Catch my stories in Outlook Traveller Getaways’ Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh Guide… These are just a few excerpts, and if you want to read more about this gorgeous land, head to your nearest bookstore!
Mamer-Naranag – Riverside Tranquil
“On the face of it, Mamer seems an unlikely destination. Most travellers who cross this sleepy little town dismiss it as a mere highway stop, a place to stretch your legs and perhaps wolf down some pakoras before hitting the road again. Cars whiz past, heading east on NH1D, hoping to make it to Sonamarg before trucks clog up the highway. Tired motorists heading west look eagerly to arriving at Srinagar. No one gives Mamer a second look. But scratch below the surface, and this little gem of a place begins to shine in an altogether different light. There are idyllic village paths to tread, river banks to sit on and watch the world go by, verdant forests that tower over you, and for the heritage lover, the ancient temples of Naranag, located in a pristine, sun-soaked valley not far away. And if that’s too tame, Mamer has some high excitement to offer indeed — rafting on the Sind River…”
Sonamarg – The Gold Rush
“Any place with the moniker ‘Meadow of Gold’ has a reputation to live up to. Luckily, Sonamarg, with its exquisite high altitude valley that packs it all in — rolling hills, craggy peaks, rushing streams, a glacier, a trout-filled river, and miles-upon-miles of pine trees — seems to do so. Even by the high standards set by the many beautiful spots in the Vale of Kashmir, Sonamarg manages to stand tall as a veritable goldmine for the nature lover.
But with that comes the gold rush. In winter, Sonamarg lies covered under a blanket of snow, but come summer, thousands of tourists descend upon this small town, which is also the last major supply halt for troops bound for Kargil, Drass and the battlefields beyond, and for truckers ferrying supplies to Leh. And then, in summer comes the stream of devotees heading to the holy Amarnath Cave, placing further strain on the ecology of this beautiful valley. But even amidst the crowds of tourists, taxis and ponywallahs, and the black clouds of diesel from the trucks on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, it’s possible to snatch moments of tranquillity. On arriving you could be tired, jaded, and wondering what possessed you to come here, but a split second later, all doubts will be gone, when the clear, blue skies and gorgeous mountain vistas reveal themselves, the sun glancing off the peaks, casting a golden glow across the valley…”
Manasbal – Where the Lotus Blooms
“A lovely lake close to Srinagar, Manasbal has always played second fiddle to its more famous brethren. The origins of its name can be traced back to it being a pilgrimage destination for those who couldn’t make the arduous trip to Manasarovar Lake in Tibet. The Mughals did build a royal garden here, but it’s eclipsed by the gardens they built in Srinagar and Achabal. Even today, Manasbal lives in the shadow of Kashmir’s more famous lakes, Dal and Wular, a short drive away. For Manasbal, this proximity has resulted in a twilight of sorts. Not many people know of it, and unjustifiably so. For while Manasbal might lack the tourist trappings of Srinagar or the wild allure of Wular, it possesses a charm of its own. It’s a friendly, quiet, non-touristy place that offers a respite from the crowds at the more popular destinations. And it does have its own claims to fame — at 13 metres, it’s perhaps the deepest lake in Kashmir. Manasbal is a major stopover for migratory birds, and best of all, in the months of July and August, the lotus blooms in abundance, covering the periphery of the lake in an almost ethereal glow…”
Yusmarg – In the Footsteps of Jesus
“There are a couple of legends surrounding the origins of Yusmarg’s name. The more prosaic one hints at ‘Yusmarg’ being a corruption of ‘Roosmarg’, or ‘meadow of the musk deer’. The more interesting one comes from a belief that Jesus Christ spent some of his ‘lost’ years in India, and passed through Yusmarg, earning it the name ‘Meadow of Jesus’. Given that Yusmarg’s an excellent base for treks, it’s a lot more fun to believe it was named after someone who’s said to have walked on water…”