From a certain point of view, Kashmir is actually hardly accessible. The road. It costed me a night in bus to reach Jammu from Manali, and another whole day in a jeep, along a “highway” crowded by goats, horses, cows, buffalos, monkeys, shepherds, all the people involved in the road development/maintenance, plus the army and police. This last two were the most relevant jam-creators, halting vehicles at checkpoints, and letting the people being besieged by clouds of dust and every kind of vendor. The driver and the other passengers looked exhausted as much as me.
On the other hand, as soon as you’re able to breach this curtain, you will understand why Kashmir is renewed as “the Paradise on the Earth”. A friend I made on the way arranged me a meeting in Srinagar with his brother, owner of a houseboat on the Dal Lake, which dominates the city and its life. Gulab has also been so gentle to hand me a shikara, the typical local wooden boat. This touched my background of seaman from the south of Italy, so I spent the whole day just wandering around the lake.
I was probably one of the really few foreigners I saw that day. For sure, the only one in a swimsuit, with a thick red beard, taking his own boat. I felt I was catching the attention, but the most were just curious. Several invited me for a tea on their floating domes. As usual, people living in touch with the nature reveal themselves as extremely kind and polite. Many of them told me that after the fightings in the ‘89, a bad light was thrown on Kashmir, and this seems to be intentionally kept by national media to divert tourism towards other destinations as Manali and Dharamsala. I will contribute to fight against this stereotype.
The weather was unstable, so at late afternoon I had to come back to the houseboat for a while. Nevertheless, the sky of Kashmir was just keeping for the sunset his best shot.
Photo: Matteo Fabi