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Kashmir...

INDIA | Sunday, 3 December 2006 | Views [1315]

Mountains...

Mountains...

After spedning a couple of fairly stressful days trying to work New Delhi out, we decided to go to plan B which basically involved getting the hell out of there ASAP in any way possible...

 

We talked to a dodgy travel agent (Who was perhaps a little too charming to be 100% trustworthy now that I think about it!) who suggested that we head to Kashmir straight away before winter hit - The suggestion was quickly warmed to (On my behalf anyways...) as it was always near the top of my list of places to visit in India and I was under the impression that it wasnt really possible to go there at this time of year. We left out dodgy hotel (Dodgy as in megaly  overcharged us for our roach infested room plus the hotel travel agent was trying to kidnap us and send us to Rajasthan!) and we decided to take up on an invitation from our travel agent to stay at his house -  he was very hospitable, fed us well and got his dorky cousin to drive us to the airport in the morning (Apart from the fact that he kept on showing Gwen and I photos of himself all night, he made no attempt to hide the fact that he was freely staring at my breasts and kept on loudly whispering to Gwen that he liked me and wanted me to be his girlfriend...)

 

Our flight was pretty spectacular with beautiful views over the Himalayas. As we approached the airport of Srinagar, we noticed the huge amount of militants in the area which gave us second thoughts about our security in the area but out we got! The manager of the hotel was waiting for us there and drove us across town to the houseboat we were staying on...

 

On arrival a sweet guy called Rami brought us some chai and biscuits which we were thorougly enjoying until Bashir (the creepy manager, more about him later in the story!) walzes in and tells us "now we talk business" - Uh Oh... In tyhis little meeting he informs us that we actually can't go around by ourselves because it is too dangerous (probably not completely fictious...) and offers us a whole lot of other activites at a fairly high price to fill up our days instead... A little irritated but eager to make the best of our stay in Kashmir, we reluctantly decided to book a 3 day hike and a few other things...

 

Our first full day, we went in the morning on a boat trip around the lake we were staying on... The lake is really big and has many inhabited little islands in the middle which makes boat travel one of the only ways to get around here... It was really sweet to see that there were floating boat shops which sell all different products... It was also interesting to see the different kinds of reactions we seemed to be getting from the locals there - some seemed genuinly happy to see us there and others just scowled at us but I guess that is because they don't see all that many tourists in the area... After an hour or so we docked the boat and took a walk around a market place and got to go into a mosque - we had to be thoroughly patted down and had all our bags searched for cigarettes as women are not allowed to smoke in the Muslim culture. We got back to the houseboat in the afternoon and then our driver took us to the Moghul gardens... One of the gardeners working there cut Gwen and I a flower to gave it to us as a 'present' then ran after us  asking for a tip for the flower which was pretty funny! I have to say that so far in India I have felt on quite a few occassions like nothing more that a western variety of money tree... After that we went to a Kashmiri carpet factory. On the way there the driver was speeding down a narrow pot holed road at over 100km an hour  and kept on braking really suddenly, sending our head flying into the front seat as we were not issued with seat belts... I was scared for my life and when we arrived was almost ready to kiss the ground!!!

 

The manager of the factory explained the whole carpet making process nad got the workers to demonstrate for us. After that he showed us all the different qualitis of carpets, the best having 1600 hand-tied knots per square inch and taking a whole Kashmiri family between 2 and four years to make! Having the expensive taste that I have, I immediately fell in love with the highest quality ones which I knew there was no way I could afford at $5000 a piece!

 

The next day we left to go on our 'hike' (what a load of shit!). It turned out that it was much to snowy and cold to go on a proper treck at this time of year so we slept in a gypsy village called Gagangir and went on a few fairly crappy day walks... At this stage I was feeling really ripped off, lied to and freeeeezing cold - I guide was also being a jerk to me so I was basically just angry. The second night of the trip we were invited to a village wedding - This chaged my whole perception of the trip as it was such an amazing and priceless experience and something that I will never forget... We got to see them slaughtering the cows in the afternoon (which was pretty hard to bear but good for a person likes me who is used to just buying meat wrapped up in plastic on a supermarket shelf)... Later on at night after hanging out in our room with some of the fuuny local guys and playing cards we went off to the groom's house to join in the festivities as usually the party goes on all night. Before arriving we thought that we would be intruding and felt a little bit awkward but this feeling immediatly dissolved as the minute we walked into the house we were warmly welcomed with big smiles from everyone... The house was jam packed with almost everyone from the village and so we were put in a little room full up with mothers and children waiting their turn to pay their respects to the soon to be married couple... We waited there patiently for a few minutes before being invited to go into the womens room... This was just filled with all the female women and children from the village and the bride, the young girls were gayfully singing Kashmiri tunes and we were almost immediatly asked to get up and dance in fron of everyone which gave them all a good laugh! All the children were saying all the English that they knew to us and were giggling happily and asking us to take photos of them and everyone seemed to be absolutely facinated with us which was quite funny... We were made to feel like guests of honour! A lot of village men had meanwhile gathered at the windows to what the dorky tourists trying to dance! After this we went into the men's room where there was all the men, boys and groom... There was a little village band playing and singing and the groom gave up his seat for us and offered us some really nice Kasmiri tea... After this we went back to the other room where there was a cake feeding ceremony going on - The bride and groom had to feed a piece of cake  to each of their family and friends and then the friend or family memeber had to feed them a peice of cake. After this the bride's best friend came to do the henna painting on the palms of her hands which was interesting to see. At 4.30am we decided to get some sleep in so we said out goodbyes and left with that warm and fuzzy satisfied feeling, all bitterness gone... We were able to see something which we will not forget for a very long time!

 

The next day we passed on a walk as we got up too late (they were going to the same place we went on the first day anyway) and we went to see a bit more of the wedding (it actually goes on for 5 days and this was the last day...). We were invited to eat a plate of food by the groom's brother and we went to see what was going on... All the friend's were preparing the marital bedroom by decorating it was tinsel and then we watched as the bride and groom took a ceremonial walk around the village, followed by all the young village girls singing... This is all we got to see sadly as we had to return back to Srinagar.

 

By now we had made pretty good friends with a lot of the staff at our houseboat and so we were having a pretty fun time joking around and felt like we had our own little family there... A French Canadian couple also arrived this day and we ended up chatting to them a bit but I have to say that I missed about 90% of the dialog as their french accent was sooooo strong that we couldnt understand a word they were saying (but was pretty funny too!) The next day we went to see K2 (second highest mountain in the world) but it was too cloudy to see it so it was a bit of a waste of time but it was ok because out funny driver took us and we ended up having fun and then on the way back he offered us to have tea with his family in his home village which was nice even though they spoke no English. When we arrived back to the houseboat, we had a chat to the Canadian couple who freaked us out a little bit a lot! They had actually been to the same place  as us that day and had been eating lunch in a little cafe in a village when suddenly they heard an explosion, ran outside where everyone was panicking and running in all direction and saw a dead man lying on the pavement... Hmmmmmm, a little cary perhaps?

 

On the last day there we didnt do much as Gwen and I were both quite sick with a nasty cold from the cold weather there... We visitied a few mosques in Srinagar in the afternoon but felt to crappy and came home pretty quickly... On arrival back at the hotel the manager Bashir was there. He said to us that if we wanted to stay there longer that there was no problem and that he could maybe find us something to do in exchange for accomodation and food... This sounded like a nice offer so we went to have a proper chat to him about this... He asked me if he could have a talk to me in person (without Gwen)  which made me a bit worried but I went to talk to him... He said to me that if I wanted to stay longer that there would be no problem if I wanted to sleep with him - Know I realized just what kind of job he had in mind the creepy bastard - was even worse because I knew that he was married with kids! After he said that we decided that we definitely had to go straight away and so off we went to Dharamsala. We were in a car for over 14 hours with three chains smokers who insited on smoking all the time with the windows up because it was too cold! Was about to kill them all by the end of the trip and luckily made it the room before screaming (just!).

 

We are now in Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama and we are loving it here! Will write more about it in my next log!

 

x

 

c

Tags: Adventures

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