Jake Gordon

A Week In... Kashmir!

3 February 2001

Well, I’ve just got back from five days in Kashmir (I think I accidentally said I was in Delhi rather than Kashmir… a mistake anyone could make to stop people worrying!). A very strange week!

I arrived in Delhi at 3am last Saturday and my original plan was “bum around the airport for a few hours until it’s light, then get a taxi to some cheap youth hostel, find some people, and go up to Nepal”. Well, there I was in Delhi airport and I just thought “sod that, I may as well get a taxi now” and so got an expensive taxi (by Indian standards) into central Delhi. I told the driver I would just wonder around by myself all night/morning and find a hotel the next day, but in the end I submitted to staying somewhere for the remainder of the morning… it was very dark, and very different to anywhere I’d been before!

So, I went into some hotel which just had one room left. It was very skanky, but I couldn’t be bothered to look for anything else, so I said “yup… OK” and ended up staying their for the night.

The next day I was whisked off to a tourist office and they showed me lots of nice pictures, said some nice stuff etc., and I was foolish enough to make a rash decision like I always seem to do, and book some really expensive sight-seeing etc… more than I was intending to spend in India, but oh well, that’s me. I booked some stuff in some mountains, followed by min-van’ing around all the main places, and going on a camel as well.

Well, the next day it was off into the mountains. I hadn’t a clue really where I was going, but I had this niggling feeling at the back of my mind that Kashmir might be in some mountains somewhere… being the great geographer that I am. Got in the plane, and realised there were no English people there… hmm.

Arrived at the airport, and some geezer gave me a form to fill out: “Name… Passport number… blah, blah, blah… time to stay in Kashmir blah blah”. Hot damn! I was in Kashmir… crap.

Well, that was a bit shocking for me. I knew I was going to some place called “Sinagar” in some mountains, but little more than that. Got out of the airport and found some bloke who was collecting me. He had a big kind of jumper on, what they all wear there. Got in his van… “was I about to be kidnapped by same mad lunatic?”… apparently not.

It was about a 45 minute journey in the van… and what a weird journey. Think about going back in time to cowboys/indians/wild-west etc., add truck loads of soldiers and that’s basically what it is like. Soldiers are absolutely everywhere in Kashmir, in trucks, in cars, by the road side (every few hundred metres)… you’d be blind not to notice them.

So, after this journey through the militarised-wild-west I finally came to my hotel: a house-boat on some big lake. I went inside and it was very plush looking, whilst also being very non-English… quite cold (although with fires) and with very little electricity/lights!

Anyway, I’ve gotta check my emails now, so I’ll make this quick. It was a mixed week - quite boring/lonely because I was the only one on the boat but also quite interesting with walks in snowy mountains and other cool stuff.

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by Jake Gordon, some rights reserved