Uncertainty scares some people. Some derive extreme pleasure out of it. Trekkers, knowingly or unknowingly, cherish every moment spent in this dark secret world of uncertainty. Up there in mountains, when you are sailing through clouds, you know nothing. There’s nothing definite. The thought process restricts itself to ‘one step’ mode.
You ‘have to’ think and live in that ‘one step’.
And that’s what drives
people trekkers to these deep ravines and high mountains. That’s what drove the two of us to Bhaderwah.
Bhaderwah is a small Himalayan town unwilling to fall prey to the claws of development. The bylanes of Bhaderwah seem reluctant to give way to concrete devilry. Ancient temples and old structures too have decided against haphazard retrofitting. The immediate outskirts of the town still have wide open fields.
I hate to draw parallels but still I’d call Bhaderwah an organized replica of Janjehli in Mandi.
The lure of Kashmir has kept noisy tourists away from Bhaderwah. Not many travelers reach here and those who do, always want to come back. Just the way Chenab wishes to touch the shores of Bhaderwah.
Uncertainty Looms Large: June 2016
The seeds were sown three years ago when Pandit Ji sprinted all the way from Noida to Kailash Kund in his trademark style. Just within four days, he had completed this trek without any guide or support.
While I chatted with Inditramp, we decided to trek together to Kailash Kund. After deliberating for weeks, we could only figure out that there were three approaches to Kailash Kund. No other detail was available. Conflicting opinions poured in from every direction and it was decided to dive deep in the sea of uncertainty in July last week.
However, Inditramp damaged his knee soon after our discussion and since then he has gone incommunicado. (I hope his knee is better now)
A month later, I sat alone in my room deliberating upon my options. Not so surprisingly, I figured out that I had none. Not that I haven’t gone solo before but to venture in a land notorious for terror outfits and overaggressive dumbfucks demanding ‘azaadi’, you surely need safer options.
Meanwhile in the neighborhood, a gigantic speaker blared, “Party karni hai, hum party karenge, Kisi ke bhi papa se nahi darenge”
The D Day: Jammu to Bhaderwah, 1990s
After stalking several Facebook profiles of people from Bani, Basholi, and Bhaderwah, I decided to take a bus to Bhaderwah. I asked Saurabh to accompany me and he happily agreed. My wife decided to drop out as well because she didn’t want Bhaderwah to be the last trek of her life.
On August 16, Saurabh and I, waited for three humid hours at Pathankot Bus stand for a bus to Jammu. A Jaipur Depot bus arrived and the conductor, unwilling to admit anyone inside the bus, showed us the last seat. He had kept a full three seater bench for himself in the front because he wanted to sleep.
A three hour journey took us to Jammu. The town wore a deserted look which is uncharacteristic of Jammu particularly in the Vaishno Devi ‘season’. Probably aftereffects of an overheated Srinagar.
Machail Yatra was to start the following day and buses to Bhaderwah-Kishtwar were ready to leave early. By 0330 Hours, we were comfortably seated in a 2X2 bus. The driver was looking for his Kumar Sanu ‘tape’ which delayed our journey a bit. But no complaints there. Who better than Kumar Sanu to accompany you on a lonely night!
The moment we hit the beautiful highway, I realized that not just our comfort but probably our lives too were in danger. It was a Death Race from the word go.
Death Race, a Jason Statham starrer movie, broadcasts a modern gladiator game, involving cars loaded with weapons, in which hardened criminals
racefight against each other.
Our driver probably assumed himself to be Statham and thus started a gravity defying show that lasted four hours. If only J&K government allowed weapons on these vehicles, we would have our own desi version of Death Race.
Every time Kumar Sanu tried to console a broken heart, our driver too tried to do the same by pressing the accelerator.
Bhaderwah: The Hidden Land, 1980s
Our struggle ended in Bhaderwah after a four hour-210 km journey. We were welcomed by hundreds of pilgrims in their decorated cars thronging in the markets of Bhaderwah. And hundreds of armed personnel too.
Kashmir unrest has alerted the security forces across the country so it was natural to find armed forces safeguarding every nook and corner of this little town. The famous Machail Yatra, as I have already mentioned, was to begin the following day. The chadi mubarak (holy trident) of the Yatra leaves from Chanaut Mandir in Bhaderwah and that explained the colorful chaos in the markets.
Anup Jalotas’ and Narendra Chanchals’ took us back to my childhood. All of a sudden we found ourselves away from the madness of 2016. 1980s replicated in 2016 looked surprisingly pleasant.
We were still unsure about the route so we roamed around in the market asking random people about our destination. In the due process, we
wasted enjoyed wasting 24 hours and found ourselves standing at the same point the following day.
In simplified terms, the Machail Yatra was going in one direction while we wanted to go in an opposite direction. So we couldn’t find any taxi or bus going towards our destination.
At 0900 Hours, a taxi appeared miraculously out of nowhere and we were headed towards Chatar Gala Pass, the starting point of Kailash Kund Trek. Our world stepped back another decade and now we had ‘progressed’ from Kumar Sanu to Kishore Da.
Chatar Gala Pass to Kailash Kund: Time Travel, 1970s
Chatargala pass marks the start of the trek. A Rashtriya Rifle camp here at the pass provides you all the help you want. The trail is marked and the valley down below is enchantingly beautiful. Padhri Gali Pass, connecting Chamba to Langera, is visible far off in the distance.
We arrived there on a foggy day. There were gujjar kothis’ all along the trail that showed up as mysterious silhouettes every now and then. Angry dogs barked at nothingness that prevailed in the air. Somewhere in the distance, a radio blared Urdu songs.
Men at Army camp were busy filling their water canisters from a natural source for they feared that it might rain and water may turn muddy. Soon the foggy sky engulfed everything and all we could hear were our footsteps struggling against the muddy trail.
The trail passed through beautiful meadows that gradually merged with high mountains. Meadows were replaced by tiny patches of green on massive lifeless boulders.
A rocky bareness prevails that slowly grows on you.
Despite it being a foggy day, we could clearly see arrows marking the trail. There were two approaches to the lake and we accidentally ended up choosing the difficult one. After struggling through boulders as big as my bedroom, we landed at the base of the lake.
To our surprise, there were not one but three lakes neatly placed atop a glissading landscape. A camp had been established here the previous day that provided free food and accommodation.
While Saurabh immediately drowned himself in the icy waters of the lake, I walked to the SSB Camp that was put to guard us travelers. Luckily, I met a fauji from Bharmaur and that got us chatting for long hours.
In the background, Kavi Pradeep’s voice electrified a lifeless radio set altering the taste of icy winds.
The radio crackled: “kuch bol parbhu ye kya maya, tera khel samajh me na aaya.“
We were in 1970s now. At 3875 meters above the sea level, strangers
time traveling together. If it wasn’t for 2016, how could we appreciate living in the old times.
Meeting the Barefoot ‘Gaddi’ Warriors
Across the hill states, wherever gaddis’ reside that area is called gadheran. Here at Kailash Kund, in a land entirely unknown to us, we met two simpletons from Udhampur Gadheran. Kuldeep and Uttam, two barefoot warriors who walked all the way to Machail from Gulabgarh (35 km) and then marched ahead to Kailash Kund (15 km).
They work as laborers these days and their dialect is similar to ‘our’ gaddi dialect. One of them traveled to Ujjain Kumbh after saving for months so as to travel in a reserved train coach.
While I struggled with my
expensive shitty shoes, those guys walked effortlessly on boulders. As the army officer at Chatar Gala Pass would say, “your faith drives you, not your feet neither your mind.“
Looking at those fragile bodies disappearing into the oblivion, I knew that it wasn’t nothing but their faith that carried them through.
- Kailash Kund Yatra officially starts from 29th August 2016 and ends on 1st September 2016
- The maximum altitude you’ll gain is 4100 meters, while the lake stands at 3875 meters.
- The maximum distance you have to walk via Chatargala is 7.45 km. Alternatively, you can walk 6.28 km over the highest point.
- There are multiple approaches to reach Chatargala, Jammu-Bhaderwah-Chatargala being the easiest one.
- One can exit from Chatargala to Chamba (Banikhet) or Jammu via Bani – Basholi
- Bhaderwah-Chatargala – 37 Km | Chatargala-Bani -42km | Bani-Basholi-85 km |
- Limited buses/cabs on this route. First bus Bhaderwah-Bani 0900 Hours. Second Bus Bhaderwah-Bani 1000 Hours. Departure time depends on passenger availability.
- Carry your identity card all the times.
- Don’t pull out your cameras with security personnel around. Never around an army camp.
- Nobody knows Bhaderwah better than Vikas Manhas. Contact him to avail his services.
- And remember, J&K is not just about Ladakh and Kashmir. Bhaderwah is surely going to be an unforgettable experience. No mafia nexus, no azaadi assholes. Just absolute joy!