Messing around on boats in Kashmir
After our two nights acclimatising in Delhi, finally it felt as if we were starting the trip properly. I’d booked us on the Indigo flight to Srinagar in the afternoon at 3pm which gave us plenty of time to pack, leave and get to the airport.
The hotel organised me a car for 600 Rs and upon arrival at the domestic Terminal 2 we were greeted by a porter. He cost 150 Rs but was so helpful, carrying my bags, pointing us in the right direction and well worth the money (just short of £2). He also didn’t pester me for any more than his set rate which was a faint, and welcome, surprise.
The flight was a pretty busy one, with lots of men, I was in an aisle seat with Tiger on my lap (no need for a seatbelt for her though) and everyone was helpful. I fed her on the plane and what I am now noticing is that I am a lot less self-conscious of breast feeding in public in India than I am in the UK. I am not entirely sure why this is… but here in India there is simply no judgement, and no staring.
I think the flight to Srinagar will stick in my memory for a while though as we had a full on explosive poo disaster. I went to the back of the plane to change Tiger, but unlike Virgin Atlantic, this was the smallest toilet cubicle known to man and although there was a pull down table there was no room to swing a cat! There was also poo everywhere – gah – so I just had to take a deep breath and clean her up. Although I had spare nappies what I had forgotten was spare clothes so I had to strip her right down to her dress…and finally she was sorted in a new nappy and fewer clothes. I did have a bit of screaming from Tiger on the descent but everyone ignored it (!) and anyway it was over pretty quickly.
When we arrived we had to fill in a foreigner registration form but then proceeded through and we were met by our houseboat guy, Adil, and taken in a taxi and shikhara to the houseboat “Lake Palace”. Weather- wise, straightaway it was so much cooler and pleasant than Delhi, although Adil was concerned that Tiger didn’t really have a lot of clothes on and would be cold! But finally both temperature wise and travel wise we were on our journey.
The houseboat itself was beautiful and we were given the best room as we were the only ones there. We had a double bed, a single bed and an en suite bathroom with hot water and fairly reliable wifi even when there were frequent power cuts. I’d chosen “Lake Palace” online as it had 9.4 on booking.com but there are 700 houseboats to choose from … so hard to make any choice but “Lake Palace” was wonderful. I was very happy we stayed there and can highly recommend them.
Dal Lake was simply gorgeous, and I loved every minute of it. The family on “Lake Palace” were lovely and helpful, not at all pushy, and also quite wonderful with Tiger… from Adil’s Mum and Dad to his sister in law who was pregnant with her first child. It was here that I started my rhythm of washing the cloth nappies and drying them in the sun on the houseboat!
The first day we went out for a 2h shikhara ride (600 Rs); the second day Adil took us out to visit the Pari Mahal (fairy palace) and the Mughal gardens in an auto (auto was 800 Rs for the day); the third day we were up at 4.30am to go to the floating market by shikhara (800 Rs) then had a very lazy day after such an early start; and the fourth day we did a full day shikhara ride (2000 Rs) during which I read almost a whole book on my Kindle (Going Solo by Genevieve Roberts – it made me cry it was so good!) whilst obviously enjoying the floating scenery.
I also managed to have my sunset beers bought from the “wine shop” opposite Ghat 12. The whole experience of just buying the beer was like doing a drug deal… I only bought two cans of Kingfisher at a time, but they were passed through bars to me as if I were some raging alcoholic. The “wine shop” also had a bar attached to it. We didn’t go in, as I had Tiger strapped to me, but it was the only place where I saw any other foreigners – of course! Still it was all worth it for the sunset beers.
We’d booked for four nights, but stayed five. The total bill which included wonderful meals (usually breakfast, lunch and dinner unless we were out for lunch), the airport pick up and the onward taxi to Pahalgam (2000 Rs) came to 14,900 Rs. As I wanted to pay in foreign currency and had Euros or dollars. It worked out closer to a round number with the Euros… the rate was 191 Euros, so I gave them 200 Euros including the tip.
I had last been to Dal Lake in October 2006 with my partner Robin. I had such great memories of it then, and although I couldn’t find the houseboat we’d stayed on 13 years ago, it was still the most special trip down memory lane. Welcome to Kashmir!