Promises of a week of Himalayan hiking and glorious nature has turned into a lost weekend on a dying body of water, due in part to a fast talking travel agent, a discombobulated host called Nabi, and the floating vendors of Dal Lake. Basically, my innkeeper is a nervous wreck with high blood pressure so excursion plans or even a reasonable descriptions of said plans were not forthcoming. These issues facilitated me burning through the first four days of my visit, and had me counting the days until I would leave this pseudo-spiritual insane asylum.
Even in Kashmir you end up driving through noise, chaos and insanity to visit something peaceful and beautiful. Then you have to drive back through the maelstrom losing grasp of all the serenity you had garnered. My advice. Fly to Delhi, get a connecting flight to Agra, stay in the ITC Mughal for three nights, and then head straight for a beachfront hotel in Sri Lanka to decompress.
Regardless, I did manage to derive some utility out of my visit to Kashmir. It’s not every day you get to see a 7,000 year old Hindu temple. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s visit Dal Lake.
NEW EXPORT HOUSEBOAT – The travel agent’s father’s houseboat which was far from being a top tier accommodation on the lake. The docking area was quite rickety and in need of replacement. My pictures make the place look a good deal better than a viewing in person affords it.
My Room – The place I spent most of my time avoiding Nabi.
Living Room – This is where I took most of my meals.
First night of a week that would come to seem as if it would never end.
The next day I got a nice water tour which detoured at the boatman’s home where he had goods to sell.
Unfortunately, Nabi (Mr. Buzzkill), came along for the ride wearing a perpetually pained look in his eyes.
Thankfully I had photo ops with which to distract myself.
We glided through various canals which resembled the southern bayous of the USA.
Damn, I should have cued up Creedence Clearwater revival on my playlist.
After arriving at Manzoor’s house, he broke out the goods and started his pitch. His specialty was top grade pashmina scarves. He also had a couple of quality rugs, but I opted for a couple of pashminas and he threw in a gift for grandma. Between Manzoor and Ali, the traveling gem salesman, the money I had slated for tours ended up being invested in gifts for the folks back home. Oh well, what’s the biggie. I get to travel all over the planet. It only seems right that my people get a few bits and pieces to show for it. I really have overdone it this year though.
Aside from the scarves, I got a few keepers in the photo department as well.
Holy Man on a bridge with cool reflections.
You can still get some great material when the skies are grey.
Meanwhile back at the boat.
The next day I went into town to hit the ATM and replenish my funds which had been drained by the previous day’s shopping spree.
Water taxis many of which belong to the houseboats await their customers. I make tracks for the ATM and head back to my boat, but not before picking up a few bits and pieces for the granddaughters.
A floating rug merchant glides past. Thank goodness I don’t have a home or I’d be in trouble.
Just a few of the plethora of houseboats that are scattered about the lake.
Dal Lake’s ecological integrity is being threatened by all of the houses and houseboats that are built on islands and channels throughout the lake. The poorly managed sewage is contributing to excessive algae and weed growth, and human encroachment threatens the future of this once pristine body of water. As usual, greed is the culprit, and there is a concerted effort to save the lake from becoming a weed infested sewer.
More houseboats that threaten the future of Lake Dal.
When was the last time you saw a vegetarian fast food restaurant, much less floating on a lake?
MR MARVELLOUS – Floating Flower Vendor
MANZOOR’S LAKE TOUR AND FLOATING RESTAURANT – Same guy I bought the pashminas from.
We picked up a kilo of lamb and Manzoor prepared a special lamb dish with a pressure cooker. The lamb had a delicious spicy sauce and was served with rice. The guy really knows how to cook, and the food was even better than what I had on my houseboat.
FLOATING GARDENS OF LAKE DAL
As you can see most of the center of the lake is filled with plant life or manmade land encroachments.
A LESS ENCUMBERED LAKE VIEW
FLOWERS ON AN ISLAND
THE MAHARAJA’S GETAWAY – This steel roofed compound is not the sort of thing you would expect to be owned my a maharaja, but he does have a couple of stately trees and a floating lotus garden out in front.
“The hills are alive with the sound of beeping horns and kamikaze tuk-tuk drivers.”
7,000 YEAR OLD TEMPLE TO SHIVA – Older than the Pyramids!
THE LOCAL DISHWASHER