Kashmir is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places that I’ve travelled to. There’s so much I’ve missed and yet there’s so much I’ve experienced on each travel. Each time that I’ve been to Kashmir, I was always in for a new experience and abundant beauty to feast on. The people I’ve met, have always been so kind and friendly and listening to them has always given me new, fresh perspectives, much different from what is perceived otherwise .
Before I headed for the gorgeous Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, I decided to explore Pahalgam, as it had been on my mind for the longest time. And though 2 days aren’t enough to really ‘explore’ any place, I tried to take in as much as I could. My brother, who was joining me for the trek, agreed to also join me at Pahalgam. And so we landed in Kashmir a couple of days before the trek began.
Also read: Traversing the Great Lakes of Kashmir
After some 3ish hours of driving past the city, dusty highway, saffron fields, apple and apricot orchards, we arrived in Pahalgam around late afternoon. As we were inching closer to the town, the landscape changed. A roar of Lidder and surrounding beautiful mountains were our constant companions. Our accommodation was located closer to the river and we had the best of the time listening to its gurgling.
It was cold, not biting cold but pleasantly cold and that definitely called for hot chai. We set out for a walk through the town and across the river to reach the opposite bank. The weather just kept getting pleasant and the views around just kept getting better. I stopped every now and then to talk to the locals, posing kids and to try and capture the beauty of the place in my camera. It was a walk without any plan, any destination in mind, which is why I probably don’t have much to say about it except that it filled me some kind of unexplainable joy of walking in this charming town of Pahalgam in Kashmir.
Pahalgam is quite a popular place given that the Amarnath yatra – a spiritual journey to the Amarnath caves starts from here. There are a number of scenic places to visit in Pahalgam such as the Betaab Valley, Aru Valley, Tulian Lake, and the temple ruins of Awantipora are some attractions close by from Pahalgam. Awantipora, Tulian Lake and Lidderwat especially, still remain on my list and I will have to come back here again, some day.
Following morning, after a hearty breakfast we decided to hike to some nearby places. Our hotel manager had connected us with a local guide with whom we started walking. The first spot was Baisaran meadow. Located about 6ish km from Pahalgam, one can also take a pony ride to reach here. The weather was lovely and the trail passed through thick pine forests. Fresh forest smell filled our lungs. Numerous freshwater streams snaked through the forest.
A little over an hour later we were at the beautiful Baisaran meadow. As it wasn’t really a peak tourist season, there was no crowd here. In fact we had the whole place to ourselves. There are a few touristy things to do here, like zorbing, but we just walked around the place, sipped the hot kehwa, chatted with the few locals and simply enjoyed the place.
Next, we started walking towards the Pahalgam Valley. Because we were able to keep a good pace, (and by now our guide was friends with us), he offered to take us back through a path that was used only by locals & shepherds and not going back the same way as we came. This needed us to walk some extra kilometres, and we were totally game for it. After all, why would we give up an opportunity to walk some offbeat paths?
The path, as was obvious, lacked humans, all we saw was a few livestock and some shepherd huts – everyone busy and away. It was a different thrill to walk this part of Pahalgam and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The guide bid a farewell a few kilometres before the main town area as he stayed somewhere in the outskirts. We walked back a kilometre or two to reach the main market area.
After feasting on a nice lunch, as my brother decided to take a nap, and I thought of visiting the Lidder again. When I told the young Kashmiri boy at the reception that I was going to the river, he gave me details of a shortcut to reach there. He promptly offered to guide me when he saw my confused expressions. He was a no-nonsense person, after guiding me to the river and some small talks, he went and sat away as if he knew I needed to be alone and undisturbed. He offered to wait so as to make sure I reached back safely, but since I was kinda confident to find my way back I politely told him he could leave.
I sat by the Lidder absorbed in its beauty until the dusk. The sunset was obstructed by the tall mountains but the changing colours of sky, the rhythmic gurgle of Lidder and this strange kind of silence added such dramatic effects to that evening. Soon, it got dark and not really wanting to leave such a setting, I half-heartedly made my way back to the hotel. The Lidder roared silently behind me and the tall mountains watched over me.