We had been receiving messages and calls from well wishers back home telling us about the worsening tensions in Kashmir and telling us to return home. We just smiled and got onto the bus to go to Gulmarg, an uneventful journey that took us through some beautiful landscapes and enthralled us with its beauty.
Our driver cum guide Shabbir was a great guy, full of humour and wanting to ensure our comfort at all times.
Enroute we stopped at Tangmarg, about 12kms before Gulmarg, to rent snow boots and a waterproof warm coat so that we could participate in all the snowy activities in Gulmarg.
Gulmarg lies in a cup shaped valley in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 2,650 m (8,694 ft) and is the centre for skiing, sledging and snowmobiling. It was in Tangmarg that we
connected with Umar – our guardian angel. He was so amazing that he created an invisible tunnel and took us through all the activities possible in Gulmarg. We did not break a sweat through any of it. It
was only later that I learnt that he was the Snowmobile champion of the country for 3 consecutive years and he acts as a tourism guide in his spare time. An amazing chap! If you are planning to visit Gulmarg and need help, mail me for his contact details. You will not regret it.
While we were completing our check in process at Mama Palace hotel in Gulmarg, Umar got busy in getting our tickets for the Gondola ride and let me tell you it is essential that you have someone in the know to get it done, as we realised once we reach the Gondola boarding point where chaos reigned with ‘waiting for tickets to be bought’ passengers queued up blocking the way for ticket holding passengers! Thankfully we soon were in the gondola, riding up the snowy slopes of the Himalayas.
Built by the French company Pomagalski, the Gulmarg Gondola is one of the highest in the world reaching 3,979 metres. The two-stage ropeway ferries people between Gulmarg and a shoulder of nearby Apharwat Peak (4,200 metres/13,800 ft). The first stage transfers from Gulmarg at 2,600
metres (8,500 ft) to Kongdoori at 3,080 metres (10,100 ft). The second stage takes passengers to a height of 3,950 metres (12,960 ft) on the Apharwat Peak 4,200 metres (13,800 ft).
Once on the Apharwat peak, we went tandem skiing and sledging. It was fun despite the altitude drying out our mouths. Trudging in the snow too was a new experience for us apart from skiing.
Once done we rode down to the 1st stage ‘Kongdoori’ where we had a delicious lunch in ‘Kongposh’ restaurant and headed for the ride on snowmobiles. Yet another 1st time for all of us. We rode pillion
and the riders were good enough to let some of us to try riding it ourselves albeit with the instructor riding pillion and encouraging us all the way!
Next day was reserved for some more adventure but this time offroading around Gulmarg on the
ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles). This too was fun and here again they let those of us who wished to ride, try it out too.
It was a fun 2 days of adventure in Gulmarg and now it was time to move on to Pahalgam.