I now understand the look I would get when I told friends that I was going to start my backpacking adventures in India, friends who had been to India that is. It’s this “Your world is about to change, and I don’t even have words to help prepare you” look, and I reckon they were all correct.
That being said, I am having a good time! My journey started when I got off the metro in Delhi, sorting my way to my hotel, when I was told I need a permit to be in the Main Bazaar because there was a festival going on. When I arrived at the Tourism office (after experiencing my first rickshaw ride – video to come!), I learnt that I actually couldn’t get to my hotel till Monday and that lots of Delhi was closed down until then. After looking at trains, cities and flights to create a plan B with, it was suggested I head off to Srinagar to stay on a house boat, trek the Himalayans and site see Kashmir. I ended up blowing my budget a bit and booked a tour of sorts. I was definitely ripped off though, and I would say parts have been great, and some not so much! But at least I am learning all my lessons in the first week.
Eight hours after landing in Delhi, another flight, traumatic shuttle ride, and about my eighteenth hour of no sleep, I arrived to the house boat. A warm welcome, lots of spicy curry and hot chai made everything alright. (I am saving you all from the drama of those eight hours though, it’s better that way. Sorry mom, for freaking you out at 3am 😉 xo)
Staying in the village of Naranag, with Golum and his family was by far the highlight of Kashmir. I spent two nights and three days hiking the Himalayans, learning to cook Indian food (on a camp stove, on the ground, in the house), playing cards, and sleeping all cuddled up to an Aussie family! We couldn’t stop asking questions about how the village works, the local people, their traditions etc. All the way down to a fun fact that Indian people do not have any sort of ‘tooth fairy’, no crazy shenanigans they tell the children (or at least not in Naranag).
To wrap up my time in Kashmir I managed to find the top of the world, almost literally! We took a day trip to Gulmarg to check out the ski hill, and be amongst some of the largest mountains in the world. Once we managed to fight through the locals offering a guided service, and people selling everything from ski suits to chocolate bars, we took the gondola to the TOP, 4,224 meters above sea level. Looking out at two of the highest peaks reaching 7,000 meters (comparable to Mt. Everest!) it felt like I was on top of the world, and slightly out of breath. These pictures hardly do the sights justice. What a totally wicked day. The only thing that could have beat it would to have went snowboarding. There’s wasn’t enough snow… And there was several warning signs basically stating they do poor Avalanche control and your there on your own risk! I’ll save shredding the Himalayans for now.
I would have never ended up with these experiences if it wasn’t for the hectic first day. ‘Everything happens for a reason’ still holds true in my world.