Previously: We were 5 of us in the group, 4 men and I, a solo woman, and we decided to head to Leh for a vacation from Delhi, by our car. The first day, 13th September, we left from Delhi at 12am on 13th towards Anantnag via Pathankot. But before we could reach Anantnag- Patnitop we were stopped by the Indian Army.
14th September, Day 2:
Anantnag- Patnitop – Anantnag, 268Km, NH44
Around 4AM in the morning we were asked by the Army Jawan to park the car in the queue which was getting ready to cross the Jawahar Tunnel, moving towards Patnitop. The tunnel was supposed to be open at around 7AM and so all the private vehicles and heavy vehicles took their position in the queue to cross to the other side of the tunnel.
Treating ourselves to cups of hot tea we were ready again to call off our eventful journey and to head back home. But it was difficult to make the hungry soul realize that it was not the right time for the trip. When the tunnel opened we started our journey backward towards Patnitop. But after travelling a certain distance and after seeing convoy of army vehicles passing by we felt that the situation is not that dangerous if we move in between the army vehicles. Since it was our first trip without tourist guides, we were in a dilemma whether to continue or to retrace. Moreover, two sleepless nights added to our woes with Appu, only one who could drive, it was becoming an unmanageable situation. So we decided to take rest for a few hours in some hotel in Patnitop before we resumed our journey forward.
On the way to Patnitop we spoke to few bikers who were coming back from Leh, about the criticality of the situation in Srinagar. All of them gave us a positive feedback saying that situation is not that bad and is under control. Reaching Patnitop we accommodated ourselves quickly in a hotel and after freshening up, we crashed in our rooms to rejuvenate ourselves with some sleep.
At around 5 PM we started again to complete the unfinished journey by taking a second chance. But as luck would have it we could not reach Jawahar Tunnel before 7PM and the tunnel got closed until 7AM the next morning as a part of its daily routine. The army personnel in the check post suggested us to spend the night in the bunkers built inside daily condiment shop in the area named “Shaitani Nala.” The name of the place sent a chill through our spine and gave us goosebumps.
Later, we discovered from the locals the trivia behind this horrific name of the place. People living there believe that about few years ago, there was a ghost who caused accidents in this area. According to them the ghost transformed itself into a tiger and scare those people travelling through that area at night. According to another local story, it is believed that, long time ago there was no bridge or the new tunnel path near this area so the cars would have to go through the old tunnel where the ghost lived. Inside the old tunnel the ghost was believed to transform itself into a policeman and instruct the truck drivers to keep the trucks to the left where there was 2000ft deep gorge.
Listening to all these horrific tales and feeling little disheartened and scared at the same time, we found for ourselves a suitable bunker to spend the night. Made of asbestos and with heavy blankets for the travellers to beat the cold, the small bunker was a cosy place which then seemed more than a palace to us.
We decided to have an impromptu celebration with a small peg of Old Monk to keep up the spirit and the excitement. After sharing some light moments, we decided to call it a day since we were planning to wake up early the next morning and resume our interrupted journey.
You can read the previous day’s experience here: Leh-A Trip to Remember-From Committing Mistakes to Finishing with Finesse (DAY 1)