Hanging out with the ponymen in Pahalgam
On 30 April, we moved onto Pahalgam, having booked a car and driver via the houseboat. It took 2 hours so not too far but it was raining and I was pretty tired when we got there and rather stupidly agreed to stay in a not so nice hotel called Hill View near the petrol pumps. The room cost was only 1000 Rs but by the time I had got unpacked I knew my next task was moving hotels the next day. So off we went wandering up the main street, getting my shoes shined en route and checked out lots more hotels which was of course much easier with just Tiger and one small backpack.
The next day 1 May we moved and this was the one and only time during the trip where I carried all our luggage. It was a mammoth task and with 20-20 hindsight I probably should have asked the new hotel to send a car but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Picture this…. I had a 19kg backpack, a 5kg day pack, cloth carrier bag and Tiger in the Ergo 360 carrier. I walked about 150m around the corner to the Lal Kothi hotel (which they had told me was 2000 Rs but I only ended up paying 1800 Rs) and I swear it was like climbing Everest! It was a beautiful room, brand new hotel and the only thing I could really complain about was patchy wifi in the room but it did work absolutely fine in the lobby. Moving knocked out my whole day really as it was such an effort but at least we were in a nicer place.
On 2 May I did what I actually wanted to do the day before but ran out of time! We took a full day taxi tour (2600 Rs for the cheapest vehicle – a “van” -, bookable from the tourist taxi stand) around Pahalgam and visited the Deer Park where we saw bears and a snow leopard in cages as well as the aforementioned deer, and all around the local picturesque areas: Aru which was gorgeous and an alternative place to stay, Betab Valley, and a glacier.
What was quite funny in Pahalgam was the fact that it is a very popular place for pony trekking and time after time I had to say to the lovely pony men “I have a 3 month old baby – I am the pony!”. But if you are able to do pony trekking it does look nice and there are signs up with official government rates starting from 350Rs for the first 3km followed by 250Rs for each subsequent hour. Pahalgam is also the place to start a trek to the holy caves near Panjatarni, but it was something which passed me by as you are not allowed to do this trek with children under the age of 13!
Pahalgam was also a place I was stressing about drying my washable nappies not drying which was an ongoing problem for a while! I am not too sure if I would necessarily recommend Pahalgam but think my experience was tarnished a bit by the hotel debacle and we had a bit of gloomy weather. With the sun out though and getting out on horseback, it would definitely be worth it.