Friday, June 4, 2010

1Thousand Indians, a Mountain and Me

Gulmarg ski resort and hill station is a day trip out of Srinagar. Popular in the winter for winter sports but in the summer months it still packs in the Indian tourists who come from sweltering Mumbai and Delhi to cool off and for the most part to touch snow for the first time in their lives.

It took me 1 rickshaw and two service taxis to get there. I made the mistake of letting them sit me in the front for the trip there, a harrowing experience to watch the driver play chicken with the fully loaded truck barreling down the two lane road that the Kashmiri's some how turn into 3 or 4 lanes depending, throw in a few stray dogs, the ubiquitous cow, potholes the size of Texas and you have a gut wrenching trip right before your eyes. I made a note to myself, next time sit in the back so you cant see death before your eyes.

The taxi wallah drops you off a kilometer or so from the entrance to the cable cars, Its a lovely walk in the country side with the fresh smell of mountain air and pony poop. I notice that most of the Indian tourists are wearing long coats and rubber boots, and furry hats, and then it dawned on me they had rented these, lol boy are tourists gullible or did they know something that I didn't know.I trudged along in my Doc Marten boots.

A Family from Delhi

When I got to the ticket counter, I saw a few lines and what should have been a normal Que up. But this is India and soon I found myself sandwiched between twenty Indian men in long coats and furry hats pushing and shoving to be the first to get their tickets, so I had to do a little pushing and shoving as well. I finally got my hand through the little ticket window and handed the man my 300 rupees he asked me only 1 ticket? Yes I'm alone I replied, he looked puzzled but gave it to me anyway.

I felt gleeful for accomplishing the feat of buying a ticket until I saw the line for the cable car itself, LOL that's where the 1 thousand Indians comes into play. I actually thought to myself do I need to go up a mountain? I have seen snow , for Christ sakes I grew up in Chicago.

Well I did pay 300 rs to go up and what else do I have to do today right? The sun is shining... Well it was shining a few minutes ago! The clouds came over fast and the wind started to blow and at this point I looked at those long coats and stupid furry hats with envy.

I stood in that line for nearly 2 hours before I saw the inside of a cable car. During this time I met some wonderful people and have been invited to stay with a family in Delhi if ever I pass that way. The cable car doesn't exactly stop it just sort of slows down kinda like an Indian Bus or train, you would think these people would be used to jumping onto moving objects, but I guess it was there first cable car. This would account for the long wait.

The ride up was fun with the oh so typical cable car stopping mid way and letting you hang suspended over a forest of pine trees while it gently sways in the breeze. the girl sitting next to me was clutching my hand tightly, I can't say I minded it much it was the 5th time that day I felt death staring at me. But then the generator starts up and we continue with the ascend.

Once up the mountain we find that there is no snow at this point but if we want to see snow we have to pay 500rs more to take another cable car further up the mountain. I look up the mountain and I cant see it since there is one massive grey cloud hanging over it. I walked over to the ticket window to see what the score was only to find twenty more Indian men pushing and shoving I didn't get into the fray that time. But when I heard a man pleading with the ticket seller , who was saying no more tickets for the day that it was to late, my heart went out for them, how many of these Indian tourists save there rupees to come here to Kashmir and go up a mountain and promise their family they will see snow only to be turned away when they are so close.

I took a few photos and was about to turn back when Allah smiled down upon us all and lifted the clouds and showed me the beautiful snowy peaks of Gulmarg.

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