I don’t remember much of this trip, except that it was a cold Kokernag spring. The rain was pouring down in sheets at the time of my visit and fumes from water pipes coiled out, fragrant and blue. Kashmiri men with kangris (wicker basket with warming coal) tucked within the folds of their traditional pheran (long tunic) sat huddled in groups and the sky was of watery grey-blue colour. Snow-capped mountains ringed all around in a crystal clear dazzle and Kokernag spring was a sheer travel joy. Though it also brought along rain in good measure, the mustard plantations were blooming like fields of gold, and the wet apple trees were covered with a frothing of white blossoms. The cherry trees were covered with masses of pink flowers and they stood in straight rows amidst endless stretches of yellow fields. Occasionally, wide dripping umbrellas of surveying farmers peeked from underneath their shade, as a grey-blue sky melted incessantly from above.
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The joy of slow travelling during Kokernag spring
Funnily enough, my visual Kokernag spring memories end there. Even though I have spent two nights at the Jammu and Kashmir state-run resort before heading towards Daksum, my days were cocooned within the comfort of warm Kashmiri hospitality of the staff. They were friendly and welcoming and since, heavy rains restricted my activities, I spent a lot of time chatting with them. My cottage was at one end of the grounds and a lively stream gurgled close by. It was lovely to do nothing there, other than listening to the stream, the rain, and sipping endless cups of saffron topped kahwa (traditional Kashmiri tea). The resort was mostly empty because of the lean tourist season and the lack of other guests made my stay all the more charming.
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Have you tasted a spring day?
It seemed as if, bounded within the resort walls, that Kokernag spring belonged only to me. There were flowers everywhere, along with wet glistening grass and birds called out exclusively for my pleasure. Lush verdant forests ran to the edge of the property and my cottage roof had pine nuts falling on it all the time. Bushy-tailed squirrels ran abound and calls of the jet black jackdaws filled the air. It was a moist rainy air, which was full of smells and my memories of scents of Kokkernag are more vivid than its sights. I can still recall the sweet freshness of the cold mountain air and it was as soft as kisses. Every breath brought whiffs of wild herbs, gardens, wet earth, and deliciously fried trouts.
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The trouts of Kokernag
Kokernag is famous for trout breeding and the fish is known as the pride of Kashmir. Though not indigenous to the region, trout were introduced to Kokernag by a Norwegian scientist and its farming turned out to be a huge success. Tender and flavoursome, the trout is a delicious delicacy and I had it for every meal. Grilled, butter-fried, and steamed, the fishes came with steaming rice and other Kashmiri dishes, and post those lunches, I have napped the entire Kokernag afternoons. Till today, the taste of those trout dishes lingers in my taste bud and it is the first sensation that comes at the thought of Kokernag spring. Never before had I experienced a season by its taste and Kokernag spring tastes of wet mountain air, a sweet mist of fine rain, delicate Kashmiri tea, and wholesome rosy trouts.
Exploring the surrounding legends and myths
Needless to say, that is all, that I remember of the lovely intrepid Kashmir travel destination. My two Kokernag spring days went by quickly and I returned to Srinagar in a daze of relaxed happiness. When travelling is your profession, such days are hard to come by and Kokernag gave me a very precious respite. On my way back to Srinagar, I spent half a day exploring the town‘s springs and the botanical garden. The Breng Valley of Anantnag district of Kashmir, in which Kokernag is located, is quite famous for its gardens and freshwater spring. It is a popular weekend getaway from Srinagar and the spring water of Papshudan Nad is said to have medicinal qualities.
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Shaggy sheep, wet roads, and endless beauty of Kokernag spring days
A beautiful garden surrounds this spring and it bubbles out at seven places at the foot of the mountain. It was a pleasant place to spend half a day and the drive back was very picturesque too. It went through the less trodden heart of interior Kashmir and the rustic beauty took my breath away. The road, though, badly broken in most parts, was mostly vehicle free and it wound through small villages and sleepy hamlets where time seemed to have no importance. Villagers went about mending their roofs, pottering in the gardens, drying laundry and shepherds stood to watch every car that passed by. His straggly wet flock of sheep skipped on neon green grassy meadows and wet apple flowers dropped in huge muddy potholes. My impressionable Kokernag spring stops here and all I have now are some photos captured during my visit. Photographer, Elliot Erwitt has rightly said that “The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” and with this, I leave you with a photo essay of Kokernag in spring.
Kokernag Travel Facts
Kokernag is located in the Anantnag district in Kashmir in India. It is an alluring destination and a popular weekend getaway from Srinagar. Being situated at an elevation of 2020 meters above sea level, it has a lovely cool climate and is absolutely gorgeous in spring. The name of the city, “Kokernag” has been derived from two words, Koker and Nag. The word “Koker” is being taken from the Kashmiri word “Morgee” which means chicken while the word “nag” has been taken from the Sanskrit word “Nag” which means snake.
How to reach Kokernag
- By Air -The Srinagar Airport is the nearest airport for Kokernag. It is located at a distance of 76 Kms and is well connected to the other important cities like Jammu, Mumbai, and New Delhi.
- By Train – The nearest railway station from Kokernag is Jammu Tawi Railway Station, which is roughly a 6-hour drive from the town and is well connected to New Delhi.
- By Road – Kokernag is easily accessible from the major cities of Jammu and Kashmir. It is 10 km from Anantnag, 54 Kms from Pahalgam, 76 Kms from Srinagar, 117 km from Gulmarg, and 247 Kms from Jammu.
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