Memoirs of Kashmir - A Few Days of Paradise

Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by Vargis Khan, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    And finally we made it at top of Peer ki Gali and saw the famous smiling curve between the two hills. The curve between the mountains that is actually called as the “Gali”.

    Peer ki Gali is actually a mountain pass that lies between Shopian and Bafliaz. I have covered this place in details in a different article Peer ki Gali – The Heart of Mughal Road. From either Bafliaz or Shopian, you keep climbing up to the top of the pass and then climb down to the other side. There is a mazar here at the pass; shrine of Sheikh Noor-u-Din Noorani and this is from where the pass gets its name as Peer ki Gali. It reminded me much of Rohtang Pass because the vistas looked similar but it was far more beautiful than crowded Rohtang. If you are visiting Srinagar, then I highly recommend that you return to Jammu via Mughal Road or at least make it a day’s trip till Peer ki Gali. You will really like it.

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  2. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    We visited the mazaar.

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  3. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Right in front of the mazaar, there was this guy offering free Kashmiri tea; more like what you can call as “Prasad”.

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    The tea was salty of course with no sugar at all. Interesting part however was that they were putting in a powder like thing in the tea. He didn’t really tell me what it was but I think it could have been sattu. When I asked him, he told me that the tea and the powder helps you keep warm and cleans the body from inside. I am not sure about the cleaning part but one cup of this tea and we indeed started to feel warm even though it was very cold up there.

    Met this old man at the mazaar, a local shepherd.


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  4. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Peer ki Gali to Srinagar

    We started on our way back after clicking plenty of pictures and after that, it was pretty much a straight ride ahead.


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  5. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    We took one butt break at Shopian and then straight at Dal Lake where we witnessed some amazing views of sunset. While we were on our way back, Faisal sent me a text saying all our bags had already been sent back to Hotel Grand Valley Inn; the same one that we stayed at yesterday. Tomorrow was going to be Eid and I knew that he would be busy with all the preparations so without bothering him to meet, we went straight to Dal Lake and then our hotel.

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  6. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Not much happened after that. We returned to our hotel and then went out for dinner at the market in front of Shalimar Bagh. I wasn’t sure where to offer my Eid prayers the next day so I asked Faisal. He advised me against visiting the Eidgah and suggested a local mosque nearby rather. We found out about a mosque near our hotel where the prayers were to happen early in the morning. It was actually the owner of our hotel who suggested it. He advised us to be ready by 7 AM and said that he will come pick us up to go to the mosque together.

    With that done, we retired to our room and it was time to watch some south Indian movies dubbed in Hindi. I don’t watch much TV but was really surprised by the number of dubbed south Indian movies they play these days. Throughout the trip, no matter which channel we switched to, it was always a south Indian movie going on. I have nothing against South Indian movies but to be honest, it sounds really ridiculous when they dub it in Hindi. They really do a terrible job at dubbing these. Nothing ever is in sync and rather than entertaining, these movies end up annoying.

    Below is a distance chart for our journey today.

    • Srinagar to Aharbal Distance: 70 Kilometers, 3 hours of journey
    • Aharbal to Peer ki Gali Distance: 50 Kilometers; 2 hours of journey
    • Srinagar to Shopian Distance: 55 Kilometers, 2 hours of journey
    • Srinagar to Peer ki Gali Distance: 100 Kilometers; 4 to 5 hours of journey
    • Shopian to Peer ki Gali Distance: 40 Kilometers; 1 and a Half hour of Journey
     
  7. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Day 5: Srinagar to Yusmarg & Eid Celebrations in Kashmir



    Shoaib and I had planned this trip to Kashmir several months in advance; and after much discussion, decided on the month of August. Now just to make sure that the trip happens in August; and we do not end up cancelling or postponing for some reason, we actually booked our flights in May itself; followed by Lavish’s flight in June. What neither of us thought at that time were the dates of Eid. And it just so happened that date of Bakra-Eid was in the same week that we were in Srinagar. We did think about postponing the trip later after we realized our mistake; but then decided to let the plans be the way they were.

    Eid in Srinagar

    So yes, today was the day of Eid and we were celebrating it in Srinagar; away from our families for which both of us got scolded quite a lot by our folks. We were up till late last night and almost paid the price of it this morning. If it wasn’t for Lavish, I am sure both Shoaib and I would have continued to sleep late and miss our morning Eid prayers. Fortunately, Lavish woke up just in time to get us all up and ready.

    Not much happened after that. We got ready and visited a mosque nearby for Eid prayers. After that, we visited the house of the owner of the hotel we were staying at. We had some snacks there and returned back to the hotel at around 8.30 AM. Now it was time to go to our next destination for the trip; Yusmarg.

    Yusmarg

    For a brief introduction, Yusmarg or Yousmarg is a hill station in the western part of Kashmir Valley in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated 47 km south of Srinagar the capital of the state. Yusmarg in Kashmiri means ''The Meadow of Jesus'. It is believed by the locals that Jesus came to Kashmir and stayed at Yusmarg for some time. Some even say that Jesus was actually buried in Yusmarg itself. It is an alpine valley covered with snow clad mountains and the meadows of Pine and Fir and lies 13 km south of Charar-e-Shariff. It is situated at the bank of Doodhganga River at an altitude of 2,396 meters above sea level. (Source - Wiki)

    Yusmarg was actually a last minute addition to our plan because it just made more sense. Earlier we were planning to visit Pahalgam but that just meant touching Pahalgam and coming back with very less time to spend there. It also meant a long journey on the day of Eid with confusion about where would be offering our Eid prayers. Last but not the least, it was the time of Amarnath Yatra and Pahalgam was going to be crowded which all of us really wanted to avoid. So at the last minute, we decided to add Yusmarg to the itinerary and drop Pahalgam.
     
  8. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Accommodation at Yusmarg

    The decision, as we were to realize later today, indeed provide to be a good one because we totally loved Yusmarg. You will think that it is a hill station; but Yusmarg actually is nothing except for a handful of villagers in their huts on a vast green ground. That is all that it is; that’s Yusmarg for you. A tiny beautiful village sitting next to a river with lush green all around. You can either make it a day trip to Yusmarg like we did; or if you had more time in hand, can even stay here for a day. There are JKTDC tourism bungalows here that you can spend a night at. An even better choice however would be to bring you own camping gear and pitch your tent. There are numerous camping spots in Yusmarg and you can pick either one.

    If you were into trekking then there are several trails leading from here but it does need that you stay in Yusmarg for at least 3 days. For more details, please read How to Plan a Trip to Yusmarg.

    Srinagar to Yusmarg

    It was already almost 9.30 AM by the time we started from our hotel. Fortunately though, because it was Eid today; and all the markets in Srinagar were closed. There was hardly any traffic on the road.

    Noticed these beautiful Lotus flowers on Dal.

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    We were soon out of Srinagar and on our way to Yusmarg. Road conditions were good and the journey was smooth. The journey till Charar-e-shariff was mostly straight. As a matter of fact, it is only about last 15 kilometers to Yusmarg when you climb rapidly and gain height. Rest of the road is just a flat straight road. We finally arrived at Yusmarg at almost noon time.

    Yusmarg as I mentioned above is known for its natural beauty, camping and trekking opportunities. A trip here can be done in two ways. You either arrive at Yusmarg, stay for a few days and trek to nearby areas. Or you arrive here, take a walk till Doodhganga river and go back. The latter was our plan but before that, the first thing to do was to get something down our bellies as all three of us were quite hungry. There was a small restaurant / tea tall at Yusmarg where we ordered some tea and bread omelet.

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    I really don’t want to sound rude or anything because the biggest problem or nuisance for tourists in Kashmir are the guides and pony owners. I understand that everyone has to make a living and they are poor people with limited choices but there has to be a limit to everything. These guys will attach themselves to you and just won’t let go, no matter how many times you turn them down. It’s fine to ask, I agree, but then it don’t mean that you will start harassing the tourist; and then make faces when someone still says no.
     
  9. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    A Nuisance Called Guides & Pony Owners


    These guys lie between their teeth and will leave no stone unturned to fool you and extract money from you. No matter where you go in Kashmir, the moment you arrive at your destination, you will be encircled by 3-4 pony owners or guides; trying to either sell you their pony rides or offering to show you around. They will make it sound like you are standing on a path of burning coals; and won't be able to take even a single step ahead unless you sat on their ponies or pay them to show you the way. They will lie to you, misguide you and will literally become a "Kheer mein makkhi". So much they harass tourists here that there was even a police complaint about them in Gulmarg.

    Same thing happened with us. We were the only tourists in Yusmarg at that time and while we were standing there eating, a couple of pony owners / guides approached us offering to give us a pony ride to Doodhganga river. We kept saying no over and over again but they just stood there with us, refusing to take no for an answer. In the end, when nothing worked, they started saying that “Aaj bada din hai, kuchh bhala kar do gareeb ka”.

    They were referring to it being Eid today; and then finally we too gave in, allowing one of them to show us the way. We did not agree on the pony rides because neither of us was in mood for that; but we did allow him to show us the way to the river. We didn't really need him because there is a well laid out path all the way to Doodhganga river; but we hired him nonetheless; more like a charity on the day of Eid.

    Trekking in Yusmarg

    Our guide, "the old man" as I will refer him as, started to take us through the jungle rather than the regular path. To be honest, I got to give it to him. He did manage to show us some great vistas before we finally arrived at Doodhganga.

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    The only tourists here from out of Kashmir were us. Rest were all the local boys taking a dip in the river. We wondered and pondered over the idea for a bit and then decided to jump in ourselves. While we were sitting in the river, it started to rain as well. My DSLR and all our other belongings were immediately tucked under the shade of a huge rock to avoid getting wet. After enjoying the river for almost an hour, we finally stepped out of the water, got dressed and headed back on our way to the parking spot.

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    By now, all of us were quite hungry again and decided to have a late lunch at the small restaurant. Finally, slightly before 3, we started on our way back and a small confusion happened just as we started. Lavish and I were riding ahead and Shoaib was following after us. Now this beautiful lake is located right next to the road in Yusmarg and I wanted to get a few pictures of it. So we took a small detour, got off the road and stopped by the lake; thinking that Shoaib will notice and will stop too. He however did not and continued to ride on.


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  10. Vargis Khan

    Vargis Khan Administrator Staff Member

    Yusmarg to Charar-e-Shariff


    We clicked a few pictures and started on our way again. We were thinking that Shoaib will stop after a while when he won’t notice us riding ahead. He however did the exact opposite. He thought that we were riding at a great speed and rode even harder in order to catch up with us. So for the first almost 15 kilometers, we were all riding apart trying to catch up with each other. Since there is no phone network at Yusmarg, we could not even call Shoaib asking him to stop.


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    Finally we got the network back in our cellphone at Charar-e-Shariff. We finally called Shoaib, asked him to stop where he was and finally found him waiting for us a few kilometers after Charar-e-Shariff.

    Charar-e-Shariff to Srinagar


    Rest of the journey was smooth again and we continued riding back to Srinagar. At around 5 PM, Faisal called asking about where we were and asked us to come to his house straight. It was Eid today and were planning to visit him anyways but not in the condition that we were currently in. After a day long of riding and trekking, I did not feel like being in someone’s house all dirty like that. So we told him that we will come by after a little while and continued to ride back to the hotel.The idea was to reach hotel, freshen up, change and then go for dinner.

    We reached back at the hotel, took a shower and got ready to visit Faisal’s house. The problem however was that we took a little longer than planned and dark came sooner than expected. On top of it, Faisal’s house was on the other corner of Srinagar, about 30 kilometers away from where we were. By the time we finally started from our hotel, it was already 8 PM. We rode through the entire Srinagar and arrived at Faisal’s at around 9 PM.

    This was making me a bit nervous. No matter how much we rushed, there was no way that we could have had dinner and be on our way back before 10 at least. Somehow I was not really very comfortable with the idea of riding through Srinagar in the night with all the security and Army around.
     

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