Its a very very long post. Read at your own risk. Here I am rambling about my life's longest. 24 hours.
Everyone asked me 'How was the trip?' And i always just replied it was gr8! And why it was great, well, for starters it kept on raining & raining & raining.. ALL the while...
On the day i had my early morning flight from Delhi, I woke up at 5 am, did some left-over packing and left hurriedly for the airport. On way, it drizzled with the soft plup-plop sound. Reached airport on time, and was really really surprised by the revamped look. Delhi Airport looks so much better now. :D
Reached Jammu on time too, & *smiles* it was raining.. caught a cab via puddles & some jumping over them. Our Hotel in Katra was already booked, rested for a while there, took our lunch at a famous Dhaba called Manoranjan (means entertainment) before starting our 12 km uphill trek.
We were enjoying the rains when it dawned on one of us that we have not taken any umbrella or even a raincoat with us! Thankfully our Pithu ( A man that treks along with you and carries your stuff, massage your legs, sometimes even carry young children ) provided us with raincoats for 20 bucks each, which were of very bad quality by the way, made of plastic-carry-bag-stuff. But then we couldn't complain for what we were getting for 20 bucks.
We finally started our journey at 3:30 pm, it was like a leisurely walk for us. we kept taking a break after about every 15-20 minutes, for lemon water, for chips, for chocolate, for anything. So,we managed to cover only a km in half an hour or so, we were definitely not prepared for an uphill trek, its difficult to walk upwards on a slope. To make things worse, our shabby raincoats started to tear, mostly from arm joints. one extra pull and it would tear like paper.. Then it was easy to get drenched for water would invariable seep in through torn parts. We all bought new raincoats after 3 kms :D After 4 kms, I decided I need two raincoats one over another.. I am sure I looked damn funny but WTH! i wanted to keep myself as dry as possible. Plus another nuisance being its lightweight, it slowly became very difficult to keep its hood steady on your head, slightest of the breeze would take it off. I tried to keep it place by holding the corners, somehow it always managed to get torn from the neck.. :(
By 7 pm we had covered only 6 kms, as the cold set in, we started having hot-chocolate breaks instead of lemon water ones ( coffee breaks for others :D). After 6 kms there are two ways to reach Vaishno Devi, one of them 1 km shorter, we obviously took that one. After walking for 6 kms, its easy to decide we dont want 7 more kms :D
But unfortunately our chosen path had a lot of small-small landslides in past week and our Pithu would always push us to travel risky areas quickly. I remember we were passing under a tin-shed & its roof was broken from middle and we saw a big stone beneath. Pithu urged us to walk faster in that srea, we were all tired by then, so ignored his advice & kept strolling. Suddenly there was a noise of small pebbles on the tin shed, which btw feels louder for ppl just below. And We RAN!! literally!! so much for tiredness..
We reached our destination at 9:30, last 6 kms clearly covered at faster pace, thanks to our landslide stints :D We directly went to the public ladies bathing rooms. Its customary to take a bath before visiting the temple, & my family even insists on wearing everything new, down to the basic garments. And oh boy, the chilled water took me by surprise. The kind you wouldn't even want to touch, taking a bath was like too much. I closed my eyes and went inside the shower, came out in about 10 secs with a shivering spine. And the lights were so dim there that everyone was changing in open, no one bothered to change in cubicles provided.
We took a locker to keep our stuff and stood in queue for the holy visit. We had some special pass whose queue was considerably shorter. The general queue was atleast a km long, could be more, um not good at guessing. My mouth was agape at that sight.
Once inside the temple, its a loooong path to cover before we actually reach the cave in which three goddesses reside. And the exit to that cave was through stairs overflowing with chilled water flowing in through all the directions.. I couldn't even close my eyes here, i would fall flat on someone..After coming out, everyone was tying a red fabric on railing of a stair, i did too. I guessed it was to make a wish as is associated with all types of things being tied in Hindu temples. I made a special wish there :D
It was already 11:45pm by the time we came out of the temple and started looking for food straight away. With so many people around, all the foodie joints were open. We started our downward journey immediately after dinner. It had stopped raining by now. We were relieved that we'll not have to bear those shabby raincoats again, but then our relief was short lived.
For the first hour, we were comfortable with no rains. And since downward journey is easier on legs, we did cover a lot of distance. Somewhere after one of our hot-chocolate break, it started raining again. ON came our raincoats, double ones for me! Soon it started raining not like cats & dogs but rhinos & hippos! ( Thats how a friend put it :D ) with heavy winds and more landslides. Soon, we were walking holding out raincoats together, heavy winds promising to blow them away. We were no good though, i managed to tear both my raincoats.. DUH! thankfully our Pithu had bought 2 spares already, he knew we wont get those so late in night. I was tempted to wear third one on top, but then realised i'll look like a funny mummy ( Those raincoats were white) So removed one and kept the total to two.
One more leg-wrecking experiment we did. We had already experimented with stairs twice, which were 50-60 each. Third time we took stairs, it turned out to be 526 stairs!!! YES.. 526 stairs in one whole go, thats about 37 floors! my legs are still complaining for that.. And soon after electricity went off.. Damn!! We walked in darkness, no moonlight either because of thick clouds. We kept walking & walking and couldnt even think of taking rest, weather looked like its going to get worse. My legs started quivering, my legs shouted that they cant take one more step, but we ket moving, sometimes taking baby steps, sometimes long strides (only cos my hubby kept pushing me to be strong) . Never know from where did i gain strength to take those strides. Held my hubby's hand and just kept pushing my legs.
On the end of our trail, our hotel's cab was waiting for us. Each step from the point where we could see the car till we actually reached it, was a huge task in itself. We reached our hotel room at 5:15 am. It was a longest 24 hours of my life. If you remember the start of this post i had woken up at 5 the previous day. I was awake for continuous 24 hours with the maximum of physical activity i have ever done or will ever do. I took a Hot Bath & slept like a log for next 4 hours. Why only 4? well, there's another long post coming..