Dal Lake, Kashmir
Today has been quite a change of pace. I am beginning to understand how an ancient Mughal emperor may have felt … sitting drinking spiced green tea with almonds from a copper kettle overlooking the impossibly beautiful Dal Lake (an odd name as dal means lake in Kashmiri). For the larger part of the day I have been exploring the lake and Jheulum River in the sumptuous comfort of a local shikara (water taxi) with its luxurious cushioned seating and even heating …. something I would have loved for most of the past few weeks!
I was very lucky to be accompanied on an extended guided walk through forests and into the upland open meadows of Kungwatar. For most of the route we were swept along by the cheerful chatter of local Pahadi families (mountain people) taking their flocks up to the meadow grazing land. We were very grateful for the fires they lit at night and their natural, generous nature. When they realised I loved the local cuisine they soon gathered and argued about the best ways to prepare lamb and whether you really needed to add yeast to their flatbread recipe. I had my first experience in many years of smoking a hookah, which was pretty enjoyable, and of drinking namkeen chai (salted tea) which was less so!
The mountains are just stunning, dotted with villages that are truly remote – no running water, electricity, shops or medical facilities. I wondered if people felt isolated and what happened if they became ill? With a grin I was told people didn’t get ill here. How could they with this pure air, clean water and bountiful land? Who am I to argue? The food is delicious, seemingly simple, but a real taste explosion! Expect a real treat when you cook up these recipes!
Tomorrow I head to Ladakh. Who knows what ‘Little Tibet’ will have in store for me….