Read the previous parts of the travelogue here:
Our itinerary involved a two-day stay at Gulmarg, and we were quite thrilled about it. We had heard a lot about the cable cars (gondolas) that operate there, and were excitedly looking forward to ride on them. I was trying to imagine how Gulmarg would look like, as its name sounded so quaint and romantic, and we had heard that the place was full of wildflowers. A couple of hours’ drive from Pahalgam got us to Gulmarg, and I happily noted that it was even more beautiful than I had imagined.
Tall pine trees, firs and poplars greet you from amidst the snowy mountains as soon as you enter Gulmarg. The drive on narrow, winding roads in the midst of huge forests is scary, but the view outside the window is so mesmerising that you soon forget to be afraid.
I took this picture as soon as we entered Gulmarg. We later drove through a very narrow road in the midst of those two hills covered with trees that you can see in the picture.
The fir-and-pine forests soon gave way to hillocks scattered with wildflowers.
There are, apparently, 21 different kinds of wildflowers exclusive to Gulmarg alone. I couldn’t help but marvel at the bounty of nature here – today, when you can get everything ‘man-made’, it is extremely refreshing to see clumps of these multi-hued flowers adorning the hillsides, on their own, untended, amidst all that cold.
Soon enough, we reached our resort. I took the next picture near our resort. Couldn’t resist it – the place looked like something out of a fairytale.
We spent the day relaxing at the resort, in preparation for the gondola ride the next day.
Bright and early the next morning, we rushed to the ticket counter to buy tickets for the cable cars, and found a HUGE line there. After witnessing a lot of tempers flaring, exchanges of hot words, much jostling and pleading, we finally managed to get two tickets for Phase I of the ride. And off we went!
The ride was as scary as it was exciting. We squealed in excitement at some of the views from high above. After all, when you are riding in the highest cable car in India, at a height of 13,400 metres, the views are bound to be spectacular. At other times, though, we kept our mouths tight shut, held hands, prayed, and didn’t dare look below.
In about 15 minutes, the cable cars reached the destination for Phase I.
This is where they deposited us. Ain’t the place extremely, extremely, extremely beautiful? OK, I am running out of adjectives now!
Here is a close-up of the hills that we saw at that point. They looked ethereal, with melting snow and clouds kissing them.
We hugged our jackets close around us, for it was beginning to get extremely cold, and stood in the queue for tickets for Phase 2 of the ride. We were lucky to get the tickets, as the counters are often closed due to inclement weather at the Phase 2 destination. However, the tickets were not obtained without hours of standing in queue, witnessing of more tempers flaring, more angry words being exchanged, more jostling and more pleading. That, however, is a story for another day. For now, let us focus on the journey.
We boarded the cable cars again, and it brought us to a river of frozen ice. We couldn’t see anything but ice for miles and miles and miles ahead. Look for yourself.
If you take one of the sledges that operate in plenty here, you can see the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan right at the end of ALL that ice.
We were too exhausted to do the sledge ride, so we just admired the beauty of the place, took a lot of pictures…. and tried pelting each other with snow balls, which we gave up immediately as the balls hurt like anything. It was frozen, hardened snow, after all.
A couple of hours of gallivanting in the ice later, we began our descent towards the base, happy and content.
Because of the height at which it is located, Gulmarg becomes almost inaccessible in the winter months. We felt extremely lucky that we had planned a trip in June, so that we were able to see this beauty.