A journey of firsts and surprises,
Smita Joseph’s quick getaway to the beautiful state of Kashmir was filled with adventurous activities, scrumptious food, breath-taking views, and much more. Too often associated with unrest and conflict, on this trip, Kashmir highlighted its overwhelmingly pleasant and positive side, in times of peace. Having seen many of the beautiful and vital sights and activities that make this state what it truly is, Smita was eager to share with You & I a taste of her time spent in the great white north of India.
Accompanied by her cousins, Komal Parikh and Sharuna Jacob, Smita set out for her six-day trip to Kashmir following Komal’s rave reviews of its people and the place after she celebrated her second wedding anniversary there earlier this year. “Impressed with the destination, Komal roped in Sharuna and me for this plan, and made it our first ever cousins trip. Looking at her pictures from the previous visit, we could barely resist!” shared Smita.
The first stop the trio made after they exited Srinagar Airport was the Winterfell Café. Based on the popular television show, Game of Thrones, this cosy nook is located by the Dal Lake in Srinagar. “This themed café was full of Game of Thrones posters, paintings, and a replica of the infamous throne itself. Their steaming steaks, sandwiches, and pasta perfectly complemented the weather,” she added. Next up, was the one thing that no tourist can afford to miss in Srinagar. The shikara ride at Dal Lake offered the girls the perfect way to laze around, with the intricately crafted boathouses on one side and the city on the other. The cousins even tried their hand at river rafting on the River Sindh. Reminiscing about their time spent on the slightly choppy waters, Smita said, “We rafted for a distance of about 7.5 kms. The cold water and the strong yet steady current made the experience thoroughly exhilarating.”
Despite the intensity of this high-octane activity, it was the trio’s ride aboard a gondola cable car that turned out to be a rather special, albeit scary experience. On their way from Gulmarg to Kungdoor (Phase 1), the cable car came to a complete halt midway. “We were informed by the people around us that this usually doesn’t happen. But there we were, amidst what seemed like a blanket of pine trees, standing still in a cable car that wouldn’t move. The 90 seconds or so when the cable car did not move were definitely something we’ll never forget. Especially because it was unexpected!” said Smita. As for their accommodations, the cousins set up base at a small cottage called Raja Hut in Gulmarg. The girls were in awe of the locals and their rather pleasing symmetrical features, and their culture exuded a sense of community and brotherhood, both at work and home. “During our stay here we indulged in the Kashmiri tea – Kahwa – which the locals had quite a few times a day. It is also offered to guests as a form of refreshment,” remembered Smita. Meanwhile, the Kashmiri Pulao, which was rich in taste and a tad bit oily had the sisters asking for more, thanks to its delicious taste and the dry fruit garnish.
Despite being well aware of the geopolitical situation in Kashmir, witnessing an entire state on guard took Smita by surprise. “The place was full of BSF, CRPF, and JKPD personnel stationed near schools, at shopping centres, markets, and in the mountains as well. That being said, the political scenario did not get in the way of the town’s beauty or the people’s outlook towards life,” she added.
Smita came to the conclusion that Kashmir is definitely a place for everyone to visit. Commenting on the perfect time to visit, she said, “If you’re looking for a winter getaway to huddle around the fireplace with your friends and enjoy the many winter activities, November through March is the best time. But if you prefer lush green meadows and clear blue skies, plan a trip between August and October.”
As always, a single trip is never enough to really have a fill of any destination. “I’d like to go back and visit Phase 2 via the Gulmarg Gondola, which is at a whopping height of 12,293 feet. I’d also like to go back in the winters, specifically to try my hand at winter sports including snowboarding, skiing, and sledging,” said Smita. – as told to Roshni