Treacherous Trekking (& a proposal!)

Whilst we were in Kashmir we went on a trek into the mountains to see one of the Great Alpine Lakes. We set off to the Naranag base camp with another guy, Ben, who had also been staying on the houseboat. We had signed up for a 3 day trek but this really turned out to be: 1 day small walk and set up camp, 2nd day 34km huge climb up the vertical side of a mountain (increased elevation of around 1200m) and back down, last day pack up and walk to base camp!

We were guided by Arfaz and Israd, a young man and teenager from the village. We set up camp on the first day near the river, which Isaac and Ben swam in; it was icy cold as the water flowing straight was from the glaciers at the top of the mountains. In the evening we ate the most delicious curry, we were stunned at how good it was seeing as there was just 1 gas stove in the middle of nowhere, we had fresh trout from the river as well.

One thing we haven’t mentioned so far is the amount of people who we have met who want photos of/with us, being asked “selfie?” is quite common in Asian countries but nothing quite compared to Naranag. We were stared at, a lot, and we were told that for quite a few people we were the first white Europeans they had ever seen, except on TV.

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One of the photo shoot pit-stops

We set off on day 2, not really knowing what we had let ourselves in for. The first 3 hours of the trek were the steepest and most difficult, when we reached a tiny hut which sold tea and snacks, we filled up on sugary chai and were able to fill our bottles with fresh water straight from the mountain. The incline eased off a little after that but we still had a long way to go!

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Scary dog at an Indian military base

After another 4 hours walk, and a brief encounter with the Indian military (and their adorable puppies), we reached the stunning Gangabal Lake. The view of the glacier and of The Indian Himalayas was breathtaking. Isaac asked the guide to take a photo of us and as we were posing he got down on one knee!!!

Top tip: if you want someone to secretly take a photo of you proposing to your girlfriend in the mountains, first ensure they know how to use a camera (!)

So no photo evidence of the moment was captured, but it was incredible, and we will 100% remember that moment forever.

After the high of the proposal wore off, reality hit and we realised we had the return half to do and only 3 and half hours until nightfall. The guide did not seem too concerned about this at any point, but then again there’s a very relaxed atmosphere in Kashmir, weed grows freely at the side of the road and people don’t seem too stressed about anything!

Down was a lot quicker than up, but a lot more terrifying. As it got to about 7pm it was pretty much pitch black, luckily Isaac’s mum Jane had insisted we pack the brightest torch known to man, which I think we can safely say saved our lives! Once we eventually made it down (13 hours after leaving camp) we were treated to another amazing curry and quickly fell asleep like babies.

Ella & Isaac xxx

Mountains and Military in Kashmir…

We flew into the tiny Srinagar airport from Delhi, the flight was ok for me but Isaac was being pretty horrifically sick at this point… As we drove through the town we both noticed the heavy military presence, along the road and in empty building sites. The region has had a turbulent political past, as it has been the centre of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China for many years. The peace movement has meant that the situation has been improving since 2004, but you can clearly see the impact on the people and towns. Most of the army in the streets looked bored and were playing games or yawning but this didn’t really distract from the fact they had military grade rifles strapped to them.

We didn’t know what to expect of Kashmir (Our £2 charity shop Rough Guide to India is 2001 edition, so only gives one paragraph on the region confirming that it was not accessible to tourists at that time). But it is incredibly stunning, the snow-peaked mountains make you feel like you’re in Switzerland and you could be in Venice lying on a Shikara long boat on the lakes.

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We stayed on a 19th Century houseboat on Nageem lake, a throw back to British colonial rule, the entire thing was made of engraved wood. We were looked after by a Kashmiri family, and drank SO MUCH Kashmiri tea (which contains cardamom, cinnamon & saffron). We were sent off with a huge bag of it to take on our travels. Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in India and a call to prayer can be heard 5 times a day echoing around the lake.

Top tip: data in India is ridiculously cheap 400 rupees (~£4.50) can get you a month SIM with 1.5GB of data per day, but you’ll need a different package to get coverage in the northern states, which we didn’t do, so were pretty cut off!

We really think Kashmir is beautiful. Things are a bit pricier than the South as it is not well connected by train like elsewhere in India, which meant we enjoyed a dusty, bumpy 10 hour jeep ride to the nearest train station in Jammu when we left!

Love Isaac & Ella xxx