5 things I learnt about Kashmir

Finally we visited the beautiful Kashmir valley. Having read so much about it over the last decade, it was only now a plan to trek in the region materialized. And it was amazing! I shall write about the trek and some stories during our visit in my future posts. But for starters, here are 5 things I learnt about Kashmir:

Dense forests

When we say Kashmir, we visualize snow capped peaks with pine forests and sprawling meadows.

Image: A typical scape of Kashmir?

While this scenery is an apt representation of the habitat present in Kashmir, I was also surprised to see that this region had really dense forests with thick undergrowth. This is something we commonly see in tropical forests but I had not thought that it is present here. We did a day-hike in Dachigam National Park and we had to pass through some really dense patches of forest. This was great but also a little nerve wrecking as this forest is home to Himalayan Black Bears and they would not be visible through the undergrowth. So we had to be super careful.

Video: This path shows the dense patches of forest on either side.
Nun Chai

Ladakh is popularly known for Butter tea and Kashmir for Khawa. But actually, more than Khawa, it is “Nun Chai” (translates to Salt Tea) that is more commonly drunk by the Kashmiris. Served with hot bread from the bakeries each morning, Nun chai is made from a concoction of tea leaves and water, mixed with milk and salt. Khawa on the other hand is more commonly drunk during “special occasions”.

Image: Morning routine involves having several cups of Nun chai along with bread and butter.
Haven for berries

Kashmir is also a strong contender for Valley of flowers but I would like to call this place Valley of berries. The walk in Dachigam introduced us to an assortment of edible berries like Mulberries and Korean Cherries and also plums, apricots, peaches, pears, and so much more!

Image: Some were sweet, others sour. But a yummy hike!
Kangri, the portable heater

When temperatures drop, both members of the household inside the house and shepherds (Bakarwals) who roam around the mountains, carry with them a “Kangri”, a fire pot of sorts. The Kangri works like a heater and one can carry it around with them easily. These handmade baskets are made from local shrubbery and carry burning coal. Some families even put “ïsbun” in it which are dried plants which give out a musky fragrance when burnt.

Image: A hand made Kangri
Kashmiris’ hospitality knows no bounds

Everywhere we went, locals invited us to their homes for nun chai. Whether it was walking through the villages/towns or passing by isolated bakarwal encampments in the mountains, people completely unknown to us invited our group to have chai with them. Their hospitality knew no bounds. In one such episode, our trekking group landed up unannounced at a friend’s relative’s house and they were thrilled to have 10 of us at their home. The lady of the house called her family members from their jobs who returned home with lots of treats. They pampered us with several types of breads and toasts which went well with the unending supply of hot nun chai.

Image: Nestled deep in Dagwan Valley, we were invited by this group of bakarwal women who served us hot nun chai and roti. We had just finished a 10 hour trek and it was freezing cold outside! We couldn’t be more grateful.

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Great Adithi. It reminds me of my 2 year stay in Kishtwar a small remote town in Kashmir. All the things you mentioned are familiar to me as we relished Kawa and bakarkhani then kangri, bukhari etc . Great

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always love reading your posts about different places.
    It feels as if we also took a trip along with you. It creates awareness about the ecology of the place and insights about the local people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Adithi,

    Enjoyed reading this and I can imagine how beautiful and serene the walk in the forests would have been. Hopefully someday I will go visit these places and if I do, I will get in touch with you for tips 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Adithi,
    Enjoyed reading your post. I can imagine how beautiful and serene the forest walks would have been. Hopefully, someday I get to visit this place. Thanks for the lovely narrative. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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