I don’t remember much of Kokernag, except that it was cold in spring. 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 a watery grey blue. The snow capped mountains ringed all around in a crystal clear dazzle and Kokernag was a sheer travel joy. Though the spring brought rain in good measure, it also made the mustard plantations turn into fields of gold. The apple trees were covered with frothing of white blossoms and cherries were masses of pink flowers. The flower covered trees stood in rows amidst endless stretches of yellow and occasionally, wide dripping umbrellas of surveying farmers peeked from underneath their shade.
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Funnily enough, my visual Kokernag 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 in 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 lean tourist season and the lack of other guests made my stay all the more charming.
It seemed as if, bounded within the resort walls, Kokernag belonged only to me. There were flowers everywhere, along with wet glistening grass and birds called out exclusively for me. 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 delicious fried trouts.
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Kokernag is famous for trout breeding and the fish is known as the pride of Kashmir. Though not indigenous to the region, trout was introduced to Kokernag by a Norwegian scientist and it‘s farming turned out to be a huge success. Tender and flavoursome, the trout is a delicious delicacy and I have 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.
Needless to say, that is all, that I remember of the lovely intrepid Kashmir travel destination. My two Kokernag days went by quickly and I returned to Srinagar in a daze of relaxed happiness. When traveling is your profession, such days are hard to come by and Kokernag had given 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 fresh water spring. It is a popular weekend getaway from Srinagar and the spring water of Papshudan Nad is said to have medicinal qualities.
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.
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My impressionable Kokernag travelogue 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.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE