You may say this is a cheat post since I've digressed from the practice so far of keying in my travel tales with places starting with the alphabets. I racked and racked my brains ( whatever little there is) to figure out a place starting with "Q" , but alas, there was not a place I went to in India, that began with this exasperating alphabet. However I was itching to tell you the story of that fateful day when we hit the road to Gulmarg. And so here is my tale of the quirky road to Gulmarg.
It was a routine telephonic conversation between my husband and his colleague who was posted near Gulmarg that set the ball rolling. The road to Gulmarg had opened with snow melting in many places revealing greens in patches. Yet in many places it was still four to five feet deep. It being a weekend and with due permission from the superiors to leave the garrison, we were loading our Maruti 800 with stuff and two kids for the trip. Our best chance of Gulmarg sans the tourist crowd.
|View of the Town|
As it happens, when a trip is taken in a hurry, there is always a nagging thought that something is amiss. Checked the rear seat to see if both the kids were aboard with all their requirements. After we hit the highway, this thought was pushed aside.
By the time we reached Tangmarg, we were greedily taking in the snow laden mountain in the distant and the valley below turning green. I've come across many people who wonder about safety in Kashmir. To them I'll say, in our two years stay and travelling around the place we never felt the need for protection of any kind. Tourists are welcome here since that is the main source of income for majority of the population. The common man is hit hard during the winters and also after a terrorist activity when the tourist inflow dwindles.
Back on the road, we were starting our climb now with snow banks on both sides of the road. The road was slippery with the melting snow and that's when the nagging thought returned and it dawned on us,
" Shit! We forgot the snow chains!"
We drove slow and the car skidded here and there where the melting snow had turned to thin ice. We drove a little faster and the car skidded even more. With a prayer on my lips, fingers and toes crossed and the husband hunched on the wheel with a furrowed forehead, we managed to reach Gulmarg intact. Just when we were celebrating his driving skills and enjoying the view the car finally did what we were fearing. It skidded and tilted and came to a halt at an angle where I found myself at a higher level than my husband. This was no time to gloat over who had the upper hand. We sat there confused for a few minutes till it was decided that I get out and bring some help. It's a mystery to me till date how I managed to extricate myself without disturbing and worsening our precariously balanced car. Since this was the time when tourists were yet to arrive in throngs, Gulmarg for most part was deserted. With most of the hotels and lodges boarded up for the winters baring a few for the winter sports lovers, there weren't any local people around. In any case, only the employees of the hotels are allowed to stay here. The other vendors and guides are to vacate it by sunset. Bottom line is, there was not a soul in sight. So I hiked first in this direction and then in the other till I found a few soldiers who helped us with the car.
|View From The Guest Room|
Did we regret making this trip? On the contrary, we loved it not because I got the opportunity to relate this. It was surreal to have the whole place to our selves. Well almost. There were some others who thought like us and had ventured here.We had the snow spread before us like a soft carpet; the green grass making their appearance from under it with small flowers; tingling fresh air and bits and pieces of meadows showing their colours. Gulmarg is one of the best skiing spots in the world with slopes graded for the beginners as well as the experts. The cable car ride, takes you over the local herders huts that lie vacant during the winters, to the peak stopping in between at Kongdori. Gulmarg Gondola is the second highest cable car ride in the world.
On the hill behind where we stayed, was the erstwhile summer palace of the Kashmir royalty. It was in a sad state now, dilapidated and locked. We strolled around the grounds and tried peeking in through the windows. It was desolate and bare inside with some broken bits and pieces strewn here and there. The modern activities found priority here and this palace is relegated to a quiet nook in the past. I wish they would restore it and let it share it's stories.
|A Green Patch|
If you have travelled to Gulmarg after that and seen the palace in a better shape than how we found it, do share your story. Do be careful and do not forget the snow chains if you are travelling the same time as we did. You may find the roads suddenly quirky deciding to act on it's own.