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Old 22nd June 2011, 23:26   #1
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Default Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

All my life I have run into people who spoke of extraordinary beauty when the word Kashmir was uttered. I have honestly never encountered anyone who felt the place was over rated and not worth a visit.

So when I finally decided to visit this legendary region I was excited and equally wary of expecting too much and being disappointed. I took a conscious decision not to go there with any expectations.

I would have loved to drive up to Kashmir from Hyderabad. For me usually travelling through India's villages leisurely is as much a fun part of a holiday as the destination itself. However, this year, I had planned a couple of breaks which entailed cutting out days spent in travelling. So it had to be a case of flying into Srinagar.

As the aircraft left the plains of Delhi I expectantly looked out of the window to see whether I could see the magnificent Himalayas. My jaw dropped in awe at the sight below. I was speechless seeing the snow capped range stretching for miles into the horizon. The sight was intimidating in its enormity and at the same time had a very pristine elegance to it. My mind instantly grew silent realising this was no ordinary mountain range. This was the mother of all mountain ranges !

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Old 22nd June 2011, 23:47   #2
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

As soon as we landed in Srinagar we checked into a houseboat on the Dal lake

As you are ferried across the lake to your houseboat you realise this is a very interesting and novel way to live. I liked the laziness about the whole experience. Life slows down and everything is at paddle pace !

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If you like quiet and peace in your home or surroundings, if you don't mind life slowing down to paddle pace, if you are not flustered about doing nothing or lazily sitting on the deck of a houseboat reading a book or taking pictures or simply gazing at the waters and a low ebb of life unfolding around you then staying on a houseboat is the most charming and quaint of experiences you could desire. Its a unique way to live and apart from its novelty to us urban jungleites there is immense beauty in living on a lake.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 00:10   #3
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

Shikharas, shikharas and more shikharas. Everything on Dal revolves around this most charming little boat. I was totally amused and captivated by the huge range of activities that this little ferry manages to accomplish. You need a shikhara to get to your house boat. You need a shikhara to go shopping. BTW shopping comes to you in shikharas too. The range of shikhara travelling salesmen is amazing. They will sell you just about anything from flowers to handicrafts, to jewellery to shawls to cool drinks, cigarettes and alcohol. It was amusing how the local Kashmiris have adapted to the tastes and preferences of the tourists.


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At dusk the shikharas gliding around the lake take on the appearance of angels flitting across a mythical lake or butterflies in a rose garden.

Its magical to see life ebb around the lake.

At night Dal takes on an even more exotic feel. You can park yourself in a shikhara in water a bit away from your houseboat and relax late into the night. Its too romantic and too charming !

Last edited by Samurai : 23rd June 2011 at 10:54. Reason: Rule#11
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Old 23rd June 2011, 00:38   #4
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The next day after a good breakfast we headed out to Gulmarg. As we left the valley and started our drive up the mountain my eyes widened with joy seeing the stunning pine forests. I am basically a tree person and have this deep bond with trees. The forests around Gulmarg were like food for my soul. I cannot explain how deeply moved I was to walk amidst the massive pine trees

They have a fabulous cable car taking you up mount Aparvat, in two phases, the second one being at 14000 feet. That day the second phase ride was not on due to maintenance. I decided to trek up the snow toward the summit and went up halfway to about 12000 before I decided I was being foolish to keep moving up and up as by then I had left behind people far below. So admiring the views from half way up second phase I trekked down. I realised walking down a mountain is harder work, especially on your ankles !

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Old 23rd June 2011, 01:00   #5
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Smile Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

Excellent snaps, friend. I have always been infatuated by Kashmir.

The cable car system in Gulmarg was built by our friend Commander Alok, whom we met in Udaipur.

Waiting for the rest of the story and pics.

5 stars. Keep up the good work.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 01:06   #6
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

After a chilly night in Gulmarg the next day we headed toward Pahalgam. The pine forests around Gulmarg and the spectacular mountain views had already begun to satiate my appetite for beauty and as we sped across the valley toward Pahalgam I wondered how different could Pahalgam be. Little did I realise that Kashmir is full of surprises !

Enroute we stopped briefly at the ruins of a lovely temple site now mostly in ruins

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It was lovely to drive under this massive canopy of safeda trees. As we neared the mountains again and the forests started we passed many a tiny village so deeply shaded with huge trees that it was almost dark in daytime. I loved it. Traffic jams in Kashmir take on a different meaning when you are up against four legged creatures of a woolly variety

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Old 23rd June 2011, 01:34   #7
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As we left the valley and began our ascent up yet another mountain the air became cooler and the forests more enchanting. For some strange reason I was beginning to feel like I was returning home everytime we came up to a mountain and started driving up it.

I had struck a very interesting equation with our driver who was a very decent Kashmiri. While traversing the valley I would ask him tons and tons of questions about life in Kashmir, the problems and hardships they faced, the militants and the army and what he thought of it all. We had the most amazing conversations. As soon as the mountain foothills would arrive I would grow silent as my attention would be riveted outside and he most gracefully would not intrude.

As the car sped up mountain roads I was wondering what Pahalgam would be like. And then out of the blue on a turn I see this and I am stunned

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I cannot express in words the sense of elation I felt to see the raging Lidder river frothing as the white waters crashed on rocks. I couldn't get over the colour of the water. A lovely light blue green. The drama of a meandering raging river was something I had not witnessed before and with the stunning pine covered mountains on either side I was mesmerised. I knew I was falling in love with Kashmir !

We reached Pahalgam in time for lunch. After a quick bite I was off on a excursion up a nearby mountain on horseback to a place called Baisaran up in the forested hills and a few more scenic spots. My driver had summed up Baisaran with a simple "Aap agar Basairan nahi dekhe to Kashmir nahi dekhe!!" Now I was intrigued.

Fabulous pine forests of Gulmarg and the imposing Aparvat mountain, the raging Lidder of Pahalgam, so what else does Kashmir have in store for me?

With these thoughts on my mind I was soon deeply engrossed by the spectacular pine forest I was riding up in.

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Enroute we pass this enchanting cottage in the woods. I asked my guide whose house it was as I was totally smitten by it. He said "Yeh hamare Chief Minister sahib ke liye hai" Wow now that is one heck of a retreat for a CM I thought to myself as we ambled along.

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Old 23rd June 2011, 02:03   #8
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I must confess being a hardcore car guy and someone who loves offroading I was astounded by the surefootedness of the ponies in Kashmir. My mind boggled as I simply couldn't figure out how this animal manages to not slip even once tackling the most absurb of terrain. Deep ruts, rocks, crossing a steep 45 degree incline sideways, you throw anything at it it will handle it with a gingerly surefootedness. Amazing, simply amazing.

I had a very chatty guide accompanying me and it was quite amusing how he regaled me with tales of scenic spots and other interesting info on Kashmir. Ofcourse I managed a lot of quiet too. Something about those pine forests simply blew me away.

We reached a ridge where he asked me to step down. He motioned toward a small kiosk selling tickets to Baisaran. Being a ridge I couldn't see what lay beyond so I bought the ticket and walked ahead. The scene that unfolded before me literally shocked me.

Before me was a meadow so finely manicured it looked like an army crew cut. Unbelievable grass and what a setting !!

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Sadly these pictures just don't capture the magic of Baisaran. I had goosebumps all over me as I walked onto the meadow in disbelief. Was this real? Was I in India? How could something so beautiful and manicured occur naturally? I simply couldn't believe what I saw.

And those snow capped mountains cradling the meadow in the midst of a stunning pine forest.

Baisaran was divine. I felt deeply privileged as I stood there in awe of so much beauty.

Still not recovered from the shock of such beauty my guide got me back onto the pony to take me further into the forest. We passed some very lovely sheep pens

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reaching a view point where the entire Kashmir valley was visible. The guide mentioned the lake in the far distance was the Dal at Srinagar ! You can see a tiny speck of it almost near the horizon where the mountains and the valley seems to meet the sky
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Old 23rd June 2011, 02:47   #9
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Returning to my hotel at Pahalgam I knew I was well on my way to seriously falling in love with Kashmir and especially Pahalgam. Little did I realise as I settled into a cosy bed later in the night after a icy cold walk post dinner that Kashmir's finest performance was just around the corner.

Next morning post breakfast we headed up yet another mountain enroute to Chandanwari. We were shifted to a Bolero driven by a local Pahalgam driver as we were informed the roads now were trecherous and required skill ! Err what kind of skill were we talking ?

No sooner had we left Pahalgam below and bend after bend wound our way up the mountain to Chandanwari I realised what that skill entailed. The roads for most part of the drive were barely 10 feet wide. There was a thousand foot drop on one side and a couple of thousand feet of mountain on the other. Nerves of steel? You bet !! And every once in a while you had two way traffic !!

But all this was farthest from my mind. As the road to Chandanwari turned out to be my road to a paradise I will never forget for the rest of my life. The journey to Chandanwari and the vistas unfolding at every bend itself was my paradise.

Speechless, stunned, bewitched, over awed and over whelmed I honestly don't think I can ever forget the drive to Chandanwari. I had never ever seen such beauty in nature.

The drama that unfolded before my soul was way too much for me to handle. It was excessive in intensity and beauty and I actually figured it would be easiest to cry to release some of that awe and intense beauty that seemed to permeate my very being at all levels.

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Old 23rd June 2011, 03:29   #10
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As I walked down a trail I came upon four army personnel. Instantly I felt a sense of affection and gratitude for them for protecting this marvelous country at risk to their lives. I thanked them for protecting Kashmir and asked if I could take a picture with them. They gladly obliged.

I abhor guns and anything to do with weapons of destruction. But seeing what these gentlemen were doing, such a tough life trekking all day long in these mountains to ensure militants don't infiltrate India, for the first time ever I felt I would gladly offer my services to the armed forces to work in Kashmir

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An espresso in that setting beats any Coffee Day elsewhere in India !!

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There's an interesting tale to relate here. While driving up to Chandanwari in a Bolero I kept telling myself that this spectacular country must be viewed either from an open car, a motorcycle or ideally walking. Just as we completed a trek of the glacier at Chandanwari and got into the car to head down we heard a couple of loud blasts and were stopped by this blockade caused by some road widening works. In a flash I was out of the car, asked the driver to pick me up further down the valley as and when he got cleared and started walking downhill. I was stopped by a Kashmiri villager saying there were more blasts lined up ahead. As I stood there in the middle of the road he motioned me to come under the shelter of a large rock. Soon we were joined by two more Kashmiris. It was the most bizarre sight ever. Three Kashmiris and myself huddled under a large rock waiting for the blasts to go off. In front of us lay a pristine valley and a raging river below with the stunning pine forests all around us. About fifteen blasts went off just 50 feet behind us. The whole situation was freaky. A few whistles later and confirmation that no more blasts were on, the four of us then emerged from under the rock. I wished them and walked all the way down the valley. I will never forget that walk. To walk alone in the Himalayas is something you have to experience to understand what I went through. Its an awesome feeling.

As I walked down that amazing road I couldn't help but notice that a few hours ago I wished to experience this place either walking or in an open car and my wish was fulfilled albeit in a totally freaky way !!

Dynamite stalled all traffic till I walked alone undisturbed all the way down the valley !!

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Old 23rd June 2011, 06:28   #11
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

Lovely pictures, keep them coming. Few details regarding the route and places you stayed and would recommend would be helpful.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 08:34   #12
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

fantastic log and pics DKG, kashmir is a place you will fall in love with and will go again and again. Try it in full winters :P

Last edited by rkbharat : 23rd June 2011 at 08:38.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 08:55   #13
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

Brilliant travelogue and pics DKG, now I know why you could not resist booking the Rocky Beige Car. Would be eagerly awaiting your next travelogues.

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Old 23rd June 2011, 09:21   #14
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

Where was your houseboat located? How much did you pay? Any contact details?
For those with cars, where is the nearest car parking lot - and how safe is it?
It will be great if you can share with us some details of the hotels that you stayed at each of these places.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 09:49   #15
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Default Re: Kashmir : Nature's bewitching drama !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DKG View Post
As I walked down a trail I came upon four army personnel. Instantly I felt a sense of affection and gratitude for them for protecting this marvelous country at risk to their lives. I thanked them for protecting Kashmir and asked if I could take a picture with them. They gladly obliged.

I abhor guns and anything to do with weapons of destruction. But seeing what these gentlemen were doing, such a tough life trekking all day long in these mountains to ensure militants don't infiltrate India, for the first time ever I felt I would gladly offer my services to the armed forces to work in Kashmir
DKG,

Thanks for sharing the nice travelogue.

Eventhough, i served in Army, everytime i see these boys in the high mountains in North or East, i get goosebumps. The terrrain is so tough and these guys are doing amazing job.

I felt the same when we were in Ladakh last year. When i looked at the terrain, I just could not fathom the fact that these guys fought enemies in those trecherous places in Kargil where leisurely trekking itself is tough!!

Nice to hear the good words on Fauj from you
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