It Took Ingenuity to Get Back to Srinagar from Pahalgam

Another gorgeous morning with ample sunshine, no clouds and bright. Broke camp…View image… and headed downhill for 2-1/2 hours before reaching the trailhead in Pahalgram where a taxi was supposed to pick us up.

We sat around and waited. Took final photos of our wonderful group who worked so hard and took such good care of us while Sula walked into town to see what was happening. (This was all before cell phones. Does anyone even remember those days?) Sula returned with the news all roads were closed because of flooding. All-righty now. What to do. First, a walk into town to try and call Mercury Travel, our agent, but the phone lines were also down.

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Sheila and crew after Kashmir trek

There was only one way of returning to Srinigar according to the local Postmaster. The roads were open to trucks and buses only but there were no buses leaving Srinigar. Ingenuous ex-Marine persisted and discovered a taxi…View image…could take us as far as Islamabad (India) 50 km/30 miles southeast of Srinagar. That’s what we did and the taxi driver dropped us at the public bus station…View image. Islamabad, India is now called Anantnag. What a scene! Buses coming and going with horns blaring, people jumping on and off, shouting and yelling by the hucksters trying to load up buses, boxes, animals and people being thrown on top of the buses and there we were, two aliens from another planet in the middle of the chaos.

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bus station scene with bus riders on top of a bus in Islamabad, India

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view from our front seat bus perch in Islamabad, India

ex-Marine gave Sula money to buy tickets, duffels were thrown on top and we climbed on. The bus driver made two people move (we didn’t ask him to do this, he was just being courteous to strangers) so we had seats towards the front to sit on and off we lurched down the rutted, muddy and disastrous roads…

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chaos at the Islamabad (Anantnag), India bus station

It took 5-1/2 long hours to Srinigar with people jumping on and off in towns along the way. Buses passed each other with inches to spare through mudslides…View image, over toppled trees and branches, landslides, past road workers, and we arrived at the bus station in Srinigar, all but dead.

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road workers trying to clear the destroyed roads to Srinigar, Kashmir

Sula pulled the duffels off the top of the bus, got another cab, drove to the shikara stand, and we shikara’d back to the houseboat. Crabby, exhausted and ready for bed, a telephone call from Mercury Travel who told us they were ready to hire a helicopter to come and get us if a little Yankee ingenuity hadn’t saved the day. Forget the compliments…just show me to a bed!

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