August 26, 2012
We reached Amritsar station a little after midnight. I thanked Mr. Bali for his courtesy in hosting me before he left. The BTI Jat Express (#19225) to Jammu was scheduled to arrive and leave at 1:10 AM, but it didn’t come in until 2:00. There was not much place to sit on the platform, so I struggled standing with the bag on my shoulders for about 2 hours until the train arrived. This train was very neat compared to the Garib Rath. I got onto my upper berth, and slept like a baby.
The train reached Jammu at 6:00 in the morning, 45 minutes before its scheduled arrival (I couldn’t figure out what’s with the Indian trains arriving before time. Big surprise!!). I washed up a bit, and got out of the station to take a bus or taxi to Srinagar (There is nothing much to see in and around Jammu, so I was heading straight to Srinagar). It was almost 7:00 by the time I reached the bus stand, and was told that buses to Srinagar would leave from another stand at 7:00, and there was no way that I could make it. They suggested I take a shared taxi from the other stand instead. So I got into a local bus to reach this other stand. Half way through, at a signal, a couple of guys got into the bus, offering a taxi to Srinagar. He said that there’s a front seat available on a Tavera and costs Rs. 500/-. Without thinking much, I got off the bus (which I shouldn’t have). The Tavera was fine, and I did get the front seat, yes, but the taxi was empty, so we had to wait for more than hour for it to get full. This wait was an absolute unnecessary waste of time. I so wished I didn’t get off the bus. To add to this, my phone wouldn’t work as well!!
Tip: Never get off a bus even if taxi guys approach you with a great deal. You’ll find more taxis at the bus stand than in the middle of the road!!
The drive from Jammu to Srinagar is 294 kms, and I was told it told it takes close to 8 hours by taxi. We started at around 8:30, and so I was hoping to reach Srinagar at around 5:00 PM (alas!!). The drive was very straining for the roads were in bad shape, but the scenery was beautiful. We passed through Udhampur, Patnitop, Banihal and Anantnag before we finally reached Srinagar past 7:00 PM. The view at Patnitop was the best. I was tired and exhausted with the ride by the time we reached, and thankfully, my host at Srinagar, Sanjay, came to pick me up from the taxi stand. Sanjay happens to be one of the best guys I’ve met on the trip. He lived in a two bedroom hut near Chashmashahi gardens, and offered me one of the bedrooms. I freshened up, and we went out to the city to buy ourselves some food. We went to Vishnu Dhaba near Dal Gate, and brought home Shahi Panner, Dum Aloo and Roti. The food tasted pretty good, but was very oily. We had a nice little conversation and planned on my sightseeing for the next day before I hit the bed.
Tip: Prepaid sim phones from other states do not work in Jammu and Kashmir, so make sure you carry a postpaid connection. Tata Docomo sucks big time (I say that with experience). Cellone (BSNL) has the best network in the state, and is the only network in places like Kargil. Airtel and Aircel are the other options (Vodafone works on Aircel network).