Kashmir Great Lakes is a beautiful trek in the gorgeous valleys of Jammu & Kashmir. In fact, it is one of the most beautiful trek in India. I booked my next trek from IndiaHikes (which is primarily a trek documentation organisation) for my 3rd trek ‘THE KASHMIR GREAT LAKES’ batch 10th of July, 2016 and it was supposed to be my 1st completed trek (My first two treks were called off due to bad weather conditions).
A month before my adventure I started my preparations, running 5k to increase stamina, shopped all the travel gear, booked a two-way flight from Delhi to Srinagar scheduled on 9th of July and lastly did all the paper work. I decided to share a room with another trekker ‘Charlton Sequeira’, a lad from Pune who was already in Srinagar exploring the city to save on hotel bills.
SATURDAY, 9th of JULY, 2016 (DAY 1)
The day of my flight from Delhi to Srinagar, a heart-breaking news hit me that the government for Jammu & Kashmir has enforced a three-day curfew in Srinagar, subsequent to the killing of ‘Burhan Muzaffar Wani’.
Late in the morning, at the New Delhi airport, waiting for my flight, my roomie told me about the situation in Srinagar, he was stuck in the hotel, cannot get out on the streets due to curfew and advised me, directly come to the hotel as soon as I land. He told me to take the bus from airport that should cost me about 70 bucks and then a 5 min walk to the hotel, ‘new prince inn’ in Munawarabad. It had a tie-up with OYO Rooms and I was happy to have free Wi-Fi, breakfast and, a decent room to rest.
When I landed in Srinagar, I saw how serious the situation was. I couldn’t find any buses to get to the hotel (due to the curfew of course) and I had to take a private taxi to the hotel, which cost me `750.
During my ride to hotel, for the first time I witnessed what it looks like to have a curfew in town. Everything was shut down, shops, schools, busses, roads; all I could see was Indian military and roadblocks.
When I got to my hotel, I tried to connect to the hotel WiFi and to my surprise, found that the government of J&K has turned down the internet in the entire state.
The day went peacefully as I get to know my roommate and rest out day out. Though, it was a three-day event but we were still hopeful as our trekking company told us to chill and it will be over soon.
SUNDAY, 10th of JULY, 2016 (DAY 2)
Next morning, the news came that the curfew is still in effect and might extend beyond 3 days but amidst this, a good news was that the 9th July batch for Kashmir great lakes has left for Sonamarg in the middle of night and reached the base camp safe and sound. The news gave all the trekkers the needed hope that our trek might not be cancelled and we might escape in the middle of night. As the day passed, we killed our time watching news, movies and, coordinating with other trekkers and IndiaHikes. The final verdict was that the situation is not yet under control and we will not me leaving for base-camp in night. Though the previous batch has successfully reached the base camp and heading forward for their trek, they won’t risk our batch with the current situation, we need to wait until tomorrow for more updates.
MONDAY, 11th of JULY, 2016 (DAY 3)
The Monday morning we woke up with little hope for some good news. Today was the last day of three-day curfew. At 8:30 in the morning the trek was cancelled and told us to wait for one more day and we’ll adjust your trek itinerary accordingly or you can leave the trek and we will refund your payment”.
None of us wanted to stay in Srinagar anymore and everyone decided to abandon the trek and apply for refund. Even our hotel was running out of food stock and we were eating ‘aloo paratha’ and ‘daal chawal’ for 2 days. So now, the plan of action was to reach home ASAP. Absence of internet was a major hitch. We had to take help from friends and family back in Delhi, the airline prices from Srinagar to Delhi inflated about three fold to almost 9000 per seat. Therefore, the only viable option we could find to reach Delhi was via Jammu. We asked around about the journey and everyone said it is the best way to get out of Srinagar. So, the plan was set and we hired an auto to bus terminal.
The bus terminal was a complete chaos; hundreds of people were in line before us. I waited about two hrs standing there just to move 3 feet in the line. Luckily, we got tickets from someone outside and saved our lives from that queue.
Now everything was set, we had everything, we were on cloud nine, now all we had to do was to wait for the bus to arrive and we are ready to sail to Jammu. We waited almost another 4 hours for the bus to arrive and while waiting there came a bus with broken windows, attacked by a mod up ahead. Now the transport halted for another 2 hours. After a while the armed forces came in and went ahead to clear the mob.
TUESDAY, 12TH of July, 2016 (DAY 4)
At around 1:00 in the morning we finally sailed for Jammu but it was going to be a 12 hr ride.
The night was rough and bus was uncomfortable but I’d say my seat was the most comfortable one (last row, middle seat, lots of legroom). The morning, after passing the red alert area the ride was fairly comfortable and the comfort increased as we approached Jammu. The roads were good, the weather was great, and the valley was beautiful. It seemed like a nice and beautiful road trip from Srinagar to Jammu.
I reached Jammu at around 2:00 in the afternoon and hungry as hell. The first thing when I reached Jammu bus terminals was to book a bus ticket to Delhi. It was a luxury Volvo with Wi-Fi and again it was going to be a 12hr ride but more comfortable this time. After that we ate like a horse and then I parted with partner, he went to spend his holiday in Chandigarh before finally going back to Pune. The bus was scheduled for Delhi at 8:30 in the evening and now all I had to do was kill my time in Jammu. So, I went for a movie and after that took the bus for home.
P.S. – Today, as I write this post a news came in as a shock. What I thought was a 3-day curfew turns out to be the longest curfew in Srinagar and now I feel lucky to get out of that mess in its early days.