Saturday, April 7, 2007

Hiking Kashmir

After 2 days on our houseboat we headed up into the Himalaya to the east of Srinagar to do some hiking. We stayed with a family in a small gypsy village close to Sonamarg. These people describe themselves as 'gypsy people' or 'pony people' and I suspect belong to the 'scheduled castes' as they are now described in India - what used to be called 'untouchables'.

The gypsy people lack almost all basic infrastructure. There is no sewage system, no garbage collection and no running water apart from the local river. They have electricity but with several long outages each day and then only for lighting - they have no refrigeration. Most importantly they don't have easy access to health care which is expensive and many miles away in Srinagar. We patched up a procession of family members with cuts, scrapes and grazes using our little medical kit. We were the first western visitors of the season as the snow has cleared in only the last few weeks.

The family were wonderfully welcoming and we left after 3 days feeling almost a part of it. They took us hiking each day, sometimes with their ponies, and once above the timberline at 11k feet as we scrambled up a local mountain with amazing views - all the way to K2 on a clear day. Hopefully this will help with our acclimatisation for Nepal. We'd love to come back in the summertime when the snows have cleared for a longer trek.

Our cook and guide was Shafi, who travelled with us from Srinagar. Shafi is an interesting character who can speak at least 6 different languages (we were still counting when we left) and sings each language too. Nights were filled with playing cards and listening to songs in Fârsi and Kashmiri. Each song told a story, typically a cautionary Muslim fable which he would tell us we would do well to heed.

Shafi also claimed to have seen several Jinn, and also to know some personally. I had read an article about Jinn last year, but it is a very different experience to be told about them first hand, by candlelight in a remote Kashmiri village.


Our Mum for 2 days and the lady of our gypsy house.



Little Rhuma charmed "bishkits", hairclips and various girly products from Mary every day



Mary, Shafi, Rhuma and determined little chap with stick.

3 comments:

mike in motion said...

Hi there, Im off to Kashmir in July, and I want to find a guide for some multi day trekking... does Shafi do this? Can I reach him somehow? Im hoping to not have to go through a company...

Any info would be great!

mikehutkins@hotmail.com

Thanks

Flibbertigibbett said...

hay.
I was treking in Kashmir with Shafi and lost all contacts. Do you know his e-mail or telephone. I would be grateful.
Regards!
gtavcar@gmail.com

Flibbertigibbett said...

HAY!
I WAS TREKING IN KASHMIR WITH SHAFI ALSO. GREAT GUY.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OF HIS CONTACTS?
I WOULD BE GRATEFUL.
REGARDS!