We were only 2 days away from returning back to Pune. We were pretty excited about going to Gulmarg. When we got ready to head out, our driver told us there was a situation in the general area that we were headed to. After 5 days of unworried vacationing this was our first whiff of the other side Kashmir. The ugly side that the media and people tend to hype up. As it happened there was an altercation between military forces and some students that had lead to the death of a student.
You only live once
Our driver left the decision up to us. Gulmarg is the crown jewel of Kashmir and after coming all the way here I just didn’t feel like going back without seeing it. So despite my wife’s reservations we decided to go. I’m glad we did. The city of Srinagar was shutdown for the day. Besides some areas that were cordoned of on our route and an increased military presence we made our way to Gulmarg without incident.
We finally reached Gulmarg after making our way up desolate winding roads. Once we reached the top we were saw that it was the most the most crowded of all the spots we visited on our entire trip.
Gulmarg has some stunning places to stay at the top and it has been the location for several Bollywood movies. Once you reach the base you go further up via a Gondola ride that costs you Rs 600 per person. While it is expensive, it is run by the government so you can be assured that it is safe and you aren’t being fleeced by anyone. Also it offers incredible views and the gentle pace at which you move up the mountain is an experience of it’s own.
One thing to keep in mind is that while food and accommodation is relatively expensive in Kashmir, the activities that you can do when you reach the famous spots, can burn a decent sized hole in your pocket. However since it was our last real day in Kashmir we decided to go all in and it turned out to be the most expensive day for activities. We were so out of cash that we had to borrow cash from our driver on the way back.
Once the Gondola drops you off at the first base point, you can stay there and enjoy the various activities like skiing, sledging or the snow motorcycle rides. Or if you chose to spend another Rs 900 you can take the next phase of the Gondola ride that goes right up to the top of the mountain. Some guides told us it wasn’t worth it but we chose to go anyway.
End of the World
I was so glad we did. While there is nothing to do in terms of activities at the top when we alighted the Gondola we simply felt like we had reached the end of the country. The only signs of life besides a few tourists around us was an army bunker camouflaged with the snow in the distance.
We couldn’t spend much time here as the Gondola was close to shutting down for the day. The ride back down down a steep slope was an equally amazing experience.
Once we made it back to the first base we spent a lot of time just soaking in the views. For those us who have never experienced a snow filled landscape like this one it was hard to think of leaving that view behind. We spent a lot of time clicking pictures here and finally decided to come down via snow sledges that are sometimes dragged and sometimes driven by the downward slopes of the mountain.
Safe and Sound
On the way back there was no traffic on the roads owing to the strike. Another driver joined us on the way back because the family he had taken to Gulmarg decided to stay back for the night due to his fear of the incident. We didn’t see much traffic on the way back but we did see a local public transport bus. They told us if a public bus is on the road it means that things are ok and we could travel further on without worry.
It was a long day that started with a little nervousness but we were glad to be back safely with some incredible memories to bring back for the day.