I’ve myself been to that place three times and I still can’t get enough of it. The first two times were during a family trip in summers. The third time, was, however back in the winters of January 2013, when the new year had just started and the temperature had gone down to beep-ing minus degrees. It was really stone-cold in Kashmir. Since it was my first time in winters to visit the place, the experience was a totally different one too.
A Joyful Walk Towards the Gondola Station: Our Mini-Adventure
We had our car parked near the shop, close to the population and started our journey to first land base gondola station. The snow had covered all the roads and huts 10 inches deep. We didn’t take a sledge either to reach the gondola station, instead we preferred to walk on our own to have a little adventure of our own.
To our surprise, we met a really nice couple out there with whom we continued and shared all our Gulmarg experience. We fell multiple times due to slippery icy roads, we laughed. Though the route to the gondola station wasn’t that long but it took us almost an hour to reach there considering the bad weather and a group of people who had no experience whatsoever to survive the deep shit snow. LOL.
We kept our cameras on and kept on shooting the whole time. The view was beautiful. Our new friends, Anurag and Monika who were a honeymoon couple were enjoying the same and it was joyful to have an experience so similar to tracking. Anurag was a person always ready to have fun and I’m sure he couldn’t get enough of roughing up the snow. Haha. Monika was a nice lady and she was constantly worrying about Anurag’s health when he was busy digging the snow with his feet. (Unfortunately, we lost contacts and we miss them.) We even tried to borrow some sticks from the skating shop at the starting point, but they didn’t let us. Ugh! :\ But we anyways survived and reached the gondola station. It took us another hour to get the tickets.
Gondolas are basically modernized cable cars to reach to top of the mountains that were designed in collaboration with a french company PUMA and are one of the major attractions of Gulmarg. The view from gondola was very beautiful; except me, it was a totally new experience for everyone else. It’s the only cable car in Asia that travels up an elevation of 13,500 ft above sea level. The Gondola cable car service covers the distance from Gulmarg to Kongdoor i.e. 3,099 m and from Kongdoor to Apharwat i.e. 3,979 m. We reached the upper base in like 20 minutes or so. I could see people skiing in the snowy slops from our cable car. I was thrilled.
Summer season is usually so hectic everywhere but when you reach the top of Himalaya you will feel like you’ve reached in heaven, the same is with the winter season visits. There are two stops; one at the midway from where you have to take another gondola to reach the final stop and the upper base. It was freezing out there. We decided to get something warm to eat and drink. Thank god! there was a restaurant out there but the prices! Ugh! One maggy plate/coffee for 100 bucks! I was like, “seriously? We already paid like 2000 bucks for the gondola ride and now we need to spend another hundred bucks to get warm?” Anyways, we spent an hour in the restaurant since it was warmer than outside. By chance an IBN reporter located us and asked us to give an interview. We were all like yay! It was to be telecasted on the same day on IBN at 4pm about tourists of Gulmarg. Those people were nice too. They interviewed us outside in the snow where they asked us several questions about our experience of that very day. Damn! We were outside AGAIN and we were freezing dead but we had to bear the torture for the sake of interview. Yeah! I know, greedy us! Haha.
Then the announcer alarmed us that the gondola station is going to get shut down in another 20 minutes! We hurried off our way back to gondola station and quickly got inside a cable car. It was both scary and hilarious when our gondola got stopped in the mid-way. We were like Whhaaaaaaat The??!!? Stuck on the top of mountains, away from gondola station, our cable car took it another 15 minutes to start again. Uff! Well we reached backed safely to the land base gondola station and from there, we again started our journey back to the population.
A Walk Back: Snow Fights and The Countless Fall-downs
It was 5 pm already, the weather was getting colder and I was freezing like hell. The sun sets early in the valley and the mountains wear a silence which is kind of very soothing but mind-numbing too. The birds were returning to their respective nests (if there were any!) and it was getting darker. For the first time the thought popped up in my mind if I was going to survive the day. I got very panicky. I was already wearing loads of sweaters and other warm clothes but all in vain, I was stone cold! Due to the 10 inches snow covered road, even though we were wearing boots, snow got inside them and mine and Monika’s feet got freezed. It was like our feet had no sensation at all. I’m also always very prone to cold. So my boy and Anurag had us wear their fur jackets too (Sweet guys!) and then they took out our socks, got the shit deep snow out of them and rubbed our feet with their hands to generate some heat and warmth, and God! Didn’t I feel alive again! We took a group photo to keep as a remembrance of those crazy moments.
We continued our journey from there, wrapped up into tonnes of clothes, looking like greazly bears, lol. We had a snow fight too on the way back. I got hit badly. Multiple times! lol. I was fuming in rage like an angry cat. Anyways, we ended up clawing each other and finding ourselves buried under the snow. :D It took more than two hands to get me out of it, I guess I just happen to get stuck bad. Haha.
There were beautiful huts and benches all covered under snow. The weather was starting to change. Anxiety wore over me again. There wasn’t a single sign of population there, the silence however helped me to maintain my calm. All this time I was wishing if I had a hut of my own out there amidst the snow covered mountains. We kept on chit-chatting to pass our time, however, a few of us including me were getting really tired from all the walking and slipping-n’-falling off. I really wished at that moment if someone would lift me up. :P (P.S.- Nobody did! :( ) Anyhoo , by the grace of God and our luck, our driver located us and came to pick us up. I felt so relieved to see him from a distance. We still had to reach the main road on our own, took us more than an hour again in total, I almost ran towards the car; We were happier than ever, especially me to come back alive. Haha!
Back to Srinagar: To Our Homely ‘New Zaitoon’ Houseboat
We quickly got inside the car and put on blankets and heaters and what not! Even though we were damn tired, it was a beep-ing crazy experience and at the end of the day, I felt really glad to have had experienced it. In fact, we all did and we even planned to spend the next day with our new friends, supposedly in Sonmarg! We had a 2-3 hour drive back to Srinagar to go back to our respective house boats. We spent the rest of the day wrapped up in our quilts inside our rooms. This was our 3rd day in Kashmir and it was the best among the rest. We slept off early ’cause the very next day, we had a new place to go to, explore and make little new adventures of our own. Peace out! ;)