Kevin Swains
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This is Kev's Travel Blog
Kashmir Trek day 2



I wake at 6.30 totally wasted. I can't believe I'm so bad so early into my trip. It's the worst start possible and it takes me 30mins to crawl out of my tent and flop onto my mattress now on the grass and I crawl up into a ball and moan and groan. Then I see that things have indeed got worse....I've shat all over my boots and my trousers during the nights ablutions and that means I’ve got shit inside my sleeping bag....but at least the scenerys nice!


I lay there in disbelief and think I haven’t felt this bad the last time I was in India. My mind scours all the restaurants I've eaten in over the years and can only come up with one with basic hygene....McDonalds....unbelievable!


After 4hrs slowly packing and eating I have just enough energy to make the 1hr climb to the Nichnai  Pass.I look behind and see another whitey catching quickly and she waves a rather longer than normal arm, and I carry slowly on up. A few metres before the top I sit knackered on a rock and she catches up and asks in a rather desperate way can she join me for a rest, obviously I agree.

Steady going to the towards the top of the Nichnai Pass

She sits and says she needs someone to talk to. She’s called Laura and is 18yrs old from Belgiumand is traveling with her friend Gabriele on a 1 week pony trek in Kashmir. As she begins to talk non stop one of her guides begins to yell at her….keep moving, must leave now etc etc. He’s going a bit over the top. Were at 4100m and need to take it easy. I tell him to take it easy and we sit a minute or so and talk.  


Eventually Gabriele arrives and we plod to the top of the pass. It turns out they fell for an old scam in Delhiat the New Delhirailway station. They were going upstairs to book train tickets at the foreigner’s booking office when a voice said “where are you going”. They told him they wanted to go to Jaipur but he informed them that that train was cancelled and he knows because he works for India Tourism and he escorts the girls 100m to his office which proudly displays in big letters ‘GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TOURISM OFFICE’. They feel safe and enter and before they know it are on a flight to Srinigar and booked on a pony trek and all for a whopping 1400Euro.  


Now the thing is it’s all a scam operated by slimy Kashmiri bastards who yell out to every tourist as they try to find the foreigners booking office at the train station and they get good results, mainly from fresh off the plane 1st time to India tourists. The tourists often have never heard of Kashmiror the dangers of going there.

Nichnai view to Gadsar
Looking from Nichnai Pass towards Vishan Sar lakes (not visible)

Anyway…no sooner have we made it over the pass then they stop for lunch and the cook makes it clear that I’m not welcome to hang around talking to their paying guests and sends me on my way. I set off down the valley hopefully heading towards Kishan Sar lake.




After 30 minutes a cute Gypsy girl spies me, runs over and politely asks me in for chai….how can I refuse and I follow her to her home, a basic stone shack with straw on the ground and a bit shabby inside. Again I ask for prices and again I’m told free, no problem. I take off my shoes and enter sitting in a piece of plastic on the ground. I prefer the plastic to carpet as it gives a little bit of protection from fleas which will no doubt inhabit the walls. Off course all is good while the chai and chapattis are cooking but once cooked the begging saga begins again, the sad face, stories of hardship, look at the state of my feet give me your socks, your jumper, your boots etc etc etc etc. I mean am I really going to give my boots away? The food is crap and the salt tea ordinary and I give them Rp20 and leave despite calls for more but before leaving I get directions as I don’t trust the guides of the girls.

First Views of Vishan Sar lake

It’s a little chilly as I make the one and a half hour trek down the valley to the lake. I arrive on a hill above the lake and see several tents below and head towards them. Laura and Gabriele are already there and are waving to me and I head towards them meeting a well spoken Indian guy on the way. We chat and he tells me to go and pitch my tent next to the girls.




Just then the fisheries manager comes sniffing asking for my fishing permit and I tell him I don’t have one but want to buy a baksheesh (bribe) permit. The real cost of the permit is Rp1000 (U$25) and he says he’ll do it for half. I tell him if that’s the price I’ll not fish and head off towards the girls.




Suddenly I’ve got 3 hangers on following me across the stepping stones. I smell a rat but what to do, this is Indiaand it’s always like this. I’m told I cannot camp next to the girls as I have no permit from Srinigar and must camp above near the lake. I shout and argue and end up camping next to the lake…Huff!

Vishan Sar lake

Im camping in a beautiful spot but I’m away from everyone else which may not be that good as I’m told that it’s common for tents to be knifed at night and belongings stolen.



Later that night Gulam Mohammed the fisheries manager comes by and looks at my fishing rod and takes it for a few hours fishing. He catches 4 trout and gives me 2. I negotiate the permit down to Rp200 for 2 fish but I have other ideas and plan on at least 6!


Kishan Sar Lake