Kashmir has never been an easy terrain for a traveler, especially after the up-rise in militancy during the early 1990s. Kashmir has always posed a challenge for people who love to discover new places. In this entry, I'll be telling you about my personal experience of Kashmir.
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It was the summer of 2015, me and my friend - Adib, from West Bengal, were all set to travel to Kashmir on our own and since we are quite young – 18 at that time, it was a big deal for us. Adib has come all the way just to see the valley, and since we both are good friends, it was more of a get away from our busy life and spending some time alone. Boards had just ended and the time couldn't get any better, so we decided to go for it & Checked flight schedule. We didn't have a lot of cash, but it was just enough to keep us afloat. At least, that’s what we thought.
The Road Trip
As I have already mentioned, we were short of money, so we didn't have the option to go via Airlines or on a bike. So we decided to go like all the Kashmiris do hop on to a booked SUMO. We left home early and were hitting the roads by 9 AM. It was a pleasant day. It takes around 8 hours to travel from Jammu to Srinagar if everything stays normal. In our case, it took around 12 hours. We were stopped by police at a lot of places, and then we saw the actual protest - pelting of stones, in Anantnag. Our cab took a bit of damage and thankfully our driver was smart enough to change the route well on time. He took another road that goes from Khanabal. It was not as wide as the National Highway and the diverted traffic had made it all look more chaotic. After so much of drama we had seen, we were in Srinagar - at around 8 PM or so. And since we both were totally tired from the journey, we decided to take rest at a pre-booked place near Zeshtha Devi Temple.
The never ending rain
When we woke up the next morning, it was raining, and one could feel the clouds at such a height. We thought the rain would stop soon, but it didn't. We decided to go out in the rain and got ourselves a raincoat each. Both of us had heard a lot about the Kashmiri Wazwan, and since we were in Kashmir - there couldn't be a better place to taste it. So we hit the most famous restaurant in Kashmir - The Mughal Darbar and ordered Kashmiri Wazwan for two. When it arrived, we realized it's not just one dish! It had various kinds of cooked meat. It was tasty, and worth all the money and time. Then we decided to take the Shikara ride in the rain. One just cannot imagine how vast and beautiful nature can be if he has not been on a Shikara during sunset - overlooking the Zabarwan ranges.
Walk, Walk and Walk
Since a big chunk of our money had already been spent on dining out, putting up at different places, shikara rides, Adib buying mementos for his family - we had to shift to our economical mode. We decided to eat out at small shops more and not buying unnecessary things. We started the day by walking on the Boulevard road, and we travelled all of it on foot. It's a long stretch starting from Dal Gate. We travelled for 6KMs on the Boulevard road. We walked all day. From one place to another. We must have covered over 15KMs on foot that day. We also did manage to convince a local boy to help him catch the fishes. So there we were, looking the Dal and catching fishes. Then, we decided to hit the Mughal Gardens of course and how can one forget to go to the Botanical Garden. The botanical garden is so just so mesmerizing.
Getting Back Home
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We had to cut short our trip since flood warning was issued by the government of Jammu and Kashmir and so there we were - almost cashless, trying to get back home - bargaining the fares of SUMO drivers. And since the outgoing traffic had soared, the SUMO rates had almost doubled. We spent all we had on the SUMO booking and thought, we'll safely reach home. The home was not that close yet. We got stuck in the jam for 16hours; the Jhelum river had ripped off the national highway. We had started early at 6 AM and were home at around 12 PM. That was one hell of a ride. But finally, we were home - with so many memories and close encounters with life.
This is the story of one of my ideal yatra; there's a lot more to come.