8th August 2015, Saturday……Day (8) Mahanpur-Udhampur 130 km
Like has been the norm during the trip, did not have very sound sleep inside the car at Mahanpur. Still it was good enough to uplift my spirit and instead of going back to Amritsar I decided to move on, and drive towards Patnitop. Two cups of tea with mutter later, I hit the road.
It was 6am morning.
Unlike last night, Mahanpur looked like a big town. At about 40 kilometers from Lakhanpur, 32 from Basohli and 100 from Udhampur, it has a degree college too.
The drive was pretty good. With tall trees all around and wide road, it was nice driving on wet smooth road.
Found a nice water point along the road. Nice clean water was gushing from a pipe just at the right height, a good opportunity for bathing and washing Lalpari. During my solo trips, I love bathing at natural sources whether it’s a stream, waterfall or a small brooke.
Shaved, brushed and then put lalpari under the flowing water and washed it thoroughly. Took off clothes and enjoyed heavenly bath as well. It took me around two hours to finish both. Later I came to know that the water was originating from a nearby stream and arranged especially to fill water supply tankers.
It was 10am and I hit the road again.
With fresh body and mind and gleaming Lalpari, the drive became even more enjoyable. Smooth road, greenery all around, clouds in the sky, dreams in my heart and twinkle in eyes, I was loving the drive.
After about 60 kilometers I found a nice dhaba along the road. A good place for some rest and gossip with locals. Had nice time eating crispy tandoori aloo paratha with curd, achar and tea and got all the gadgets charged.
Left the dhaba at 1pm afternoon and hit the road again.
Into few kilometers of drive, saw a diversion to the left mentioning Mansar lake 13 kilometers from the place. Had enough time at hand so turned left and drove towards the lake.
The road was pretty bad. It took lot of time to reach the lake. Parked the car at parking and walked inside towards one of the viewing platforms, hoping to see some tortoise.
My daughter loved to play with the tortoise during our earlier family trips to the lake.
Welcome gate, Surinsar-Mansar Development Authority.
Mansar lake is famous for adventure tourism. It is a popular shortcut for people heading for Kashmir which begins near Samba on National Highway. It bypasses Jammu town.
Full of fish and tortoise, the lake is surrounded by forest-covered hills.
The lake is also considered a very holy site. A temple dedicated to snake god Sheshnag, is also located on its banks. It is believed to be auspicious for newly wed couples to seek blessings of Sheshnag by performing three parikarma around the lake.
But I just wanted to walk around the lake and see if I could see some tortoise. I went walking from one platform to another but could not see even a single tortoise.
There were lots of fish though. I saw people who had come from far off places enjoying feeding the fish. Being close to the famous Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, many people make a day trip to the lake.
Weather continued to be murky though.
People were having nice time with family and friends.
Submerged benches in overflowing waters of the lake.
Another scene of the lake.
A pathway along the lake.
People enjoying feeding fish.
After spending about good one hour and failing to see any tortoise, I drove back on the same Mahanpur-Udhampur link road.
Pretty soon I found myself driving in Udhampur and in a little jam. Being a busy town, I thought it would be over soon. Policemen were regulating the traffic till the point where road merged with the bye pass road.
After struggling for over an hour in the jam we were allowed to go. I thought everything was alright until I found myself stuck in yet another jam but this time a bigger one.
Still thought it would be over soon. We kept on waiting. Everything was stand still, no vehicle was moving from either side. After about an hour’s time vehicle from opposite side started moving. We thought the jam was over. The traffic from other side was moving steadily but ever so slowly. It kept on moving at snail’s pace for over two hours. It kept our hopes alive.
Another one hour passed, the traffic from other side was still moving. One hour more and the same story, yet another hour, the traffic kept on moving slowly but steadily. It felt as the flow of traffic from other side was unending.
It was over four hours since I was stuck at one place and the hope of jam breaking started looking bleak.
Evening fell and it became dark. Traffic from other side was still coming but ever so slowly. People around me were guessing that there was a landslide on the way to Patnitop and there was passage for only one vehicle at a time and rumour had it that the jam was for over 30 kilometers till Batote and it might take entire night to clear the jam.
We asked policemen on a jeep which passed us frantically. They gave a very disappointing signal and told us that there was no chance of jam opening soon.
It was 10pm night and it started raining.
Gradually it became very hard and we started panicking that it might cause another landslide or multiple landslides. With passage of time, the rain was become more and more fierce. It was thundering and pouring in full force, lots of mud started flowing on the road. Almost everyone was inside their vehicles and hardly anyone on the road.
The traffic coming from other side halted too.
I thought what was I doing there. It was getting too much. I had come to explore the lesser known parts of Himachal and Kashmir during monsoons.
First I had a fall in Khajjiar and dislocated my elbow. Then Saach Pass became out of bounds and I drove to Bhaderwah through Padri Pass. A landslide blocked the Bhaderwah-Doda road and I had to return back through chatter Gala Pass.
Now again this huge jam, a landslide and torrential rains, I thought Nature wants me to return back and try again sometime in future.
It was 11pm night, pitch dark and raining cats and dogs.
I decided to abandon the trip and return back home. Luckily there was enough space for turning the car and in between heavy rain and flow of mud I turned Lalpari back towards Udhampur.
It was tough driving back through the jam, rain and flowing mud. With little effort soon I reached a wide beautiful road. It was Udhampur bye pass. There were no settlements, restaurants and guest houses on the road.
I was hungry since I had eaten only one prantha during the whole day.
After driving for about 20 kilometers on that bypass road I found a small restaurant. Some security men were having meals. The man at the restaurant told me that they were done with the food and only biscuits, namkeen and cold drinks were available.
Soon some more people looking for food arrived, and like me they had to be content with biscuits and namkeen only. Amongst them were two teachers and a lady from Doda. After some work in Jammu, they were going back to Doda but found themselves caught in the jam.
We had nice time talking about life in Doda and in this part of the world. After sometime I felt like sleeping and went inside the car to sleep.
While the lady kept dozing inside the car, the two friends chose to spend the night sitting on a chair in the dhaba.
Map of the route followed for the day