I recently went on a 10-day tour to the most beautiful state in India, Jammu and Kashmir. Well, the place is very pretty and a treat for your eyes, but I am sure even before reading the article one would think, is it a safe place?
The state is safe. I wouldn’t deny the fact that there are problems in the state, especially in Kashmir, and it’s because of the political scenario there. Tourism has dropped by almost half. Everyone should visit Jammu and Kashmir at least once and experience the heaven on earth.
Vaishno Devi shrine
I started my trip from Jammu which has a very relaxing vibe. The people here are very sweet and extremely street smart. They know how to mould their customers very well. Our main reason behind visiting Jammu was to take on the 14-km adventurous trek to Vaishno Devi.
The trek starts from Katra. Vaishno Devi or Katra Vaishno Devi is located in the foothills of the Trikuta mountain range. Its a holy shrine located right on the top of the mountain. The pilgrimage is a 14-km trek that can be done on foot, on ponies or by helicopter services to a certain point.
Katra is a pure vegetarian city and food is served without any garlic and onion. Before you enter Katra city, you have to go through police checks. Carrying alcohol or any sort of meat is strictly prohibited. The ideal time to start your trek to Vaishno Devi shrine is in the night. The weather is just perfect, you tend to take fewer breaks and by sunrise, you reach the shrine.
Ideally, the trek takes around four hours, but you can take your time. Its a tough walk because its steep and there are no different lanes for ponies and palkhis, so you need to be very careful while you walk.
Palkhis and pitthus took me by surprise and at the same time, it showed how hard the people of Jammu work. Pitthus are individual men, who carry luggage or children on their backs, all the way up.
So first of all, using animals for tourism is a bad idea. Both Jammu, and Kashmir use animals as their source of income. You cannot really blame them because there are roads where you cannot drive, but only a horse or a donkey can take you there or you have to walk. I am totally against animal cruelty, but what’s the alternative? If the government is aware of these issues, they should take a step and try to introduce more choices, like air trollies.
Helicopter isn’t an affordable choice for everyone. There are people who can’t afford palkhis or ponies too. So our government really needs to look into this issue.
Walking all the way up to the shrine was a lifetime experience. The moment you feel you can’t walk anymore, the thousands of people who are walking along with you motivates you to keep going. My experience of Jammu was divine. Now, I was all set for the next stop, Kashmir.
We took a private vehicle which drove us from Katra to Srinagar and it takes around six hours to reach there. The places you must visit is Pahalgam, Sonmarg, Gulmarg, Baiseran and Doodhpathri. The local language spoken there is Koshur and the people of Kashmir are extremely warm and sweet. They are amazing hosts too. Kashmir is way more beautiful than one can ever think. Waking up every morning to snow capped mountains is a spectacular feeling. You feel thankful to be able to witness the beauty of this place.
“I used to work for Jammu and Kasmir police, but the situation in the state has been so bad that I had to give up the job. My parents used to be constantly worried every time I stepped out of the house,” said Muzzamil, who drove us around Pahalgam.
Replying to why are Kashmiris don’t want peace, he said, “We do not want war, we don’t want our future generations to live in terror, we just want peace, but unfortunately, not everyone wants it.”
On my trip, what I noticed was that the locals face a lot of issues. Transportation and electricity are major problems. While driving towards Pahalgam post-sunset, I saw beautiful houses but all of them were dark. So when I reached my hotel, they said electricity is a problem here. Prepaid sim cards don’t work in Jammu & Kashmir. So if you are planning a trip, make sure you carry a postpaid sim card.
The locals of Kashmir who reside in the outskirts or more precisely in the mountains, walk almost 20-25 kilometres every day to the city just to sell a few products. Kashmiris work way more hard than any of us. Amidst so much disorder in the state, they still step out of their homes to earn bread and butter for themselves.
A traveller should always visit a new place with a clear heart and open mind, Jammu and Kashmir made me fall in love with it and I already have plans to go back to the serenity. How about you?