Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Body backwards; Legs forward

Pahalgam is one of the main tourist attractions of Kashmir.  After about three hours drive from Srinagar, Pahalgam can be reached and that is the gateway to many beautiful view points and valleys.  Baisaran valley, Betaab valley and Aru valley are the more famous ones.  Chandanwadi is another beautiful place which is also the base camp for Amaranath Yatra (cave tour).  Pahalgam has many hotels and resorts for comfortable stay.  Lidder river flows alongside and there are a number of trekking destinations for those interested in it.  Younger lot can walk as long as they want. What about those who cannot walk?  "Do not worry; we have ponies!" say the poniwallahs.  There are hundreds of them waiting to serve you, for a charge.  You can bargain with them and fix a price.  After a long ride and once you are safely back, you may yourself give a little more than the contracted amount to show your gratitude.  Gratitude for having brought you back in one piece!

Baisaran Valley is popularly called "Mini Switzerland".  My own view is that calling it as such is neither fair to Switzerland nor to Kashmir.  It is said that there are about 160 locations all over the world which resemble Switzerland.  Baisaran valley is so called because it has long dark meadows as in Switzerland.  Khaijihar near Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh is said to resemble Switzerland more.  Baisaran need not be compared with anything else; it is beautiful on its own.  Only problem is that reaching that place is difficult and tedious.  Ponies are our saviours; they manage to take us there and bring us back.   

Many tourists, especially elder ones find climbing on the ponies rather difficult.  But the friendly poniwalla will ensure that you are on the pony, by either taking you over a bench and then make you jump on the horse or simply lifting you with the help of his mates and downloading on the pony.  If you feel uncomfortable and ask them how long it takes to get back, all he would tell you is that it is nearby.  Make no mistake, it takes at least three to four hours to reach Baisaran and return after sight seeing time there. After a few minutes of pony ride, you get used to it.  Even otherwise there is no worry at all; you cannot get down on your own and poniwallah will not help you to get down until you reach Baisaran.   

The slushy mud tracks often are very steep and cross through small streams and pebble-filled curves.  The friendly poniwallah is always on your side. He keeps encouraging you with appreciation as to how nicely you are sitting on the horse and how you are enjoying(!) the ride. He offers to take your picture at major view points.  He will ask you to show victory sign and all. He is truly concerned about his pony, more so if you are a heavyweight. But his demeanor ensures that his only worry is your safety.  He keeps giving instructions as to how you have to manage your weight on the pony from time to time.  There are no concerns while riding on the pony on level land, but there is not much of level land on the way. There are steep climbs and sudden twists. You often wonder how the pony will move further. "Body forward; legs backward", he says and you just obey.  Just as the pony feels your weight management is clear, it jumps and moves!  So, the lesson is "Body forward and legs backward" while climbing. The best way to enjoy the trip is not to look at the ground. Look around and ahead; there is wonderful scenery all round.

Once Baisaran is reached, the tourist is helped off the pony to go and enjoy the scenery. The views are breath taking and majestic.  Dense pine wood forests and snow capped mountains are a tourists delight. You can spend as much time as you desire but the return journey on the friendly pony is always at the back of the mind. There are shawl sellers and other hawkers around you going on with their business. Once you decide to go back, the poniwallah will ensure that you are on the pony quickly. On the way back one can enjoy the Deodhar trees on the sides.  The pony suddenly stops as it approaches another steep downward bend.  "Body backwards, legs forward", instructs the poniwallah.  This is the lesson when you are coming down.  As you adjust the weight, the pony makes two or three quick moves. You feel you are flying, but it indeed lands safely.  The return is through a shorter and steeper route. He is in a hurry because once you are safely deposited, he could make one more trip with another tourist, if possible.  It should be remembered that all along he is walking on such difficult terrain, mostly looking at us and not the ground.  It is a tough life for them indeed.   Back at your hotel compound, you are helped to get off the pony. He collects his fare, some tips and salutes you and moves away for the next tourist.

Our guide told us that his ponies on which we traveled have been to Amaranath Yatra several times.  He has invited us to take a trip to Amaranath caves.  If Baisaran is 5 kilometers, Amaranath is only 24 kilometers, he said.

Baisaran valley is very beautiful.  So are the other three view points on the way. The forests, the streams and the snow capped mountains are a treat.  More than that is the pony ride. Much more than that is the relief that you are back safely to look forward to another pony ride.  Even more when you see some others falling from their ponies.  The tip is only a negligible fraction amount, when one thinks of a fractured limb....


  1. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for your efforts to present it so nicely.

  2. Very interesting reading. Feeling like visiting the place especially after seeing you on the Pony.

  3. Just by reading your experience, I think that you must have had the good spirits to go through that process of riding on the pony, paying attention to the guide's instruction of "Body forwards, legs backward" whenever it was necessary and as well as enjoying the breath taking scenery in the valley. My hats off for you. The photos presented made it more clear of what you experienced also.

  4. Very well explained.I felt I was with you while reading. Your pony ride photo is nice.

  5. I enjoyed the reading which is very well explained.
    I felt I was with you. Your photo on pony is very nice.

  6. Enjoyed reading ur Blogs... Very well explained

  7. Again a very good explanation of the journey, many good things can be taken by the persons planning to visit the described place in near by future.