere at a distance, a tiny little house painted bright red…!! This is something I can’t describe in words.
We kept on moving on the lovely road, the National Highway 1A and the plan was to have breakfast at Banihal. Thoroughly enjoying the vistas en-route, reached Banihal in an hour or so and stopped for breakfast.
Bread-omlet, Maggi & Coffee.
Break-fast done and back on the saddle, the ride continued. The altitude being less here, as compared to Ramban, the roads were straighter now and also, I was very much feeling the rise of mercury!
After some more twists and turns came Quazigund. No stoppage here and then again, after riding some more, came the Titanic Viewpoint.
Had to stop here and see for myself, how does the ‘first view of Kashmir Valley‘ look! The temperature here was quite hot, well, comparatively. We made our way through a significant number tourists who were busy clicking & getting themselves everywhere.
The view from the viewpoint is actually quite nice and gives you a quite a wonderful view of the Kashmir Valley. All the greenery, smoke rising from one of the small houses in one of the villages below, green fields, high rise mountains at some distance, all this very much made a wonderful view!
After some 15-20 mins there, we started to move our way down and into the Kashmir valley. The sun was shining bright, it was not at all cold or even cool.
After some more time, I noticed in one of the sign boards that we were in Anantnag. Anantnag, the place whose name I used to hear in the TV. Terrorist activities and other such kind of things. I was riding through this place today! Again a strange sort of happiness ran through my nerves. With a smile on my face, I rode on.
With lush green fields on both the sides as well as a bright sun overhead, I was not sure if I wanted this ride to go on and on or just to reach Srinagar fast. But, despite the heat, the greenery all around made me stop and enjoy them.
When in school, I remember reading about cricket bats being made in Kashmir. I remembered this when I saw shops selling cricket bats all around Anantanag. Bat making really seemed to be a BIG business there. Atleast for 10-15 kms, there were bat making factories and shops selling cricket bats.
With the scorching sun above and the greenery around, the ride continued. Soon we were in Srinagar town. Significant military presence as the town started. I knew that there were good hotels in Boulvard road, by the Dal Lake but would cost a bomb. So, took suggestions from Narender bhaiya and he suggested to head to Lal Chowk where lots of good budget hotels are there.
When in Lal Chowk, I noticed 2 aromoured vehicles of J&K Police and the army were parked on the two sides of the Watch tower and were keeping a strict eye. Anyway, got a hotel for Rs.650/- for two. The hotel was all wooden and the 4 walls of the room were of thick glass on wood framing. A very different and nice experience :).
We freshened up and the headed out in the city. The first thing to be done was to get my saddle bag repaired. Being a Sunday, most of the shops were closed and the street market was going on full swing. Lots of different kind of stuff and at first glance, quality did not seem to be bad.
After a couple of rounds of the main road, I got a cobbler who was ready to do the job for 120 bucks. I readily agreed and he actually did a nice job. As I was waiting for the bag to be repaired, quite a few funny incidents happened with me.
As I was sitting there with two BIG cameras 😉 hanging from my neck, the street vendors thought I was some newspaper or TV guy and one after another, 5-6 shopkeepers called me and asked me to click them with their shops. Once the photos were taken, all of them asked me kab aayega TV me? Kaunse akhbaar me aayega? (when it will come on TV? In which paper the photos will come?).
Then, as I was walking on the foot-path, one guy (who already seemed to have done a lot of shopping) came to me and asked ‘how much for the big-camera?’ (pointing at my D3100). I politely told him, I was not selling cameras. I guess two cams around my neck confused him.
The other funny incident went something like this, waiting for the bag to be repaired, I was sitting in front of a closed shop. A lady walked towards me with her two kids licking on ice-creams and asked ‘ek photo khichne ka kitna?’ (how much for 1 photo?) :p.
All this was enough for me and I packed both the cams in the camera bag!!:mad:
The bag done, dropped it at the hotel and headed towards Dal. No proper lunch on this day, had whatever we got in an around places we visited. Dal was looking beautiful with not many tourists but the was hot. After some clicks here, we were kind of bored and just to pass time, moved ahead to see other ‘parks’. Went to the Mughal gardens and spent some time there (read slept :p)!!
Couple of things I noticed in Srinagar which were strange to me, almost all the youngsters with bikes were riding very very rash, in the heart of the city and none of them were riding with less than 3 guys on a single bike. The cars too were running WITHOUT the concern for others on the road. Made me think, if they actually DESERVE the Pakistani roads!!
The other strange thing here was, lots of private vehicles had NO numbers on them instead, were having all sorts of filmi names on them!! 😮
Nothing much to do in the day, went to the Dal again, when it was getting dark. Some more photos and them off to hunt pet puja.
For dinner, had really nice Kashmiri ‘Rishta’,’Goshtaba’ and some other local cuisines (don’t remember the names :() and then ended the day!!
Pics to follow:
Breakfast at Banihal
Subhadeep busy with it 🙂
Inside Jawahar Tunnel
Right after Jawahar Tunnel
Some from the Titanic View – point
The bright Sunny day and the Highway!
Logs of Willow trees to be cut for seasoning
One of the many Bat shops – Anantanag
Wood being seasoned for making Cricket bats
Srinagar – Not too far 🙂
As we moved ahead towards Srinagar
The Saddle-bag being repaired
One of the vendors who asked me, ‘photo kis akhbaar me aayegi‘ 🙂
Dal at noon
The road by Dal
A Kashmiri kid
Some from the Mughal Gardens (Shot by Subhadeep)
This is what I actually went there for :p
Facebook’s new venture, eh!!:p
Never before have seen this avatar of a rainbow
This fort was just on the other side of Dal.
Some views from the Pari Mahal
Dal looks much more gorgeous at and after dusk!
And a ‘bokeh’ 🙂