A famous poet had once said, “If there is a Shangri~la on the earth, it is here.”
People realise this when they pay a visit to Kashmir, a heavenly place cradled on the lap of the mighty Karakorum, and dubbed the abode of the Himalayas. I went to Kashmir during my vacation and felt it was Shangr~la.
On the first day, we visited the Vale of Kashmir where the beautiful Dal Lake lies surrounded by the snow-capped mountains. We rowed boats and strolled through apple orchards and cherry blossoms. We were forced to cut our plan to visit Drass and Ladakh as it snowed heavily. The next morning, the weather cleared and we were off . It was very cold in Drass, which is the coldest inhabited place in the world with the mercury plummeting to as low as minus 70 degree Celsius.
Then we went to Ladakh, a place dubbed Tibet-e-Khurd (Little Tibet) whose landscape resembled that of the moon with the silhouetted Himalayas rising as high as 7,000 metres. In Ladakh, we got to see many beautiful Buddhist monasteries and mosques. We also visited the ski-resorts of Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg. The panoramic view of Nanga Parbat and other mountain ranges was simply breathtaking.
In Gulmarg, we got to ride the world’s highest cable car. In Sonmarg, we were lucky to see snow leopard and Chiru, the coveteds animal for its cashmere wool. We also got to see the Siachen and Baltoro glaciers, considered the biggest glaciers outside the Polar regions. Unfortunately, Siachen is also the highest battlefield in the world at 7,000 metres.
We decided to visit the Pakistan-administered Kashmir. We trekked in Neelum and Kaaghan Valleys. We set off for the northern areas of Kashmir, which include stunningly beautiful valleys of Hunza, Gilgit, Baltistan and Skardu. This part has the world’s five peaks above 8,000 metres — K-2, Nanga Parbat, Gashebrum 1, Gashebrum 2 and Broad Peak. We had a short trek in these circuits considered the most dangerous and adventurous in the world. — Iram Geelani, Class XII,
Kothibagh College, Srinagar