The Best Part of Kashmir… Leaving

on Wednesday, 24 March 2010

We have to be up early in the morning to make our way to Amritsar. We are up at 5:30am and get ready, before having some breakfast, accompanied by a last ditch attempt by Hasan to make an exchange of one carpet and one scarf for his iPod touch. Eventually he gets the point that there is no chance we are parting with our iPods for some cheap scarf and bit of carpet. He tells us, he will be taking us to the bus stop, it doesn’t start well when he says “There is little problem with car” and we have to bump start it for him. It only takes about 15 minutes to get to the bus stop, he says stay in the car while he finds the bus, while there sounds like there is a riot going on outside, this makes us a little uncomfortable, but he returns and guides us to the minibus. The minibus is only half full, but they are desperately trying to encourage other people who have just turned up at the bus stop to use their service. We eventually leave with about three seats free, unfortunately it is early morning and some how the window has fallen out of the minibus, fortunately it doesn’t smash, but they don’t bother putting it back in and the wind-chill is freezing, not to mention there is a blind man on the bus who is chanting really loudly. We have an eight hour journey ahead of us and are not happy! Thankfully about 10 minutes into the journey they stop and replace the window so at least we are not freezing. The next problem though is the driver is an absolute nutcase, the bus keeps braking sharply as he attempts to overtake but soon realises he has no chance of getting past before the truck coming the other way hits us head on, so he slams on the brakes and drops in behind the other vehicle. This is bad enough at the start, but once we get into the mountain roads, he is doing the same thing going down the roads at about 70mph, with 1000ft sheer drops alongside us. Along the way they are constantly stopping, trying to get anyone going the same to jump in and fill he empty seats. The road out of town and through the country is absolutely full of soldiers, there are men stationed every 100 yards down the road going for miles, soldiers camped out on top of buildings and soldiers checking under bridges with mirrors. We go through a tunnel through one of the mountains which is 2531m long and is basically just dug straight out with no lights or anything. The only entertainment along the way are more of there ridiculous road signs, which I made a note of and are listed below.

  • Drive like hell you’ll be there.
  • If married divorce speed.
  • This is a highway not a runway don't take off.
  • After whisky life is risky.
  • Life is short don’t make it shorter.
  • Speed is knife that cuts life.
  • Speed thrills but often kills.
  • Don’t be silly in the hilly.
  • Drive with care accident rare.
  • Drink and drive less survive.
  • Peep peep don’t sleep.
  • Save your life for your wife.
  • Be Mr Late not late Mr.
  • Don’t be rash or you will crash.
  • Happy minds make good roads.
  • Life is a journey complete it.
  • Haste makes waste.
  • Better late than never.
  • Roads are nerves of city keep them clean.

The scenery along the mountain roads is absolutely incredible, if they were better quality roads, I think Top Gear would be straight out here for a “Greatest roads challenge”.

We drive along the edge of the mountain with hardly any barriers along the way, with the river running down below. There is signs of landslides all the way along and people are actually repairing one stretch which had lost half the road. The size of some of the boulders at the bottom were just ridiculous, they make the giants marble look like a spec of sand. If anything the drive was the highlight of our trip to Kashmir sadly! Unfortunately the photos I got are pretty dreadful, due to being cramped in a tiny minibus and not being able to lean out the window for fear of being hit by the vehicles travelling within inches in the opposite direction. I just wished I had my video camera on me.

After about eight and a half hours we are dropped in Jammu city and are back on our own again, it has got so much hotter in the 300km we have travelled. In fact from being freezing this morning, it is now hotter than it has been, my thermometer has gone off the scale and is now reading about 55 degrees Celsius. We finally find an internet cafe to crash in and find we are a bit interesting as we have people visiting the shop to have their picture taken with us. We decide to walk to the station where our train to Amritsar leaves at 9:25pm and stop off for a pizza along the way. The train will be arriving in Amritsar very early morning as it is a short journey, so I have no idea what we are going to do when we arrive. This time we are in AC3 which is still 3 tier sleeper carriages like the sleeper carriages we have had before, but includes air con and some refreshments. If I am honest it is not much different and definitely not worth the extra money.