Kashmir revisited 1

Lidder valley towards Pahalgam

Lidder valley towards Pahalgam

After the record-breaking floods of September, the worst since 1903, we decided to go back to Kashmir in November. The main purpose was to pass on direct aid to those friends we had made and who had looked after us so well. Many thanks to those friends in the UK who contributed. The help was much appreciated by the families. The water has gone but the house is very damp, panelling warped, windows likewise and there is the prospect of the Chillai Kalan (40 days when the temperature stays between minus 3°C and 13°C), so drying out will take some time. This not a good time for chest infections, asthma etc. particularly for the older ones. The children have the garden back and have a fine time particularly as they don’t go back to school until March because of imminent snow.

No doubt Kashmiris notice those buildings that have gone but we had not seen them so much is new to us. My wife has always wanted to go to Pahalgam. I would trust Yaseen Tuman of Mascot Travels with my life as I did in September and he took us by car out of hectic Srinagar past the massive Badami garrison to the quieter roads. Yes, we did see dead standing rice, washed saffron fields, damaged buildings but much was open countryside with stunning autumn colours. We made a detour past Anantnag where there was a demo about gas shortage so went through the farming villages as the sun went down and people wandered ghostlike among the trees and along the lanes in their pheran cloaks. We reached Pahalgam Hotel which is a first rate hotel and home for the night. It was cold now and dark but we had a fine bukhari to keep us warm and fresh cooked river trout to eat. Then to bed.
Just before 8 am I pulled back the curtains. There had been a heavy frost so the valley was white. The sun was up and clipping the snow-dusted peaks above the dark pine forests. Pure magic.

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