22th September 2015 (Tuesday)…
It kept raining throughout the night. My sleep was interrupted few times to the sounds of thundering, yet was able to have enough sleep.
When I alighted out of the car at dawn, it was still overcast and drizzling. Went to a nearby shop and asked for a cup of tea. Tea was good and so was the price Rs.30- for a cup. The previous day I had even a bigger and better cup of tea from the adjoining shop for Rs.10-.
My mistake this time was, I did not ask for the price beforehand.
Loved the mist and clouds hovering everywhere. No one was up so early, rain soaked roads and the entire Gulmarg meadow was devoid of merry makers, the atmosphere around was very fresh and romantic.
After walking on the lonely wet Gulmarg roads and spending some good time in that beautiful weather it was time to say goodbye and leave for the next destination…….Doodhpathri, Yusmarg and ?????.
Lalpari posing at the beautiful Gulmarg meadow.
Lalpari on the way to Tangmarg. Tangmarg used to be a small pretty orchard village back then in 1983. This time it had wide beautiful road, big stores, restaurants and hotels.
Lalpari posing one more time on beautiful wet road in Tangmarg.
From Tangmarg drove on Gulmarg-Srinagar highway till Magam and then turned right to Beerwah-Khansahib-Arizal and joined main Srinagar-Doodhpathri road.
Doodhpathri has no permanent settlement and is inaccessible during winters due to heavy snowfall. In summers shepherds from the plains bring cattle for grazing and remain at doodhpathri for about six months.
Lying in a bowl shaped valley, Doodhpathri (Distt Badgam) at 9000 ft ASL, is in the same forest range running Southwards from Gulmarg at the foothills of Pir Panjal Range.
Like Gulmarg, it is an alpine valley covered with snow clad mountains and the meadows of pine fir and deodar. The natural meadows, which are covered with snow in winter, allow the growth of wildflowers during spring and summer.
It continued drizzling throughout and I kept driving on the rain soaked deserted road. There was hardly any traffic except school going students. A group of pretty young girl students waived at me to stop and took a lift for few kilometers till their school arrived.
Doodhpathri gave a very deserted look. Except for some shepherds, herd of sheep and goats no one was there for miles together. The huge meadow was engulfed in thick blanket of mist and I found myself alone and thinking what to do.
Drove a little further and reached a place where there was a snack bar, few locals and a charming tourist couple from Assam.
Even though the view of large meadow and the mountains around was blocked by the mist yet the atmosphere around was very romantic.
The large meadow was wet and full with shrubs and alpine trees. A number of rainwater streams were flowing down from the slopes of nearby mountains. Clouds and mist was hovering around, a part of it was caught in the pine forest and was giving a wonderful misty look. Herd of sheep was grazing. It was cool and heavenly.
I could not resist and went walking in the meadow, sometimes running with excitement, played with the sheep, chatted with the shepherds, trying to grasp as much of that heavenly atmosphere as was possible. It was moments like these that become memory of a lifetime.
I was lost in that mesmerising environment for about two hours and when I reached back to the snackbar, the Assamese couple, half of my age, showed their astonishment at meeting a man double of their age yet full with such a childlike excitement.
The shopkeeper at the snackbar told us that meadow of Yusmarg was another 20 kilometers trek from Doodhpathri and on a clear day it is an amazing walk. After a nice little chat with the shopkeeper and the assamese couple, I drove back towards the entrance to the meadow.
Some of the shepherds have opened small eateries for tourists. I went inside one of those and had nice time with the family while enjoying tea and maggie.
In the meantime a bus carrying school children arrived. They started giggling and playing. Suddenly the whole atmosphere came alive. I watched them play and chat with excitement. They looked so good. I thought how good it would be if we live like them the whole life and never grow wise, become conscious, frown at everything, finding hard to laugh, cry and dance.
From Doodhpathri the road to Yusmarg passed through a forest and the holy town of Charar-e-Sharif. The raining became harder and the road even more lonelier. Lalpari was gliding through apple orchards, Kashmiri heartland and countryside fearlessly.
Nobody bothered me or never did I feel fearful or anything like that. Infact everyone whom I asked for directions or anything, responded with warmth and affection.
This historical town is famous for the tomb of Sheikh Noor-u-din-Noorani, popularly known as Alamdar-e-Kashmir (flag-bearer of Kashmir) who preached Islam through his poetry. Every year urs is celebrated at Charar-i-Sharief. Thousands of people from all faiths visit the shrine.
In 1995 the shrine was destroyed in exchange of fire fight between the armed rebels and the security forces. Despite this, the shrine continues to be revered and respected by both Hindus and Muslims.
Enjoying the drive in rain, play of clouds, water logged secluded lonely roads, I was the sole tourist to arrive at Yusmarg that afternoon. There was one else around.
Like Gulmarg and Doodhpathri, Yusmarg (Distt Badgam) lies at an altitude of around 7800 ft, above sea level, in a bowl shaped valley in the same forest range running Southwards from Gulmarg to Doodhpathri and then to Yusmarg at the foothills of Pir Panjal Range. Like Gulmarg and Doodhpathri, it is an alpine valley covered with snow clad mountains and the meadows of pine fir and deodar.
At the first look, all these three alpine meadows lying in the same forest range at the foothills of Pir Panjal Range look similar other than the names Gulmarg (meadow of flowers), Doodhpathri (meadow of milk) and Yusmarg (meadow of Jesus), but all of them all distinctly different by the looks, shape and setting.
This can only be appreciated by physically visiting them. While Gulmarg is fully developed, has all the infrastructure, and is crowded….Doodhpathri and Yusmarg are relatively unexplored with very little infrastructure but more beautiful and serene.
A shepherd hut in the middle of Yusmarg meadow.
I don’t know the exact building but from the looks, it look like newly constructed tourist rest house at Yusmarg. A mosque in Yusmarg is in the picture below.
After spending some time at Yusmarg I began driving to the next destination of the day, the only problem was I did not know which it was. I wanted to drive back home via Mughal Road and the starting point of that was Shopian. Since I was not sure whether I would be able to reach Shopian, I decided to drive to Pulwama, the nearest town, first.
It was 6pm when I began from Yusmarg. The road to Pulwama was through a narrow country road laden with ripe apple orchards.
There were no milestones or sign boards and the small narrow road diverted at many places, I kept driving relying solely on my gut feeling. At times I would stop at the crossroads and wait for someone to arrive and ask for directions. When no one would arrive for several minutes, I would feel uneasy and start driving again.
During this bhool bhulaiyaa I saw a young girl walking down the road from the opposite side. I stopped the car and asked her for directions to Pulwama.
She said, “oh, you are very late, go tomorrow, come to our home and stay for the night.”
It was such a wonderful and innocent gesture, will not forget ever. I smiled back and said, “sorry, pretty girl, not this time, some other day, I am to go home.”
She smiled back and said, “Achha chai to pee ke jayo.”
In hindsight, I can’t believe how I resisted that warm invitation. Might be I was too engrossed in worrying about reaching city area. This, however, made my mood sparkle which otherwise was feeling dull due to damp weather, darkness and uncertainty.
From thereon I drove to Pulwama, didn’t like the atmosphere there, so drove little further to Shopian, liked it instantly, spent some time walking through the market area and driving through the city, trying to grasp and observe as much as I could.
Later in the evening I drove inside a filling station, parked the car amongst many trucks already parked that had punjabi drivers and slept inside the car……….!!!