No matter how much you believe you remember a long local bus ride in India, you just simply dont. It is completely impossible to translate into words what it is like to take a bus that leaves Leh to arrive about 20 hours later in Srinagar. The roads are no longer scary, you get kind of used to the continuous abyss next to you, the incredible confrontations with colorful buses and trucks who come the other side never really deciding before the last second which way they are going to go to. It is also hard to convey how it is that the Indians look at you. You western, you woman. It is somehow this dead fish look, the complete awe. it is impossible to describe how noisy it is the roads, the phones, the conversations, the phones playing music. But in the end of 20 hours even the most annoying person shows up to be somehow naive, and friendly. They smoke inside the bus, heat your chair, touch your hair, but if you seem to be sick, as the sweet Brazilian girl Louisa happen to be they will all come to help. They lend their blankets, change seats, teach ways of avoiding sickness. I slept most of the trip. I ate all that was local, and had enormous pleasure, and absolutely no fear. I start to actually love unknown spicy vegetarian food. Whatever it is i Just take it.
20 hours of ride made me little by little appreciate the vegetation that seemed to reappear. I was thankful for the gompas, the desert like mountains, for the Buddhist temples. But how happy made me the misty weather, the pine trees, the green fields, the rivers. With all of this comes also life. A total abundance of it. Arriving in Srinagar was nothing short of epic. I had already reserved my place in a boat house in the famous lake which has been quite abandoned by foregin tourist because of the continuous conflict in the region. As I met some people in the bus I tried to bring them with me so that they would not have to go with unknow possible touts. The kashmeres who wait in the station to get tourist were furious. It was nothing short of a fight. I knew where I was coming. I had met Mustaq in Leh, and he had reserved for me one of his family boats. I knew Rafiq his cousin would pick me up, so I told him I was bringing three more people with me. The men outside went insane they did not want to let us go. I who am normally patient lost it, and while one of the men tried to fight Rafiq I got out of my Tuk tuk and went there and said we would not leave without our friends. I stood there, feeling the power of a giant. No they are not taking them I said decisively. The men were unhappy but could do nothing and so we came the six of us. My new Brazilian friend Louisa, Francis her Canadias friend, and three Italians.
Arriving at the boat House was nothing short of magical either. The greatest happiness was to reencounter my German friends. I was supposed to come with them a few days earlier but because Liron, the Israeli, could not decided whether she came or not I stayed behind. The boat floats in the Lake, and Mustaq family took care of us. They cooked, told us the history of the place. Their desire for total independence from India and Pakistan, about the 50 thousand people who were killed here in the last 20 years. They told me how they were 5 th generation of houseboat owners. I looked the guestbook that went as back as 1912. They told me family histories of the British here and suddenly as I sat outside in the boat with my German friends, looking at the calmness of it all I thought once again that it was all worth it.
It feels like being in a film. As we seat little boats come by to sells us things. they have food, ice cream, jewelery, handicraft made wonden boxes, lamps, statues, clothes. It is quite magical. We seat and have tea, chai, we play with little Ibraham, hear Kashmere stories. Srinagar is predominantly Muslim and as it is Ramadan during the nights we hear prayers for the entire night. It is nice. In a couple of days it iwll be over. Id will be celebrated. From here when and where I am going I am still not sure.
lots of love,