From the Book “KASHMIR’
By Sir Francis Younghusband
1st Published in September 1909
The most striking of the side-valley is undoubtedly the Sind Valley. A fourteen-miles ride, or a night in a boat, takes the traveller to Ganderbal at its mouth, from which Sonamarg, the favourite camping-ground near the head of the valley, is four marches distant. The lower portion is not particularly interesting, through even here the pine woods, the rushing river, and the village clusters are beautiful. But at Sonamarg, ‘the golden meadow’, the great peaks close round, glaciers pour down their flanks almost on the camping grounds, and the scenery has all the grandeur of the Alps.
Sonamarg itself is a narrow grassy flat, 8650 feet above sea-level, extending for some two miles between the hill-side and the river-bank, where another beautiful valley joins in form the south-west. All the slopes and meadows are covered with alpine flowers. Rich forests of silver fir, intermingled with sycamore and fringned on their upper border with silver birch, clothe the mountain-sides. From each valley flows a rich white glacier. Grand rocky cliffs encircle the forests and meadows, ad culminate in bold snowypeaks which give a crowning beauty to the whole. It is an ideal camping-ground and a strong rival to Gulmarg.
Some fifteen miles beyond Sonamarg is the Zoji-la Pass leading to Ladak and Baltistan. It was by this pass that I first entered Kashmir in 1887, and coming thus from the opposite direction, the change in scenery was most remarkable. For hundreds of miles from the northern side I had traversed country which though of the grandest description, was absolutely devoid of forest. The great mountains, sublime in their ruggedness and in the purity of their snowy mantle, were yet completely barren. Then, of a sudden, as I crossed the Zoji-la all was changed in a moment, and I burst into one of the loveliest valleys in the world with glorious forests clothing every slope. It was a refreshing and delightful change, a relaxation from a sublimity too stern to bear for long, to the homely geniality of earthly life; and the remembrance of its still lies fresh upon may memory.
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