Day 51 - Sunday 2nd April
Another early rise at 5.50am in readiness to catch the bus - sometimes it feels like a waste to pay for a bed and try to sleep in these circumstances. The bus seats were incredibly narrow and I shared my bench with Carolyn and slim Peter. Fortunately the bus made frequent stops on our day long journey. The scenery was truly spectacular along high winding roads passing several landslides and numerous warning signs - "beware weak bridge" and ""beware avalanches for 2 miles" - kind of scary. Added to these concerns, one could see the wrecks of numerous vehicles (buses and lorries) which had fallen off the edge into the ravine below. Kashmir was certainly delightful after the cold, damp and bleak landscapes of the earlier part of the journey. There was much more colour - lots of greenery and blossom. The road passed through a huge tunnel at 7250ft and at either end, the views were excellent but warnings not to get too close to the edge whilst taking photographs ! We had a pleasant chat with an Indian passenger, who recommended a hotel and gave us useful information on the various shrines in Srinagar.
By the time we arrived in Srinagar, it was dark. We were in for a shock. There was pandemonium at the bus station - it was amazing as though one was surrounded by a pack of animals pushing and jostling to get to us first. The guest house owners shoved cards in our hands and entreated us to stay at their lodging place. We went with one guy but quickly realised that he had exaggerated the distance, we turned back and the checked the nearby property but it was too expensive. We were struggling to keep in contact with each other. It was decided that two groups would investigate the houseboats. Janet and I headed down the river in the darkness which was unnerving enough. The promised houseboat was a greater distance than promised. We looked around - it had less rooms and no running water - more failed promises. His friends houseboat had four small beds and was filthy. We left in disgust and headed back to the bus station followed by the two men, who continually tugged at our arms and offered various deals - even some firm aggressive shouting failed to deter them, it was extremely uncomfortable. Other owners saw their chance and we were again surrounded but stood our ground trying to look cool. The others eventually returned and confirmed that they had found a houseboat albeit a scruffy one but again they realised the need to get away from the jostling.
We found a café and I had a nice simple omelette and toast - diarrhoea threatening again alas. We walked towards their houseboat, which was ominously close to one which Janet and I had refused - damn our concerns were realised, it was one and the same. Ah well, we could cope for one night. At least I had a nice warm sleeping bag to help offset the night's chill.
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