What does one write about a place on which so much has already been written ? How many more adjectives can one add to the already long dictionary of praises showered by writers through the ages ? How can one top up " Agar firdous baroye zameen ast, hami asto, hami asto hami ast. " ?
So I decided not to. Because my repository doesn't have any new words to describe Heaven on Earth, I decided to make this blog a journey of my recent trip to Kashmir, through photographs. Kashmir is a photographers paradise. There is not a turn, which isn't a picture post card view. There isn't a place, where you will not want to stop, fill your lungs with clean air and start clicking. The place is so stunningly beautiful, that it's almost overwhelming.
We traveled during the first week of June. A short 1 hour flight from Delhi, Srinagar was our base. We drove down straight to Gulmarg. Crisp, cool mountain air, with a light drizzle, we needed to pull out our warm jackets. The drive was our first tryst with the beauty of the place.
Gulmarg, famous for the ski slopes during winters, was a huge field of green meadows, ideal for walking around and doing nothing. We took up the Gondola to Mt. Apharwat - at a height of 14,500 ft above sea level. Covered all year with snow, the base point of the peak, is a short trek away from the LOC. The views below have been taken from inside the cable car cubicle. I can only imagine the snow here during winters.
Drive to Sonamarg - Sonamarg is again a huge green meadow with the mountains in the background. The drive to Sonamarg, was sight to behold. Travelling along the ancient Sindh River ( also known as the Indus river ), the road to Sonamarg goes on ahead to Kargil, Drass and Leh. Enroute, you can find Army training camps. Spotting the Gang of Harley Davidson's or BMW bikers going ahead to Leh is a frequent sight here.
Pahalgham - by far, the most favorite part of my trip, Pahalgham stole my heart away. Majestic snow covered peaks, the gushing waters of the Lidder River, a drive through the clouds to Chandanwadi, Saffron farms, cricket bat factories, Apple orchards, Walnut trees, and a gourmet cheese factory, Pahalgham packs in a punch and yet manages to retain it's quaint village feel. A welcome flat-terrain drive to Pahalgham, we went sightseeing ahead to Aru Valley, Betaab Valley and Chandanwadi. The Betaab Valley gets it's clear waters from the Sheshnag Lake, 12kms ahead of Chandanwadi.
Chandanwadi needs no introduction. The last motorable road, before the arduous trek to Amarnath, reaching Chandanwadi, was magical. We were almost cutting through the clouds. The weather further up was deteriorating, with the winds picking up, it was hard not to be in awe of the place.
Srinagar - a city of gardens, rose bushes everywhere, maddening traffic and the peaceful Dal Lake. We did most the major touristy things - a visit to Chashmashahi, Shalimar Gardens and even the Royal Springs Golf Course, rated the most beautiful Golf course in India. The stay on the house boat was as cozy and quaint as can be. Made out of Walnut wood, its an experience not to be missed.
My only issue during this trip was the incessant pestering the guides everywhere. They just refused to take no for an hour. At Sonamarg, we could barely enjoy the beauty of the place, as they kept on nagging to take us to Thajiwas glacier and LOC. The same thing happened on the Shikara ride on the Dal Lake, with the shikarawala's coming to sell their stuff. Even in a place like Betaab valley, where there is nothing much to see in anycase. The only place where the rates are fixed and the guides don't bother is in Pahalgham. Regulated by the union, the rates for the taxi are fixed and non-negotiable.
Kashmir must be on your bucket list to travel. It's a state of unparalleled beauty and if you are mountain lover, you don't be disappointed. With snow capped peaks, abundant lush green forest cover, gushing rivers and the crisp mountain air, Kashmir is feast to the senses.