The abscence of anything interesting to do except study has resulted in this long overdue post about my trip to the northernmost state of India, Jammu and Kashmir. You may choose to just go over the photos which are brought to you thanks to Akash or if you are as bored as me you might as well go through the entire post.

One of the most impromptu trips that I have ever undertaken. A few days to go for the mid-semester holidays to end, the last big break we are going to have in college.

Wiseass 0:"What to do? Where do we go? Are we just going to sit and mop around in Roorkee? C'mon guys get off your asses and get going."
Wiseass 1:"Okay where do we go?"
All the wiseasses:"Hmmmmmm........................"
Wiseass 1:"How about J&K?"
Wiseass 0:"What are you crazy, there are like a million odd terrorists roaming around freely, bombs exploding everyday- I am jobless but not jobless enough to die. And besides I think you need permission and stuff to get there."

Things are stuck in a soup again.

Wiseass 1 comes up with a deep thought:" Guys, we are all going to die one day. Putting up at home is not gonna get you anywhere. And if you are going to die of a bomb you might as well die in Roorkee itself. Bombs don't look where they are bursting."
To remove any further scepticism among the travellers, Wiseass 2 says:" We will at least got to the Vaishno Devi temple. Seeking God's blessings is a good thing and no harm will enter our path."

Convinced about the strength of the Devi's power, the three of us wiseases set out to Jammu. Since we had not planned we didn't have train tickets & had to undertake a rattling 16 hour bus journey to Jammu and then to Katra from where the march towards the actual temple starts. Katra is a tourist haven. There are all kinds of fast-food outlets, ice-cream parlors, restaurants and hotels (there is a Baskin Robbins & 2 CafeCoffeeDay's, both of which have a 30% higher turnover than any of their other outlets). It can not even remotely be called a pilgrim place. Anyways since we were on a shoe-string budget, we could not afford to stay for two nights in this place and so we decided to spend one of the nights trekking up. The housing we heard is free on top of the mountain and we decided to be the freeloaders. So after a good dinner, we set off for the top at about 11.

The Katra Bus stand

The temple that signifies the start of the Yatra

The well lit pathway to the top

The Kachhars & their owners

And the climb was tough. You can choose between the winding path upwards or the steps. I sincerely advice anyone and everyone to please take the winding path though the steps may well lure you. You could take the steps as you come down. You could also take the "Kachhar" or the mule which will carry your fat ass upto the temple for a reasonable enough amount. If you have uncles and aunties travelling with you, this is the best option. But sadly I could not avail of this opportunity because of the earlier mentioned Shoe-string budget and some fierce resistance by my co-travellers. Anyways after the 25 odd kilometres of up and down, I was dead. Really. The free housing that we had thought was available at the top of the mountain had to be booked in advance and was house full by the time we got there around 4 in the morning. We had to sleep on the floor with a meagre 5 blankets for the three of us with people in every direction that you could see. It was like a hall full of dead bodies wrapped and left for. By the time we got a place and started dozing off, people started getting up and forming lines to give back their blankets. We managed about 2 hrs of sleep that day.

People miling around us(thats me on the top right hand corner)
As we try to sleep

The journey down was much better and easier(stuck to the steps now) barring a few encounters with angry monkeys who wanted my energy drink and biscuits. Sad dude though, didn't get anything from me.

We reached back in Katra around 6, checked into a hotel, showered and dozed off. But OH! we had a couple of days more till college started again and we didn't want to go back so soon. What do we do? Where do we go?

How about Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley? Isn't it like really far away and dangerous. So what? we have the Devi's blessings, nuthin is gonna happen to us. So there we were the next morning, headed to Srinagar and a house boat. On the way the Jawahar Tunnel which actually connects the valley to the rest of India. Once into the valley, we could see the sheer beauty of the place. I don't have words to do justice to this "Paradise on Earth" and will let the pictures do the talking.
Right after we crossed the Jawahar Tunnel into the valley

Seems like a scene out of Mission Kashmir - The Dal Lake

Cute Kid rowing away on the Dal Lake

Old Uncle selling local trinkets on the Dal Lake
The Whomping Willow - Chinar Trees in the Valley

Sadly we had landed up in Srinagar at the wrong time and it was damn cold. Also during these months there is no surety of the Jawahar tunnel remaining open all the time and that is a huge problem. Cos if you are stuck, then you have had it!!! In order to avoid this, we had to leave Srinagar the very next day after a Shikhara ride and some local sightseeing. But a promise was made. " We would be back!!!" Guess this is how unplanned trips turn out. Anyways we had had our share of the fun in the valley and the boat house, something that I'll rather not disclose here.

Well that about sums up how we conquered the valley and returned with a desire to be back soon and explore it further.

Things we missed out on : Leh-Ladakh, Gulmarg & skiing, Amarnath and another pilgrimage and travelling on the wonderful Srinagar-Leh road through Kargil.