[dropcap]A[/dropcap] small town located in the Anantnag district of Kashmir, Pahalgam, is one of the most visited tourist places in Kashmir. It’s more like a village with mountains scattered all over it, calling out to the top. The breathtaking sight of green mountain ranges coupled with some of the best natural green plains in the country that have kind of transformed into gardens and the music of flowing lidder river cannot be compared to any other hill station or tourist spot.
Drive to Pahalgam
We started at around 10 am with our drive Pahalgam from Srinagar. I am not sure how long it took us to get there (2-3 hours I’m guessing) since I was busy looking at the valleys and forests outside the car window. When we reached there, there was a rush and quest going on between the horse owners as to who will get the new customers. However, we ended up declining them since we wanted to explore on our own. First of all, we located a nice hotel where we could get some breakfast since we had rushed in the morning and were damn hungry. We thankfully found one and ordered an omelette for each of us. Oh Boy! It was the most delicious omelette I’ve ever had. We sat there for a while in hope to gather some warmth since there were heaters in the dining room, before we get out to that stone cold weather again! The hotel staff was very courteous and their services were just perfect!
Ride to the hilltop, ‘Baisaran’
We wanted to go all the way to the top on my own but due to slippery and undefined routes of the mountains, I almost broke my ribs. I fell off bad, man! It was then that we decided to rent a horse for each of us. I could even see them smilingly sheepishly at my slip off, damn. Lol. Those horses were just so clever in making their way amidst the woods, in the snow covered-slippery routes and they amazed me every time that I thought they were going to let us fall. They just seemed so experienced and familiar with all the routes and slip-offs. They were quick in managing their own slip-offs too. I’ve been on horses many times in past but every time that they managed avoiding a slip-off I couldn’t help but feel amazed, over and over again and proud, too.
We reached to the top with that adrenaline rush pumping inside of us in about 30 minutes or so.
LOL! That’s my boy! I still can’t figure out why does he like taking pics in a black and white or sepia mode; I prefer colors, I love them. Guess, that’s where we differ from each other!
It was beautiful up there! I could even locate the Amarnath caves, though from far. This picturesque place is the gateway for Sri Amarnath Yatra, having mesmerizing natural beauty. This, the uppermost stop is known as Baisaran or Mini-Switzerland. There were long plains up there, covered in snow and the woods that extended to the endless forests and I felt so small. The snow had gotten into our shoes; we weren’t aware of mind numbing cold out there in advance so we weren’t even in our boots! We spotted a dhaba-kind of shop and ran towards it. We ordered coffee and hot maggy to get ourselves warm. Boy! I even had my first ciggy experience that day! My feet had gotten numb and the people with me got damn worried so they made me have a smoke. The feet had were progressively getting numb to that stage where a doctor would have to cut a skin part of toes to bring the sensation back. It thankfully made me feel warmer though it tasted really bad and ugh! the cough it caused me! I do not recommend trying that, however it was a totally different situation for me. More like a survival kind of thing?!! We located some local kashmiri people with fire and we were more than just delighted when they invited us to join them. Man! I hurriedly took off my socks that were wet from snow and just let the fire heat me up.
I sat there for a while to get myself warm and active again. I watched kids making snow men, couples getting cozy, people chatting up and my friends clicking the pictures. All this while, my mind was asking me to go inside the woods and explore. I looked in the direction of woods; it wore a vicious silence. I was willing to take the danger but I guess I got just too scared too. I’ve always had this fear of trees; I don’t know why but in the dark, they scare me a lot. Silly, eh? I know. Can’t help it! It’s a trigger of my anxiety at times and I still couldn’t help but feel attracted towards it. Danger attracts me, eh? But it is finally my choice how to deal with it.
So I spent the rest of my time just admiring the plains and the beauty of snow covered mountains, getting warm and playing in the snow. I guess its during such cold and numbing times when you feel the utmost need of a human contact. Be it in a form of just holding hands or feeling someone’s warm breath against you. It’s during such cold, cruel yet beautiful times that you are in desperate need of warmth and heat and just a warm breath or hands brushing against you, can make you feel alive again.
We tried to stay as close as possible. It was only my 2nd day in Kashmir and I was supposed to have fun but my anxiety and the mind numbing cold didn’t let me. I was screaming inside, wanting to go back to a warm place. However I didn’t want to ruin the trip so I tried to keep my calm and went along.
The longer I stayed out in cold, the more numb I got to it.
We returned at around 4pm as it was starting to get dark. The horse ride back deserved some screams, lol, it was like a roller coaster ride, coming down at a rate of beeping km per minute. My heart sank for once but we enjoyed the ride anyways, it was thrilling. The horses were running down as if they wanted to get back to their respective sheds asap. (Yeah! I guess they must have been tired and hungry too.) I screamed at the top of my lungs! Haha. Mind it, I wasn’t scared, it was just the rush inside me and I couldn’t help but hoot. The echoes of our hoots got lost in the never-ending valleys. Their were waterfalls, on our way back, down to population. They were magnificent with crystal clear water, running down the undefined mountain routes and I could hear the melody that they sang. My horse stopped close to one of the waterfalls to feed its thirst. Poor thing had carried me for long now and was still doing a good job. Animals can be so patient and lovely, you know! They serve and serve but don’t ask for money at the end of the month. All they need is a good shelter, good food and water and even if they don’t get the best treatment, they still keep on serving their masters. However, even the owners of those horses seemed like good people unlike the violent, ungrateful and butcher ones who treat their animals like crap. I’ve seen plenty of those people and I can’t feel more sad, both for the poor animals for being treated like shit and the owners for not realizing that not only they are hurting the poor animals but they are hurting their own souls too. Such people can’t be trusted in social circles too; they can be abusive, manipulative and aggressive to humans too.
Back to my horse, he was such a darling! When he got done satisfying his thirst, he continued the journey. He was brave too, I guess. It takes courage to run from the top of a mountain to back to the plains at such an enormously fast pace. Yes, he sure was brave and I’m proud.
It had started raining when he had just reached mid point. The horses still managed to not let the rain effect their pace and steady yet fast movements.
Drive Back to Srinagar
We reached back to the population where our car was parked, in another 20 minutes. I quickly took a towel and removed the water that my clothes were already beginning to soack in. Our driver was kind enough to have bought a thigadi for us; it’s a modified version of angeethi and it does a good job of keeping people warm in areas like that. We hurriedly got inside the car, put on some blankets and put the thigadi inside the blanket so that it could provide the warmth in whole. I and my friends, especially my boy, were still shivering bad. So we stayed as close as possible to extend the body heat to each other. We kept on rubbing our hands with each others and it was relieving. I looked out of the car window, the snow had begun to fall again, the sun was setting at an incredibly fast pace. We reached Srinagar in another 2-3 hours.
Ending of the exciting day trip
The first thing we did when we got inside of our boats was to ask Shahzadi aunty (She’s been like a mother to me, way too affectionate and caring) to make us some hot soup. She was kind enough to bring us lots of that plus our dinner too. We ate like hungry pigs, lol, not to mention the cold there. We just wanted to finish it asap and get inside the beds. My uncle Rasheed, the owner of that houseboat called New Zaitoon, had provided us with electrical blankets and they did a fine job of keeping us warm during the night.
I pulled off the curtains of my room and looked outside of the house boats. The view of Jhelum lake with shikaras returning to the land, with sun resting in its glory, was beautiful. I had immediately fallen asleep once I got under my quilt. I was woken up the next day around 6 am to the loud and exciting voices of my friends asking me to look outside the window. It was snowing, again and I couldn’t help but smile. I lovingly watched the show, drifting towards the window side of the bed. I love to witness the miracles of the nature. The sloppy plains were now all covered in snow and by the time we got up to go outside by 10 am, it had sadly melted off. We anyways had a destination to go to that very day, Gulmarg which was expected to be an even more cold place than Pahalgam. The mountain tops of Gulmarg wear a thick layer of snow even in summers. I’ve witnessed that sight so many times during my past visits. But hell! It was winter this time. We were prepared that day to deal with the snow this time unlike Pahalgam. I can hear the car’s engine roaring up now. So I’ll bid a good-bye with this post. Sayo-nara!