Monday, October 11, 2010

20101005 India - Kashmir

The situation at Kashmir was not safe, I was advised. Strike had been going on for 3 months. All flights to Srinagar were canceled temporarily last 2 weeks. After collecting latest info, I was told the situation was under control and tourists can fly in again.

The flight from Delhi to Srinagar was 1hr10min. The Airport looks like a military base, almost all roofs were painted with camouflage colours. All tourists had to register again upon arrival.It was heavily guarded and militarized along the road. This strike was organized by the radical group demanding for Kashmir independence. Tourism was seriously affected. Most shops, banks and schools were close. Saw some slogans "Freedom", "Indian Dogs Out of Kashmir" etc were painted on the walls. Army was everywhere.

The climate in Srinagar was excellent, lots of houseboats but look deserted. Area not particularly beautiful, less then my expectation, but it was serene.

I signed up for 2 trekking packages for approx. USD160, which I think was overpriced. Considering the present uncertain situation, it would be better to let the agent to earn my money rather than organizing myself.

The first trip was to Pahalgam. The place was not so special, we headed straight to Aru (12km to the north). A horse was arranged for me, and the local guide walked the horse circumnavigating through the pine forest, all the way to Lidderwat, an hour each way. I just recalled the Salem High Country advertisement many many years ago. Frankly, to be alone on this trip was boring. Other than the mountains, pine trees and a few herds of sheep, there was nothing much to see. Anyway, was a relaxing day though my butt was sore.

The 2nd trip was to the glacier at Sonamarg. The scenery along the road was beautiful - high mountains, deep valleys, running turquoise blue mountain streams and small villages. This was what I expect from Kashmir. Felt like being cheated, the horse didn't bring me to the glacier, but still a far distance. I could see but not touch. I had to climb 1/2 hr more to get a little closer for better view. Never mind, the time was too short, and I knew how to plan if I would come again next trip.