EP 1 Srinagar to Gulmarg | Bota Pathri | Kashmir Tour
Namaskar friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. I am in Kashmir right now. It is for the first time in the past 7 years.... ...that I am visiting the same destination twice in 3 months. I was here two months ago. And today, I am back in Kashmir. Right now, I am standing at a crossing, 15 KM from the airport,....
...from where, one road goes to Gulmarg. We need to take left from here. You can see "Gateway to Gulmarg" written on this large hoarding. That road goes to Gulmarg, which is in Baramulla district.
In fact, the area beyond this point is Baramulla district. If you go straight, you will also reach Sopore, also in Baramulla. And this road further also takes you up till Kupwara. My next year's plan for Kashmir is to explore Kupwara. Kupwara is home to a number of off-beat destinations.
Just to name a few - Lolab Valley! Bangus! Teetwal! Keran! Karnah! I have named just a few. There are more such destinations. These days, tourists like visiting such destinations. Especially after visiting Sonmarg and Gulmarg, they want to visit offbeat places. Anyways, let's go left from here.
Right now, I am standing at a place called 'Narbal', as is written there. This highway route shouldn't take much time, but not if we make frequent stops. By the way, we've already covered 14 KM of distance from Srinagar. Come! We are 3 KM away from Tangmarg.
We stopped our car near some cherry farms. Does cherry ripen for harvest during June-July? Yes, Sir! The cherry season comes only once a year? Yes Sir! It is good! Thank you Sir! It is sweet! Give me a box of these! How is it one kilogram of cherry? Are there more layers beneath? There are more layers beneath. Sir, let me show you. No problem! Show me like this. Right! There are cherries right till the bottom of the box.
Rs 220/- It is the best! What tree is this one? Right next to you? It is a akhrot (walnut) tree! Akhrot tree! Is September-October the walnut season? Yes Sir! The walnut season would begin in another month or two. Show me the akhrot. Alright! Here, first you take the payment,... then we will also visit the farm.
Will you accompany us? I have to be at the stall. Alright! Tell me one thing about cherry. Is this a different variety like....
This.... Sir this is different variety. ...is of different colour. Yes Sir! The red cherry looks completely different. This variety ripens in this colour only. It is mostly sold in the factories. It is later packaged and sent further to hotels.
The red cherry is a different tree? Yes! This is the red cherry tree. What is season for cherry to ripen? Its season begins in May and stays till end of July. 3 months. Yes! And this here is an apple tree? Yes, it is apple.
When is the apple season? The apple season starts from September. September! Yes! October? October, November! 3 months. Yes! I've tasted that cherry. Can I also taste this one? Sure Sir.
Please take out a single piece. Sure! Just one piece is enough. Here you go Sir! Oh wow! Are there more tourists like us who come to visit? Yes, a lot.
So, tourists must be buying cherry in bulk from you? They buy 10-20 boxes at a time. Really! Yes! What do they do with 20 boxes? They eat those or distribute among family. Ahhaa haha! That's right too.
This is Kashmir's cherry. Very juicy! Yes Sir! That one was sweeter. Yes! This is sour in comparison.
Sour! And it is juicier! Yes! Thank you! Okay Sir! Thanks! Let us leave here now. In the Gulmarg journey, the first great viewpoint is this, Tangmarg. That is where we are standing right now. Let's watch from this side. Wonderful! From this height, we can see those beautiful dwellings.
The mountains in the distance are covered in snow. You won't be able to see it on camera very well because of the weather. Extraordinary! During the winter months of December and January.... ....the cars can't be driven right upto Gulmarg. The ones that go upto Gulmarg need to tie iron chains on the tyres. A lot of tourists drive down from Srinagar till here & then hire a taxi (Sumo) further.
To reach Gulmarg. And Gulmarg remains covered in snow all along. As does this area too. Then there is one more place here, at a distance of 5 KM.
You go from here and then turn further to go upto Drung. You could search YouTube or Google for Drung in winters. The waterfall, during December-January, freezes like this. It feels as if you've reached upto a glacier.
This is the reason why Dec-Jan is peak tourist season in Drung. Tourists do visit Srinagar, Pahalgam & Gulmarg too during winters. Those who visit Gulmarg also visit Drung. From here tourists visit Drung either on snowbikes or Sumo.
Let's stop here for 5-7 minutes. Thereafter we will leave here and the hilly area would begin. The hilly region will continue till Gulmarg. We will enjoy the scenery on the way and share it with you as well. We are in Gulmarg.
Now, we've parked our car here. The first thing I noticed here is the huge number of cars. That should give us an idea about the number of tourists here.
Right now, you can see Gulmarg's Tourist Information Centre. Here, people are clicking photos with the beautiful "I Love Gulmarg" sign. And here is the huge meadows area! Wow! We've already booked our tickets to the Gulmarg Gondola Ride. For that, we'll come back here tomorrow morning.
At that time, we will have a better look at the meadows. We'll go for the Gondola ride. We've booked tickets for both its Phases - I and II.
Now, without spending too much time here, let us head to our guest house. After keeping our luggage in the room, we'll head toward Bota pathri. I've been told that road to Bota pathri gets closed by 3 PM. Since it is 2 PM, don't have much time left. A while ago, we were standing there, near the entry gate.
Since we've booked accommodation in JKTDC.... ...we were allowed to bring our car till this point. Tourists on a day-trip to Gulmarg aren't allowed on this road. I mean cars are not allowed. You can come here on foot, ponies, or on a battery-operated rickshaw.
It is your choice. In front of you are the JKTDC huts. Our accommodation is booked in this hut, number 909. 2 BHK huts. It can accommodate four. Let us climb up and check the hut.
We've reached the hut. I've paid tariff of Rs 5700 for this. It has got two rooms with double beds. One is here.
And the other is on this side. Come, let us see the rooms and washrooms. We have to leave then. Beds look smaller in size. Fine! The car in which we travelled from Srinagar to Gulmarg.... ...is not the one in which we will go to Bota pathri. We've hired a local Sumo here and Mushtaq Bhai is our driver. We decided to go with Mushtaq Bhai because he is a local person.
Bota pathri is almost an everyday trip for him. So, we thought we would benefit from his vast knowledge. To go to Bota pathri, you would need a police permit. It is not a difficult task. Even we've got police permission. Though we had help from him too.
But the objective was to visit with a local. Bota pathri is 12 KM distance from here, both ways. We have paid Rs 3500 charge for this to and fro journey. Ever since we reached Gulmarg, I've been feeling pleasant inside.
From Gulmarg we left for Bota Pathri. This is an Army checkpost. There, we were again told that Bota Pathri road will be closed after 3 PM. The entry on this road starts at 10 AM. So, the entry window is from 10 AM to 3 PM.
As for exit, we need to be out of there by 5 PM. The rule is that by 5 PM you need to reach back at Bota Pathri checkpost. This forest is known as 'Nagin One.'
All the huts that you see here, belong to the... ...members of Gujjar community, who are basically nomadic shepherds. They stay here during summers and in winters, go to Baramulla. Maximum huts here belong to the residents of Baramulla. If you go a KM and a half further on this road, you will reach Paradise Two. A little bit further is Nagin Three and then comes Bota Pathri. Mushtaq Bhai did you find out about our lunch arrangement.
Yes Sir, there is Kashmiri Rajma (kidney beans) available! Kashmiri Rajma! Yes, and it is served with 'chawal' (boiled white rice)! Alright! Where? About a KM and a half further on this road. A KM and a half, right? So, have you informed them about us? Yes Sir, I have informed them about you. Alright good! Let's go! I have to admit this Rajma is big in size.
Hmm! Yes, it is a good thing you did there! This taste has simplicity! A little salt, little haldi (turmeric) and rajma & nothing else. This simple taste resonates well with the taste-buds. The weather is good too! The sun is out but we aren't feeling warm at all. I felt a bit warm when I reached Srinagar. By warm, I mean it was alright to stand in the sun. But it felt warm outside.
The weather here is good! So what is this brother? It is a potato Sir! Alright! You have an abundant potato crop here. Yes Sir, we farm potatoes here. Isn't it so? Yes, we cultivate potatoes! Is it different in taste! You can see for yourself Sir! I have to admit that I liked the taste of rajma. But this potato tastes amazing! Lovely! Now the place where we are eating our lunch...
...has enhanced the taste of our food. We can see lots of flowers blooming everywhere here. How long will these flowers last? These flowers will continue to bloom for about two more months. This variety of flower is called "Doodhwala Phool" (Milky Flower).
If I will pluck it, it will ooze a milky substance. Let me demonstrate it to you. Let me pluck a flower and here, you can see it.
Yes!! The flower starts oozing the 'milk' on its own. Show me! Its name is 'Doodhwala Phool.' That is why it is named thus.
Right! Yes Sir. These flowers are beautiful! It is one of the best flower varieties here Sir. Yes, of course! Alright! And this spring water that you've given me to drink... Yes Sir! ...I don't see any spring here. So, from where did you get this water? Sir, you may look anywhere, you won't find water right away. This spring water is naturally infused with herbs and minerals.
So, this water comes from a spring flowing out of the earth about 40-50 ft away. We get this water from there Sir. The spring is near that boulder? Yes Sir. It is beyond this hill. By hill you mean these boulders? Yes Sir! Can we go see it? Yes, we can go there easily and see the water spring.
You can drink this water and find out for yourself! Wow! This water tastes different! And actually, it is better than the water kept in a fridge. It is cool and along with that, its taste is unusual. The water that we drank came from here. Look at how clean this water is. So, the glacier melts and reaches here after passing under the earth's surface...
Yes, underground! ...and getting infused with various herbs. You can see right where the water spring comes out. This is where the water comes out? Yes, from here. Look at this! There is more water coming out from there. Yes, look! It is amazing to see water coming out from beneath the earth.
Actually, this water isn't from a melting glacier Sir. Alright! This is natural, underground water Sir. Alright. Yes Sir! And this water remains available throughout the year, just like this.
Okay! While this water is cool in summers, during winter, it is at boiling temperature. Hot? Absolutely hot Sir! Hot in winter, cool in summer! You saw for yourself that this water is cool right now. Yes, I noticed that the water is as cool as water kept in a fridge. So, shall we go from here? We are at Bota Pathri. We took that bridge to cross over to this side.
It feels so good to stand here like this. Can't describe in words! Come, let's go! Marvellous! So beautiful! Clicking pictures while standing on this bridge is one of the main attractions. Or you could stand here and click pictures from there. On foot, you cannot walk for a long distance. At the most, you can walk up to 400-500 metres in this area.
Only the Army can travel beyond this point. Somebody told me a while ago that if I wanted to go further.... ..suppose you want to travel up to the last village on this road. You will have to go on a pony. There is a pony standing. They charge Rs 800-900. The pony will take you up to a distance of 2 KM, show you the village & views.
And then you travel back 2 KM. The two-way journey takes about 1 hour to complete. Rest, it is your choice as to how much time you would like to spend there.
Let me tell you one more thing if you want to visit Bota Pathri. You cannot visit here between November & March. This is because this place receives heavy snowfall during those months.
For your information, the PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir).... ...is about 7-8 KM from here. The on-foot journey would take about 5 hours. However, only Army can go up to that point. This was for your knowledge. Let us go and sit by that boulder there.
And enjoy 10-15 minutes in this setting. I think the best way to enjoy this place is by sitting on that boulder. Come! (Exclaims with joy!!) This is fun! I am able to keep my feet in water for just 3 or 4 seconds. This water is so cold. 1...2...3......4!!! (Joyous exclamation!!!) It feels as if I've put my feet into snow.
A while ago, I had kept my feet in water. I don't have words to explain that experience. I felt like I should continue to dip my feet in water and take them out Now the scene is that they have announced that visiting time is over.
So, I just put my shoes in the car and am walking barefeet because my feet are wet. One thing I would definitely tell you is that.... ... you should visit Bota Pathri with ample time in hand. You can come here, sit anywhere under a tree, walk barefeet on the ground. You can also sit on a boulder and enjoy whichever way. You will like it for sure! We will leave here now. Because we need to reach the Gulmarg check-post by 5 PM.
We've travelled half a KM from Bota Pathri to see a natural lake here. Is it up the mountain? Yes Sir! How far is it? It is hardly 2-3 minutes away. Is that it? Visiting Bota Pathri is a highly pleasant experience!! The view I am looking at right now....
About it, I can tell you this much. This view is the best among the best views. Oyeee! What a beauty!!! How was this lake formed here? Sir, this was naturally formed.
Really! It is natural Sir. What is the source of this lake? It is underground Sir. From below earth's surface.
You see there is no bush or a tree around it. Brother, that is exactly what I am looking at. I don't see any spring here. Neither do I see any glacier melting. So, the water is coming from beneath the surface? Yes Sir! Marvellous! Marvellous! When it snows during the months of January, February... ...this lake must become frozen? Yes, it does.
I mean the water would freeze. By that I mean the top layer of water freezes and water continues to flow. Yeah!!! I feel that I couldn't have expected more from today's visit.
I was doubtful about the outcome of my visit when I reached Srinagar. With weather warming up, I was wondering whether Gulmarg would be warm too. However, the whole dynamics were changed once we reached Gulmarg.
Now visiting Bota Pathri is an experience in itself. Though there is no need for sweater right now but.... ......if we stay here till late evening, though it isn't allowed.... ...one would need to wear at least a sleeveless sweater and a jacket too. And this is the weather condition for June 24. So, just imagine how cold it must be in winter, when the temp runs into minus.
You can find more on Google. Mushtaq Bhai, how deep is this lake, any idea No Sir, I have no idea but I know that it is very deep. I've heard it is quite deep. It should be deep. Okay then! Amazing!!! I think we must leave before we get into any trouble. We must! Because if we are late, they might ask us about our life.
They would ask us why we got late. I am back in Gulmarg. The whole scene has changed.
It is looking beautiful! First of all, look at these sheep. There are so many. There must be at least 800-1000 sheep here. On our way back here, I kept looking at these sheep for a long time. I felt like stopping here and looking properly. We saw the view and also took a closer look at the sheep.
It is fun! Oye-hoye! Look at that view! Snow looks so good on the mountains though the day was sunny. So, I couldn't see the snow properly. Though the visibility is still foggy, not very clear, but.... This view soothes the eyes!!! We have reached the Golf Course! On this side, you can see tourists playing golf. I have enquired and found out that.... ...they have created an 18-hole golf course in this green area you see. At Rs 500 for a 45-minute session, they will teach you how to handle the golf ball.
So, if there are two players, they can enjoy playing against each other. If someone wants to play on this side, he or she can. There is the flag. Till that area! The Pro-players (Professionals) play near that tree-line. So, basically, it is for your fun and enjoyment. Alright! First tell me your name! My name is Sadiq, Sir. Alright! So Sadiq Bhai, are you the golf coach here? We are golf coaches Sir. Besides, we also have mini golf, and driving range, etc.
Yeah, you told me. And this is our professional players' main course with 18 holes. Alright! So, I've understood that the 18-hole golf course is for professionals. This bungalow in front of our house, is the Tourist Reception Centre. This is our tourist office Sir.
Alright! And that is our golf club. Are these huts built for the employees of these offices? Yes Sir! Do you have a golf stick? I don't know how to play golf though. Now worries Sir. You can play. Show me how to take a shot.
Sure Sir! Let's start from there. Yes! Keep the stick like this. Like this! Very nice! And how do I hit the ball? Right in the middle Sir! Don't bend your elbows. Bend a little bit. Like this!
Keep the stick straight. Please! Alright! Is the position ok? Yes Sir! It is right. Perfect Sir! Well tried.
Yes Sir! Beautiful! Well tried! Very nice! You hit a nice shot! I will score at least one out of the three. No no, obviously you can! Wow!!! I am praising myself. So, brother, thank you very much. Though we stopped here for a minute just to talk to you.
And it is a good thing that you are engaging the tourists. I would like to ask your opinion about the best months to visit Gulmarg. Which ones are those? The best months would be May and June, when flowers are in full bloom. Alright! Tourists interested in trekking etc also visit during September.
Alright! September and May-June! May-June! In winter season, tourists visit for skiing. Hmm! In skiing...(inaudible). How much snow falls here during January month? At least 8 to 10 feet of snow! 8-10 feet of snow!! Normally, it is 7-8 feet.
Really!! Earlier, I got to know that from Tangmarg, they tie iron chains to the tyres. Snow is looking beautiful on the hilltop. Just look at it Sir. Yeah!! It was a pleasure meeting you. Nice to meet you! Thank you very much! Tomorrow, I will stop by to say hello! Totally Sir! Please Sir. Okay! All the best! Thank you very much! Thank you! Thank you Sir! First, we had decided to visit Maharaja Hari Singh Palace after the golf course.
After that, we had thought of ending today's journey. Now the scene is that it would become dark in another 5-10 minutes. So, we will visit the palace tomorrow. By the way, how far is it? The palace is about a KM from here. One KM! It is close then. It is close! So tomorrow morning's plan is that at 8.30 or 9.00 am, when the Gondola ride begins...
...we will go for a ride. We will visit Phase 1 and Phase 2 with you. Tickets have been booked in advance And once we are back, we will also visit the Palace. After that, if we feel we still have time at hand, we'll visit a village. All this would depend on our time management for tomorrow.
Okay good! Mushtaq Bhai, we enjoyed today's trip more in your company. Okay ji! Thanks to you! Today's episode ends here. We will meet again on tomorrow's journey. Something like a "Day in Gulmarg." And then, tomorrow's night stay would be in Srinagar.
Bye bye! Thanks for your time!