Gorgeous Gulmarg with lush green meadows & white sparkling snow.
This happens to be my first blog on travel and so I thought I should start it from my most favourite place yet, Gulmarg.
Sometimes when you experience something for the first time and if that experience leaves you amazed and spellbound, it is very difficult to describe the feeling through words as it can only be felt. There is a certain joy that erupts and you feel completely overwhelmed. Gulmarg did that to me and I would say ‘Gulmarg’ is an emotion that has to be experienced.
We drove to Gulmarg from Srinagar and reached late night around 1 A.M. The breeze was so cold that walking on the road was actually difficult and so I immediately got inside the car and covered myself with an extra layer of jacket. Since we didn’t book any rooms, we went up to all the guest houses and hotels that were there asking if there were rooms available and after half an hour, we managed to find a stay at a small wooden guest house called ‘Lala’ with 2 rooms which was located on an elevated land resembling a hill. Though cars had to be parked by the road itself, we had to walk a good 500 meters through the lush green meadow to the guest house. I walked into the room and felt a certain calmness. It had wooden flooring, wooden roof, a small window, neatly maintained walls, a bed that was as soft as a pillow and for the cold outside it couldn’t have got any cosier. It was a long drive from Srinagar, I was little tired and as soon as I sat on the bed I fell asleep.
I should say I didn’t have any idea of Gulmarg nor did I bother to Google it. I was thinking of it as just another beautiful hill station like any other place in Kashmir. Though before we had started we were told that couple of Hindi films like Ranbir Kapoor’s Yeh Jawaani Hein Deewani and SRK’s Jab Tak Hein Jaan were shot there. So while driving there I was thinking what different and new has this place got in store.
The first view of Gulmarg
Next morning, I woke up around seven in the morning brushed my teeth and went downstairs to grab a cup of coffee. It was all wooden flooring so I had to walk slowly and carefully without making any noise as others were sleeping. I went to the kitchen asked the caretaker for a Coffee and stepped out of the house. As I stepped out, the first view I had was so unreal.(That Image you see was my first view as soon as I got out). I didn’t know what happened to me, I was so amazed , overwhelmed and lot more adjectives to add to that. I thought I was dreaming and infact pinched myself to believe what I was seeing. It was as though a painting was placed before me, it was absolutely surreal. I was left in wonderment and when I get excited, I start panicking and shivering, at the right time came the coffee that got me back to normal. It was a different high to be sipping a hot coffee in the cold weather with a breathtaking view like that in front of me. At that very moment, my friend Kamlesh Bhai came down and he was stunned looking at it. He felt the same way I felt and we went crazy taking so many pictures.
Also I had not seen or felt snow before and It was a wish for a very long time to experience what snow felt like. So I wanted to get ready as soon as possible and get there to that peak. After I was done with my coffee, I went upstairs got ready and had the staple food ‘Maggi’ (I survived only with Maggi). Once I was done, I was speaking to the caretaker who was telling us more about Gulmarg , the very famous ‘Gulmarg Gondala’ that once must experience it and apparently it is also Asia’s longest cable car ride. He also mentioned about the Indian Institute of Mountaineering and Skiing where you can enroll yourself and learn various adventure activities. They also provide boarding, food and many other things at an economical price. I am sure I am going to enroll myself soon and learn atleast one adventure sport. They offer courses on skiing, white water rafting, canoeing, mountaineering, paragliding and so on.
So once all of us were ready, we headed to the ‘Gulmarg Gondola’ to reach the Afarwat top which is 14,000 feet in altitude. Guess what? The ‘Gulmarg Gondola’ will take you right to the peak into the snow. You can also trek if you wish to. We reached the spot to buy tickets and the queue was insanely long. We also hired a guide who goes by the name Ashraf, he was a very sweet man and explained to us all about the glorious things at Gulmarg and the history of the famous Gulmarg Gondola.
It is the world’s second longest cable car ride and of course Asia’s longest. There are 2 stages to this, the first one costs Rs.600 which will take you close to 9000 feet in the Kongdoori valley (remember Anushkha Sharma dancing ‘Jiye re Jiye Re” that same spot). The second one costs around Rs.800 and will take you to the peak which is close to 13,000 feet. (The song ‘Subbhanallah’ from YJHD was shot there). The booking for the second stage should be done in advance because it is not very easy to get those tickets compared to the first stage for the simple reason that everyone wants to get there but there isn’t enough time. So make sure you book it in advance to see what it looks like from the top.
As we were standing in the line to board the ‘Gulmarg Gondola’ , couple of foreigners had come back after skiing from the Afarwat top so I engaged in a conversation with 2 of them who were from Switzerland. While speaking, they said they are regular skiers and have travelled all over the globe from South America to New Zeland and they said there haven’t seen any place as beautiful as Gulmarg and it was mesmerizing. They also added and in their exact words ,”It really surprises when I see a lot of Indians coming to Swiss to ski while Gulmarg is so surreal”. That was indeed an amazing compliment but then I was explaining to them about the tense situations in Kashmir most of the time. To top that, Gulmarg borders Pakistan and beyond the Afarwat peak it is POK needless to say about tensions. Our turn had come and off we boarded the Gulmarg Gondola.
Gulmarg Gondola Experience
I was very excited when I got inside, I was sitting in the front and it started to move. The moment it took off from the boarding point onto the course, the view beneath the Gondola of the cone trees,the horses and the meadows were fabulous. It moved at a decent speed where you could sit and gaze and admire the beauty around you. When I looked ahead it was as though the snow peak mountain was getting closer and closer to me. Since we didn’t book it earlier, we were able to go only upto the first stage. After a good 20 minute ride, we got down and started to walk uphill to the peak where the skiing starts from stage 1. It was not an easy task as it was physically demanding because you had to breathe hard. We did take small pauses in between and as we were getting closer, I saw the frosted ice of the snow and the excitement was just building up.
A walk to cherish forever
This walk uphill to the peak was my most favourite and a very memorable one, we had to pass through the most beautiful meadows I have ever seen and it was like a dream, it was so surreal, I have seen only Windows wallpapers like that and to see the nature like that in front of me, I felt like crying and had various feeling which I really can’t put into words. You can see the pictures and decide for yourself though the pictures don’t do full justice to these gorgeous green meadows. This also taught me a lot of things that is to go to the top you need to have perseverance, determination and hardwork. It is easy to say no and refuse but it takes everything to go to the top. I also learnt when you have a good company along with you even climbing a mountain wouldn’t be difficult. It took a good 40 minutes to go up. There are also pony services that can take you up there at a faster time but then a walk through these meadows is definitely worth the effort.
Adventure with snowfall,rainfall and the cold breeze
As we were advancing further, it started snowing, raining and hard cold breeze hit us. Imagine all of them happening at once, It was so severe that I was literally carried away by the wind and I had to hold on tight to the rocks to stay at one place, It was that hard and I am not even kidding. I had almost 3 layers of warm clothes and a jacket that helped me withstand the cold to some extent, imagine being brought up in the heat in the southern part of India all my life, it was terrible to have snowfall, rainfall and cold breeze hitting you all at once. Once it reduced, I started to walk and reached the peak of the first stage which was like a white sparkling play ground where people were skiing and having a great time playing in the snow.
The view from the Kongdoori Valley
The view from down to up was amazing and now the view from up to down was breathtaking.There was also a rainbow that had formed and it looked magical up there. I went crazy taking pictures in my phone ditching the camera because of the rain and the pictures on the phone itself looked amazing because of the beautiful landscapes. Everywhere I turned It was so beautiful, I took a lot of pictures there.
First time experiencing Snow
Yaay! For the very first time in my life I saw snow and I went crazy. I started dancing, jumping around and I was at my craziest behavior. I just couldn’t control the excitement. It was white everywhere and of course the chillness was so awesome.
The adventure in the snow
When you have everything going smooth, you are definitely ought to face some problem in one way or the other. Here’s what happened to me –
Now while doing all this, came problem one, having no experience on snow before and not knowing how the snow would be, I wore a converse shoe thinking it would be easy to run around & play. This ignorance costed me big time that every step that I took I slipped and kept falling down,literally every step. Now to get up I had to use my hand and I didn’t have gloves, that was problem 2. Slowly with help of Kamlesh Bhai after several attempts I managed to stand up and had to move like a robot being very careful with every step I take.
By now I started walking on my own and no sooner there was problem 3, a kid who was trying to ski came from the top while on
his way down came in contact with me and I fell down once again. It was a very gentle touch of his jacket over mine is what I would say, like his jacket just scraped me but that impact made me to fall down and I rolled for a bit like the belly roll you do in high jump. As i was tumbling upon my left hand got stuck in the snow. Remember I was not wearing gloves, since one hand was stuck deep, I wasn’t able to pull it out and there was severe pain because of the chillness. Now trying to use my right hand to pull out the left hand was absolutely useless, I realized it only after trying because firstly the snow was too cold to touch and secondly while trying to pull out my right hand also started to get clogged, luckily I pulled it out as fast as I could. Imagine at this point. I tried using my hands, legs and body nothing turned out to be fruitful, It just kept getting worse . I was shouting for help and like a hero came Kamlesh Bhai along with a local shepherd who pulled me out. Once my hand came out, it was numb and I couldn’t feel my hand at all.
Guess what the shepherd did? He straight away put my hand on fire where chai was getting ready. I was like What the hell Is he trying to do, while my hand was getting barbecued I realized I couldn’t feel the heat on my hand. Imagine you put your hand on a burning fire and you can’t even feel the heat. I almost thought it was gone, after like a couple of minutes I slowly started to feel my hand and now it was bloody hot that I couldn’t take the heat. The pain of cold reduced and the pain of heat increased but there was obviously snow everywhere so I took a little and covered it for the heat to reduce. Finally after a good 30 minutes of drama things came back to normal. I had a chai from there and the shepherd was explaining that If a hand is exposed into snow for long there are chances it might just come off.
immediately after drinking my tea, I bought a set of leather gloves and wore it then and there.
We spent some time sharing Maggi and playing in the snow. Our guide Ashraf explained about how Gulmarg is completely frozen in Winter and shared stories about various incidents that happened at Gulmarg and also the border fights with Pakistan. He told he would take us to the LOC (Line of Control) but since we were running out of time, we couldn’t go as it would take another half an hour. After we were done we started to descend and of course it hardly takes any time to come down. We boarded the Gondola and got back. Once we got to the base, it was raining cats and dogs and we couldn’t move and so had to wait for an hour until it stopped and then headed to our rooms.
An experience that resembled a dream
This entire experience was a bag of mixed emotions and feeling s. I didn’t know that nature could make one emotional and fill one’s hearts with so much of happiness & excitement just by its sheer beauty. In short, Gulmarg is a dream that will mesmerize you in every way possible.
There were so many things that I got to learn, no matter how far or difficult your destination is if you really wish to make it there believe in yourself and give it everything all you have and have your friends with you and you surely will reach.
How to reach Gulmarg?
First you must reach Srinagar which is the nearest city and Gulmarg is a 56 Kms drive. It is well connected by Air and road. On reaching Srinagar you can hire a taxi and drive to Gulmarg which would cost around Rs.1000 or you can board one of the buses that are available.
Things to Experience
Apharwat Peak, Gulmarg Gondola, Skiing, St.Mary’s church, Walk on the lush green meadows. In fact just staying in Gulmarg itself is so amazing.
Best time to Visit Gulmarg
You can visit it anytime of the year depending on what you want to see.
September – March
It is very cold during these months and the temperature drop to Zero degrees. All the winter sport activities are on full throttle. Skiing, snowboarding and so on are at its peak. Make sure you are packed with woolen clothes. The entire area looks frozen and the trees look magical decorated in snow.
April – August
It is summer and the peak tourist season. You can get to see the lush green meadows and the beautiful trees at their very best. Don’t worry there is snow throughout the year and you can have a lot of fun skiing anytime you head there. The weather is very pleasant and you can enjoy Gulamarg at its best.
Now then with all these details up, what more are you waiting for? Plan a trip to Gulmarg to be mesmerized by its beauty.