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May 19, 2013

Our Kashmiri Sojourn

A small travelogue of our trip to Kashmir where we covered Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg. A family trip after almost 3 years. If ever there can be a verdict for a trip, it can only be epitomized by this saying some great soul said about Kashmir. 

"Agar phirdos baroyeh zami asto, ami asto ami asto - If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here"
Day 1:

Started from Bangalore early morning 4am to reach BIAL. Started to Delhi, by 6.10am to reach by 8.30am. then after a waiting time of 3 hours started to Srinagar and reached dal lake. Stayed there overnight. Highlight of the day was the amazing shikara ride which lasted for almost 4 hours. Pakodas were had with kashmiri kahwah, kashmiri poshak were worn by all the three of us. The ride then stretched through to the beautiful Meena bazaar, a floating market where the ladies of the house shopped for a lot of stuff (read as sarees). The day culminated with a warm dinner arranged by the team of makemytrip team, which I have to tell you is really good.

Dal Lake and its almost pristine beauty!!!
Day 2:

A night spent at the Honolulu houseboat which was once in a life experience really. Woke up to the magic of the dal lake. Its serene waters, amazing sights and sounds is sufficient to make you forget any worries you might possess between those ears. 

The House boat where we stayed over
We then proceeded to Gulmarg and reached there around 12.30 PM to quickly freshen up and get on to the world famous Gondola ride :-). The journey from 4000ft to 7000ft was one exhilarating experience, from the greens of pines to the seamless whites of the snow. This was only phase 1 of the gondola ride, unfortunately we were not lucky enough to get tickets which were sold out by the time we got there. 

Enroute Gulmarg
That didn't stop us from having maximum fun skiing and riding the sledge on the snow. It was like a huge canvas full of snow where you can be just be yourself and trust me, when you have experienced snow for the first time, there is hardly any sanity that prevails. Mom, sis and I surely and sorely missed Dad. Rest of the day had in it, riding down to gulmarg on the gondola and bracing up to the cold cold night at Gulmarg.

A view from the Gulmarg Gondola
Day 3:

Our next journey was to pahalgam, we reached there after almost 4 hours of journey by road. The route from gulmarg to pahalgam enroute Srinagar is a highway, but it's single laned and a lot of trucks ply this route. After check in at the himalayan house hotel which is situated right on a stream that originates from the Himalayan glaciers overlooking mountains with pine trees and snow capped mountains, almost a common sight across the valley. The key activities of the day included riding up on a pony almost 7 kms in distance to what's called the 'Switzerland' of pahalgam. Two parts of this activity was amazing, one the ride itself on the pony which challenged every inch of flesh on the buttocks, and the scenery at the actual site which actually feels like God forgot to grow trees and instead grew grass of the greenest kind. 

Our vehicles to the Switzerland of Kashmir, the ever dependable ponies

Lots of pictures were clicked and rode back all independently on Bulbul, the pony I was on. All the exertion was so much worth it as so many firsts were achieved.

Nature imparting a natural variation for the shutterbug
Day 4:

Day 4 was also at pahalgam spent going to chandanwadi(the starting point of amarnath yatra), slid merrily on the snow, fell down as many times on it to the hearts extent. We also visited the 'betaab valley' made famous by the movie of yester years of the Sunny Deol & Amrita Singh. The temperature was at its coldest in the whole trip and we slept a lot owing to it . Some shopping ensued in the rest of the day and back to the hotel.

At Chandanwadi, really cold here.

And when the pose goes wrong
Day 5:

After a chilly frosty stay at pahalgam, we were all set to head back to Srinagar. We started by 9am and on the way did something that we'd not expected to. White water rafting at the lidder river. It was a fun experience, however I was left wanting for a lot more power. On reaching Srinagar we went to chashme shahi garden which has a source of natural spring water that alleviates ailments of the body, that's what they say :-) then it was time to check in to the hotel for lunch and then we headed to Adi Shankaracharya temple.

White water rafting, unexpected but memorable :)

The elevated temple provides a panoramic view of Srinagar, from here you can actually make out the real size of dal lake and the whole city seems to have been built within and around it. Simply amazed by Gods creation. After clicking a lot of pics, we headed down to Srinagar and visited the Shalimar garden. Day ended with a shopping stint for home, bought a Kashmiri carpet after some hard bargaining.

Dal Lake - A panoramic view
Day 6:

The penultimate day saw us spending our day in travelling to sonamarg, around 90kms from Srinagar. Access to snow was around 3 kms away from the base camp which we traversed through on ponies. This time mummy also came on one, took a lot of cajoling from my side and more importantly a lot of will power from her side. Sure it must've been a little discomforting, but she did something she'd not expected to do. At sonamarg we got access to pristine snow, bright sun and the clearest of skies unlike in Gulmarg and Chandanwari, what followed next needs no prizes for guessing.

Mom riding her pony

Lot of pictures, while we were posing more than ever before. After which we took the horse ride back after having the spiciest Maggi and the most amazing coconut cookie and then the ride back to Srinagar.

At Sonamarg
Day 7:

We started early from the hotel to proceed to the airport, and almost after never ending security checks we left to Delhi where we waited for another 4 hours before we could head back namma Bangalore. And reach we did after experiencing turbulence which was a first for me.

But like they say all is well that ends well, it was an amazing trip with mesmerizing memories from the paradise on earth. No line could ever do justice to the beauty and tranquility of the place that this probably does...

"I'm in Kashmir, heaven can wait"