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Day 23 of The Candid Odyssey

Not everything in our journey is planned. Sometimes, it's just going with the flow. Today is such a day. All we know is we are going to Kashmir, but don't know how. Today marks the beginning of our exploration towards the paradise on earth - The Himalayas. Very excited! And that excitement motivates us to take the 5.30 am bus to Jammu. Yes, we are taking a bus that early because we have no idea what we are getting into. Anyway, reaching Jammu felt like a dream, just because we have been sleeping :) We are being dropped somewhere in the Jammu. Can't we check the location on the phone? No, because the normal SIM and internet don't work here. Without the internet and maps, we are just lost birds. So, that's our first goal - get a SIM that works! The nearby shopkeepers are ready to take advantage of this. They treat us like royal people and sell the SIM something like precious jewelry. And it makes sense, because for us getting access to the internet is the most valuable thing right now. We don't realize the value of something unless we lose them, right? Consider time, memories, health, relationships, family, etc. As we age, we will lose them one by one for sure. It's a hard truth. Are we valuing them enough today?

Anyway, the SIM helped us to figure out the location. We are near the Jammu city center. Our destination is Srinagar, Kashmir. Unfortunately, no bus right now. By the way, don't expect any more train journeys for a week, because you know (remember, the Himalayas!). Our only option is a Shared Taxi. We share a taxi with five strangers and it will take us to Srinagar in around ten hours. Also, just to warn you, Srinagar is known for frequent terrorist attacks! What do you say? Go or no go? I am going anyway, you can join if you don't want to get stranded :) In the taxi, we have two construction site workers, a couple planning to visit their family, and the driver as our company. We try communicating our best but remember, language is a barrier, but more than that we will be too busy enjoying the beauty of nature. The majestic mountains, narrow valleys, and rivers flowing deep below, all are so scenic. I was glued to the window glass for the entire journey! Nature is so beautiful that we can't take our eyes off looking at it. To add to that, there comes the rain. Goosebumps, again!

As we get near to Srinagar, we can start seeing the security forces everywhere. They also check our bags and stuff just to make sure that we are not going there to make any trouble :) Jokes apart, in the Srinagar city center, it's serious. We can see gun trucks, checkpoints, barricades, and hundreds of military men present near every road junction. As we arrive at night, we can also witness the strict patrolling everywhere. Feels like we are at war. Huge respect for the people living there every day. Also, everything closes so early, so all we can do is find a stay and sleep :) We booked a lodge and once reached there, they said it was full. Agh! It's late at night and there aren't any affordable stays nearby. We are in trouble. Who's there for us when we are in trouble? The soldiers. One soldier arranged an auto for us to take us to any see stay. And he led us to an interesting place - Dal Lake. Wait, we asked for an accommodation. Yes, we are staying in a houseboat in the Dal Lake. No worries, it's common here. Lots of people stay in such houseboats and floating hotels, banked to the sides of the lake. We are taken to the stay in a Shikara, a wooden boat. The houseboat is also full of wood. We get a small room with a wooden cot, but no door lock. A simple dinner and free TV entertainment come complimentary. We are sleeping today with a lot of uncertainties. Uncertainties about the safety of the houseboat, the safety of our belongings, and the safety of ourselves. The chances of getting robbed, drowned, and killed are very high tonight! As I said in the beginning, not everything is planned. Sometimes, we just need to go with the flow. It may take us to the right place or the wrong place, but we will never know. Face the odds, that's life.

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