Kashmir - The Perfect Getaway
Neeraj Shinde Sunday, April 27, 2014 Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmir was our most awaited holiday destination for a long time and it was only in November of 2013 when it turned into a reality. A Paradise as it is generally referred to; we were more than excited to experience the bliss and some great surprises it claimed to offer us. Winter had just begun and the temperatures in Mumbai had already started to drop. We knew it would be challenging as far as the weather conditions were concerned and this made us power pack our bags with lots and lots of body warmers, jackets and sweaters. Here we were all set to freak out our minds with the enchanting beauty of the only Paradise on the planet.
We started at 11 AM in the morning to board a direct flight to Srinagar from Mumbai. The first two hours of the flight were pretty usual until we flew over the majestic snow capped mountains of the Himalayan ranges. It was the first time we experienced such a breath taking view from a commercial airplane. It was partly cloudy outside the flight on that sunny afternoon which initially made us hard to believe what we saw over the mountain peaks was actually snow. But soon enough all our doubts were clarified and our minds accepted this surprise as a reality. It was pretty cool and comfortable 21 degree Celsius inside the aircraft. However, we had no clues that our comfort was short-lived and that it would last only until the cabin crew had bid us a Good Bye.
|Aerial View of Kashmir|
We reached the Ghat No. 12 at the famous Dal Lake where our own Shikara (boat) was waiting for us. The Shikara ride has a special significance due to it’s glamorization in Indian movies and their popular songs. Shikara is a narrow boat with a comfortable sitting arrangement, a small one will carry up to 5 persons including the driver. 1 hour of a Shikara ride charged us INR 400. The most interesting part of the Shikara ride was that the person riding us was a beautiful Kashmiri singer. “We are naturally like this. We do not need cosmetics unlike your movie stars”, I recollect his words and his pink-cheeked face that has remained green in my memory. We spent rest of the evening singing songs with him over the beautiful Lake enjoying it’s floral and scenic beauty. Having a cup of tea at a floating shop on the Lake in such a cold weather was an experience of it’s kind. We also visited a few garment shops at the Meena Bazaar - floating market over the lake but as the evening approached, the cold was almost unbearable. Soon it was dark and we checked in at our House Boat where our cook served us a sumptuous dinner.
|Aru Valley, Pehalgam|
The very next day was dedicated to explore the beauty of Pahalgam. The famous Betaab Valley was the first to visit. The valley has got it’s name from the famous Hindi Movie Betaab which was shot in this Valley in the early 1980s. Even after several decades, the place has maintained it’s sanctity and there is almost no change in it’s beauty or ambience. Personally, I find myself out of words to describe the charisma of the place and this valley is one of the best places I have ever experienced in my life till date. After spending an hour at the place, it was hard to bid an adieu. We headed towards Chandanwadi which is where the famous Amarnath Temple Journey starts. Amarnath Journey has a religious significance amongst the Hindus and Lord Shiva devotees. This journey of approximately 30 kms. through the snow starts from Chandanwadi and we had the privilege of stepping on the steps that headed towards the Temple. After spending some quiet moments, we headed towards the Aru Valley which is a few minutes drive through the breathtaking views of the mountains and lush green Valleys systematically designed and nurtured by Mother Nature. Aru Valley seemed like just another Nature’s marvel. This is why it is also known as the mini Switzerland, a destination that it’s best. Way back to our hotel in Pahalgam, we stopped over a few scenic locations to get our cameras in action just to realize that these spots were familiar to us and were already featured in many Indian movies and famous songs. The time we had spent at the hotel that evening was exhilarating and filled with numerous memories of the day – a holiday spent at it’s best.
|Betaab Valley, Pehalgam|
Sonmarg is a few hours drive from Srinagar. Reaching there is another treat to the eyes and experiencing the snowy atmosphere in there is another. Sonmarg is probably the only tourist place in Kashmir where one can find snow at almost any part of the year. After we reached Sonmarg, we had the liberty to choose a pony ride or a local car. However, me and a fellow tourist decided to walk into the wilderness of the snow. This is something very adventurous and one of the most memorable thing I have done in the Paradise. When we returned back from the mountains, we had returned with two big balls of snow which were generously gifted to our spouses as a token of love. That was memorable too. After spending such a blissful time in the Paradise, we unanimously felt sad to leave the place. The white snow had by now became permanently green in our memories. We headed back to the Srinagar airport with a promise to visit Kashmir again.