Paradise of India

13th Nov 2021
Day 1

1st oct- that's the day I saw the himalayan ranges from a tiny flight window, and that's it, I was in among the mountains after 3 years and nothing else mattered!
We landed in Srinagar and drove to Pahalgam, our first destination.
DO NOT MISS- on the Sringar- Pahalgam highway, there's a famous kahwa shop by the road side (next to Noor Mohd Bhat dry fruits store) Trust me it's the best kahwa you will find in the whole of Kashmir and don't forget to have the local bread Shirmal along with it. So yum!
We crossed unlimited beautiful views , rivers, happy local faces, and sheep flocks on our way to hotel Heevan.
We enjoyed our evening by the rocks on the river bank and soaked in the fresh breeze that hit our noses. The peace in the place was already getting to me.

Day 2

Started early to watch the sunrise only to experience the beautiful changing colours of the sky and learning to stay wrapped in jackets and blankets.
We quickly had our breakfast and were off to live one of the best days!
We found an amazingly sweet person Waseem, for our 6 points tour on horses. We had super fun the entire day, climbing up and down on slippery and rocky terrain with the horses. Phew, scary but oh so worth it! All the view points said a story of their own and soon we were surrounded by trees and valleys everywhere. It was weird that it was only two days and I was already feeling attached to this new place and its people. I spoke alot to Waseem alot about his life and shared stories. We connected and that was when I realised that beautiful places are only because of its people!
We covered betaab and aru valley in the evening and head back to the river bank to spend the night.

Day 3

Waseem being completely hospitable as he was, took me for a last horse ride on his personal horses and we enjoyed those 15 mins viewing local hotels and some more view points close by.
I was leaving for sringar with a bag full of memories and a heavy heart, Pahalgam got me alot of peace and I didn't want to leave.
Apple orchard on the highway. How could we miss this? Fresh and super tasty.
We had authentic kashmiri cuisine for lunch and checked into our hotel. Did some local shopping and enjoyed the lovely songs by the santoor player in our hotel.

Day 4

Srinagar ofcourse means touring the famous gardens and going for shikara rides. That's what we did too!
We took our shikaras and went to the backwaters of the lake to see floating houses and woodcraft shops, clothing stalls and so much more all emerging at once after a turn into a tiny stream of the waters. It was beautiful, really! Felt like Venice for once. I ate Maggie watching the hills and breathing in all that air and it was time to check into our heritage houseboat (ITC) in Nagin lake.
We took a sunset shikara. I plugged in a soulful playlist and zoned out in the view before me!

Day 5

Early morning vegetable and flower market sounds  pretty right? What was more pretty was that we woke up at 4 with shivering cold and saw the sky change colour from absolutely dark to the moonset with hues of blue and finally a sunrise from behind the mountains! Breathtaking!
We checked out and started our drive to Gulmarg, the final destination for this trip.
We checked into hotel Khyber, and anything I saw about this hotel is not going to justify it's hospitality, the ambience, food, infrastructure and ofcourse the view!
We took our ATV ride that evening for local sightseeing and that's when I met another very humble and sweet person, Sahil. He owned the atv and throughout the ride we chatted and chatted about how our lives are different. We get to know so much more about a place by talking to the people. Its just something different. The humbleness people of Kashmir have is beyond my capacity to put into words.

Day 6

My brother and I had the Alpather lake trek planned for today. Since the phasi 1 gandola was non operational, we were asked to take ATVs to phase 1 and then the gandola, and finally trek to the lake.
I requested the trek guide to let Sahil and hayaat join us with the ATVs. I know it's nothing so overwhelming but a gesture Sahil showed left me in awe. Just the sweet person he is, he offered my his headphones and shared his music with me so the ride doesn't get boring. It was thoughtful!
We started the 3 hrs trek. Difficult terrain I must say. We were moving above the clouds at one point and nothing ahead of us was visible at all! We hiked and hiked through the big rocks keeping in mind the final view is going to be absolutely worth it. And it was! The Alpather lake! Water from the alpine mountains, so blue and clear! Just the site of it was refreshing and reenergizing.
The weather unfortunately became cloudy so we had to rush back to the gandola phase before it started to rain. The view was stuck in my head and we had clicked alot of pictures and made so many amazing memories to keep them stored forever.
Since this was the last day, Sahil took me for a drive in his jeep and we saw the gulmarg view point followed by a sunset.

Day 7

It was the last day and I didn't want to leave anything undone. We booked a car and went to botapathri, which is under army control. So unfortunately no pictures but amazing memories. The sunrays through those tall pine and willow trees created a beautiful view. Made some furry friends, heard heart wrenching army stories and came back to the hotel.
It was the final goodbye!
Said my last see you soon to the mountain I could barely see from the airport window and took a deep breath in. "I'm going to come back here soon", I said to myself. The trip was over and it was time to go back home.
Weirdly, I was feeling at home. Its just sometimes you don't understand how, when and what but you just get connected beyond your understanding capacity. That was kashmir for me. The people left me speechless and till date I feel so overwhelmed. Kashmir will always have a very special place in my heart!
✈️ Kolkata,
End of story!

Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani
Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani
Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani
Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani
Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani
Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani
Photo of Bota Pathri Road by Anushka Malani