Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Heaven Ride : Vasota fort

Hi guys .. I ,Shridhar Purandare, am back with new trek menu . After AMK and due to summer season we decided to find a place to chill. Finally we got it : The great Vasota.

I received mail from Shrikant(a.k.a seedless) about plan to visit tapola. I googled and got few links where ppl just did not like it.I also found Vasota in that information. Then next was googling Vasota. Again bad news. One trekker died at Vasota while swimming in the backwaters.But the photos I found were amazing.

So we all decided to give it a try. 5 members were fixed Shrikant (seedless), Chetan (cd,ramat gamat) Sheyas and Digvijay (digicam) and Shridhar(lambada thats me).Things you will need to know about.

1. Route to Bamnoli: Pune -Satara - Bamnoli (170kms)
    Route to Vasota: Bamnoli --- Boat Ride --- Met Indavali --- 6 km trek --- Separation point for Vasota and Nageshwar root ---- one way go to vasota(1km) other goes to Nageshwar(4-5kms).
2. Get permission in Bamnoli to go to Vasota costs around 20-30 rs per person.
3. Boat hiring charges Rs 1600 (return journey) Rs 200 as late charge
4. Car parking Rs 25.
5. You can not stay on Vasota fort or Nageshwar cave.Stay only possible at Bamnoli village.
6. Forest officers are strict about it.
7. Reach Bamnoli by 8am then only you can do all trek in one day.

We left Pune by 7am as pickup was arranged by CD. CD's Wagon R made our journey very pleasent and comfortable. After tea and snacks at Satara we reached Bamnoli by 10.30pm. We hurried for launch booking and forest department's permissions. It took us exact 45 minutes to complete all formalities.We told boat owner to come at 4pm to take us back on day two.

This fort is very unaccesible in Mansoon. Whole way to Vasota fort and Nageshwar is through dense forest of Javali khore so sunlight does not reach to ground on most of way. Vasota is surrounded by Koyana backwater and deep valleys so it has remained very clean and peaceful.
As it is reserve most of the jungle has presence of different animals like bear and tigers. Thats why night stay is not permissible anywhere but tents of forest department.

We left Bamnoli by 11.20 am. 1 and half hours boat ride through Koyana backwater took us to base of Vasota fort. The boat ride reminded me Dal lake shikara ride. As water is very close heat does not affect till base. Whole ride is just pleasure. Water is so clean that you can almost drink it directly without any worry.
You can perform some stunts like sitting on edge of boat or try to stand on water. Just chill pill in the boat.

At 1 pm we reached base. We gave our permission receipt to in charge at base camp. He alloted us one tent. We kept our luggage in tents and in no time we were off to Vasota. We just took 12-15 lits of water and plenty of eatables.

Whole road is like cave made of forest. You will sweat a lot on this way so do take plenty of water. Do not take any shortcuts as if you get lost there will be hard time to locate you. Until you can reach Nageshwar there is no range for any network. You can only see through for 15-20 feet in this jungle. The jungle feel can be truly enjoyed here. Try not to make noise and you may spot some animal.

There were two ways to reach Vasota. But now path through Chorvane is closed. You can only go through Bamnoli. Temple of god Hanuman is 10 minutes away from base. After praying for safe journey we went ahead.
To reach the junction of Vasota and Nageshwar it took us 1 and half hour. From here there are two ways
1. To Vasota (need 30 minutes to reach top)
2. To Nageshwar ( need 2hours to reach cave)
After 10 minutes fierce debate we decided to do Vasota first. So we climbed up to top in next half an hour. All of were so hungry that first we completed our lunch as soon as we reached top.

There are two places to see :

1. Chota Nageshwar point : You can see Nageshwar cave and surroundings view. Whole path to Nageshwar which is not covered by forest and which is most thrilling can be observed.
We spend some time to chill in cool breeze and sneaking Sahyadri.
You can also see the point where boats drop trekkers. We got to know that from end of backwater it takes 8-10 hours to reach Koyana dam.
2. Babu kada : This is very similar to konkan kada. Very steep fall of 1000 and more feet. Very beautiful. Behind that there is Old Vasota. Which is now unreachable and closed for trekkers.
As we started sightseeing clouds were gathering over Vasota. We never thought it will never rain in April's first week. But as clouds started roaring at us we tried to finish sightseeing.

On the way to babu kada there were two tanks full of drinking water. Few fellows coming from Nageshwar were so frustrated that they were not able to find water on Nageshwar and Vasota.
We covered valuables in plastics as weather started getting worse. As it was already 4.40pm and jungle gets darker very fast we decide to climb down fast. We reached junction within 15 minutes and base camp within 30 minutes.
We were so happy and cooled down. Rain came and removed heat. Jungle was totally transformed from dull to lush green in few minutes. The rain started pouring hails too. We climbed up in summer and now we were climbing down in rain.

The atmosphere was electric. We all forgot our stress and fatigue. CD took camera out even if it was drizzling.Now it was time for price: the food. We ate bread - jam, tea -jam ( tea courtesy to CD). We were so ready to sleep that nobody even bothered to make Maggy. Sleep was endless for us.

We woke up at 6 only due to alarm. At some unknown time guys in other part of tent were horrified to see Rats in tents. One sack was destroyed by the rats. They did not dare to enter our tent as Seedless was snoring like 500cc bullet.

By seeing Sun we were delighted. Because of heavy rain everybody except me were confused about trek to Nageshwar. As few kilometers path was risky if rain has affected it. I was firm to do Nageshwar in any case. Finally we were off to junction again.

We passed the junction within no time.Breakfast cum Lunch was over and we were recharged.
The way to Nageshwar from the junction is like see saw. But best of slot. Very dense and charismatic.
When we reached plateau next to chota Nageshwar we could see whole thrilling path to Nageshwar which is exposed to deep valley on one side and jungle on other.

We even found marks of bull (Rangava) on the way. We covered this distance within 90 minutes.

The cave is very clean and big. It can hold 20-30 people easily. Shivling is placed here. In last few years the cave and path which leads to cave is built and protected well.

We were praying for rain. But weather was not at all overcast. We took some rest in the cave. Cd ,I and Digi went to top of Nageshwar. Its just 50 feet steep climb. There is way to Nageshwar kund (well) from base of Nageshwar. Water there is pretty bad. But still for emergency we took 4lits of water. CD filtered it and added chlorine to make it much more drinkable.

We covered our way back to junction within an hour . Everybody was keen to get back to base camp. We were expecting to spend at least 30 minutes swimming so we hurried back to base camp. We reached base camp at 2.30 pm. We ate as much as we can to allow some time for swimming. We changed to our swimming costumes and packed bags.

We took our bags close to place from where out boat was going to pick us. I was first to enter the water. Water was very cool and clean. But after sometime the mud started coating our bodies. So we cam out of water. We decide to stop our boat somewhere near clean water for good bath.

Boat did came at right time. Now it was return journey.We ate thalipithe and kairichi chatani in the evening breakfast. It was amazing to eat on the boat ride. We used to drink directly from backwater just by extending hand. The owner stopped the boat where there was not any mud in the water. I and CD took clean bath on the banks of iland.

After two days sweet and cool trek we returned to Bamnoli. Misal and coffee were ordered and consumed in no time.

As CD was very frustrated with Seedless's jokes we all decide to treat him as he treats us. We returned back to Pune by 11pm. We stopped for vada pav at Shrival though. :)

I would like to thank CD,Seedless,Shrya and Digi for this wonderful journey.

Some New information:

1. Night Stay,Permissions to visit fort and food can easily be arranged at Bamnoli. Tents available at Bamnoli. No stay allowed at Met-Indavali or fort.
2. Ample boats are available to Vasota from Bamnoli. Costs around Rs.1600 /- for 12 people.
3. 91-231-2542766 is Western Maharashtra forest office number where you can inquire about accessibility to fort.

Now I sing off. Thank you for your patience. Do write suggestions and comments. :)
Satha uttarachi kahani pacha uttari suphal sampurna!!!

Do call or mail me for any queries.

Shridhar Purandare

Amarnath Yatra

Amarnath Yatra

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Amarnath Yatra ... Jay Barfani Baba ... Bam Bhole

Hi I am Shridhar Purandare back again with one more adventurous and holy journey and that is...Shri Amaranth Yatra 19th to 27th July 2008
Introduction to how we planned : It was just when we were returning back from Harishchandra Gadh...one of participants Vivek Tembe told us to join Amarnath Yatra with him. He said he will mail us the details. I and Adi were excited about it. As my parents have done it and told me about its mesmerizing beauty. I read his mail and applied for leave. Vivek and his friends have planned this yatra. I, Aditya and Kshitija were added last minute. Dhawal was waiting for his leave approval up to last minute. As three of us got leaves we started preparing for flight booking and other information gathering. Kshitija first did booking of flights and then told her parents about trip. Otherwise she would not have got permission for this Yatra.

As soon as we did booking for flights one major storm came in our way and that was Amarnath Shrine and government Land issue. Now different news started coming our way and our parents were reading every inch of paper for that. The 6-8 guys who planned this Yatra pushed themselves back and suggested us too.
We tried our best to convince them so do they to back us out :).
But we three were so determined that whatever happens we will face it together. Later Vivek and Dhawal joined us in this. So now this was our group: Me, Aditya, Vivek, Kshitija and Dhwal. Dhawal was floating on both sides till last day and finally decided to come.

I personally did not know Kshitija and Vivek, as I have done only H'gad trek with them. I started contacting both of them through mails and SMSs. Kshitija is very much open minded girl that’s what I know about her. Until know I have only seen various parts of her nature and amazed how she carries her. She was only girl in our group. She dared to come with us so far from family ... that was wonderful. Vivek is very high fun doo simple man. Need clarity in everything. Even if he wants o enter in his own home he will see the map of home first... then will discuss and further will enter. He used to know very much about places where we went. So we were not worried about R&D. We were having Dhawal and Aditya with us. Both are extreme trekkers with great fitness level. I have good rapport with both. I and Adi were entertainers of our group. And most of the times Dhawal was the victim. I found out later that Dhawal has amazing knowledge of medicines which he applied on Kshitija ( bechari).

As the days come near for our journey... we were hurrying on the purchases that we want to make. Jackets, Sacks, Dry fruits etc. Most of us did packing for the yatra just night before. I made to bring list, to see list, to eat list, to must have list and what not. Finally packing was done. I did reservation of railway up to Dadar.

19th July 2008:

Everybody was seeing me as evil on that day as Sinhgad express stopped for 20 minutes near Shivajinagar. Everybody was thinking what they would do to me if train will be late. As rest were happier to go by bus. But finally we reached Dadar by 10 am on 19th July 2008. We took taxi to the airport. Vicky was not there. We tried to call him till check in but no response. When we were going to ride in flight Vicky appeared and we felt relaxed. Few back seats were empty so everybody got window seat. It was first time for few on board. We did well to control ourselves and maintain our manners by just having few chocolates in plane.

As always I covered few seats for comfortable journey. Nobody slept for 3 hours. Or we can say I did not let anybody slip. Me and Dhawal used paper string and pen refill for that. Kshitija was very angry on me when we reached Srinagar as I used to call her and ask “Zhopaliyes kaa?".

When we reached Srinagar everybody was having some different feeling... like reaching gate of heaven. It was warm at 30 degree at Srinagar. We hired a taxi to Pehelgam after knowing that there is off for state transport. We start our journey to Pehelgam by 3.30pm on same day. As we did not eat enough in the morning we stopped for lunch at 5pm. As me and Adi want to eat few Kashimiri dishes, we ordered Yakni and Rojan Goshta. Vivek was the only vegetarian in our group.

Before reaching Pehelgam we and our luggage were checked 3 times thanks to Army, CRPF and BSF.
@ Pehelgam: As we reached we asked security guys for tenting site as we carried 2 tents. Fortunately we got one easily and near river banks. Adi, Vicky and Dhawal fixed tents as I was shooting few scenes with my Canon S5 IS. From this point of time it was payback time for nature to our money invested in it. And nature was never short in it. It always exceeded our limits of imagination.
Between Kshitija felt for weather change and had severe cold and fever. And Dhawal started with its medical experiments :). He was so caring for her. Even mother can do that much that Dhawal did for her. For rest trip this mother - daughter relation continued. Vicky as always first went for map. The he and Dhawal dare to enter into icy cold river. I did not dare to do it neither Adi.
Scenic beauty nearby was wonderful. Devdar trees, waterfalls, snow color river, flowers of different kinds, environment of Amarnath Yatra and zeal of Kashmir started taking on us. Here on we started admiring beauty of Kashmir and why all call it as heaven on the earth.

20th July Sunday 2008 ( Pehelgam) ::

We wake up at 6 in the morning. Kshitija wanted to have bath so both of us tried to wake few hotel owners but we failed. Finally we found one. After bargaining for few minutes owner was ready to give hot water for Rs.100. As we were in hurry we agreed for it. After everyone was ready we hired sumo till Chandanwadi.
On the way we bought sticks which in future helped us in climbing toughest elevations. We all except Kshitija were sure with our fitness level. So we hired two ponies, one for Kshitija and other for all luggages. Everybody... just everybody was surprised by the luggage we brought for Yatra. So finally we started our dream yatra at Chandanwadi. What first thing we did was eating in lunger.
Surprises were everywhere... I knew that lungers are free. But the people there invited us so kindly to take Bhole's prasad. Even food quality was excellent. We four started climbing and weather started changing. With few kms covered rain started pouring us with cold water. Rain in Sahyadri and that in Himalaya is complete different. In Sahyadri rain is accompanied by wind. Here rain was accompanied by coldness. Rain water was icy cold. I just thought climbing with bear head and just windsheeter will do for me. But effect of cold water on my head took few hours to put me in trouble.
As we headed further even chill wind came into effect. As I did not cover my ears completely in 12 kms climb weather took toll of my health. Temperature was decreasing to 3-5 degree. I was not able even to twist my fingers. All of them were jammed by cold.
As height was increasing we were stopping frequently for relaxing. Few Sadhu's and old women were walking continuously murmuring "Bam bhole". I was amazed by their will power. We reached Pissu top highest at 14000ft approx. In between our horseman doubted whether we can reach Panjtarani today or not and if weather goes like this they need to leave us at Sheshnag. We continued our journey to Sheshnag.
In between Army men were always within 500mts from us. That’s really wonderful feeling. It’s like Bhole is guarding his followers. We all were tired and in submission state in front of nature. But when we saw Sheshnag lake view all our tiredness vanished. I seen most beautiful scene until now and that was Sheshnag lake. Perfect blue water with surroundings of mountains and glaciers. With storing that view in mind we again started walking towards Sheshnag base camp. At about 3-4 pm we reached there. Kshitija and Dhawal reached first and met D.K.Singh from CRPF. He helped us getting tent with all facilities like blankets, pillows, hot water etc. He introduced us to new drink called Kawa made from saffron, ilayachi and many more ingredients. We got into our tent, changed our cold and wet cloths. Kshitija and Adi went to sleep in flash.

I too followed them. Now I too was under fever and cold. I took crocin and novamox just for precaution and did not eat for that night. From that point nobody of us had perfect lunch or dinner. Just eat when you find lunger or so and walk ahead was our routine. As we reached tent rain stopped and weather become clearer. This brought us awesome views of glaciers and mountains near Sheshnag. We clicked lots of snaps there. Now I was sure that if I walk further I will over exert myself as with no food there is no energy. So I decided to hire pony too. Adi and Vicky joined me later in it. So now only Dhawal was walking to cave. With all ill health we went to bed. 100 years back yatris use to take dip in Amar Ganga (Amravati) and Sheshnag lake, but now it has become heavily polluted due to yatris.

21st July Monday 2008 (Sheshnag CRPF Base Camp) :

We hired 3 more ponies, Dhawal still determined to keep pace with us started for Panjatarani. Bad health did not changed mind of my fellows of doing journey was again a surprise for me. This was the spirit of our group. Nothing could have prohibited us to take Amarnath darshan except Army :). So we without any stop went to Panjatarani . We reached there at 11 am so we decided to go further to cave on same day.
In this travelling we all invented that even horse riding is as tough as walking. As it takes toll of your back and thighs. You also need good balance over it as few women fallen off the ponies in front of us. On the way "Om namha shivay”," Jor se bolo Bam Bhole!!!! Garv Se Bolo Bam Bhole!!" was going on. As ants talk each other when passing by. Every pilgrim used to say Bam Bhole to each other when crossed.

We reached cave at about 2pm and hurriedly went for darshan. Off course Dhawal and Vivek again entered river there too. Water was colder than before. I and Vicky used to take tea where ever we find. I still was not feeling well. Rest of us just washed hands and feet. The cave is huge. Almost few hundred meters wide and tall. We entered it finally with facing all hurdles. Luckily there was no rush. But unluckily the Shivlingam was very short so we were not able to see it.

ParvatiMayya's lingam was beautiful and of 6-8 feet high. With holy mind we prayed Lord Shiv. We also saw two pigeons in the cave. People say both of them are invincible. As they drank water falling from ShivJi's Jata. We drank water melted from the lingam and left the cave. I almost read all the boards over there including all Names of Shiva.

As it was 5pm we decided to stay nearby Amarnath cave. We got tent this time too without any trouble with all the facilities and near to river too. I was feeling relaxed as I completed Shiv Ji's darshan successfully. A great accomplishment for a follower. So that in mind I was very much satisfied. As there was plenty of time left in the day we started accounting. I developed Shridhar's matrix for simple accounting which was followed up to end by Vivek.
When we completed accounting new idea came for Anatakshari, Damsharaj, and Chorpolice etc. Adi recommended Hide and seek in bed :). I was seeking for good sleep. But as mood of Anatakshari rose nobody let me sleep. We did sung about 100 or more sweet songs that day starting with my favorite Roja janeman. In midnight one security guy came in and asked all of us to show our luggage as few militants successfully crept into the area. All it was new for us. Army man asked one of us to be there while searching so that we cannot claim afterwards that army planted this in our luggage. Afterwards we continued our danga masti and Army their checking.

Even we wake up next morning by Army for checkup. I greatly respect these personals as they day and night work for our safe yatra. We also conveyed our thoughts to them. They used to say sorry to disturb you at end of every checkup. But their check up was really professional. Not a single bag was missed. Even they came with a dog. Man that was beautiful. Every day I used to wake up everybody... and I need to call each one many times. But a single call from army man made us stand in sleep :). By the way Kshitija was most late in the bed.

22nd July Tuesday 2008 (Amarnath base camp):

We wake up in the morning by Army man and we had usual checkup again. This time they checked our yatra registration slips and photo ids as well. Again they said sorry :). Then I took a bath near river with hot water. The feeling was similar of getting tea on Everest peak. I was so overjoyed by the bath. Even cold vanished with it. After that we proceeded towards Baltal. Again except Dhawal and Vicky everyone hired pony. When we reached Bradi where from there are all slopes till Baltal suddenly breathing problems disappeared. I was able to breathe properly. So from Bradi we went without any pony...not even for luggage.
Everybody carried own bags except Kshitija. Dhawal our Pitthu took care of it.

Note: Pitthu is term associated with man who carries your bags till cave rather than pony.

On the way now I was ahead of all. I regained my form in walking, talking and most importantly eating. For entertainment purpose I asked few ponywala's to have pitthu as me ( hahah that was real fun). “Sab pitthhu chahiye pithhu ... aap jo denge wo lunga.... le lo bhole....". As I grown in speed I disconnected with group and went ahead. I was feeling the heat when reached a camp near Baltal. As distance was increased between me and my group I decided to relax there.

As I slept with bag under my head one army man came from behind and asked whether I was fine or not. I thanked him for care he shown. Then for next one and half hour both of us were talking about their life, Kashmir, Amarnath Yatra etc. He told me few beautiful and sensible things which I would share here. When I pointed to his gun.. he said this is A-K 47. This gun sprays bullets as we spray perfume. 30 bullets in minute. “Ye gun hi hamari aurat hein, bhai hein, pita hein aur sabkuch hein. Ham ise kabhi ekela nahi chodate. Kabhibhi ise dusareke hat mein nahi dete. This is our life line here. Mera Bap bhi muzhe bachane nahi ayenga par ye jarur kam ayegi. Mein sote waqt pehele ise sulata hun aur phir mein sota hun." I was shocked by these sentences. I was thinking before this incident like gun will be just a weight for them. But all my imagination changed afterwards. He also gave me hint to ask any Kashmiri guy the price of pony in front of Army men. He will give you pony in very correct rate." Ask Army men and your job is done!!! “Is the Mantra here.

After an hour my friends came and relaxed by chilling in river water (Dhawal and Vicky). I still did not dare. It was about 3 pm when we left towards Baltal.
As after 3pm nobody is allowed to leave Baltal we slept in Baltal base camp. This was cheapest of all. With same facilities. Even sell to door facility was there. But most of them were fake and cheaters. Few of my friends bought saffron for 15rs per gram. (Hahahahaha that was again good entertainment).
Afterwards I felt asleep till Vicky inspired me to go lunger for hot milk. When we came back from lunger, Dhawal (back and head massage), Kshitija (back massage) and Vicky (head message) made me relaxed. When I slept, I was in fever but now there was no trace of it. Dhawal also massaged my feet with Kapoor and oil. That helped me a lot. Man Dhawal was so caring for all. Even I tried my hands on Dhawal's back.

23rd July Wednesday 2008(Baltal base camp):
We woke up early at 6 and were ready for departure from Baltal. We planned to go to Sonmarg which is just 12kms away from Baltal. But there was a problem no one wanted short distance passengers in their buses. As all buses were either leaving for Srinagar or Jammu. When I got tired convincing drivers, I applied Army funda told by uncle. I went to check post from where all buses were leaving Baltal and asked army man that drivers are not letting us in. He said " Do minute rukana mein dekhata hunn." He waited for next bus to arrive. He asked driver where it is going and he should let us in. Driver replied there is no space. And then there was stunning reply by army man. " Darwaza kholo " he said in very firm voice. Within half an hour we reached Sonmarg.

@ Sonmarg ::

We reached there at about 10 am. Kshitija left us for shopping as always and got things in very expensive price as always. :) She was not able to control her shopping till the end. It was just matter of a shop coming into her range. And she used to vanish with Dhawal or Vicky. Sometimes I really got irritated by her shopping. :(. As always Vicky was with his map and found that we can see Thwas glacier. So we except Dhwal and Vicky fixed ponies (to save time as we planned to go to Srinagar on the same day). On the way to glacier we saw filming places of Satte Pe Satta , Ram teri Ganga Maily and Elan- E-Jung etc.
As we approached few restaurants hunger was on top again. We consumed maggy, tea and Kawa. It was raining sometimes, after few minutes it was clear sky. I really want to confess that each Yatri should be ready to face any weather condition here in Kashmir. Right from snowfall, rains, sunlight. It is said that sunlight here is dangerous as it contains ultra violet rays. On the way to glacier Adi and Dhawal stopped for rest until me, Vivek and Dhawal returned from it. It was my first time looking at glacier from that close. I went to see it from inside where river was flowing and was covered by glacier. I felt frozen in there. It was huge, white and empty from inside. River was carving it as it wants. There were few cracks in the glacier about 40ft deep. That was scary. It was death in front of us. The villager showed us how to cross glacier and what precautions to take.

I enjoyed local ice- skit for just Rs 20 as it was off season for which they generally charge 200 or so. Dhawal was already on the way back with lots of ice for Kshitija and Adi. I and Vicky caught them too. Then we went back to Sonmarg. Now it was time to find one more bus to Srinagar. Luck was following us as one truck driver gave success for my efforts. And we were off to Kangan. It was a cement carrier and Adi and Vicky went back and rests of us were in the cabin. While travelling driver asked whether anyone of us is brother of Kshitija. She said "yes Dhawal is". Then he said its fine. As in their religion girl is not allowed to travel with friends. I was shocked with his statement but changed the subject to avoid debate. The journey was accompanied by river and devdar trees.
From Kangan we hired qualis to Srinagar. We reached Srinagar by 6pm. As we reached Boulevard and few guys ran to us asking for houseboat. I and Adi planned to visit few houseboats before hiring one. We knew that as it was off season rates will be very less.

This was the first time I rode shikara. Real pleasure is what it gives. It makes us feel God. We saw two houseboats and hired one super deluxe houseboat named Beauty Star. The name really represents the houseboat. All wooden work , glass work , nice rooms with attached bathrooms, tub bath, terrace, view of lake , two cooks ready for any demands and very low rate. Fortunately all rooms were booked for that night. So we all went asleep on terrace. They do made bed arrangements for us there. It was dream come true Dal lake in front, moon in the clear sky and company of such good friends.

24th July 2008 (Srinagar Houseboat Beauty Star) :
We wake up at 8am. I was already flattered by beauty of lake now this was sunrise at Srinagar. Great great scenery !!!. We decide to go for Srinagar sightseeing and were ready at 12 pm to go. Vicky was very much frustrated. He was not able to believe that we wasted 5 hours. But everybody was trying to enjoy houseboat lifestyle. In the mean time I ate 10 toasts and few boiled eggs (this is just breakfast) while admiring beauty of lake. Shankaracharya Madir was our first destination. Vicky with his map calculated number of places we need to cover in the day. We hired rickshaw to temple which at elevation of 1000 ft. Madir has very tight security, no cameras allowed. So Vicky and Adi remained behind with all camera's and mobiles. While rest of us went for Darshan.
There are about 300 steps but very easy to climb. Views of Srinagar city and Dal lake from top of temple are amazing are true attraction for tourists. We also saw Zhelam river which flows to Pakistan. After visiting SamadhiSthal we returned. Shivlingam in it is very beautiful. We got opportunity to attend Arati. All this + Kshitija's samadhi for half an hour made us late causing Adi to frustrate. As we approached him he blasted on us. Somehow we convinced him and now it was their turn to see the Mandir. They came back in 15 mins and again blamed us for laziness. (All this was make few people realize that in team understanding of situation is everything).
I and Adi fought first time.. though it was acting but everyone felt it as real. In between me and Dhawal convinced Rickshaw driver for complete sightseeing. Few moments went in pin drop silence. Then I started " Char dinoka yyar o rabba .....".

We stopped somewhere near golf course to see apple trees. All of us shouted as we saw apples on the tree. Photo shooting session was next program. Kshitija was undoubtable leader in posing. Her smile always made me took her photographs. Next destinations were Chashmeshahi, Botanicle and Nishant gardens.
Flower collection in Chashmeshahi garden was amazing. I spent half an hour taking macros of all. Then there was traditional day competition. Again photos and photos. Vicky was looking real funny as he wore half pant under pathani. :). We saw place where from water was taken for consumption of Jawaharlal Nehru.
All the gardens do have entrance tickets of Rs10 for adults. Next was Botanical garden. I found nothing new in it. So I took a nap for half an hour under devdar tree. The shadow of the tree was so cool while surroundings were warm. Best of all was Nishant garden full of tulip and hundreds of flower varieties. I was busy full time in shooting flowers everywhere. Waterfalls in the garden made it look amazing. Now we were tired of gardens but not of flowers. So we moved to HajaratBal darga. On the way we saw four chinar trees in middle of lake called as 'Charchinar'. I was visiting darga first time that too in Kashmir. It was beautiful experience staring every unknown thing. There is kuran written on the roof. After few minutes we left for Gurudwara. Sardarji there was very humble letting us take photographs of all parts of it. We also heard one story from him. He was so cute and innocent. One difference here was only one security guard that also relaxing. On all other places there were many guards.
Jama Mashjid was our next stop. It is very old and has capacity of 35k for Namaj. More than hundred 50-70 ft polls were astonishing to see. All area covered by small but same carpets. In between small garden with flowers and fountain. From here we saw close still of fort which is now Army base.

From morning we ate nothing but few toasts and eggs. So we decided it was time to have lunch in the evening. I packed seek kabab and rishta from Hotel Mughal Darbar at Lal square. It is center of city and very old. Most of the terrorist attacks happened in this area. But it is so cool and nice area to shop, eat and roam around. Dress materials, Shawls, pathani are inexpensive in shops here. The guys who come to houseboat for selling do not have that variety. I realized this when I completed my shopping on houseboat.
After lunch we went to houseboat. We all were filling sleepy. Kshitija told us she gets frightened of ghosts and the fun started. Adi completely transferred himself into ghost like avatar. We all started telling he Ramse stories. Hands coming out of bed, wall. Adi told story of English horror flick ring. He said to her that ghost can come from the mirror. Kshitija after few minutes “Shridhar muzhe aineme kuch dikh raha hein...muzhe dar lag raha hein...”. I suggested her to switch place with Adi. After that for many times we tried to tease her. On one of my trick of hand she screamed hard. I though as if she really saw ghost. Then to cool down the situation we laughed artificially. (All this was so fun but not for Kshitija). Then we went asleep.

I am really tired of writing but still willing to complete till last day.

25th July 2008 (Srinagar Houseboat) :
Gulmarg .. that’s what we planned that day. First time we all were on time ready to go at 8am. We hired sumo for flexibility. Gondola sky bus was our main attraction. On journey to Gulmarg driver took us to apple garden. The gardener showed us different kinds of apples. We ate two of green one. Sweet and sour apple was treat for us. Photo session came by default :). Then in the further journey to Gulmarg road was surrounded by flowers and chinar trees.

On the turns we were sandwiching Kshitija purposefully. We had fun almost all the time during this trip. When we reached Gulmarg we straight away went for gondola ride. Ticket for complete journey is Rs 700. The rope way used to stop sometimes. After first phase it was time for second phase of gondola which takes at 13000ft and above height. Oxygen and temperature decreases gradually as you go up. But on the top it was fun. Perfect glacier for skiing, playing with snow, hitting each other. We all were sliding in the snow on feet. I and Dhawal completely bombarded each other with snow while sliding down from top to bottom of glacier. After that I took aim at Vicky. While Kshitija was busy with meeting children, asking them few questions and posing with them.
While returning on first phase Adi and Vicky went to Khilanmarg. While rest three of us were wandering here and there to find some humorous photo session places. We even tried hard to catch live stocks. It was very tempting affair. We used to get close and they will run away. Finally I succeeded in catching one. We had great photos with it. We also had good fun with Kshitija acting as witch.

At about 3pm Adi and Vicky returned as well. We went back to Gulmarg base. Now it was time for church, Mandir and palace. We covered church that is 120 years old in very good condition. Then Mandir of Rani mata and Shivji. Finally cancelled palace as we all got bored of walking. You must be wondering when we ate? Adi packed few paratha's and chips while we were in queue for tickets. And apples we bought at garden were with us too. :) .
As we were on our way back suddenly we saw Army rushing at a place. On further investigation road we found out that one militant was running with a bullet in his body. We also heard one clear message " Ek adami arm ke sath white tata sumo mein baith ke bhag gaya. Gulmarg se Srinagar janewali har ek white tata sumo ko check karo.". This message caused 6 security checks of our sumo. It was their job and they were doing well. I am really proud of them. While coming back we went to Mughal Darbar again. Butter chicken, chicken kanti kabab and seek kabab that was our order. This night everybody was very tired. So without doing time pass everybody went to sleep.

26th July 2008 (Srinagar houseboat):
I woke up at 5.30 am for shikara ride to floating vegetable garden. Morning views in Dal Lake were mesmerizing. On the way I saw lotus gardens. Floating vegetable market was really funny. Everybody balancing in his shikara full of various vegetables. Fixing rates, quarrelling, shouting and making sure you do not fall in water was difficult but they were doing it at ease. On every fifth minute one used to ask me for saffron and go back with dark face. I came back to houseboat .. yes it was only me who went for it .. rests were very sleepy.... Up to that time Vicky and Adi went to Manasbal lake in Baramulla District (Deepest lake in Asia) Also visited Khirbhawani (Goddess from Ceylon, Srilanka) whose color of holy spring keeps changing from blue, white, yellow to green. As my foot's condition was not good I preferred staying back on houseboat. They left us at 9am. Breakfast - TV - lunch - TV -Sleep was my program for that day in houseboat. Kshitija woke me up as Vicky called us for roaming around Lal square at about 5pm. As I was now fresh and relaxed went to see Vicky. Adi preferred to come back to houseboat.

As we were wandering on the street we saw roasted chicken along the way. The name of hotel was Mummy. And food was really yummy. I and Dhawal ate one complete chicken there while Kshitija and Vicky consumed mushroom cream soup. Then we went to see Khyam Street specialized for Kabab's. It was treat there. After eating one Dhawal thought we should parcel one more chicken with us for dinner. It was accompanied by chicken biryani too. :P Then we came back to houseboat and attacked the food. Kshitija used to spend half of her time on phone. Only God no.. no.. no .. no one can ever know what she is busy with or whom is she busy with. Her call lasted till 1am. I was counting my personal expenditure on trip. Figure came near 26k. Then we went asleep with remembering last day on houseboat to come.

27th July 2008(Srinagar houseboat):
I woke up early as I used have tub bath. After that I and Vicky tried our hands on Shikara for an hour. That was not easy at all. Vicky used to give rotations to or shikara. While I trained him in paddling it was time for packing. Everybody was feeling bad as we were packing for departure to Mumbai. Vicky did final accounting. At about 12pm we were ready with all packing done. We took our final video on the houseboat. We thanked Naseer, Bilal and Uncle for their fine hospitality. We dragged our feet towards exit and rode shikara to Street where sumo was waiting for us. While returning back we all were feeling so bad and sad... At 3.15 we took flight to Mumbai and reached at 7pm.

Kshitija had already booked tavera for us. We dined at Appetite near Vashi and felt good with smell of home food. Finally dropping everyone to their home I reached my home at 1am. Adi was last drop. It was home sweet home for me. But feeling was not that sweet!!! . That’s how completed our journey of lifetime.
I really loved writing each and every word of the path of the journey. I am tired of writing now but hope you will not while reading.

Hope you enjoyed Amarnath Yatra with me :)

""Jore se Bolo BamBhole!!!! Garv Se bolo Jay Bhole!!!! ""

Thanks and Regards
Shridhar Purandare
For any help or information feel free to contact :)
Finally very hearty thanks to Vivek, Kshitija, Aditya and Dhawal. They really made this journey to heaven look simple and full of joy.

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