I recently concluded a fun and adventure filled trip to Jammu and Kashmir. At first I was hesitant to undertake this trip with family as several people warned me not to go ahead in view of the ‘alleged’ disturbance in that area. However I am happy that I insisted on going ahead, Kashmir being one of the important places in the list of my must-visit destinations.
Yes, you might get scared initially as you will see army-men all over the place. They are paranoid about security with multiple and thorough checks of your bags and vehicles. However you get used to these soon enough.
We landed at the Srinagar airport and the drive to the hotel (Lalit Grand Palace) through the road besides the famed Dal Lake was enough to mesmerize us. There was a blast at the Dal gate on the previous day and most of the local people were indoors but we faced no problem at all in reaching the hotel. A shikara ride and surf boarding in the evening were clear signals that this will be a trip to remember.
We spent the next day visiting the Nishat Garden and Shalimar garden and lazing around the hotel, conserving energy for the next day’s trip to the holy cave of Amarnath. We also took the royal buggy ride in the evening, which has a historic appeal of its own. It is said that the buggy belonged to Maharaja Hari Singh on whose palace property, the hotel is built.
The helicopter ride to Amarnath through Baltal was very exciting as it was the first time we were riding a chopper. We could see thousands of pilgrims going to Amarnath, on horses and on feet.
The helipad at the holy cave is a small flat area built in the middle of a snowy plateaue. A steep climb of about 200 steps and we were at the feet of a large snowy Shivlinga (about 20-25 feet in height). The ground under our feet was freezing and we had to constantly keep walking to avoid frost-bite.
It was a dream come true for us – both religion and adventure wise. On the way back, I got to sit with the pilot in the cockpit. Amazing experience it was, seeing the fantastic landscape from the vantage point.