After reaching Pahalgam, the plan was to relax for the rest of the day. We had a very long journey… hence, a little rest was what we thought we would love to get. Aijaz Bhai asked us, what’s the plan for the rest of the day, we were unsure and asked him to drop us at the hotel and leave for the day. He insisted to stay until we had lunch and finally settled in the hotel. This is an amazing behavioral trait of local Kashmiris, they treat tourists as their own responsibility.
We checked into our beautiful hotel and freshened up quickly. We were eager to try out the authentic Kashmiri food (Or Wazwan), hence we settled for Long Basmati Steamed Rice Bowl with Rista (meatball in fiery red gravy). Luckily we ordered only one plate each, otherwise, we would have wasted a LOT of food. Kashmiris like to serve huge portions of food, especially to their guests. Food was flavorful and delicious.
We thought of taking a stroll in the town of Pahalgam after this, however, some of the locals advised us to visit Baisaran instead of ‘wasting time in the city’. We were in two minds, Aijaz Bhai came there for our rescue. As per his instructions, we decided to go to Baisaran instead of relaxing at the hotel.
Baisaran (or Mini Switzerland, as it is called locally) is a lush green meadow guarded with dense vegetation, around 5 km away from Pahalgam. The meadow is dotted with thickly wooded pine forests and provides a breathtaking view of the beautiful snow-clad mountains that surround it from all sides. It’s a hidden gem and the way to access this place is either by trekking or on a horse. We were in no mood for trekking, we settled for a horse ride.
What followed for the next 4 hours was nothing short of an adventurous sequence from one of the Bollywood flicks! There was practically no road to access this place. Horses were climbing steep Pine forests randomly. The climb was steep, slippery and to say the least, SCARY! For some reason, the horses loved to walk on the edges dangerously enough to make one feel as if we would be rolling down the valley in the next minute! Oh my god! What a feeling that was. Luckily both of us had learned horse riding earlier, hence controlling the horse had become slightly easy.
This adventure went on for about 2 hours before we could reach the spot. The first glance of the place was simply breathtaking. I have seen such places only in movies. It was beautiful beyond words. A lush green meadow surrounded by sun-kissed snow peaked mountains… I wish I could stay back there forever!
As they say, beautiful things don’t last for long, as we were enjoying our time the rain gods decided to bless us… It started drizzling first, and within seconds it started pouring! Imagine having to get drenched in the rain when the temperature is about 3-4 degrees and you have no option to change to dry clothes! We decided to take refuge in one of the shacks which were serving hot Tea/Coffee and Maggie… this is another interesting thing I have noticed while traveling to the Mountains. They swear by Maggie. And somehow it tastes better than it does on the plains. While we found comfort in Maggie, rains weren’t going away anywhere. We waited for almost 45 mins, just for the rains to stop… no luck! Finally, our guide said if it gets too dark, it will be very difficult to climb down, also the descend will get more slippery, hence we should leave from there… We hesitated, but we didn’t have any other option! We started descending in that rain, on our horses, getting even more drenched in the rain.
However, the ride back was the time when we conversed with our guide well, we were cold and scared, but he comforted us every time he saw a line of worry on our faces or we shivered because of the cold wind brushing past us. He told us about his personal life, his wife, how he fell in love with her, how he got married. He shared some interesting facts about Kashmiri culture… especially around love marriages. Very interestingly Kashmiris don’t look down upon alliances based on love. They, in fact, encourage it.
As we got engrossed in the conversation the descend didn’t seem that troublesome. Though we were freezing in cold and because of the rain-drenched clothes, the warmth of conversation kept us excited and going. Our horse did slip a couple of times, but we managed to come back to Pahalgam safely. Totally enriched with the beautiful views of Mini Switzerland and an engaging conversation, this horse ride felt like the best thing that we have done it in a long time.
As we climbed down from the horse, Aijaz Bhai came running to us… he was waiting for us to be back safely before he could go back to his residence. When we told him, there was no need for him to wait for us there, he said, “Nehi madam ji, yeh to mera kaam hain. Main kaise aap ko aise chod k ja sakta hun. Aap log comfortably room mein settle ho jane k baad hi main jaunga.” (No, madam, this is my work. How can I leave you guys like this and go away? Once you settle into the hotel comfortably, I will go.)
For us, this was the first time we were experiencing the Kashmiri hospitality and we were blown away! As we retired in our warm and cozy room, we knew the rest of the trip is going to be memorable!
READ THE OTHER PARTS HERE:
PART I – https://srijatablog.wordpress.com/2017/12/29/kashmir-the-prelude-part-i/