Looking all around me and I could be in Switzerland, which I love so much, but actually this is unmistakenly India and it is full of all the beauty of mountains and water but spiced with the green eyes of the local population which makes us stare rather rudely, kawha tea and Kashmiri food, beautiful stallions and exquisite pashminas.
I am in Gulmarg - at 2,730 metres ( Meadow of Flowers ) and all around me are majestic mountains, fir trees, meadows with the most beautiful alpine flowers and fast flowing rivers.
This is a hill resort well known for skiing and winter sports. The summers are of course a time for alpine walks and horseriding and this is what we chose to spend our time indulging in.
The clouds rolled overhead in the mornings and threatened all manner of damp destruction but actually the winds seem to carry them away and within 10 minutes we would often see a completely transformed weather front.
Walking up to the border with Pakistan where we could see the barbed wire posts through binoculars was a little hairy as the soldiers seemed reluctant to let us go. Finally we were shown a back route.We walked slowly and purposefully. The air is thin and the going is hard. We were lucky, the weather held off but we were hopelessly underprepared and I briefly worried about the power of the mountain over my life. The terrain, large boulders, often decorated with bright yellow funghi- the softer ground full of bright red flowers and edelweiss. The Swiss, it seems, do not have the monopoly on them.
We headed up and up with clouds and swirling winds around us to get to what is called the Frozen Lake although during these summer months it is not frozen and takes on the colours of the surrounding mountains.
We sat eating our picnic at the very top and taking in the majesty of it all.
The alpine flowers
The swirling clouds and winds
The soldier who was afraid to let us go any further
Toboggans that have seen better days
Gentian blues and marigold yellows
The frozen Lake
Looking across to the border with Pakistan
We headed down happy and tired ready for a good dinner of mutton and baigan giagni, rice and channa and vegetables.The next day was another adventure this time on the back of some formidable horses. We rode in and out of the forests and streams to a flowing river where we sat and cooled our toes and hands. I marvelled at the fact that I managed to hang on. The steep rocky slopes were frightenting and the paths barely visible but that was part of the this wonderful adventure.