Wandering in the Paradise
Riding/ Traveling on the Himalayas is only possible if these majestic mountains allow us to pass through them. Many people make plans, but without the consent of the mountain, you can’t even make a step. The terrain is very difficult. One slip at an altitude above 10,000ft will be fatal and landslide will be deadly. People come, few make it, few get lost.
Riding from Khajjiar to Udhampur, Jammu was through forest and highway. I spend my night in Udhampur and started my journey early. But the road soon turned from gravel to muddy, with the construction work. Hills & mountain are carved in half.
2 Years before, I have rode on this road when it was in a good state. But now it is a nightmare to drive. The climb and dropping road are ruled by speeding trucks which will not give side and make visibility zero with dust.
It is said ‘Life is more appreciated when human face a near death experience’.
As I was driving, suddenly a landslide occurs and the hill beside me starts to give away. Huge rubles, stones, and soil raced towards me and my other side was a deep cliff. A vehicle coming opposite to me was a land-mover(JCB) and it blocked and delayed the landslide causing a split second window for me to pass.
I have read about it in books and know it causes a chain reaction, I left that area with my heart in my mouth. I don’t know what happened to the driver in the land-mover. Hope he is fine. Later I came to know that multiple mountains have collapsed with one destroying a bridge.
Around noon, I reached Kashmir.
I have booked a boathouse in Nigeen lake, sister of Dal Lale. I was exhausted after the ride. But the boat ride across the lake was refreshing.
Life in Kashmir is difficult. The conflict and constant curfew have affected a toll on the lives of the people. Shikara rider Hakim says ‘the tourist flow was reduced one-third last season’. Most of the people who depend on tourism has started to look other jobs.
Tourism is slowly dying in Kashmir. I remember the word of Pandit Nehru about Kashmir ‘If there is a heaven on earth, then it is this, it is this, it is this’.
If you plan to visit Kashmir, stay on a houseboat. It is really nice. And it is not so costly, as mine cost Rs.800/night.
Shikara is mainly used here for transportation. We can see handcraft sellers, flower sellers, vegetable sellers in shikara. Even tourist are very much attracted to it.