The heart was finally calm after the locals had given fate a twist by deciding to make me stay in their home. I was in Sitkari village (pronounced Sitkadi) and an entire gamut of emotions was going through my head. Kids were running around causing much needed happiness while my brain was still in shock after the many rides in the scare of travel during curfew time in Kashmir.
The ladies of the house had given me cup-fuls of chai and I had drank them with morsels of chapatis. Sindh river flowed past the houses of the village, it was a pristine atmosphere. Men went out to pray in the nearby mosque and the sound of azaan reverberated in the Kashmir valley. Sitkari is only 3-4 kms away from the resorts of Sonamarg but felt like a world apart.
I didn’t really have any plan for the day or the next two weeks (before my return ticket) and was shown a green mountain near the road to start my uphill walk towards the famed meadows of Sonamarg. A horse grazed in a circular shaped meadow that was flanked by towering trees.
As soon as I was on top of that particular mountain, I came upon a sight of the full splendour of Sonamarg, endless green vistas with horses grazing nonchalantly. It seemed as if I was watching a wallpaper, it was almost picture perfect with an occasional sumo breaking the timelessness of the landscape. The weather was sunny with a cool breeze blowing and I was glad to have carried the jacket with me.
The far away mountain peaks seemed to be playing hide and seek but clouds were dominating the proceedings. A white structure in the meadows seemed very appealing and I later learnt that it was the TRC dormitory owned by JKTDC. I instantly wondered how amazing it would feel to actually stay in that place which looked like a dream come true!
I was enjoying my walk when 2 horses began to follow me through the birch forest. It was a moment of bother but I changed my path and they went on their merry way too. I came upon a cute little hut that provided a vantage viewing point of Thajiwas Glacier (3000m) and surrounds. It must have been made by JKTDC and was a lovely wooden structure complimenting the natural scenery around it.
Thereafter I started descending towards the main road to Thajiwas Glacier that came from Sonamarg and within no time received a ride from a guy who was going on a two wheeler. He was quite surprised to see a tourist during the troubled times of the curfew. Two unruly kids started running behind our motorcycle and asked us to stop; they were adamant that I take a pony ride towards the Bajrangi Bhaijaan glacier! (I didn’t know the famous Bollywood movie starring Salman Khan was shot near Thajiwas Glacier.)
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It was quite surprising that the kids wouldn’t let go inspite of the local guy telling them to buzz off, we were finally at the last point of the road. More kids clamoured to get hold of me, although I clearly told them I had been to Thajiwas Glacier earlier and wasn’t keen on going especially due to the inclement weather. I crossed the bridge with water from the snow melt of the glacier thundering below. A mosque was visible under the trees in gorgeous meadows.
As I walked ahead, a few houses of the tribal Gujjars were visible. Colourful headscarves worn by women provided a pretty backdrop while men and kids played cricket. A few streams flowed nearby. It was easy to forget all about life that happened less than six hours away. The curfew seemed like a figment of my imagination. I got an invitation to have tea with the Gujjars after the end of the cricket match.
The glacier was beckoning to me. I paid heed to the winds and started walking towards it. The horsemen and pony guys were back again. Before I could get a chance to say no, it started raining. All of us ran to the shelter of the dhabas after crossing the narrow bridge. The rain came pouring down and created thundering music on the flimsy tarpaulin, which promptly gave way after holding out for some time.
I was lucky to get a ride in the rain till Sonamarg with a local Kashmiri family and as the weather cleared, the views got incredibly beautiful! The proverbial icing on the cake was provided when the dhaba I was eating food at, made a fresh cup of Kehwa (Qahwa) for me (not a pre-mix powder). I have ever since been searching for hand made Kehwa powder.
That day it wasn’t just a walk to the ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan Thajiwas Glacier’; those 2-3 hours reassured me and prepared me for an epic trip. I was to later pay my obeisance to the gods at Amarnath Yatra and had a fantastic Kashmir Great Lakes Trek after that.
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Could you relate to my experience? Have something to share from your own? I would love to know. Thanks.
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