Gulmarg: there is more to it beyond the snow

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It was around 8 pm and we were busy discussing on how our day was in Srinagar. It kinda sucked with the overwhelming traffic and crowd since we stayed in the heart of the city. But all of us happened to be asked a question repeatedly, over and over again by the locals. “Have you visited Gulmarg yet?”,  Almost everyone we interacted asked this question. So, there’s definitely gotta be a reason behind this.

We decided to visit Gulmarg the following day since these words from locals in Srinagar really got us excited. It’s almost 10’o clock when I settled in my bed, the new place didn’t help my sleep much. I started wondering why locals were so excited to tell us about Gulmarg and what could be possibly there. I knew Gulmarg is pretty special for snow. Being there in September even though the snow season is yet to arrive, I sense there is something more special about the place beyond the snow.

Our Journey starts:

It’s almost morning, and I managed to get few hours of sleep. Tired yet excited to see Gulmarg and see why it is so special. The route goes like this, Srinagar to Batamaloo, from there to Tangmarg and finally to Gulmarg. We must have enquired at least 10 people, since we couldn’t actually pronounce the name of these places properly. We took a shared taxi, it was quite affordable. It took around one and half hour to Tangmarg, which is the starting point leading to the hills of Gulmarg.

On reaching Tangmarg we were stopped at a check post and a random local asked one of us to have a entrance register signed inside a room near that check post. We found it strange and one of us went with that guy. After a while he was accompanied with a tourist guide who got us in to the cab along with us. We were all confused and exclaiming why tourist  guide accompanying us and we inquired with our friend. Then we realized that tourist guide apparently brain washed my friend by false promises and fake things.

We got down at Tangmarg and requested the tourist guide to leave since we don’t really need their company. Apparently he tried to convince us by saying that “Godawalas” in Gulmarg were illiterates and will misbehave with us if we try go on our own. I have read few instances in Quora and other forums where tourist got into conflict with “Godawalas” but we figured that this guy is exaggerating things and trying to make his sale. Additionally he started making fake promises that he will show all important spots in Gulmarg but we knew it is impossible since Phase I and Phase II were closed due to bad weather. We were informed about that in our taxi to Sonmarg. We got rid of that annoying tourist guide and went on to board cab for Gulmarg.

Tip :

Beware of tourist guides who will try to deceive you on your way by saying these kinda fake things about Gulmarg. It’s not the case at all we didn’t have any issue with “Godawalas” or find it difficult to spot important places around Gulmarg. I am not discouraging to hire a tourist guide but merely pointing out the fact that it is not mandatory to explore and have fun at Gulmarg.

Finally to Gulmarg:

And we finally got a taxi to Gulmarg. We were told that it was a ten minute ride from Sonmarg. The path was quite steep and taxi’s were trying their best to make the climb. After few minutes Sonmarg completely disappeared from our sight by these massive pine trees grown all along the slope.  The pine trees totally adds a different dimension to the place and it looks breathtaking. I can now sense the specialty of this place and can’t wait to get over the top and explore it.

Finally in Gulmarg:

We finally made to the taxi stand in Gulmarg and I can see lots of people who like us flocking to Gulmarg after hearing about its beauty. We slowly started walking away from the taxi stand to explore the interiors. As we set sight on this adorable landscape for the first time, there is a moment of wow from everyone who was with me. I had my eyes wander off over the things in this beautiful landscape. Greenish meadows,  Massive pine trees, Fog covered peaks, Vibrant buildings, Though the Phase I and Phase II is closed which is what Gulmarg is very much known far, we didn’t feel anything less about the place and we knew we are gonna have a great time ahead of us.

Everyone of us had a excited face that topped with astonishment. Being an amateur traveler I couldn’t believe that the place is beyond my imagination. I used to scroll up Instagram feed all day looking at travel photos wondering how beautiful a particular place is. But realizing this is real gave me a sense of joy that is too hard to put in words.

We started walking and set out to explore the place further. We were surrounded by “Godawalas” – one with horses who will take you around to show the places. But we wanted to walk, we wanted to feel the place not just go around, take photos and boast about in social media. This place deserves more than that.

World’s highest Green Golf course:

I have seen Golf only on television before and haven’t got a chance to see one for real until now. And realizing that am not standing beside just another golf court made me super happy. Yes this Golf court lies on 2,650 feet above sea level. And it looks pretty different and unique from other golf courses as well. Almost every blade of grass has a touch of Golden yellow in it. It looks so beautiful and peaceful. Unfortunately there were fence around the court and we could only admire its beauty from the outside. We sat outside the fence for few minutes allowing us to soak into this beautiful place.

Gulmarg is not how it used to be:

As we were sitting and chatting in the meadows we noticed few friends who were having some quality time among the green carpet that welcomed us in Gulmarg. We approached them to ask about the place. We came to know they were bunch of professors and it’s favorite hobby to visit Gulmarg and spend their leisure time here. All along the conversation we were praising how great the place looks. One of the professor paused for a moment and said “Gulmarg is not what it used to be” and there is some sense of confusion in all of our faces after hearing this.

He clarified saying that there has been a drastic change in the climate and there isn’t enough snowfall for last couple of years. “This used to be a Snowfall paradise but things have changed now, am praying there will enough snowfall this year” he said with saddened face. It’s disheartening for us to hear the impact of climate change on this beautiful place. I wished them that soon Gulmarg will receive good amount of snowfall and offered to take a portrait along with their friends and they gladly agreed.

St.Mary’s church:

We noticed there is a beautiful church behind this golf course. The Church looks pretty different from what we see usually. The color of the roof was a distinct green and the walls were built with gray stones. One cannot miss this because of strikingly bold colored roof. Wooden works in the doors and windows were remarkable and elegant. After about 15 mins of walking we reached the church. We went in and had a moment for ourselves. The entire place is very peaceful than it seems.

Pine trees:

It was almost evening and we knew we have only few hours in this place since we have our flight booked next day from Srinagar to Chennai. We were pretty sad that we couldn’t spend at least a day in this place and realized we should have visited this place earlier. So we decided to leave the place with a peace of mind. And started to make a climb leading to dense pine trees. As we approach the place, Pine trees were getting bigger and bigger and it looks more beautiful.

We went in a bit and the place was totally isolated. We decided to sit under the tree and spend some time there  It’s been 12 days since we started our journey from Chennai to Leh and it’s the final day of our trip. And I was reliving the sweet memories from this unforgettable trip in my mind. We started discussing the events of the trip and it was pretty emotional moment for everyone of us to realize the end of trip is just a day away. With all the vivid images of this trip running fast in my head and we almost spent an hour talking about this trip.

Bidding Good bye:

It’s evening and time for us to leave. We bid Good bye to this beautiful place with a heavy heart and with the hope of coming back to spend some great deal of time here. Came back to the taxi stand, boarded a cab. There was absolute silence  and everyone around has delved into deep thoughts, guess they are yet to come back from the past 11 days. As our taxi moved away I set my sight on this gorgeous place for one last time! Gulmarg is indeed a heaven on earth 🙂

Tip:

Plan your trip in such a way that you get to stay at least 2 days in Gulmarg. We didn’t even cover 5% of Gulmarg and I still regret for that. Don’t make the same mistake.

Hope you have enjoyed my very first travel story. Even though it isn’t much, this place is beyond words. Do leave your feedback on this travel story in the comments section below.

Update:

As it turns out Gulmarg has received good snowfall this year and this is how it looks like now ( 12 /13 /2018 ) . This is some really happy news for me and my fellow mates. I got in touch with my Professor friend in Gulmarg and he is extremely happy about this year’s snowfall and invited us to visit the place one more time. Guess we will be going back really soon 🙂

“Nature can heal itself if we lend a helping hand”

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One Reply to “Gulmarg: there is more to it beyond the snow”

  1. Great Work. Its a detailed article with really useful tips , it will be useful to many. Climate Change such a major event affecting almost all places. Well written content specially the images.

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