Less than two weeks ago we were in a desert in Rajasthan. Today we are at Sonmarg. There is snow all around us. The road has just been cleared. But most of the shops are still closed because they are under snow. there is a 20/25 ft snow wall along the road, which is almost completely broken and very slippery. There is still no electricity, no water supply. Water is being brought from ganderbal 20 kms away. The Sonmarg village is under snow and people are yet to return. It is very cold here. It looks like a devastated ghost town.
We had to drop our plan to visit Ladakh. The army refused to allow us to go beyond Sonmarg. Avalanches and landslides are happening all the time.
Too tired to write. See the photographs today. The bike is giving real problems. This time it was the gear. Started for Gulmarg at 7.30 in the morning. Waited for four hours at a place called Kunjar for the spindle to arrive from Srinagar. Reached Gulmarg at 3.30 pm!
We have finally reached Srinagar.
The weather cleared in the morning leaving behind fresh snow all around us. It was very cold. So we started late – at about 8.30 am because it was terribly cold . We lost half an hour also because a family of 14 wanted to have pictures with us and our bike. They did not pose together but one after another. They took my autograph! Ahem!!!
We travelled fast for about 15 kms from Banihal. Then clouds wrapped us from all sides. Visibility was less than 10 ft. Inside Jawahar tunnel, it was absolutely dark. The lights had not been put on for whatever reasons.
A group of army jawans took pity on us, stopped us, offered us tea and a fur jacket each. “You must be crazy. You can’t proceed any further with only these clothes,” one of them said firmly. The foam jackets we had purchased yesterday were actually doing no good. When we insisted, they agreed to accept Rs 200 for the two jackets and a pair of woolen gloves for Pat. We took only the fur inners and left behind the olive green outers. “Go slow Sir. It is dangerous to drive fast on these roads,” the major said, as we waved and drove away. The roads are in a really bad shape because of the rains which is continuing for the last 20 days. Without those jackets, it would have been really difficult for us to reach Srinagar.
The snow cleared, though, as we came closer to Srinagar. It was not that cold either. There was no time to move around the city. So we decided to celebrate. The “official” mission of reaching Kanyakumari and Kashmir from Kolkata is complete now. We ordered a Kashmiri thali each, which contained a shikh kabab, mutton keema, Rogan Josh, Rishta and Gustaba along with rice for Rs 180. Delicious !
Every house boat in Dal lake has a name – some are too original. People dress up to pose before the camera during Shikara rides. (see photos).
We visited Abi karapora – an island village inside Dal Lake – to see the craftsmen at work. tw entyfour year old Abdul Majid showed us how they were weaving a pasmina shawl – one single shawl – for the last seven months. It will take another four months to be completed. The cost of raw material will be about Rs 700 and the daily wage is Rs 200. The shawl will sell for anything between Rs 70,000 and one lakh.
We also saw Bashir Ahmed, a 59-year-old man carving out magnificient designs from wood.
We can’t go to Leh, which we had hoped we would be able to do. The road is still closed. We plan to go to Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahelgaon etc in the next few days.
But as night approaches, we can see dark clouds gathering again. We are facing really bad weather for the first time in this long trip.