|Traffic jam just outside Baltal|
|Baltal, Amarnath Yatra base camp|
No use of going ahead, Return back : As we waited, we met people returning, each one sharing the story of their journey. Most of them had started their journey the previous day. Some of them advised us not to go ahead and return back. In fact some of the horses had returned mid-way. It was already 9 am, and we had hardly moved anywhere. There were shops selling lime juice and cold drinks along the way. The prices were steep too. A bottle of water cost R.s 40. The wait was getting frustrating. Our phones didn’t help either. Except for BSNL network, all other networks stopped working as we moved higher. Soon our dandies advised us, there was no use of waiting any longer. Even we felt the same. The people, who were walking, moved ahead, the horse riding Yatris were stranded. It was o.k. for us to leave the horses and walk, but what about the luggage which was on one of the horses. We were in a dilemma as our friends had already moved ahead. Now, we couldn't have left the luggage behind and walk ahead. In no sense we could have carried the entire luggage. It would have been much better had we all stayed together. Well, that was the plan initially. Frustration levels only grew. We waited for a miracle. And it happened.
It ain't easy: Initially, we were walking rather quickly, rarely taking any breaks. There were people, horses, pithus, dandies, army personnel walking along the way. At the end of every km, there were signboards informing how many kms were left for the caves. We decided to take breaks only at the sign boards. There were stalls selling cold drinks, water, biscuits near the sign boards. Things were going well. We stopped at a langar along the way recruited another pithu. This one was a sharp lad. He charged us more for lesser distance. We were in a helpless situation and had to recruit him.We were concerned that the first pithu was carrying way too much stuff. We thought of reducing his burden. Additionally he could carry some of the bags that we were carrying. Hence, we recruited another pithu. Now, our entire luggage was with pitthus. We resumed our walk again. We felt we were progressing.
|On the way to the caves|
"Oye saab", was the call from behind. There were our pithus sitting in their typical style.We heaved a sigh of great relief. The pithus weren't aware that another langar was put up ahead, and were under the impression that the second langar was the first langar. We all walked towards the tent. Suddenly, a man came from nowhere asking if we were looking for the tent no. 432. Everyone yelled together , "Yes". The tent wala took us to the tent, which was on the back side of a Prasad shop. We took off our shoes and went inside. The tent was on ice and had at least 14 people sleeping side-by-side. Our friends were not in a great shape. One of them was wearing an oxygen mask. The friend whose wife had reached ahead almost broke into tears when she saw him. "This place is unforgiving" said our most adventurous friend. I had a slight head ache due to the low oxygen. I took a Crocin and prayed, "Oh Lord, Help me get past this". With those words, we just talked about the day's adventures. What a day it was...what a day. Meanwhile, our good friend had already started snoring.
|The journey back|
Idli, Dosa ??? : Everything about the Pahalgam route had been lot better than the Baltal one. The Baltal route is just one decade old. The Pahalgam route has been there ever since Amarnath Yatra existed. The langars were quite big, and there were many of them. Almost everything could be found there - Chole bhature, Aloo chat, Idli, Masala dosa, Puri bhajji, all kinds of sweets, fruits and Chinese too. Even the toilets were lot better and well maintained. Most of our journey was spent either admiring the natural beauty around or eating some of the best food.
Sheshnag lake, the lake out of this world : Our remaining journey was quite a pleasant one. Thanks to the picturesque sights. The routes were quite wide and there were no chance of any mishaps happening. We went past places such as Mahagunas, Sheshnag, Pissu top. Each place has a story behind it. No wonder it is called the traditional route. Sheshnag lake was one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It a tinge of blue to it, that made it one of most spectacular places to be. We had seen some great sights in the past few days, but nothing could better this. We just couldn't get our eyes off the lake. The dandee informed us that, some years back, there was a five hooded snake spotted near the Sheshnag lake. According to mythology, Lord Shiva had taken off the Sheshnag from his neck and left it near the lake. Even to this day, the lake has a lot of snakes.