posted on Saturday, September 12, 2009

Srinagar


I spent the last days in Leh visiting Leh Palace and the little gompa further up the hill, before joining a night event at the palace where the king and queen of Ladakh were presiding over a series of ceremonies with music and dances and all the local people were dressed in their best traditional clothes. Yesterday afternoon I then set off for another memorable bus journey from Leh to Srinagar. Most of the trip was at night time but as daylight started to shed some light I could once more stare at some beautiful mountain landscape, especially over Zoji-la, the last pass at 3,528 metres before the long and hair-raising steep descent to Srinagar. The trip was made interesting by the fact that my jeep had no other tourists but me! All the other passengers were kashmiri people returning to Srinagar after a season spent working in Ladakh. At first I felt a bit awkward but I started to think at the bright side and wondered that maybe if we ever were going to be in trouble in a notoriously terrorism-prone area, I was probably better off with them than with a jeep full ofthe trip. He also had an amazing curiousity about things and asked me very detailed, sometime odd questions and treated me as if I was a bit of a human encyclopedia which I am certainly not! The driver was also amazing and kind walking with me to each of the five posts where I had to register my details and show passport and visa. When I asked Nissar why I had to do this as many times his answer was a not too reassuring 'it is for your safety'...
Arrived in Srinagar I checked into a house boat, a typical toursists accomodation in town dating from the time of the english raj, when the colonists were not allowed to own land in Sringar so they built amazing house-boats as a way to get around the law. After settling down and having some good rest I spent the afternoon with a rickshaw tour of some very pretty mughal gardens as well as the large Jamia Masjid, the main mosque in town, said to be able to accomodate 33000 people for prayers. Also the tour circled around Dal Lake a very large lake right in the centre of the town.