These Vans Were Made For Walking

on Tuesday, 23 March 2010

We were up at 7am and amazingly Hasan comes in at 8am and says our breakfast is ready and that the car is outside waiting. We eat the toasted naan bread and boiled eggs and go out to get the jeep. Firstly we stop off to get my passport which I happily receive back and we begin the 2 hour journey to Sonamarg. Along the way they have come up with some ingenious catchphrases for road safety, including “Be Mr Late Not Late Mr”, “Don’t be rash or you will crash” and “Life is a journey complate it”. We have been promised clothing and as much food and drinks as we could need, also donkeys for when we get a bit tired. We stop a little earlier than we had expected and the road signs say it’s still about 10km to Sonamarg, we get out and our guide who is a 70 year old man greets us outside his house wearing about 8 layers and with some smart leather shoes which he is going to climb in.

Apparently we will climb the mountain, on the other side of the road. Although whether it could be classed as a mountain I am not sure, more than likely it would be a hill. There is no sign of any clothing or donkeys or anything, so Tom is going up in jeans and plimsolls, luckily it is quite warm and a jumper is actually not necessary. Our driver gives the guide a bag which has our lunch in it, which is the same rubbish we had the day before in the boat, stale jam sandwiches, more boiled eggs, tangy tomato crisps and some biscuits. We only have one bottle of water that we have brought with us from the houseboat. We start climbing and it is quite steep and rough ground, it doesn’t look like many people have climbed this mountain. We stop about every 10 minutes for little breaks where our guide makes weird screeching noises, to notify us we are stopping, we think more than likely the stops are just to waste as much time as possible. When we finally reach near the top, which our guide says is about 4000m, although we have not climbed anywhere near that because we were already at 2740m above sea level in Sonamarg.

The air is thin and it is pretty tiring climbing up here, we keep thinking the top is very close, but there always seems to be another bit you can’t see afterwards. We finally reach a flattish part and the guide says we can’t go any high because of the thin air and that it would be dangerous. We take a little rest at the top and then start our descent back down, which is hard in itself not to slip on the loose ground. Most of the way down our guide is hinting about a tip, we are a bit annoyed that we didn’t get what we were promised, but that was not the guides fault. He invites us into his home and gives us some Kashmir tea and bread, we give him a tip of 200R and leave for the journey back. I ask the driver if there is any water in the car because I am so dehydrated, apparently there is none so we have to stop of along the way and buy some. So much for everything we could possibly need would be provided! We plan to complain and try and get some money back, but I am not holding out much hope.


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