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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vaishno Devi trip

Although the tickets for Jammu were booked one month in advance,(8042, B 11, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Delhi 110070011 26131666) as Deepti HAD to come to office on saturday, the original tickets were cancelled at the nth moment & we booked fresh tickets thru Tatkal on Thursday for Saturday. We were lucky to get those tickets, though not thru the same onward train. I hurriedly booked tickets for the 22:35 AII JAT express from Delhi to Jammu for Saturday, and 19:45 Jammu Rajdhani to Delhi for Monday, and after assurance that Monday wouldn't be considered as a leave. We knew this trip would be slightly hectic, considering the schedules, but we had the spirit to make it happen.

On Saturday, we - myself, Asha, kavita & Rahul set out for Old Delhi station at 9:30 PM from our guest house to catch the 10:35 PM train. The train came 10 mins late from its scheduled arrival and left at 11 PM from Delhi. On boarding the train, we had already decided to take maximum rest here only before we began our yatra. We reached Jammu Tavi station at 9 AM on sunday, which was 1 hour behind the actual reaching time. Immediately after getting down from the train, we went out of the station and very close to the main entrance of the station, we found a private bus stop where tickets were being sold to Katra. I bought the tickets paying Rs. 200 for all and got into the bus. The bus got full within no time & it started for Katra at 9:20 AM. We had been told that the busses wont start unless it was full, by our colleagues here. The bus journey was little tiring, as he drove very rapidly even on the mountain ranges.

We reached Katra at 11:30 AM and went first to Vaishno Devi Yatra Counter to get our tickets for the yatra. There was a long queue already, but it moved fast. This Yatra ticket is mandatory to have, without which one wouldn't get entry to yatra. This ticket was free ofcourse, and it mentioned that we need to present this ticket within 6 Hrs at Banganga check post when the yatra began.
We then went to Niharika Guest house, as had been instructed by Ajay, as he had told that this was a Govt guest house and one can easily find accomodation here. We hadn't booked any accomodation prior to our arrival at Katra, as many had assured us that accomodation - either guest houses or dormitories or hotels would be easily available on reaching Katra. But, this Niharika guest house was already full, and so we went again in search of a hotel. Some broker came to me and told that he had rooms available in his hotel near busstand, so we thought we go check out his hotel. He took us to Hotel Damini, where rooms were good enuf & we took only 1 2-bed room for a day as we thought that 2 would be a waste as we wouldn't be in the room for most of the time, and paid him Rs. 600. After refreshing, we had our lunch at a nearby restaurant, went to the market and bought raisins, figs & other energising stuffs.
We finally started our 12 km Yatra to Vaishno Devi at 2:30 PM. It seemed to be raining atop the hill. We wasted our energy waking 1.5 kms from Katra to the starting point of the Yatra without knowing that there were autos available from Katra to the starting base. This is the starting point of Yatra. 

The path of the Yatra was neatly tiled, with shops on both sides, but it was damn slippery due to movement of horses - you know what I mean ;) The inital 30 mins of the Yatra took off all the energy present in us and compelled us to take immediate breaks. In between, rains also started and made our Yatra even more difficult, but we held umbrellas and jackets and continued. Oh boy, from the starting only, the paths were steep. We were chanting 'Jai Mata Di' along with whoever passed by. At one point, we thought we were walking on the clouds, as it began to get dark.  

Midway, we got a signboard which mentioned that distance to Bhavan (Bhavan is the main place where the holy cave of Vaishno Devi is located) thru Adhkuwari was 6.5 kms and another way was 5.5 kms. We decided to go to Adhkuwari first and took the long route. Our legs were already screaming.
Finally, we reached Adhkuwari at around 6 PM and went first to Cafe Coffee Day and had some refreshments. We then went to Adhkuwari temple, which is a cave below. 

Importance of Adhkuwari (as is written on the information board): At this spot, according to the legend, Mata Vaishno Devi Ji had observed spiritual discipline (tapasya) for exactly 9 months in a small cave and have concluded the same after attaining enlightenment to become one with her creators - Mata Saraswati, Mata Lakshmi & Mata Kali. Hence this sacred cave has become popular by the name "Gharbhjoon".

From Adhkuwari, there were again 2 routes to go to the Bhavan, both of which were exactly 6 kms to Bhavan. Without knowing which one to take, we simply took the straight route, where we met some guy and he told us not to take this route as it was steep & curvy and told us to take the new route on the left. We did so as he told and found that this route was much better, as horses weren't allowed & the steepness increased incrementally. We kept taking breaks at very frequent intervals and finally reached the top at 9 PM. We took exactly 5.5 hrs! Fully exhausted! 
Vaishno Devi trip  Vaishno Devi Helicopter

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