Carrie and I relaxing on our luxurious shikara ride
While Cammy and Taylor are at the airport trying to sort out getting the passport, Ravi, Carrie and I do the "Tour of Srinagar." A rickshaw takes us to one garden after another. The first has manicured grass, interesting flowers, shrubs and trees, and an aptly named "Mini Lake."
Ravi and Carrie fully enjoying their time at the gardens
Don't stop here, more story and images inside --->>
The second: a mountain spring flowing through fountains and troughs. At the top you can drink from a small waterfall before the water is contaminated by people's feet. Ravi challenges me, "I bet you can't walk across this retaining pond [filled with mountain water]", and without a second thought I step confidently into the ankle-deep water. In slow motion one foot slides from under me, then the other. I fight to stay upright, flailing and running in place. All hope of standing disappears with a splash as the right side of my body submerges. Of course, I'm holding my camera in my right hand and despite my valiant effort it receives its first bath. I guess it needed to be cleaned since the Holi incident, but full submersion of the 5DmkII is not recommended. But credit Canon, with a quick drying effort the camera seems to have survived the incident, accepting its brutal cleaning. Ravi looking over his domain
Immediately after falling into the fountain. You can't see it so well, but I am soaked.
We eat South Indian food in the northernmost state for lunch, then despite my objections of going to yet another garden, we spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on soft grass under the shade of a mighty tree. It's hard to complain about that.
Lounging in the shade of a giant tree on soft grass with great friends = amazingness.
Carrie has lounging in the grass down to an artform
Why yes, that is a roll of toilet paper in a Russian hat
So we do a Russian dance
And then handstands and handsprings
This of course is followed by ridiculous jumps
While Carrie tries to ignore us and pretend she didn't come with us
The park, despite my unwillingness to go in, was beautiful
A bridge in the middle of Dal Lake. I don't know why.
The gardens were built by the ruling Mughals several hundred years ago
As of yet, we really haven't experienced the mountains besides seeing them in the distance. Wednesday we had to escape the city into the beautiful mountains in a private car. We take a break near the river, enjoying the views and the cold mountain water before moving on to a village for lunch.
Shikaras awaiting passengers
Carrie testing the waters near Pahalgam, Kashmir
Cammy enjoying the scenery
Carrie refreshed after getting splashed in the face by Ravi (The water is quite cold)
Taylor "not posing"
And the close-up
Guides try to get us to do horseback tours from the village, but I think the trails would be too crowded with Indian tourists. We go on to a foot trail leading across the river and up a smaller mountain. It's late in the day so we don't have a ton of time.
Carrie miniturized by the towering trees
I can feel my lungs straining to keep up as we climb at 8,000 feet, but the exercise energizes my body. This is only a taste of what I live for - I want to fly, to go until my lungs burst and my muscles refuse to go one more step. I wait for the rest of the group to catch up; glad that I'm with friends, but wishing we were on the same page. The path takes us first past scenic guesthouses along the river, then up into the trees, tall and reaching for the heavens. We reach a grassy meadow fit for a Bollywood love song where horses graze. A skinny mare allows me to get close enough to pet her mane. I miss my youth riding my uncle's pony, Bam Bam. I follow the sound of a mountain stream beyond the next rise and see a collection of piecemeal huts lining the hill. Children come running to us, neighing like horses. Why? I couldn't tell you.
Can you get much cuter?
Carrie in her usual position, internalizing thoughts in the beautiful spot where I'm trying to photograph...
This kid is a character
Cammy for her close up
I love my 50mm f/1.4 lens!
Sporting my aviator shades
Carrie doing her impression of Jesus with the Lamb
We spend time exploring the stream and the young boys excitedly show us their sheep. For living in makeshift tents on the side of a mountain in India, they seem to have a pretty good grasp on basic English. Hopefully that means they are getting to go to a decent school. The families invite us into one of their dirt floor dwellings, the mud stove sharing the same space as the baby calves. They serve us salted butter tea, which many of us find hard to stomach; it's thick and overly salty. But we are grateful for their hospitality. I think if Kashmiris would want to be called only one thing I would be hospitable - notable even in a country that prides itself on hospitality.
Proving that I am, in fact, the king of the hill