|11-6 Srinagar to Jammu
The reverse of a week before except this time when we hike to the bus at 6:15 the streets were eerily deserted, only army personnel. A fellow on his way home said it was a holiday…later we found out it was an unofficial curfew, no one was allowed out! The entire Kashmir valley was shut down except for public transport leaving the area…the separatist Coord Commit(CC) had called for ‘Jamia Masjid Chalo’ according to the newspaper – a march to Jamia Masjid Mosque in old town(where we had encountered the trouble days before). It was to commemorate Muslims killed in communal riots of Jammu in 1947, nothing like this has taken place in 60 yrs and w/ separatist emotions running high, the Indian govt. decided to take no chances is my guess. When we reached Jawahar Tunnel – the long one I mentioned earlier – I had to get out of the bus show my passport, visa, etc. which the officer duly noted on a piece of scrap paper! I wondered at this until we emerged from the tunnel to find over 200 vehicles in 2 separate groups – mostly transport trucks, but also buses, & some private jeeps – stopped, not allowed to continue on into Kashmir(the tunnel is the demarkation line betw Kashmir & Jammu). When we read about it the next day it was clear they were preventing any sympathizers from showing up in Srinagar. The army had already placed all the leaders on house arrest and thus were also preventing any outsiders from beginning anything as well(we passed a couple buses loaded w/ what looked like students, even some doz on top beating on a drum). All along the route to Jammu the military presence was double or triple what it had been just 8 days earlier, which seemed high then! Elections begin Nov 17 and go thru Dec 24, so I expect disturbances all during this time in Kashmir.
On another note…I wondered about the stacks of neatly piled, uniform wood sticks we saw when we drove into Srinagar but discovered on the way out that this is the premier wicket bat producing area perhaps in all India. Another thing I realized about this area if not all India…everything seems to be ‘under construction’ ie half completed w/ rebar showing etc or in a state of disrepair/decline ie no maintenance. They build new as they have $$ and do no more to keep things up & working/looking good afterwards. Perhaps it’s a function of how long it takes to build things(a long time!) in the first place – by the time it’s finished it’s already falling down or it’s taken so long they have no more patience/time/money to do anything but use it intil it’s got to be abandoned or torn down to start anew! Who knows?! There seems to be no planning to any city here anyway, zoning has to do with who begins to do what where and then all the other like businesses locate nearby.
Along these same lines – litter and garbage and trash are everywhere with no attempt at clean up, unless it’s necessary to maintain water flow in drains/ditches/rivers…you get the picture, and so it goes.
On the way we experience 2 delays 1) a broken fan belt – 45 min. 2) a truck broken down in one lane of the 2 lane road, thus sclerosis of the arterial – one lane passes by for 15 min in one direction then the other going the other way! So instead of 10 hours it took 11+ and we went to the Diamond Hotel just for convenience(& cheapness), close to bus station and supposedly we must be there by 6:30 for transport to Chamba. The sheets/pillows were no cleaner than before…even after they changed them, ha! I slept in my clothes.
To bus station by 6:15 but we discover our info was wrong – doesn’t leave until 8 – it is a thru bus all the way to Chamba! Well, it was late and luckily we’d been asking at the ticket counter about every 15 min. so finally around 8:15 a fellow took pity on us and, by the hand, led us to the bus which was just then passing thru(we would have missed it entirely otherwise!).
The ride to Chamba was the most curvey, twisty, follow-the-contours-of-the mtns road I think I’ve ever ridden on. A two lane, then 1 ½ lane squeeker often around blind bends w/ just a horn honk between us and the truck/bus/car coming the other way sight unseen! The driver had the quickest reflexes of any I’ve ever seen – survival skills for sure(or we’d be lying at the bottom of some steep mtn side).
Fantastically beautiful, pine covered, tree covered, green mtns – very steep, we see the snow capped Pir Panjal range which is just across the Pattan valley from the Himalayan rnage to the N. of us. The rushing Ravi River down thru Chamba valley is clear and tinged w/ green mineral content.
The state of Chamba founded in 920 AD is the most ancient state in N. India ruled for 1000 yrs until 1845 when the Brittish took it over. We walk a little ways from the bus stop(there is a state girls competition taking place in the large –once polo grounds – open park we pass by and our Hotel Aroma Palace overlooks! A dbl. room is just 385 r. and a window overlooking the park! Such a deal!