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Published: September 16th 2007
Back from trekking since Friday evening. The trekking was not as long as I had expected, but it's certainly long enough for a first time. We drove (by jeep) to a small place 80km North of Srinagar (Gangabal). The 7 year old daughter of the travel agent/hotel manager here came along because she had skipped school. A pretty girl, I was "her friend" right away. I can hardly understand her when she or anyone else speaks her name, but it's something like Imani. Shefi and the cook (Mohammed Sultan, or Sultan) came along as well. Sultan was to stay with me, to cook for me and protect my belongings. We set up camp the day we arrived, near ruins of a Shiva temple, just by the river. A tent for me and a tent for Sultan. Sultan's tent was also the kitchen. Sultan prepares delicious food for me and the light in his eyes tells me he has a big heart. The real trekking only started the next day. My mountain guide was a 19-year old gipsy boy, named Satik. His English vocabulary is limited to "Everything good? No problem? You tired, you tell me! Sit? Walk? Age? Eat? You happy?".
I got tired of saying yes yes everything good... but he was a good boy. A pony came along with us, so I could rest when I needed to. Wow, not sure how I would have managed to get up and down within one day if the pony had not been there. It's amazing to see what these pony's do, with heavy loads on their backs. The pathways to get up are very steep and rocky. It's as if the pony's understand what rock to step on and what rock is too dangerous, and they also understand that when a road splits, which side is the best one to take. My heartbeat went up very quickly when we were making our way up, sometimes it got too much and I needed to sit. Satik was a little sick (coughing a lot), so he could not maintain his usual speed either... which was good for me. I expected the way down to be much easier, but my right knee could not take it. So I went down very slowly at the end, because I felt the road was too steep to go down on the pony. Fortunately, my knee was fine
Srinagar - Moghul Gardens (2)
Don't know the name in English of these creatures, I do know they are not quite as big in Europe.
after 1 day rest, but I suppose I shouldn't try to go on a 7 days trekking just yet.
When we got down, Satik invited me to have tea at his house. The house was only a wooden shack, with 2 rooms, separated by a wooden wall that doesn't reach the roof. One room was for sleeping, cooking and everything else a family would do, and the other room was for the animals. Even in the 'family room', there was a calf eating leaves. Satik's mother was there, and made tea. She couldn't speak a word of English. So all I could do was smile at them as friendly as possible. They talked to one another in the Kasmiri language, so I got pretty bored and didn't know where to look after a while. I mean, when you cannot understand a word, or say anything the other would understand, it is not especially a comfortable situation. I knew they were talking about me also, could be good things could be about how much money they think I have in my pockets.... so I kept smiling now and then, but really, I was very tired and wanted to get to
my tent. So after 2 cups of tea (which wasn't especially tasty, but you do not want to offend the locals, so you drink), Satik left the room for a minute. Within seconds, the mother turned her hand palms up to me... money, you want money? Ah this word is known all over the world. I gave her 100 INR and remained friendly, but again I felt disappointed. The only reason I was invited to his home was for me to give some money? Satik and I walked to the tents, Sultan made dinner for me, and I went straight to bed.
The next morning we were supposed to go for a walk up to a castle, and go fishing there. After less than 1 hour of walking, Satik said the road was too dangerous from there and left me to wait by the river with his mother (she had come along). Not knowing why or where he had gone off, we just sat there looking at each other, we had not one single word to communicate. I was thinking of just heading back to the tents. The mother would make sure she didn't lose sight of me. Whenever
I moved, she told me to sit. Grr.
Satik came back after 2 hours... he had gone fishing, but there were no fish today... urhhh...
We broke up the camp and went back to Srinagar. Without asking whether this was ok for me, I was dropped at the house of the travel agent. Again, it reminds me of people who warned me that you feel like you have no control over anything in India. Anyhow, these are ok people. It's a muslim family, so it is a different experience to see how they live. There is another guy staying here, a Brit who lives in Den Haag. A little crazy. But because he is a guy, he gets to go out alone.
I still have to rely on other people to escort me everywhere, and wait until they have time to do so. Sometimes that gets very frustrating, but I try to see it all as part of the experience.
Went to get my train ticket today, so I am getting out of here tomorrow (Monday) in the early morning. By shared jeep to Jammu, and from Jammu by train to Haridwar.
Enjoy the pics.
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