Expecting the Unexpected in India Day 224: The Real Kashmir in Gulmarg – High Dining and High Climbing

We woke up early rising before most else ready to do some trekking up along the gondola path. Since no one seemed to be around in Raja Hut to whip us up some breakfast and everything else in the area was closed as far as we knew we debated trekking on an empty stomach. Instead we got word that the hotel up a side hill served some breakfast but we didn’t realize what we were walking into until we got there. This hotel was a mountain resort catering to Indians with some serious rupees to spare in a league above and beyond where I consider myself. After entering the main grand room with plush couches, fireplace, and other rich non-necessities, we were escorted upstairs to the dining area which had covered balcony view of the now growing foggy expanse of Gulmarg. The dining was buffet style lining the full length of the room with chefs ready to prepare any omelets or dosas that you may so desire. Upon hearing the asking price of 900 rupees for breakfast alone with no alternative to just sample something at a fraction, I was ready to kick back my chair that probably costs more than my monthly budget and leave but the rain and fog grew from its gentle calmness to pouring out all that it had leaving nothing to spare. Trekking for the time being was no possibility so we decided to might as well take advantage of the resort by eating and feeling like kings. We ate dish after dish and drink chai after cappuccino after expensive Kashmiri Kehwa just to make sure we got our money’s worth. If I was going to treat myself, I wasn’t about to hold anything back and so we lingered for some time before retreating to the lounge room for some card playing until enough was enough and we needed to actually begin this planned trek once and for all. After finding our way, we climbed up higher and higher over the mud and shit as caravans of horse mounted Indian tourists passed us while our feet sunk deeper into the earth. The way led us through a deep steeply inclined pinewood forest through the fog and mist and over quickly growing impromptu streams. We kept saying our hellos to the Indian tourists who found us as a novelty as well as the local shepherds and villagers who wanted to take pictures with us even though they had no camera but as long as we had evidence of them in our films they were surely happy. I don’t know how but along with the many sheep they herded up and down the mountain we were climbing several shepherds even had a sheep a piece bundled up in a sack on their backs with just the head of the sheep popping out like a funky two-headed monster. We kept climbing up the mountain with the original plan of reaching the top in hopes of seeing the ninth tallest mountain in the world located in Pakistan from this distant point but the late start due to the rain and the fog that sadly swallowed up our views ended such efforts and aspirations. Having carried my luggage for two days worth of trekking I felt ready to tackle the real trek up and around the Great Lakes within the area. We descended back to ground level looking back up at the mountain that was unquestionably hidden by the thick fog on high. After rallying the rest of our luggage we walked back Emil continually lingering behind as I lead the quickened pace to the sumo jeep and bus station. After the connections and typical death defying driving that Indians are so accustomed to on their beaten and battered roads, we were back in Srinagar. After a nauseating auto-rickshaw ride through the mess and plunder of Srinagar central that took us past the unwelcoming embrace of the houseboat scene, we were back home at Hotel Swiss. Apparently I had forgotten something back in Gulmarg and the Hotel Swiss manager did me another solid in arranging its transfer back to Srinagar in the coming days. On this last night before the trek would finally begin the following day, we sipped some beers with the Hotel Swiss as a thank you of sorts. 


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