Saturday June 27th – Guryul ravine

The ring of mountains around Srinagar act as an natural echo chamber and the prayer calls of competing muzzeins echoed around the valley both yesterday evening at dusk and this morning at dawn (4 am!). The prayer call itself is followed by an extended period of communal chanting/singing, I suspect linked to the fact it’s Ramadan at the moment. I went back to sleep afterwards, though, and when I woke a couple of hours later the lake was starting to come to life. It is beautifully calm and peaceful first thing but opening a bedroom window to let in the early morning light does tend to attract unwanted attention from shikara traders.

The warm milk offered with cornflakes for breakfast took me straight back to the Plateau hotel, Jos, but the freshly-cooked omelettes were delicious. GM made my day by asking me to get something for our picnic lunch down from a high shelf in the kitchen ‘because I’m tall’! Our shikara (the Titanic) took us across the lake to meet Tahir around 9am. The good news was that Tahir had finally managed to track down someone prepared to show us to the site we wanted to visit at Guryul ravine today so we collected Dr Butt, a retired geologist with the Kashmir Mineral Corporation, from his home on the way. It’s not that far to Guryul, less than 40 km, but its a slow drive till you get out of Srinagar then we hit a flooded stretch of road which was causing more congestion. There was heavy rain here just before we arrived and the Jhelum had burst its banks, though just in one small area, fortunately.

We would never have found the road to the site by ourselves so we’re very grateful to Dr Butt and John is very happy that he can find all the geology he needs to kick off this element of the trip. This is one of very few places where the Permian-Triassic boundary can be seen clearly, as well as the source of the Gangamopteris/Glossopteris fossils I mentioned in ‘What has Scott of the Antarctic got to do with plate tectonics?’ It’s also good to be exploring on foot rather than in the car, though we feel for Tahir and Dr Butt who are both fasting – it must be incredibly hard to go without water in this heat. We didn’t want to keep them out too long, as a consequence, but it turned out Dr Butt wanted to visit someone at a granite processing works on the way home, which made us feel a bit better.

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Guryul ravine

We dropped Dr Butt back home and went to the houseboat with Tahir for lunch and a rest. The veranda is a lovely spot on which to relax and watch the world go by and we also played with the field microscope, looking at some pond water from behind the houseboat. Plenty of duckweed and Azolla and assorted algae and small invertebrates too – enough to put off anyone thinking of drinking or swimming in the water! When it had cooled off we took the Titanic back across Nagin lake and walked through parts of the old town to Dal lake, past Hazratbal mosque and shrine.

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Hazratbal mosque

The fresh bread being baked in traditional ovens smelled so good – Tahir says they do a roaring trade during Ramadan because of the number of extra people going to the mosque, especially on a Friday.

When we got back to the houseboat the staff were busy changing the ropes which moor it because the water level is rising. – there must have been a lot of rain somewhere nearby as we didn’t have anything. Lounging on the veranda before dinner we were delighted to see a kingfisher perched on the wire between our houseboat and the next. We were serenaded again over dinner by the dusk prayers and were happy to find, afterwards, that wifi access has been fixed in the boat – apparently for the first time since the September flooding. We spent some time catching up with e-mails and blogging, as well as planning what to do tomorrow.

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