We left Chatpal today. It was heart-breaking and neck-breaking too, as I kept looking back out of the car window, at the rolling, lush meadows, Devdar trees, gurgling streams and our beautiful house in the valley. How foolish of me to fall in love with the very first destination of the trip, when so many are still left to uncover. Sigh, #travelwoes.
Our next stop was Marthand Sun Temple where we walked around the ruins of an erstwhile era. Udit, our fellow Xplorian also gave us a Butoh workshop which was an experience that not many can claim in their journeys. A sub-body experience among the ruins of history, yes, stuff that goes straight into the dear diary. I am keen to learn more of Butoh and even master it.
Reaching Yousmarg was a mind-blowing experience. One can’t tell the difference between Switzerland from Yousmarg, trust me. Everyone was ooh-ing and aah-ing as we coursed through the winding road, with beautiful houses on one side and a valley on the other. The time was around 7, the sun hadn’t set yet completely. The evening rays dappled on the pine trees, the shepherds were returning home with their cattle (often creating traffic jam for us), there was a brisk chill in the air. My sadness on leaving Chatpal melted away little by little. This was too good to be true. The second destination matching up to the first, wow, is this how it is going to be for the rest of the trip?
Breakfast = Yummy Aloo Parantha. Post which we went for a small ride to the nearest town Charar-i-sharief. A quaint, picturesque town with beautiful old houses sitting prettily one after another. I have fallen in love, AGAIN. Later in the day Rishabh, Gurveer, Tapshi and I went to a hill top to shoot some pictures of the gorgeous valley and I blithely meandered to the nearest pear orchard. I have never seen pears on a tree, okay? I think the guards there took pity on me and asked me to pluck some and eat. Which I did! Yummy pears. To think I don’t even consider pear along my favourite fruits, hmm. Like they say, travel totally changes perceptions. Here, my pear-perception has completely been change. For all I know, I won’t be able to look at pears in the fruit markets of Mumbai the same way anymore.
Yousmarg’s sky is CRAZY. I have never seen so many vividstars together. We can even see a patch of Milky Way, like a wonderful stroke of a painter’s brush across the sky. Humbling, to be honest. The tiny specks we are in this magnificent universe. It is amazing, the joys, the moments I am collecting, by simply being. Just by existing. Sometimes it is overwhelming as much as it is truly humbling. It is our third night in Yousmarg, the tiny Switzerland of a hamlet. I woke up to mist today, like, just right outside my window. The lush meadows were missing, wiped out. Mist has taken over. I had washed my clothes, the hopes of getting them dried are also wiped out now. Tomorrow we will be leaving this place, heading to our next destination.
This day will be known as The Shikara Ride Day for the rest of my life. The day has gone down in history (of my life). You guessed it right, I have never sat in a Shikara, nor have I seen a mesmerizing sunset while floating around in the gorgeous Dal Lake, before. Nirvana has been had.
Today was the day we left Yousmarg and reached Srinagar. We are staying in a house boat and will be heading to our next destination Sonmarg, probably in a day or two. Today was also the day I met Safeera, a young girl doing her graduation in Kashmir University. We were at the Sufi Shrine at Charar-i-Sharief. What I remember most about the conversation is how effortless it was, how easily she took to talking to a complete stranger and how quicker she was in warming up to me, holding my hand while sharing snippets from her life. She seemed way too mature for her age, she had her ideologies in place, firmly. She said she can’t go to sleep without reading Quran. “What if I die suddenly and I hadn’t read Quran that day? I don’t want to be caught up in a situation like that” – she said. She is from Shopian and gently urged us to go visit that place also, she promised the most stunning waterfall we will ever see in our life is waiting for us in Shopian. I wanted to go but clearly, it was not a part of our itinerary. We bid goodbyes, hugged her heartily and left for Srinagar. For a fact I know, I won’t be able to forget her. I wish you well, Safeera.
Second day on house boat. We are hearing not so pleasant news, things that might hinder our journey further. Cloudburst in Baltal, roads to Leh are blocked apparently. We have extended our stay in Srinagar and exploring this city more. Also eating amazing food. Lhasa and Adoo’s have amazing food. I was hoping to lose weight in this journey, considering it is a trip in the mountains, but, tough luck for me. I mostly find myself over-eaten and praying to metabolism gods to work out things for me.
More Shikara rides. Lots and lots. That’s what happens when you are stuck in a houseboat in the middle of Dal Lake and have nothing to do. We are still uncertain about out next destination as weather reports are not in favour. Today evening we went for a Shikara ride all by ourselves. Rashi, Tapshi, Udit and myself. I tried rowing and failed magnificently, got ourselves in the middle of the lake and the boat was going only in circles. But, Rashi has taken to rowing like a boss. She is so good at it, we went far ahead into the lake and it was her who did all the rowing. MAJOR RESPECT FOR RASHI. Srinagar is gradually growing on us. The evening Shikara rides have become mandatory. There is a slight chill in the air and the infinite number of houseboats, all well lit up, lends an aura of grandeur to this famed city. We are all in love, again.