Trekking In The Heavenly Abode Of Lord “Shiva”
“Amarnath Holy Cave”
It was way back in the year 1997, when I first heard about “Amarnath Yatra” from my maternal uncle, who already visited the shrine long ago then. I was enthralled by his story composing of “snow”, “shivering cold”, “beautiful mountains”, “beautiful sceneries” and many more. Not even in my teens then, I decided that one day I will also scale the heights of that heavenly abode.
After that, so many years passed. In 2013, I realize, I have to visit the holy Amarnath cave and for this reason I went to my maternal uncle. This time for collecting technical details and requirement for the said trek. But my uncle smiled at me and said with this physique, I can’t complete that route, which I thought was right as I was 90 Kgs then. But uncle’s words pinched me lot and now I take this as a challenge to complete this trek.
So one fine morning of December-2013, myself with my two colleagues decided to visit Amarnath holy cave. I was most enthusiastic as it was my first trek in the Himalayas at that time. But a hasty decision of trekking in the Himalayas without preparation can be dangerous, So I started to work on my fitness from the next morning and loose almost 10 Kgs till July-2014 and also sufficiently gaining stamina and endurance, which makes myself ready for the trek. I also bought a pair of new trekking shoes for me from online store.
Now the actual process of reaching Amarnath cave begins. We got ourselves registered for the yatra online, as it is an annual event for specific period and that too in a rugged Himalayan terrain. For one to take this pilgrimage, he had not only to register himself for the yatra, but he had to obtain a medically fit certificate from designated hospitals/doctors of “Shri Amarnath ji Shrine Board” and then have to obtain a permit from Designated J&K Bank or Punjab National Bank. We done all these official works by our own costing around Rs. 300/- per person.
Day-1 “Starting from Nagpur”
We three ready for the trip, boarded an overnight train at Nagpur (Maharashtra) on 5th July 2014 and reached New Delhi on 6th by 01:30 PM. From there we go to our rest rooms at New Delhi railway station, where we freshen up, had our lunch and take rest for the rest of the time. We boarded our next train at night, which will take us to Jammu by next morning.
Day-2 “Reaching Jammu and drive to Pahalgam”
We reach Jammu on 7th July 2014 at 06:00 AM. After having bath and freshen up we make ourselves ready for the long drive to Pahalgam from Jammu, which is more than 250 Kms and all of which is on National Highway 1A. The beauty en-route is impeccable. Cannot be described unless visiting the region personally. The lush green mountain valleys, wild mountain flowers like a colourful carpet on mountain side and glittering snow capped peaks of the Mighty “Pir Panjal” mountain ranges. At that time, that was my second visit to the beautiful state. I previously visited J&K in 2013 with my family and then too we had taken the same route, but the beauty of these scenes are worth many visits and I had only two at that time. After crossing the Jawahar Tunnel (longest road tunnel in India) we reached Pahalgam by 07:00 PM on that day. By then it was almost dark there and the weather there is chilling. We quickly de-boarded our vehicle and get into our room and under those quilts as the temperature there is two low. After some time, when we get used to the temperature, we pull out our warm clothes from the backpack and put them on to take a walk in the Pahalgam town. It was a beautiful experience. After a long drive and roaming around walk, we feel very hungry, so we get back to our hotel, had our dinner and by putting our mobile phones in charging, went under the quilts to have a sound sleep, so that we can wake up early and start our journey towards Chandanwari from where we will start our trek towards the “Holy Cave”
Day-3 “Pahalgam to Chandanwari and to Sheshnag” 8th July 2014
Next day, we wake up very early in the morning and after freshen up, we take our vehicle at 04:30 AM, which will drop us at Chandanwari. Here I just wants to mention one thing that early wake up and departure for Chandanwari is highly recommended as because as the day progresses, piling up of vehicles for the yatra creates traffic jam, which could delay the planned trekking programme. Even though we wake up early, there is a little bit of jam at the check post. We reach Chandanwari at about 05:30 AM
After standing in a queue for nearly 1 hour, we finally arrived at the check post, where we showed our yatra permit and after doing with the security check, we can actually began our trek only at 07:00 AM on 8th July 2014.
(Day 1 of the trek):- Day one of the trek was supposed to take us from Chandanwari to Sheshnag, the first camping site of our planned trek. By the blessing of lord Shiva, the weather that day was very nice. Bright sunshine greets us right from the starting check post, which was a wonderful thing as good weather during trekking in the Himalayas is a mighty boon and also the scenic beauty can be enjoyed to its full.
For reaching Sheshnag from Chandanwari which is at 9500 Ft from MSL, we had to trek for about 12 Kms. But the twist in the story is that, the first 3 Kms from Chandanwari to Pissu Top is a very steep ascend. There is a rocky path which is very narrow and steep, to make the matter more worse, melting snow during that time of the year creates lots of mud and sludge in the track. One needs to be very careful in this section as pony’s and horses are also plying on the same track, many time we got hit by those also. But even though there are lots of difficulties during this initial 3 Kms, we finally reached the “Pissu Top”. We were exhausted, but after reaching there and witnessing the breathtaking view of snow clad mountain we feel rejuvenated again.
After taking 15 minutes rest there, we started again. The trail from Pissu Top is not tough, a gradual ascend to Zojibal and a very gradual descend to reach Nag Koti. The beauty of these places cannot be described on paper, just look these snaps.
After resting for about 10 Mins, we started our trek again. The trail upto “Sheshnag” is slightly difficult, but not a very tough one. Someone with good fitness can easily make it. There is no further stopping point after one crosses Nag Koti and also there is no permission for camping in between till Sheshnag. So we have to reach Sheshnag at the earliest so that we can have a sound sleep and prepare ourselves for next day’s tough trail.
At about 1:00 PM on that day, we had our first glimpse on the sheshnag group of mountains and the Sheshnag lake in between them. By experiencing that view, we almost walking briskly on the mountain trail to reach there. We reached Sheshnag campsite at height of 11700 Ft at about 01:30 PM. And after quickly having our lunch in the free langars (which are ample in numbers along the entire trek route, with menus comprising of 4 to 5 course of all meals (Breakfast, lunch and dinner)) we quickly get inside our tents and lay down ourselves on the cots. Tents with cots can easily be booked by paying Rs.200/- per head per night at the camping site only.
Day-4 (Day 2 of the trek) “Sheshnag to Holy Cave via Panchatarani” 9th July 2014
After experiencing my longest sleep (i.e from 2:30 PM on 08.07.2014 to 04:00 AM of 09.07.2014) I was very much ready to trek further towards the Holy Cave. But Alas ! misfortune strikes ! One of our members has suffered a health issue and was not able to trek on his own. So we decided to go by pony till Panchatarani.
The trail from Sheshnag to Panchatarani is supposed to be a challenging one, as there is no water point and the entire trail was full of snow. So it is advisable o carry sufficient water in backpack.
Sitting on the back of pony, we first ascend steeply from 11700 Ft to 14500 Ft to reach Mahagunas top, en-route we crosses Warbal and the most beautiful Mahagunas Pass.
After crossing Mahagunas top, while reaching Pabibal, my Pony’s one of the leg got struck in snow and the animal bends forward and the momentum of the ride puts me off the pony and I came down heavily, luckily for me I fall on a soft snow, so I didn’t get hurt. I quickly get up and continues our ride till Panchatarani (12700 Ft). at about 11:30 AM. But it is worth to mention that the trail from Sheshnag to Panchatarani is quite a tough one and riding a pony is a good choice as the full snowy trail and chilling wind of Mahagunas pass could make life difficult during the trek.
Leaving all those misfortunes, hardships, tiredness behind, we engulfed ourselves in those enchanting views of meadows and mountains. While sipping our cup of coffees, which are very costly, which is obvious in this terrain, we take a look around Panchatarani and we all got amazed by the beauty of that place. Panchatarani is right at the bottom of “Bhairav Mount”. The view of that place is gorgeous, heavenly or whatever we can say is little for that place. So some pictures are clicked to capture memories of that.
The distance of Holy Cave from Panchatarani is 6 Kms. At about 11:30 AM, we started from Panchatarani, this time on our own. We first crosses a stream, which is very shallow, but a good quality water proof trekking shoes are highly advisable, because the chilling water can cause serious effects on feet. After that we climbed steeply for few hundred meters and after crossing a rugged mountain terrain for almost an hour , we had our first glimpse of the “Holy Cave” “Amarnath Ji”. I cannot resist myself to take a snapshot.
The glimpse of the Holy Cave and the Chants of “Har Har Mahadev” energizes us to reach that place even more quickly. But again the terrain from here is all the way covered in snow till the “Holy Cave”. We continued our journey very slowly and carefully over the snow and through the market to a point just about 500 Mtr from the Holy Cave, where on should left all his belongings such as backpack, water bottles, shoes, sticks etc in a designated shelter and obtain a token from there free of cost, which can be deposited at the time of taking back the belongings after darshan of the Ice Lingam inside the Holy Cave.
We were now few feet away of witnessing something special in our life, we came to the stairs that leads to the Holy Cave. At about 04:30 PM, we had our eyes stagnant of the Ice Lingam for few seconds till a security me asked us to move forward. But those few seconds are priceless as anything, “Memories of Lifetime”. All our pain, exhaustion, tiredness vanishes within split seconds after the Darshan.
At first, we had planned to stay in a camp near the Holy Cave, but as soon as we had our darshan, it starts raining, So we decided to trek back to Baltal as rain can be dangerous in Himalayas. So even though the rain does not continues further, after a few minutes of photo shoot we started back. Baltal is on the other side of the Holy Cave, most pilgrims take this route to return. But this track does not go to Pahalgam, instead it goes to Sonmarg from where our cab was booked to drop us at Shrinagar.
The trail from Holy cave to Baltal is very narrow and full of loose boulders, while slight fault in walking can cause serious injuries to legs (as going down is more challenging than coming up as gripping in boulders is very difficult). Any how the boulder trail ends at “Domail” (09 Kms away from Holy Cave). After that the trail is broad, gradually descending and easy.
At about 10:30 PM we reach our final campsite at Baltal and then I make a call to my beloved wife, and we both are on tears by the fact that I have done it. We cannot hold our tears back.
And now hunger strikes all of us. But nothing to worry, Free Langars with many course of meals are ready to serve you. Today we went to our respective beds at about 11:30 PM.
Day-5 “Back to Shrinagar through Sonmarg Valley” 10th July 2014
We wake up that day at about 07:00 AM, after freshen up with icy water and after energizing ourselves with sound breakfast and coffee, we boarded our vehicle at about 08:30 AM. By then I started feeling pain in my shoulder, which was due to that fall at Pabibal, which was getting worse as the day progresses. We finally reach Shrinagar at about 12:00 Noon. I quickly rushed to my hotel room and lay myself down. The manager of that hotel is very helpful. He quickly gave me a gel and arrange me a warm pack which provides me some relief till evening.
After the evening snacks, we just roam in Shrinagar city and had our dinner quickly and got to our respective beds very early in the night approximately at 09:30 PM
Day-6 “Coming Back to Nagpur Via Amritsar” 11th July 2014
After doing little bit of sight scenes in Shrinagar, we head back to Jammu, leaving those mighty mountains, snow capped peaks and lush green valleys behind and taking back life long memories of what we achieved and witnessed during the course of past 4-5 days.
We reached Jammu at about 05:00 PM and boarded our train at about 08:30 PM for Amritsar.
Day-7 “In Amritsar ” 12th July 2014
We reached Amritsar at about 2:30 AM and witnessed exact opposite weather. From the past few days, we are in severely cold weather with lots of snow around us, but now we are here witnessing very hot and humid conditions. After engaging ourselves for sight scenes lasting entire day and covering places like Golden Temple, Jalianwala Bagh, Durgiana Temple and Wagha Border we take rest at night with an early dinner and tried to refresh our memories from the trip.
Day-8 “Heading Back To Nagpur” 3th July 2014
After Amritsar, we head back to our living place/work place “Nagpur” by boarding an early train at Amritsar, we reached New Delhi by 03:00 PM. Later we catch our train at about 06:00 PM to get back to Nagpur which marked the end of one of the most beautiful trek & tour of my life.
It was a cherishable memory for a lifetime. Also who can forget “Azam” the pony wala and our guide till Panchatarani and the hotel manager, who helped me to get rid of my shoulder pain which indeed helps us to reach home safely and soundly.