26th Dec 2009, a chilly winter morning woke us early.Went outside our houseboat and a frozen Dal lake welcomed me.Its day 2 of our Kashmir trip and today we are heading to Gulmarg which literally means 'Meadow of Flowers'.It is around 50km's from Srinagar in Baramula district, situated on an altitude of 2730 meters.We had our breakfast and started our journey to Gulmarg at around 11AM.It takes more than 2 hours to reach Gulmarg as the condition of road is pretty bad.By 1PM we reached Tangmarg which is the last stop before Gulmarg.Tourists here take a break and then start for the mountains.
Suddenly the scenery changed.Our Tata Sumo was moving through a dense forest area and snow scattered after last nights rain could be seen everywhere.We were moving in a white zone with sun rays striking on the snow.Temperature was dropping like nothing.All around was white snow and large pine trees.
After half n hour of driving uphill we reached Khilanmarg which is a small valley surrounded by dense woods.From here we could see the entire stretch of the valley and to the end from where the mountain range starts.This large meadow was buried in deep snow and over it tourists were enjoying skiing and snowboarding.There is also a 18 hole golf course here, established in 1911, which is perhaps the highest golf course in the world.
The other attractions here are the Maharani Temple (remember Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz starer song 'Jai Jai Shiv Shankar'), an ice-skating rink and 150 years old St.Mary's Church.Now comes the main attraction of Gulmarg - 'The Gondola Cable Car'.This Cable Car which is also known as Gondola Lift takes tourists from Gulmarg to the top of the Kongdoor mountains.It works in two phases.The ticket for only first phase is Rs.300 and if you want to go to the top of the mountains then take a ticket of Rs.500.We had not much time so we opted for only the first phase and started for the gondola ride which passes over the pine forests and goes up to 3100 meters to the top.Be prepared for some adventure as the cable car regularly comes to a stop - hanging hundreds of feet above ground, due to power failure.
It seemed that we had reached a different world altogether.Looked like 'white' was the only color left in this universe.From here we had a unobstructed panoramic view of the mountains that surrounded us.There are few food n souvenir stalls here (yes you heard me right).Had a cup of chai to replenish our spirits and energy.
It was getting dark and time to move down as in few hours this place will be bone chilling and we had to be back to Srinagar before night falls.Sun was setting behind the mountains and it was quite a scenery to watch.We wanted to stay for few more hours but alas could not.Nothing much exciting happened on the way back to Srinagar and we reached our houseboat at around 9.Had some quick dinner(food was really good - far better than the expensive restaurants back in NOIDA or Delhi).This is how our day ended after an exhausting but extremely satisfying trip to Gulamrg.But wait... film to abhi baki hai mere dost... (to be continued)