In contrast to the fertile valley of south Kashmir, Jammu is a primarily mountainous state. My cycle ride took me past spectacular scenery. High mountain passes and rivers that carved deeply into the rocks; it was a wonderful experience. Traffic was fine too and not too busy. I considered a room in Banihal but it cost more than I expected and it was a little early to stop. I ploughed on and found the perfect spot to camp high on a ridge with views to die for. This is what cycle touring is all about!
As I packed to leave an Indian army patrol of three soldiers arrived and I showed them some of my kit. Their detail was to keep watch from the ridge. I was actually surprised when I found it that there wasn’t already some kind of post there as, a rule, all the best spots are usually already taken by the military.
My journey South along Highway 1A continued through the mountains of Jammu. I descended down close to the Chenab river but then climbed again at Patnitop. It was a big climb and had been warned earlier to expect a 25 km rise. It became too late and I was very tired. Finally I camped in a forest and left the rest of the climb to the next day.
Jammu is wonderful and has an alpine quality and perfect climate. It was a truly inspiring cycle ride. I felt that my decision to ride South rather than East to Leh had been a good one.
Following breakfast of coffee and boiled eggs I continued my climb. I appeared to be as high as any of the surrounding mountains. I stopped for mid morning tea at a roadside cafe that also provided a stop and grazing for herdsmen and their horses. The saddles on the lead horses are often covered in very old fabrics with beautiful designs.
Fuelled with tea I set about tackling the hill. Gradually I scaled the gradient until, and at last, I reached the top (2,024 metres) at Patni and a police checkpoint. Once again and as with reaching the kathmandu valley rim (1,500 metres) from Naubise, I felt a real sense of achievement. I chatted with a friendly policeman who insisted on taking my photo with my camera.
From here there was only one way. I knew it was going to be a long way down.