Gulmarg in Winter - The Meadows of White

Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by Vargis Khan, Feb 2, 2019.

  1. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member



    Day 4 : The Unexpected Change in Itinerary


    There is an old saying that goes like "Be careful what you wish for"; only that in my case it literally came true. This was going to be our last day in Gulmarg; and we were supposed to travel back to Srinagar today as per the plan. We had already spent last 2 and a half days in Gulmarg and there was nothing new to be seen really. We had already enjoyed most of the winter sports like skiing, snow scooter etc; and with Gondola ride shut down due to bad weather, there was nothing left to be done as well. Still for some reason, I had this strange feeling last night wishing if we could just stay in Gulmarg for a day more. Little did I know that I will wake up the next day only to find it coming true.

    I woke up to a phone call from our driver Gulzar. He was supposed to come pick us up from Tangmarg today; and then drop us in Srinagar. He was from a village near Kupwara and with the weather being bad for last 2 days, it has been snowing pretty much everywhere in Kashmir. He told me that the road out of his village was completely snowed out and there was no way he was going to be able to make it to Gulmarg today.

    Thing with places like Gulmarg is that they are tourist magnets so authorities keep the road to here clear all the time. But that is not the case with the local villages. Sometimes in remote areas, locals get stuck for days before someone arrives to clear snow off the roads. So if Gulzar was unable to come today, I knew that he would not be able to make it tomorrow as well; because the weather was still quite bad and it was snowing quite fiercely now actually. I couldn't really blame Gulzar as well for not coming but then it also threw a hitch in my plans.
     
  2. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member



    Change of Plans



    Unsure of what to do next, I called the manager at Hotel Affarwat. His name was Sajjad and I kind of got a bit on friendlier terms with him, this being my second trip to Gulmarg. Before I came to Gulmarg, he had asked me if he should arrange a cab for me to pick up from the airport. Since I already had Gulzar booked for that purpose, I had turned him down at that time. But now I guess was a good time to take him up on the offer.

    Sajjad immediately agreed to book a cab for me to Srinagar. Unfortunately however, due to the snow storm, vehicles weren't moving between Tangmarg and Gulmarg at that time. It was already 10 AM and the earliest he said he could arrange a cab would be in second half of the day; after 2 PM. This brought in the second change in our plans. If we left Gulmarg at 2, we would reach Srinagar after dark; and our entire day today will get wasted in waiting for the weather to clear and for the cab to arrive.

    "Why not stay in Gulmarg today as well and go straight to the airport tomorrow from here?" Suggested my cousin.

    I thought about it. It actually sounded like a logical thing to do because there was still no guarantee of what time we will actually be able to leave Gulmarg today. 2 PM was just a guess but it all depended on the weather. In the end, I too agree to my cousin's suggestion. My wish came true and we got to stay in Gulmarg for another day even though we had no plans to do so initially.
     
  3. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member


    A Winter Trip to Gulmarg


    So now our itinerary had changed completely. What initially was a plan to cover Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Srinagar and be a winter trip to Kashmir now because exclusively a winter trip to Gulmarg only. We arrived here straight from the airport and would be going back to the airport only, covering no other place at all. I told Sajjad of our changed plans and asked him to keep the cab ready for tomorrow. Our flight was at 3 PM from Srinagar so if we left Gulmarg by 10 AM, we would easily make it to the airport in time. All that was needed now was for the weather to calm down for which I was keeping my fingers crossed.

    While I was talking to Sajjad, he asked me how my stay at Royal Park was; and if I would like to continue staying here or move back to Affarwat. The moment he asked me this, my immediate answer was to move back. There was nothing wrong with Hotel Royal Park really but I just did not like it. It is in fact a better and costlier hotel than Affarwat but the entire staff felt a bit cold and unfriendly. To be honest, I am not even sure if it was just the staff there or something else but I just did not enjoy my stay at Royal Park.

    There were a few other concerns as well due to which I was not happy with staying at Royal Park. I have provided a detailed review of this hotel at Hotel Royal Park - Average & Overpriced. So when Sajjad said that he could get the same room ready for me again if I wanted to move back, I immediately agreed.
     
  4. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member


    Change of Hotels


    My cousin was not happy with this arrangement at all. He really liked Hotel Royal Park better than Affarwat and wanted to continue staying here. After a bit of discussion and argument, he halfheartedly agreed. I told Sajjad to send a couple of his men to move our stuff back and in next half an hour, we were back in the same room at Affarwat that we were earlier staying at.

    I called the owner of Hotel Grand Valley Inn in Srinagar and let him know that I will not be arriving as planned. With that being done, there was nothing else left for us to do at all except to enjoy a Gulmarg buried under several feet of snow.

    Hotel Royal Park

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  5. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    It had been snowing for last 2 days non-stop and pretty much everything was covered deep under snow. We came out to have lunch at Sohail's restaurant and it was almost half buried in snow.


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    The market area in Gulmarg


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    These dogs really made me wonder how they survived such cold weather so easily.


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  6. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    A guy cleaning snow off the roof.


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    View from Hotel Affarwat


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    We walked around for a while and returned to the hotel. Intensity of snowfall increased even more as the evening started to settle. Rest of our day was spent in the hotel only and we only got out at night to have dinner.

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  7. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member


    End of Day 4

    Thus ended our 4th day of the trip; which in a way was also the last day. Tomorrow we were to drive back to Srinagar and catch a flight to Delhi. Sajjad confirmed that our driver will come to pick us up sharp by 9 AM. We watched a bit of TV and went to sleep a little late in the night.
     
  8. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member



    Day 5 : Gulmarg to Delhi - The Return Journey

    Our last night in Gulmarg was a bit scary one actually and probably the coldest. It snowed all night long and almost turned into a snow storm. Temperature dipped drastically and despite 3 heaters in the room; and 3 blankets on top of us, we were still feeling cold. The speed of the wind was such that it felt like the entire hotel was shaking. To make the matters worse, because of the high winds, power was gone in middle of the night and things started to feel as if they were getting out of hand.

    Last night in Gulmarg

    Three things bothered me the most that night. The first one was the way weather turned so cold; with all the intense snowfall, high wind and freezing temperature. All our nights in Gulmarg were cold but this one was the coldest. This probably was the only time when I woke up at least 10 times in the night because of the wind banging on the windows. A peaceful sleep was a thing that really became impossible.

    Second was the power-cut. The only thing that was keeping us comfortable that night were the heaters in the room and as soon as the power went away, the heaters got turned off. It took about half an hour for the hotel staff to get up and turned the generator on. But that half an hour was my most difficult time of our entire trip. Within minutes of the power-cut, the room got so cold that both I and my cousin started to shiver badly. We both had to cuddle up against each other and use our body heat to survive those difficult few minutes actually.

    Just when I was about to get out of the room and ask the hotel staff for more blankets, they turned the generator on. The power was back and the heaters started working. Without the power and the heaters, I don't think anyone will be able to survive even a single night of winter in Gulmarg.
     
  9. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member


    Last Morning in Gulmarg

    The thing that bothered me the most however was the fear of the road getting blocked. We were to catch a flight out of Srinagar at 3 PM and the way the weather was trending, I started to doubt if we would be able to get out of Gulmarg tomorrow. I could tell that the intensity of snowfall had increased outside and if it continued that way, we may end up getting stuck till the road was cleared.

    Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened and the snowfall stopped in early morning hours. At around 6 AM, I got out of my bed and stepped out the hotel.

    While the night was scary and a turbulent one, the morning that followed was the exact opposite. I was greeted by a beautiful and peaceful morning in Gulmarg with a calm and clear weather.

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  10. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    The first thing I did, like in all other mornings, was to walk up to Sohail's restaurant for a cup of coffee or tea. His shop is probably the first one to open in all of Gulmarg. Like always, I found the hard working guy cleaning up snow and getting ready for the day ahead.

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