The Kashmiri landscape.
Shepherd woman who made chapati for us.
October 23, 2007
We just got back from doing a short trek in the Kashmir mountains. But before I get to that, I am stating that for the second
time in my life I am turning into a pescetarian. Yes, I know there is really no such word. But I think I am only going to be
eating non-animal types of things for a while after seeing what we just saw upon entering our houseboat.
The wedding preparations are in full swing. This includes countless people working on the food for this evening. ‘Working on
food’ pretty much translates to ‘acting as a slaughterhouse’. And not only were animals being hung, skinned, de-headed and
chopped up…they were being hung, skinned, de-headed and chopped up on the plank to the entrance of our houseboat. This
walk also included practically walking over a sheep covered in blood. I couldn’t look – but when I turned my head I was then
looking at a pool of blood. So I don’t know how long it’s going to last…but no meat for me for a while.
And right now it sounds like people are either building a house or playing basketball outside. But those noises are, in fact, the
sounds of chopping being done. I’m just going to keep thinking it’s a basketball being dribbled…
Okay. Now to our time in the mountains.
It was all about consistent Indian horn honking for over an hour until we crossed a river started our ascent up a mountain. Oh
yeah. Can’t forget the large number of military people we passed, as well, before getting to the mountain. This is Kashmir, after
all. Even though it seems as safe as can be, these things are necessary in a place where there is a government situation in such
turmoil. We were passing shepherd’s summer homes. We were passing schools of little children singing songs. We were passing
through pine trees. We covered quite a scope of things. About 45 minutes later we arrived at the base camp which was another
shepherd village. This was where we would begin our little trek for the day.
I was loving that we were here in autumn as it was beautiful to see the leaves changing colors. The yellow leaves practically
glowed (sadly, there weren’t any red leaves yet). Oh well. Can’t have it all. We passed Hindu temples, cows, children,
shepherds carrying a variety of things on their heads, horses, rivers, etc. With the exception of the children and the shepherds,
at times the scenery looked how I would imagine Montana to look at this time of year – a river streaming down through large
rocks with mountains in the background and trees all over, many remaining green yet just as many changing colors. I kept
having to tell myself ‘This is India.’ A person might never believe it otherwise.
Every now and then we would hear excited screams saying “Hello! Hello!” There would be a small group of children smiling
and waving. They would continue to say the only English word they knew how about 15 more times (“Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!
– you catch my drift). But then we would find out they knew one other word in English – ‘picture’. These kids wanted their
pictures taken. And we were happy to oblige. The smiles on their faces when they see their photo is priceless. We didn’t have
any small rupees to give them but we did have some cookies to hand out that they were more than happy about. There were
also some adults that we saw where the scene was just so picturesque – we asked if we could take a picture even though we
didn’t have any rupees. They had big smiles on their faces as they nodded yes. It was beautiful to see such genuine people.
In the middle of our walk, we stopped in at a shepherd’s home. Once again, another scene out of…I don’t even know what it
was out of, but something that seemed so unreal to us yet is the norm out here. We sat in a room and the son brought in some
firewood. The father was smoking his hookah and the mother was getting ready to make some chapatti (I consider these
Indian-style tortillas) with her youngest son right by her feet. Could we communicate with them? Nope. But that didn’t even
matter. As we drank our Kashmiri tea and ate our chapatti, we looked around (especially at the youngest son) and just smiled.
And they all smiled back. At one point the cows were about to enter so they had to be shooed away. That was kind of funny.
Our day o’ trekking pretty much ended when we got to a bridge that was meters over the rocks and the river. There were two
uneven pieces of wood that made up the ‘bridge’. The first half had small pieces of wood resting perpendicularly on the two
large pieces. But halfway across that would end. Then there were just the two narrow planks that slanted inward. I already felt
a bit uneasy walking across the part of the bridge with all of the extra support, especially being the klutz I am. One shift of
balance and it wouldn’t just be a matter of if you break a bone; it would be a matter of how many bones were broken. I
decided to use common sense. India isn’t really the place I want to start utilizing my travel insurance. It seemed like a good
time to turn around and start heading back. Yup – I officially ‘whimped out’. And I have to be honest – I am more than okay
When we got back, we ate our lunch in another shepherd family’s home. And then it was time to head back to Srinagar. After
all…there are wedding festivities to tend to tonight!
October 24, 2007
We woke up to the sounds of more chopping. I guess the good news is that we can attest to everybody at the wedding that the
meat they’re going to be eating is very fresh???
A woman washing dishes in a small lake.