The first part of this series is available here.
On our 2nd day in Kashmir we headed to Sonmarg which, along with Pahalgam and Gulmarg is one of the 3 main tourist areas in Kashmir. It’s a one and half hours’ drive from Srinagar. One of the the first things we realised on our drive there is how huge and pervasive Dal lake truly is. It felt like we could see a part of it no matter where we were in Srinagar.
Kashmir & Politics
While I’m not much of a follower of the political situation in our country our driver was fairly chatty and informative about it. He was a big fan of our former Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee. According to him at the time that he was in office most of the people of Kashmir believed he was heading down the path that would have bought much needed peace to the beleaugured citizens of the state. He said a greater threat to Kashmir actually comes from China. All the squabbling between India and Pakistan seeks to benefit them the most.
The Sind River
We took a pit stop at nice open air cafe by the Sindh river on the way to Sonmarg. The river remainined beside us all the way to our destination.
The process the government has in place, to ensure that the locals in all areas can make a living from tourism means, that we couldn’t take our own private vehicles beyond a certain point on reaching Sonmarg. So we needed to hire local vehicles or horses for the rest of the journey. Dozens of locals hounded us as soon as we got out of the car. Our driver had given us some preliminary advice on negotiating the best prices and an agreed upon gesture from his side to indicate that we had settled for a reasonable final value. We used that system everywhere from then on.
The Gentle Pace of a Horse
After negoitiating horse rides they remained our gentle companions for the better part of 4 hours. While hiring a vehicle would have saved us time, the easy, gentle pace of these creatures let us appreciate the beauty of the mountains and the river beside us in the most relaxed and enjoyable way possible.
As we trodded gently up the road we saw several sections where an avalanche had come through and then been cleared away. We have seen the ferocity of avalanches on TV and here we were moving calmly through the aftermath of one.
The Sind river continued to keep us company
The sheer beauty of this region gives you a sense of why India, Pakistan and China fight over it.
Sonmarg Picnic Point
At the end of the horse ride while they remain tethered outside you can spend some time at a small enclosed area where you can participate in some snow activities like a sledging and skiing. We did neither preferring to just walk around in the snow.
Who is God?
On the way back we had a fascinating discussion on the concept of belief and religion. I am not a religious person but I am always fascinated by others perspectives on it. Our driver while a believer in God was completely against false prophets or men who are treated as gods. He said if you don’t believe in the traditional concept of God just consider your parents as your gods.
On our way back from Sonamrg we stopped at the beautiful Hazratbal Masjid.
As beautiful as the structure is, the gardens and the overlooking lake and mountains in the background make it a perfect place for those who wish to pray or just enjoy a few moments of peace.
Late Night Walks
While our hotel had excellent food the menu was a little limited so we thought of trying dinner elsewhere for the night. We weren’t sure if it was safe to go out at night, but our hotel guy assured us that it was completely safe no matter when we went and came back. So we tried South Indian for dinner and ended the night with a walk by the Dal Lake which was only a few meters from our Hotel.
The next post covering the 2 days we spent in Pahalgam is here