The Meadow Of Flowers
A huge cup shaped meadow, lush and green with slopes where the
silence is broken only by the tinkle of cowbells, Gulmarg looks like
a fantasy set in a film and not surprisingly have been the venue of
The valley of Gulmarg, a large meadow about 3-sq-kms in area, stands
at 2,730 metres, 56-km south west of Srinagar . The name means
'Meadow Of Flowers' and in the spring it's just that, a rolling
meadow dotted with countless colourful Bluebells, Daisies, Forget Me
Not's and Buttercups. The valley itself is about 3-km long and up to
a km wide.
Take a Hike!
All around are snow-capped mountains, and on a clear day one can see
all the way to Nanga Parbat is one direction and Srinagar is
another. It's a popular day trip from Srinagar to Gulmarg, although
many people extend their stay or use it as a base for trekking. The
road from Srinagar rises gently towards the lower slopes of the
range, passing through rice and maize fields.
From Tangmarg, at the foot of the range, there are two paths to
Gulmarg - a steep footpath or a winding sealed road. There is also a
pony track from Gulmarg that leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori
and seven springs.
This smaller valley is about a 6-km walk from the Gulmarg bus stop
and car park. The meadow, carpeted with flowers in the spring, is
the site for Gulmarg's winter ski runs and offers a fine view of the
surrounding peaks and over the Kashmir Valley. It's a 600-metre
ascent from Gulmarg to Khilanmarg and during the early spring, as
the snow melts, it can be a very muddy hour's climb up the hill. The
effort is rewarded, if it's clear, with a sweeping view of the great
Himalayas from Nanga Parbat to the twin 7,100-metre peaks of Nun and
Kun to the southeast.
Beyond Khilanmarg, 13-km from Gulmarg at the foot of the twin 4, 511
metre Apharwat peaks, this lake is frozen until mid-June and even
later in the year one can see lumps of ice floating in its cold
waters. The walk from Gulmarg follows a well-graded Pony track over
the 3, 810 metre Apharwat ridge, separating it from Khilanmarg, and
then up the valley to the lake at 3,843 metres. The more adventurous
trekkers can climb straight up the boulder-strewn slope of the ridge
and descend the other side to the path. For horse riding
aficionados, Alpather Lake makes an exciting day's excursion,
starting early morning and returning late evening.
The Ningli Nallah:
Flowing from the melting snow and ice on Apharwat and the Alpather
Lake, this pretty mountain stream is 8-km from Gulmarg. The stream
continues down into the valley below and joins the Jhelum River near
Sopur. This long, grassy valley is a popular picnic spot and the
walking path carries on, crossing the Ningli (also spelt as Ningle)
Nallah by a bridge and continues on to the Khilenmarg, another
grassy meadow and a good spot for camping. In early summer one will
probably share the campsites with Gujars moving their herds up to
the high meadows.
Reached from the Tangmarg road, or from the Outer Circular Walk,
this mountain stream meets the Bahan River at a popular picnic spo
known as 'waters meet'. The stream is reputed to be particularly
good for trout fishing; it's about five km down the valley from
Gulmarg but quite close to Tangmarg. The river can be reached by
walking 3-km down the path from the gap near Tangmarg and then
heading south through the forest, down a slope towards the stream.
Near here there is a bridge which leas to the small waters meet
picnic spot on the right bank. Looking south from Tangmarg the river
can be traced up to its source close to the rugged peak known as
Ferozpore or Shinmahinyu. On the right bank the stream branches, the
left path leading to Tosa Maidan, while the right bends away towards
the Gogaldara road at a second bridge, about 32-km upstream, and
then leads away to the Ferozpore pass, Poonch and Kantar Nag.
In winter, Gulmarg acquires a new persona - that of the country's
premier skiing resorts. Skiing, to many who watch it on TV, seems
like a very elitist sport, requiring a high level of training and
expensive equipment. They are surprised, when they visit Gulmarg for
a day's expedition to "see the snow", that others with the same
level of physical fitness and training are skiing down slopes.
Gulmarg is the ultimate beginner's skiing resort. One doesn't
requite a heavy woolen wardrobe - slacks or a Salwar Kameez will do
fine. In Gulmarg one will also be able to drift to one of the many
Ski shops and hire skis, sticks and goggles. Just find yourself a
ski instructor and set off down a slope.
Neither does one need to exert oneself climbing up slopes. The
gentlest slope of 200m is linked with a ski lift, which helps one to
go up. When one graduates to intermediate level - which will happen
after the first few days of practice, there are other slopes, longer
and steeper, which are connected by chair lift. The longest ski run
in Gulmarg is provided by the Gondola cable car, which allows a ski
run of 2,213m.