My dad and I left for India
the day that terrorists decided to light up downtown Srinagar. Thinking
we might have to make some sort of contingency plan in case we couldn't
go up north, we were relieved when everyone was telling us that it
would be fine, these things happen ( ) and that it'd be great. Well... except that Kashmir hadn't had any new snow for two weeks.
We spent 3 days in Mumbai, which if you ever get the chance to go... do.
Only, when we got there, after a 3 hour delay in Frankfurt, we were sans skis. Well as they say... surrender yourself you India. Thus, they came the day before we catch our Kingfisher flight up north to Srinagar (if you're flying domestically in India, screw AirIndia and fly Kingfisher. Really.)
I digress... Mumbai. When Dad and I got to our hotel, like most
travelers my first trip was to the bathroom. Because after customs,
immigration, filing lost luggage reports,
taxi rides, and checking in one has to pee. At first I was upset
thinking that we got an old smokers room because the bathroom had that
sort of smell. But then, after sitting there for a second or two I
realized that it wasn't an old smokers room that I was smelling, but
the spicy smell of tobacco. It was then that I realized that this was
how I was going to have to experience Mumbai, through my nose. If I
just let every smell become a part of my Mumbai experience then
everything would be unique and stimulating.
Day 1 Mumbai (now past 48 hours without sleep): a bustling bumble bee taxi ride down to the Gateway to start exploring. Where
does one start when on foot for a day in most populous city in the
world? Street stalls and shalls. The shall search ended quickly however
after we realized that even in India, cashmere and pashmina are still
$600. So then we found a great hole in the wall tea vendor, which for
me was such a glorious clean, aromatic treat for my nose.And
of course no trip to Mumbai is complete without a trip to the legendary
Leopold's Cafe. By this time, travel coma was certainly setting in, but
a huge plate of noodles and a "hover-over-the toilet" bathroom was just
the ticket to motivate us to continue the adventure.
afternoon was spent going to Elephanta Island. Once a place of worship
for several different religions, Elephanta Island was later conquered
by the Portuguese and their wonderful cave carvings used as target
island is swarming with little monkeys who find great joy in
terrorizing the many tourists and worshipers who climb the thousand
steps to the temples. One little monkey tried to steal my recently
purchased tea. But I should feel lucky, because it seems like the
little stray puppies wondering the island took far more torture from
the monkeys than the humans do.After
an exhausting day we took the ferry back at to the Gateway at dusk and
followed it up with another bumble bee taxi ride back to the hotel...
not without nearly running over a local Mumbai kid on the way though.
2 Mumbai: With Dad locked away in meetings all day, I arranged with Taj
Hotel: Lands End to have a driver show me around the northern part of
the city. Nothing is more special than someone taking you on a tour of
their home. Juhu beach used to be a place where locals loved to gather,
play cricket, gamble, and generally have a wonderfully good time. In an
effort to increase tourism, the government closed all of these
activities and moved the food vendors to a designated area to clean up
the beach. The beach is now a quiet place where couple stroll quietly
by. However, just feet away in the food stalls, life is just as
bustling as always.As is the fishing village across the street: And the chai stalls in Mumbai's largest slum, Daravi What
awed me the most as we walked around Daravi was just the pure humanity
of it all. Even in the depths of the world's greatest poverty people
still are people. People smile, people laugh, husbands and wives still
bicker, and kids will play games on any patch of land they can find.
into Srinagar is a trip. It's an active airforce base but not like it
is in Frankfurt or Bishkek, this is an airforce base that does have a
real threat and not that far away. So security is pretty tight.
However, being a woman in an area with few women travelers and
different sex airport screenings means fast line for me, slow line for
But let's get to the skiing. MountainTraks out of the UK set us up with John Falkiner and Paulo Tassi as guides. PRETTY AWESOME.
But we were still pretty low on snow.
to worry though, John and Paulo would find us something... but we were
going to be careful. No new snow in Gulmarg for 2 weeks means that any
old tracks were like cement and the Avy danger was HUGE. CAIC black,
HUGE. In fact, the day before we arrive, their group set down an
avalanche that lost one ski and blew one guy's knee.
Gulmarg is HUGE. Image Blue Sky Basin laid out five to six times over.
And all the while you're at or nearlyl at 14,000 feat with Nanga Parbat
not so far off in the distance (26,000+ft).
world's highest gondola takes you up to endless hikeable and skinable
terrain and all you can think of is, "I'm going to go there, then I'm
going to go there. Ooo! and what about over there!" Unfortunately with
crappy snow, you get limited, but even THEN you still have epic fun.
Eat when you can though, because often the runs are 2000-5000 vertical and in some cases 22km long with a 2km hike out.
If you get too tired and have a down day, take a day with Papi to search for leopards
Or watch the locals and the Indian army hike the small local hill in the village
Or hang with the locals themselves
Or run into some American pro-skiers (Andy Maher and Pep Fujas)
But mostly, even with challenging snow, Gulmarg is the most beautiful place and made for an epically wonderful adventure. .
And a big shout out to FlyLow Gear, Loveland Ski Area, and Garmont/Lifelink. And of course dad.