From the moment I looked out the window, flying through the snowy tipped mountains of Kashmir I knew this trip would be different from any of our previous weXplores of India. In fact, as we were walking through the chilled and dimly lit town it often slipped my mind that we had not left the country we have spent the last semester in! Srinagar had a vibe that was so different from the rest of India (well the parts I have experienced at least), but then again if had a much different story from the other states as well. (You can read/listen more about the Kashmir Conflict in my school essay and poem found here.)
My group (Garett, Yosefa, Paul, Cameron, Isaac, Joseph, Emma, Pema, Alexis, and myself) came to Srinagar to trek and learn about the environment. The first day we were there we took these long, beautiful boats across a lake and were given a map with a goal to keep track of our path. It was quite chilly on the water, but we all cuddled under a big blanket and tucked our ears into beanies/toques as we floated across the clear water topped with wilted lotus flowers. Eventually we arrived on a small island with trees covered in gorgeous coloured leaves and a slight wind that tasted of late autumn. Here we practiced more mapping skills and used landmarks to find our exact location on the water. Later that evening we settled down in a cozy houseboat where we joked and put our feet around a stove burning fire, preparing for a weekend of trekking.
With hiking shoes tied and plenty of dried apricots, we began our hiking. And as we climbed in altitude, we seemed to be lifted in attitude. We all happily hiked roughly 25 miles, learned about glaciers with candy bars, bouldered, had a mini-snowball fight, continuously put on and took off layers, had “caterpillar” fights in our sleeping bags, played with hot water bottles, drank apple-cinnamon tea, looked at the stars, watched the sunrise over mountains, and explored the Himalayas. It was an amazing weekend. A truly great place to spend time with amazingly great people.