Srinagar to Sonamarg, Wednesday August 3

Our early morning start did feel a bit like something from ‘The Night Manager’, racing through the dark in convoy once we’d cleared the back streets of Sringar.  It was a shame to miss the scenery as we drove up the Sindh river towards Sonamarg but great to have such a smooth trip.  We were here before 6am!  It turns out that we are actually staying in the lovely Villa Himalaya hotel, not in the attached tented camp as we’d thought – no complaints at all on that front. They provided tea all round then most of us crashed out for a couple of hours before breakfast at 8.30am.  Nikhi and Luci had big smiles on their faces at the scenery and couldn’t wait to get out and explore.

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The view from my hotel window

We had some rain on the way but by lunchtime the sun had come out and we headed off for an afternoon walk through the village along the road.  Progress was slow as some of the geologists got very interested in the rocks used in the dry stone walls around the fields – their main purpose is to deter Himalayan black bears apparently!  We were told that damaged patches in the maize fields were the result of bears coming down to feed.  Nikhi and Luci seem keen to stake out the field tonight, from safely behind the gate of the hotel car park.

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Alpine scenery in the village

We acquired a posse of local children bemused by what we were up to and, as usual, Nikhi’s language skills were invaluable.  The boys offered to take us up the hill into the pine and cedar woods to show us ‘the beautiful’.  It was lovely walking up into the woods but we were less happy when we acquired some adult guides keen to talk about why we were in Kashmir when we knew there was trouble.  ‘The beautiful’ turned out to be a large rock by the side of the stream which had been put there by the gods but the woods themselves were certainly beautiful.

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We decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed back to the hotel for a cup of tea.  Afterwards, some of us wandered along the road in the other direction, and down to the river and spent some happy time mooching on the river banks for rocks and plants.

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To be identified…

We might even have found bear prints in the mud.

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We stayed there until the sun set spectacularly behind the mountains.

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After dinner, Shahid had organised a bonfire for us in the hotel garden – between John’s mouth organ and Nikhi’s phone we did well for music and dancing.  Further from the bonfire we got a spectacular view of the Milky Way and several shooting stars.  In fact, we could see so many stars that it was difficult to pick out many of the usual constellations.

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