Web Analytics

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sonmarg (Kashmir)


Memories of Sonmarg bring shivers into my spines. I am just recapitulating the enthusiasm we had while proceeding to this place which withered away eventually. That could have been one of the most enjoyable trips but we underwent extreme suffering due to our own faults and lack of proper guidance. Sonmarg which means 'Meadow of Gold' lies some 87 kilometres North East of Srinagar on the highway leading to Leh in Laddakh (topmost area of India). If one continues the journey on that highway for another  9 kilometres, one would reach Joji La (Pass) which is a vital link between Srinagar and Leh. Since we were not heading towards Leh, we stopped at Sonmarg. An important glacier known as Machoi is approachable from here at a distance of 8 kilometres towards the right. The melting ice of the glacier forms a river known as Sindhu which flows for 108 kilometres and becomes a tributary of the river Jhelam. On the way to Sonmarg this river flows parallel to the highway (NH 1D) most of the time and affords a beautiful view against the backdrop of the mountain ranges. The flowing waters, greenery created by the Pine trees and other vegetation makes the drive enjoyable. We were happy for we thought we were seeing the famous river Indus (called Sindhu in India) but we were mistaken. The river Indus has its origin in Tibet and passing through Laddakh it flows through Pakistan.




On 8th June 2012 we had our breakfast in the morning at Srinagar and could reach Sonmarg by Noon. There were several temporary shops on the left providing overcoats, hand gloves, woollen caps, gum boots etc. on a rental basis. The ground in front had wet mud all around and was slushy, a place for all the ponies waiting for customers. The shops there arrange for everything you need, including ponies.  The economic principle of demand and supply becomes operational when it comes to determination of  per head charges. It is obvious that it varies from time to time.


It was drizzling when we reached there but soon the sky was clear and the weather looked inviting. We geared ourselves putting on the overcoats and other things and finally were on the horse back for the 8 kilometre ride. The caravan proceeded towards the glacier scaling the steep ups. While we were mid way, it started raining. We were wearing woollen overcoats which got soaked in rain water and created discomfort. By the time we were at the foot of the glacier, we were completely drenched and shivering because of extreme cold. All of us were riding a horse/pony for the first time in life. Fortunately at the point we got down, there were numerous temporary sheds where hot tea was available. There was a fire place where we could get some warmth. But that was  of no avail because the moment we got out it was a back to square one situation.


The glacier stood before us and some how we prepared ourselves for the climb. You are pulled up on a sledge which is a wooden plank by the people rendering this service. Their charges are also negotiable. There are some imaginary points across the glacier viz, 6, 12, 24 and so on. One could choose any one of them and the farther you wish to be carried, you need to pay more. We settled for a point described as 24. The journey upwards over the sledge was cumbersome as you need to balance yourself. I fell down twice. We were still shivering and the height at 13500 feet had a telling effect. Abruptly, even before we could reach the so called point 6, the man pulling the sledge asked us to get down and cover the steep stretch by foot. We did the short trek but then got exhausted. We were unable to breathe properly. There was no strength left to go any further. We settled ourselves on the snow unable to make any movements. There were cries in the air. A child aged 9 or 10 was weeping profusely. We then decided to return back. Even on our way back we got thrown out of the sledge because of the steep slide.




Ready to go back
We came back to have another round of hot tea and getting some warmth at the fireplace of the tea shops. Looking back at the glacier we realized the beauty of the place but failed to appreciate it to the extent it deserved because of fatigue, physical as also mental. Now we were looking for our horses/ponies and they got located soon. While returning from the glacier, over the horse back, we were going down and at many places it was very steep. It seemed to be a very tiring exercise to remain at 90 degrees and balancing ourselves while the horse was  manoeuvring  through very narrow passages circumventing large boulders, stones and cavities. Finally we reached the place where our vehicles were parked.

Our driver immediately came to our rescue. He pulled out our gum boots and socks and to our horror we found ice pieces coming out along with water. Thereafter we removed the drenched overcoat and other things which were sent back to the shop owner. We also removed our shirts and pants and  got seated inside our vehicles. The heater was turned on and we were feeling better after 10/15 minutes.

We had observed that there was a good road going to the glacier from Sonmarg but only the local vehicles (other than taxies) were permitted. Probably this practice is in vogue so as to enable the local horse/pony keepers to make a living.

The greatest blunder we committed was by not insisting for rain coats. The weather conditions in high altitudes are not predictable. But then we were provided with woollens only which got drenched and created all the problems.


While returning to Srinagar, we stopped at a wayside restaurant and had our late but hot lunch. The Alu Parathas (bread with potatoes) was heavenly.
Nevertheless it was an experience more akin to an adventure.



28 comments:

  1. we didnt visit sonmarg since we thought we would leave it to a longer visit.... but we faced a similar problem at gulmarg... since we were not really prepared for snowfall... and originally, i hadnt intended to go there either.. only when our driver told us that there would be snow and samhith got all excited we decided to head out there, got into arguments over the rates for the horses... and also got drenched!! but we really had fun in the snow.. didnt miss out on that after all that trouble.. turned out to be a memorable trip!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That must have been really disappointing! But, then there is always another day. After such an experience, the aloo paranthas sure must have tasted divine.

    Thanks for sharing the gorgeous beauty of the place, the pictures are absolutely stunning! I wish to be there someday.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We had visited Sonmarg. I feel the man in the picture took me by horse...all of them look similar!

    We used to visit Vaishnav dhaba for veg. food.

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have been here and it is beautifull.. thanks for sharing brought some memories :)


    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
  5. what lovely images! so fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for sharing photos and the history of a place I've never been..And thank you for the nice comments on mine and the visit.. I'm your new follower.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your trip to the glacier. Perhaps the lack of preparation and the weather spoilt the experience.
    I do not know whether you had a chance to visit the northernmost Siva temple in India on the way to Sonmarg (On the map it is far north of Kedar/Badri). The place is called Manigam on the Srinagar-Sonmarg highway and the temple is inside the camp of BRTF on the banks of the Sind Nallah. The deity was installed jointly by me and Col. Sherif of BRTF in 1980! It is called the Mahadeva Temple to commemorate the Vaikom Temple! CKR

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sir. I remember to have seen the camp to our left on the bank's of the Sind Nallah but had no inkling of the existence of a temple there. I very much regret. I shall attempt to spread the word.

      Delete
  8. Oh! That is disappointing.
    I always wondered how a pony ride would be, now I know and not very confident of taking one.

    ReplyDelete
  9. आपने तो जन्‍नत की सैर करा दी। शुक्रिया।

    ............
    International Bloggers Conference!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Some trips can really go wrong, despite our planning. I am sorry you had to go through so much trouble, and finally could not really appreciate the beauty of the place. It always happens like that.
    Even when my children went trekking to valley of flowers, they said that they were so exhausted by everything, the sudden cold, the sudden heat, carrying their rucksacks, etc., that they finally didn't get the chance or were not in the mood to appreciate the beauty right in front of them. It is good to see only in pictures
    where everything is shown so beautifully.
    We had the same kind of horrible experience when we went to visit Agumbe, which is supposed to be so beautiful,the serial Malgudi days was shot there, and we had booked the rooms in the Doda Manai(the Big House),where the entire crew of the serial had stayed.
    But even after confirmations of our rooms, when we went there the lady,who owns that place, called Kasturi Akka said there was no room. It was ridiculous how these people run their business. And there was just a seedy lodge above a grocery shop with rooms full of insecets, cockroaches,no light, the walls were damp and the bedsheets and pillow looked like they were never changed. Oh, God it was a night mare to spend even one night there. It is such a lousy small town with no place even to have proper food other than that Kasturi Akka's place. Awful!
    I think places like Kashmir should be booked with proper tourist groups which take care of everything, for they know what is to be expected.

    ReplyDelete
  11. oops must have been terrible!

    ReplyDelete
  12. an adventure indeed. enjoyed reading the post. never visited Kashmir and actually don't know much about that place. so, i was trying to picture everything while reading. i love cold weather but i guess that's too cold for comfort.

    ReplyDelete
  13. OMG! Its a lifetime experience!!!
    However amazing photographs.
    Btw, welcome to Chennai PNS Sir.
    The author of that book is located in Chennai!
    You may call him and meet him and get it from him! :)
    Pazhamayaana 108 Sivaalayangal by M.G.Srinivasan - A Review

    ReplyDelete
  14. The photographs are so beautiful but for your explanation, one would have assumed it was a fantastic trip. I would come back to you for advice, I have planned to skip sonmarg, opt for gulmarg and Phalgam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please do not skip Sonmarg. It is a wonderful place. Do take care about the outfits.

      Delete
  15. Hello PNS,

    I admire your courage to undertake such a risky venture. You went on a holiday and you were taking very big risks. Excellent write up of a wonderful trip but very dangerous. You photos are amazing and gives and insight into the topography and the beauty of the places you traveled.

    Best wishes,
    Joseph

    ReplyDelete
  16. That should have been an adventurous trip! But this place is definitely not for me. I shiver even in Ooty. I might faint there :)

    Destination Infinity

    ReplyDelete
  17. It was really a risky but adventures trip...It will help me to plan out my trip to this region... very informative post with beautiful pictures...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Stunning and spectacular pics and wonderful write up on Sonamarg. What a fabulous journey to this wonderful place. Dhaba food is always awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Amazing travalogue Sir! Kashmir surely is a paradise on earth!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Beautiful shots of place, very picturesque.

    ReplyDelete
  21. vob !full of scenic beauty and beautiful details their in .

    ReplyDelete
  22. lovely..........captivating..........

    regards
    anu

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks for this post and foy your kind remarks on to the post "Chiropractic a brief history and its present.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh that is one beautiful place! Would love to visit!

    ReplyDelete