Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Trip To Kashmir

View from our hotel in Katra...silk cotton tree and snow-capped ranges
Our trip to the state of Jammu and Kashmir happened because we wanted to visit one of the most revered temples in India, Vaishno Devi. The temple is near the town of Katra. From Delhi we flew to Jammu then took a taxi to Katra. The temple is one of the most revered shrines in India. The shrine is at an altitude of 5300 feet. It is said that about 8 million pilgrims visit the temple each year.
The road to Vaishno Devi
It took us a little more than three and a half hours to climb the hill on horseback and about the same time to descend. But what a journey it was! The route was beautiful and the mountain views took my breath away.

Front garden of the hotel where we stayed
From Katra we flew to Srinagar. March isn't snowfall season but Srinagar was covered in snow and it was such a beautiful sight from the plane particularly for us as we are not used to extreme cold or snow.
Srinagar was under a blanket of snow
A cold & rainy evening at Dal lake
We headed to the Dal lake and to "our" houseboat. The boat ride was no fun as it was cold and the drizzle made it worse. But the Kashmiri tea qawah seemed like a lifesaver. It was refreshing and the warmth of the drink cupped in our hands made us forget the cold for a few moments! The Dal lake is integral to tourism and recreation and is also referred to as Srinagar's Jewel. The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting. (From Wiki).
Life on the Lake. Clockwise: two ladies on a boat, a flower seller came selling seeds and narcissus blooms, the houseboat where we stayed &some of the many houseboats on the lake.
The food was incredibly delicious but too many mutton dishes for one meal is a little too much for us. Teaming some of the dishes with dal and plain rice works out well particularly if you aren't used to all that meat in one sitting. You might be interested in checking out details about Kashmiri food here.

From Srinagar we went to Gulmarg. It was picture perfect with views that we had only seen on Christmas cards!!:)

There was nothing we could do in Pahalgam because of the snowfall but it was good to see landscapes that our eyes are not used to. The mountains were so beautiful. Truly the state of Jammu and Kashmir is endowed with such natural beauty.
Spring bulbs bloom on the wayside

From right...kangri, roadside view and the bare branches of the chinar tree
Despite the weather (it snowed in March after a hundred years) the entire trip was good. There were no glitches whatsoever. I came back with a haul of spices and dried fruits, ingredients that the state is known for. We crossed the saffron fields at Pampore on the way to Pahalgam and bought the spice at one of the shops lining the saffron route. Returning home I feel blessed that one destination I had always dreamed has been done.
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