How to get there: take bus at JKT bus stand, return fare for Rs.270, the ride is 2 hours including stop at Tanamarg to rent winter coat. I guess you can also find a way to go by Tata Sumo shared taxi, as we did to go Pahalgam.
Winter coat/jacket/boot rental: Full body, Rs.100, boots only Rs.50
Gondola: from base to first stage Rs.300, from first stage to second stage Rs.500
Our first snow, ever! Excuse us for coming from tropics and never ever before had seen this white fluffy cold thingy called snow. We didnt actually, really expect to see this much of snow when it’s already April, and from the forum where someone had posted her photos coming to Kashmir in April 2010, the same month but only last year, there was barely snow in Gulmarg, only thin layers mixed with sand. That’s the reason we didnt pack for cold weather at all. Az only brought all T-shirts!! I had to lend him my long-sleeve shirt to warm his arms under his nylon Adidas jacket. So I guess we were surprisingly lucky this year that the weather is still colder than usual (we could already feel it when we arrived in Srinagar, although unprepared with not much warm clothing). Thankfully Mr Husam of Ambassador Houseboat let us borrow one of his winter jackets when we told him that we were going to Gulmarg.
The bus to Gulmarg is run by J&K Tourism Body, and you can get return ticket at the bus station. On board, we were the only foreign tourists and the rest were Indian tourists. They were nice and friendly, and we were surprised that some of them said it’s their first time coming to Kashmir and were so anticipating to see snow as well.
The bus stopped at a small town Tanamarg near some shops renting winter clothings and boots. I was not really sure if we really had to rent them here, but the shop people (and tourist guide in the bus) were trying to convince us that it would be very very cold in the mountain with 5-feet snow. Everyone in the bus seems to follow and came back fully dressed with thick winter coats. We got two pairs of boots and a jacket for me (Az already had Mr Husam’s) and now we’re good to go.
The rest of Indian tourists (most of them in their 40s and 50s) helplessly followed the tourist guide, except us. We said that we wanted to explore Gulmarg by ourselves, and would come back around 4pm when the bus was scheduled to go back to Srinagar. So we started our snowy experience by walking about 1km to the Gondola. There are locals offering to ride their sleigh in the snow but we said we would just walk. We were so excited in disbelief to see so much snow!
Look the almost-sinking restraurant! The toilet is down there, hidden.
We took another gondola to second stage, Apharwat. Not many tourist go up until second stage, as it costs another ticket which is more expensive, and another long ride. But we said we already came all the way to here so we dont want to finish half-way. We took the 2nd stage gondola, although it gives an eerie feeling as if we’re climbing so high to heaven :P The pine trees are also disappearing and later we came to a place with no trees insight. Apharwat has latitude of 3980m, so it’s almost 1 km higher than the first stage!
Here we have arrived… in heaven? :P Look, the clouds are even below us! We’re on top of the world! The second stage place is rather quiet with not many people around, all around us is white and bordering blue sky.
Stepped into snow, literally. And another action of I-cant-help-it-but-to-feel-snow-all-over-my-body.
Az started making his snowman. It was too cold to even pose properly! Yet the sunlight is the strongest with ever seen (maybe we’re at highest point and closer to the sun?) so it was my biggest regret for not packing sunglasses!
Now it’s Az’s turn for the action of I-cant-help-it-but-to-feel-snow-all-over-my-body :P
I dont know if it’s because of high altitude or cold weather but you’ll feel like drinking gallons of water up here. So bring enough drinking water. We finish 3 liters water up here while we havent hardly eaten anything apart from breakfast. Another, if you’re planning to climb up to 2nd stage and stay here for a couple of hours, it’s suggested that you take heavy meal/early lunch first! Because we did not, and something horrible happened to me on our way back.
I felt hungry by this time, but of course we cannot expect a restaurant at almost 4000m above sea level under thick snow here. Athough the snow itself looks yummy and edible, it wont make you less hungry.
We stayed at the second stage for a couple of hours before we came back to first stage. Now we can see pine trees again (they cant seem to exist in higher altitude than this point!)
Here we did a quick sightseeing and took some photos, before going down to the base.
Can see marks of people skiing on the snow.
Our nose were so cold and freezing so we had to wrap our head looking like ninja (or woman in burqa) and simply ignore people looking :P
On our walk back, we stopped by at this small mosque, also sinking in 3-feet snow (you have to make your own way inside the snow to get to this mosque which seems hardly visited). It feels warm again to be inside a building, but we cannot stay here long as the bus might be waiting to go back to Srinagar.
This mosque has a number of this skull-cap (kopiah) traditionally made of reeds.
I dont know if people stay at hotel at this season, as you can see even hotels are sinking in snow! It’s too cold to stay over here, unless hotels here provide really excellent heating, which I doubt so. I think our plan turned out to be fine, if we really stayed here as initial plan, I really dont know if we could survive the night.
On our way back, I guess it was because our empty stomach (for not taking lunch) and full of water (for drinking alot up there) plus bus ride on bumpy road, I felt real dizzy and had to throw up right away. The bus had to make an emergency stop for me to get down and vomit in the edge of street. It was embarrassing, but some of the Indian tourists came to ask if I was alright, and gave me to chew some herbs she kept with her, saying that it could lessen the urge to vomit.
Arriving Srinagar, we went to have our early dinner at Mughal Darbar, although I was too sick to have the appetite again.