Pat and Richard in Northern India 2015 travel blog

After an overnight stop in Shargol yesterday, our 6 hour journey today became a 10 hour trip along a very narrow, windy, dirt mountain road. We have noticed the difference in our surroundings - this area is very Muslim and has a totally different feel to the other areas we have travelled in.

We were stopped on the road and told we could not proceed till 3pm due to road works - our guides used all their persuasive skills and eventually we managed to get through straight away and headed up the road with a sheer drop on one side and raging rivers on the other. The army was also on the road, with huge convoys of trucks heading I don't know where. I have heard that Kashmir has the biggest military presence in the world, and half of them must have been on the road today!

After the army trucks, which took around 1 hour to clear, we had convoys of ordinary trucks which had been held up by the army - another hour to wait! Finally we got moving, only to come across a truck which had nearly gone over the edge, front wheels hanging over the sheer drop! That was one lucky truck driver!

We eventually arrived in Srinigar and were taken to our houseboat on Lake Dal by shikaras, gondola-like boats propelled by a heart shaped paddle. We are staying here for two nights. The houseboat was gorgeous - all carved wood on the walls, antique furniture and gleaming chandeliers, with a waiter catering to our every need. Each bedroom had its own bathroom and there was even wifi! Luxury!

The rain which had been threatening got heavier overnight, and Wednesday turned out to be very wet. Undaunted, we set out to see the sights.

Our local guide met us first thing and we headed off to our first stop, the largest mosque in the town. We were able to go inside and our guide explained the finer points to us. After this, we visited another mosque which we could not go inside but just looked through the windows, and then it was off to lunch and then a visit to the Shalimar Mughal Gardens - very impressive, even though it was bucketing down! The gardens are hundreds of years old with flower gardens set out among the fountains and huge plane trees dotting the landscape. Then it was back to the lake to find a shikara to take us back to the boat to dry out before an evening shikara tour of Dal Lake. Our shikara paddler made sure we were comfortable on cushions and tucked a blanket around us to keep us warm before we set off. It's an amazing community living on the lake, there are shops selling all sorts of things and houses lining the banks, and people go everywhere by boat - there are no roads. We were paddled around for an hour or so, then headed back to the houseboat for dinner and a trivia night organized by our leader, Sam. A great night, then off to bed to get a good night's sleep before a 6am start tomorrow.

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