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Northern India- Kashmir:
21 days, Aug- Sept 2005
A wholly independent travel
13rd august- 4th sept 2005
bus, train and one flight
houseboat (Srinagar), hotel, guesthouse, on the train and on
the amazing variety of religions, cultures, languages and environments.
The huge but efficient railway system. The kindness of the people.
The easiness in the comunication by English. The A/C room in
What I disliked:
The endless horning everywhere. The food sucks and I hope you
like chicken. The permanent headache due to the altitude in
Ladak. Getting robbed on the night train to Varanasi.
The 101% humidity in Kolkata. The continuos blackouts.
India is cheap, anyway travelling in two people, the daily budget
has been 17euro each. Because of the hotness I travelled on
the A/C train class and (sometimes) slept in A/C rooms, at the
end the train became the main expense (read
the prices). Anyway with some sacrifices you can keep a
lower budget, left alone the trips by jeep in Ladak that are
In Kashmir, Ladak
and Manali there was a nice temperature (a sweter in the evening
without sleeping bags for the night). In New Delhi it was hot,
but in Kolkata it was like an unbearable sticky sauna.
watch out your stuff on the train around Varanasi expecially
in the night; my camera and most of the pics had gone. Don't
underrate the altitude in Ladak, even a 3 day acclimatation
in Leh might not be enough for the 5000m.. Driver riscio' in
Varanasi and Agra bring you where they want regardless what
you say. Keep away from the control line with Pakistan in Kashmir.
a good flash lamp and stomach good as well! :-)
Kashmir is wonderful and safe (at
least when I visited it (08/2005)).
Its a Muslim area so obviously
this is the culture you will face with, although any covering
is mandatory for females you have to respect their sensitivity
I found people extremely hospitable,
not pushy at all, and especially the soldiers (plenty of) were
so nice to us. Its true that considering the militaries
around it seems to be in a war status, but at the end your risk
Temperature in Srinagar turned out
ok, being hot but dry and sleeping in the houseboat was so relaxing.
Srinagar lies under 3000m so you
wont feel any altitude effect, and tourism is just from
Indians; from both of these points of view its quite far
The 2 days journey from Srinagar
to Leh is amazing and still not too tiring, unlike Leh- Manali
that is more similar to a pilgrimage.
In short, Go There!
India, namely New Delhi, Varanasi,
Kolkata are quite shocking realities.
However its not just dirt and
smell around you, but a philosophy of life that comes from the
Hindu religion. I think a Western can hardly understand their
perception of the cycle of death and life without looking just
People are nice, and apart from the
pushy riscio drivers and some sucker hotelkeeper, they
want to speak to you because of their curiosity. I had fun in
exchanging points of view on the Indian habits concerning the
engagement for the couples. On the other hand its true
that after a while this curiosity can be quite tiring and you'll
long to stay alone.
The last but not the least, the humidity
and the hotness got a big slice of the amount of energies I
needed to travel in the low lands. The same travel one month
later would have meant half of the efforts.
From Milan stopover in Frankfurt
and New Delhi to get to Srinagar (N. Delhi- Srinagar, 130 euro,
one way). In Srinagar the temperature was perfect and I stayed
in a cute houseboat on the river (1200 rp/day 2 people, full
board). Ive an extremely nice memory of the days I spent
there. I walked around the desert town really seized by the
Indian army being the following day the Indian independence
anniversary. I enjoyed a boat trip on the wonderful Dal Lake
visiting the gardens, the mosque, and the floating cultivation.
Beside I had a day trip to the winter
ski resort of Gulmarg, where I took a cable car to get over
the 3300m and then riding horses I reached a tongue of snow
of a glacier. Here I had a short but bumpy sledge ride driven
by a funny Pakistan-like man.
I would have stayed longer in Srinagar,
but I had to proceed towards Leh. It took two days by bus, staying
overnight in Kargil. It had been a tiring journey but really
worthwhile: first of all for the variety of environments this
narrow twisting dirty road passes through: from the very green
valley near Srinagar to the desert like mountains approaching
Leh. In addition for the radical cultural change: the long beards
of the Muslims were swapped with the rounded faces of the Tibetans,
while the mosque with their minarets turned in the Buddhist
monasteries called "gompas".
Leh is over 3200 m, so the altitude
began to have his effect.. In Leh every movement costs energies,
a lot of energies I mean. Here you can find several different
proposals of trekking by 4X4 and day trips to the gompas in
the region by taxi. No way to bargain since all the itineraries
and their relative prices are officially laid down. You have
to gather a bunch of people if you dont want to leave
there all your money doing the trip alone.
The area around Leh is breathless,
but after 3 days I had seen enough gompas for the whole my life.
Besides Leh, relatively to his size and location, turned out
to be quite touristy. After a while I was a little fed up of
souvenir shops and 4x4 filled with Italians, Israelians and
Then I had the longest and toughest
journey of the trip: Leh- Manali in 2 days by bus throught the
over 5000 m passes. Amazing landscapes, surreal atmospheres
but I would have skipped it with pleasure, since its hard
to enjoy a trip when at best you are dizzy for the whole time.
Manali is a heaven to rest in: super
cheap guesthouses, green environment, fresh temperature and
being below the 3000m the altitude was harmless. Anyway to me
appeared a kind of soften India; I wanted to see the striking
one, hence I settled off to the 2000 km far Kolkata.
17 hours by bus and 20 by train led
us to the hot damp but charming capital of Bengala. Here I spent
3 days enjoying the riscị rides around the town and the shower
in my A\C room to survive the 100% humidity rate.
Despite of the climate I really liked
12 unforgettable hours by train led
us to the hindu holy town of Varanasi; in fact during the night
travel I got robbed of my small backbags, hence camera and pictures
gone :-( (read
Varanasi is crossed by the holy Ganga
river and the hindu here dip and throw their dead bodies, burnt
or not (read
the story). Definitely its an impressive place, but
generally speaking, locals and riscio drivers are the
most dodgy I have found in India: at the end I didnt fall
in love with the town.
Another night on the train led us
to Agra to visit the famous Taj Mahal. Althought of my expectations
to be an ugly touristy town, it was not. Tourists were concentrated
in few places and locals turned out to be far better than in
Varanasi, besides theres much more to see than just the
4 hours by train separated us to
New Delhi from where I finally flew back to "our world".