My trip to Vaishno Devi

Prologue

Its been over 15 years since I last visited Vaishno Devi temple and a couple of week back I couldn’t even imagine, I would get a chance to visit Vaishno Devi so soon. However like people say, once Mata calls you, you have to go and something similar happened with me.

Initially my dad and sister had planned to go to Vaishno Devi and had even booked train tickets. However due to an ankle injury, my father couldn’t go and since I didn’t want my sister to cancel her trip and I am always looking for an opportunity to travel, I volunteered to go with her. Plan was to leave on the same day (16th April), since it was too late to book train tickets, on Tuesday (15th April) I booked tickets of Haryana Roadways Bus to Katra (standard bus costs Rs. 346 per person).

16th - 17th April 2008 Delhi - Jammu - Katra

Since we had bookings for the 4pm bus, we decided to leave early from the house and managed to reach ISBT Kashmere Gate (Inter State Bus Terminal) at 3:30 pm and went straight to counter number 13 and saw our bus standing right in front of it. After getting the tickets (one has to submit reservation slip to get the actual tickets) we boarded the bus and to our surprise the driver started the bus at exactly 4pm!

Journey for the most part was fast paced and uneventful, till we were a few kilometers before Pathankot. Here the road was under construction, with the middle lanes being filled with loose gravel and traffic being restricted to a single bumpy lane.

Since majority of the traffic was driving painstakingly slow, our driver decided to do some off road driving. However the gravel was deep, wet and loose, causing the bus tyres to get stuck. Bus tyres were spinning wildly due to lack of traction and the bus wasn’t moving an inch. This caused the driver to act in a panic mode and he ended up getting half the bus on the road and rest in the gravel. Now the left hand side of the bus was about 3 feet higher than the right hand side and right hand side tyres weren’t getting any traction due to it.

Finally after a lot of struggle, he managed to get the bus on the same level, but it was still in the gravel and wasn’t moving much. Finally half of the passengers got off the bus and that increased the power to weight ratio enough for the bus to climb out.

At this point, almost every one was cursing the driver, who was gleaming with joy and pride for having managed to get the bus out of the sticky situation!

After another half an hour long bumpy ride, we reached the city of Pathankot, only to be greeted by a closed railway crossing. Half an hour later with a brief visit to the Pathankot bus depot, we were on our way to Jammu.

I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, when driver decided to pull over at a Dhaba and 15 minutes later all the passengers heading to Katra were told to get off the bus! It seems driver and conductor had decided to end the bus at Jammu and had struck a deal with another Haryana Roadways bus coming from Hissar, to take us to Katra.

At this point I was starting to get mad, however the bus from Hissar was almost empty, me and my sister got three seats to ourselves, allowing us to comfortably sit for the rest of the journey.

We finally reached Katra at 7 in the morning and after having breakfast, headed straight to the Niharika complex to check if we could book a room at Bhawan or Adkuwari, however it turned out everything was already booked. Since both of us were tired after the 15 hour bus journey and there was no way we would have got room at Bhawan or Adkuwari, we decided to spend the day in Katra.

After a lot of searching, we came across Galaxy Guest House; where we got a double bed room with attached toilet and TV for Rs. 300. After sleeping for a few hours during the day, we were feeling fresh. However we decided to spend the night in Katra and start the climb in the morning.

Continued on the next page