Tata Pani

Today we travelled into the mountains of Kashmir to the Sulphurous hot springs on Tata Pani (hot water). It was quite humble in appearance. The water gently bubbled and flowed out of a pebble river bank, at a few places you could hear and see it flowing up, it was hot to touch. It flowed into the icy water of the slow moving river. You couldn’t stand with your bare feet at its edge without worrying about scalding your feet. Instead you had to make you way into the river, about a metre, to the point where hot and cold made warm. It was a tentative activity. A group of woman sat on large stones at the best points along the beach to wash their clothes. This activity might have gone on for generations for all we know, before even vehicles or electricity came to the area. The women also washed their hair and lower limbs whilst chatting. There was something ancient about it. They might have been sirens.

To get there we drove into, through and over many a valley until the soil became burgundy in colour. Imaging a landscape like Caledonia with the climate of the Mediterranean. Where the mosques become pagoda like in form. Where the flora mixes and cohabits with those of other climbs in a way I’ve not seen before. I could see Scott’s pines, Eucalyptus, Willow, Mango trees, Pomegranates and even Banana palms all in a few minutes drive of each other. Many a time, the hairpin bends and sheer mountain road drops made me feel dizzy. I could see distant villages in the valleys perched precariously on mountainsides. What lives the people of those homes must have. There was a time when such a journey took days on foot or on the backs of animals. A time when travellers were welcomed with curiosity and invited into homes for tea and a meal. Now few stop to ponder, most are on a mission and don’t want to waste time getting there.

On the way back we passed through the town of Kotli. Situated in a broad valley it is surrounded with beautiful views of over lapping mountains and hills. At one end is the River Pu’nch Its was as beautiful a view as any landscape I’ve seen in Spain or Greece.

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