Fun in the Snow – Kashmir, India

About 200 Snow leopards, an endangered species...

About 200 Snow leopards, an endangered species, are believed to live in Ladakh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, our first full day in Kashmir, we were picked up from our hotel by our guide Mohammed Aamir (Aamir for short), and driven high into the mountains, until we reached the main hill station, Gulmarg {open this link for photos}. We had to change  car, driver and guide. The new car had chains on the wheels, the new driver was experienced with this area and the guide was a licensed guide for the mountains.

Whilst we sat in the first car, waiting for this process to be completed, an argument erupted between a very large group of angry local men, who were all vying for the business of taking us up the mountain – however, this had been arranged days in advance by our friend Aamir. We felt uncomfortable with this dispute happening so close to where we were waiting – we just tried to be inconspicuous!

In thirty minutes, we were comfortable in our new car with our charming new guide Noor and his driver. This was an amazing drive on icy mountain roads, with dangerous bends and climbing high into the mountains, when suddenly we encounter a traffic jam. The cause was a bus that had skidded and its rear wheels had stuck in a deep snow drift. All of the passengers and men from other vehicles tried to help in the rescue procedure, each one having a better suggestion than the other and shouting and arm waving was the order of the day, until success and the old bus was released and on its way!

We arrived at our beautiful destination of Gulmarg, a ski resort, and here Noor took Marilyn by the hand and we all three of us walked in the snow. We were heading for the first ski restaurant, where we sat and drank the local tea Kehva – this is made with cardamom, saffron and cinnamon  sticks, plus a selection of ground nuts and is absolutely delicious and warming. We were also given our own fire that was a log in a flower-pot and was nice and comforting ; we thought this was a welcoming touch. We then headed for the Gondola station and boarded the carriage that took us to a height of 3,300  meters. We were told that Snow Leopards are seen in this area, but all we saw were their footprints! We alighted the Gondola and soon we began to notice that we were in high altitude as we suddenly both got quite breathless, but we otherwise felt fine. We wandered around in the snow, all the time Noor carefully and caringly looking after Marilyn and leaving poor Alf to his own devises! We observed the many beautiful cedar and pine trees.  We watched the skiers, both those that remained vertical and the others that were constantly horizontal and reflected on our own past skiing experiences. From here, we were only twenty kilometers from the Pakistan border, across the mountains. We then boarded the Gondola down and were told this is the highest Gondola in the world!

Apparently there is an 18 hole high altitude golf course with magnificent views, however this was not visible to us as it was snow-covered and is also claimed to be the highest in the world!

Our next highlight was to take a sleigh with its human operator who had to pull the sledge with a rope over his shoulder. In Winter this is the operators’ only source of income. It’s extremely hard work to say the least. We were on the sleigh for about two hours. This day was packed with fun and excitement, even if the downhill was a bit hairy to say the least. We also stopped to see a Catholic Church that the British had built a century earlier. We eventually arrived at our waiting car and driver, wet and by now pleasantly exhausted!!! It was by then snowing quite hard and we were lucky to have had a full day in good weather, even though it was very cold, it was comfortable as there was no wind. Our drive back took about an hour and a half and we spent the evening in the hotel as an early night was called for after a full day in the snow at high altitude.

Tomorrow we plan to go with our guide Aamir to see the Mughal gardens, cottage industries and a boat ride on the Dal Lake. However, heavy snow has been forecast, so we will have to wait until tomorrow to see what if anything is possible!

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5 responses

  1. Pingback: Magical, Snow Covered, Srinagar, Ancient Capital, Kashmir, India « Discover the Orient

  2. Pingback: India – Best Blogs Series « Discover the Orient

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