Day 52 - Monday 3rd April
The important task today was to find a decent houseboat for our stay in Srinagar - last night's houseboat was poor and the river was not that appealing. Jean-Pierre and Barbara stayed behind to look after our luggage whilst the remaining six of us set off in different directions to meet at the Tourist Information Office - too many of us together seemed to cause too much excitement amongst the owners. On my route, I was stopped several times with offers of the "very best" houseboat - made a note as may be interesting to look at later. Carolyn and Janet went to see a houseboat by the river called Suffering Moses - I am against though as I had not been impressed last night. We arrived at the Tourist Office which had the added advantage of being a peaceful haven away from the boatmen. After discussing the options, we decided to take a taxi to Dal Lake and of course, the taxi driver had his contacts and recommended the next lake along which was called Nagin Lake - further from the centre but quieter. Two of our group went to see the Dal
houseboat but were not impressed. The rest of us stayed by the taxi which was quickly submerged by other owners. The next stop on our quest was Nagin Lake. Wow this houseboat had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining area and a lounge. It had a beautiful wooden exterior, was beautifully furnished inside and was absolutely brand new. The offer was 10 rupee each per night including full board - the owner said that this was a special offer as we would be his first customers of the new tourist year and by satisfying the first customers, he would have good luck towards a successful season - certainly the price was good. Therefore the decision was easy - the considerably extra luxury outweighed the inconvenience of being away from the town centre.
The meals were excellent - nice quality but always spicy which was not the best when one had a slightly upset stomach ! Most mornings was an omelette with spicy potatoes, rolls and coffee. Most lunches and dinners were meat, rice, spicy potatoes, spicy vegetables followed by a sweet. Certainly it was very much luxury compared to the majority of food eaten on travel days to date.
The houseboat was moored along one side of the lake with the back end perched on land and a narrow plank to walk on and off. There was an excellent view across to the other side of the lake where you could see a fort, a temple and acres of trees which were coming into bloom. Very beautiful and very peaceful and relaxing. Within minutes there was a stream of salesmen arriving from the lakeside in the small boats. They sold everything - flowers (we bought some daffodils), chocolate, groceries, medicines, furs, leather, shawls, paper mashie boxes, local style curved knives and silks. The sales people were all polite, smiling and not at all pushy.
It was one of the best evenings - sitting in our houseboat in a very pleasant environment with no outside street noises and smells, eating excellent food and having pleasant conversation with the other travellers from around the world.
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