Yousmarg or the Meadow of Jesus in Kashmir
Snow clad mountains laced with alpine forests greet us and the road takes us towards fresh pastures. The conifers stand as sentinels watching over every tourist entering the valley. And I stand there, drenched in rain, surrounded by acres of lush meadows. After feasting on pristine white snow at Sonmarg and Gulmarg, my eyes are getting used to the fifty shades of green spanned out in front of me.
I am in Yusmarg or Yousmarg, one of Kashmir’s less frequented tourist haunts, located barely a couple of hours from Srinagar in the Badgam District The pony wallahs gather around me in an instant, insisting that I ride a horse than hike in the forest as the terrain is slushy . I give in to their persuasion and soon my horse and I are trotting along the meadows led by his owner, who is my guide.
The woods beckon us. A red billed blue magpie flies past me. The rain paints the forests with a fresh coat of paint and I drink in the silence. It is believed that Jesus Christ lived here for a while and hence Yousmarg is referred to as the meadows of Jesus. My guide shrugs nonchalantly when I ask him about it.
Soon we are joined by another group of tourists. We plan to head to Doodhganga, the river flowing through the forests, but trees like giant pillars lie fallen on the path. The horses stop for a moment and then continue, heading downhill as I move my body forward, so that it can carry my body weight. There is absolute silence, but for the pitter patter and the occasional neighing from the horses, as if they are having a conversation on the weather.
The guide tells me that on a bright sunny day, one could go to the frozen lake, about 10 kms from Yousmarg . Another hiking route could take us to Tosa Maidan, a meadow surrounded by alpine forests. But for now, we had to be content with the four km ride to the little stream, Nilnag, that snakes through the pine trees.
The horses suddenly start to trot faster, as we can hear the gushing stream . In a moment we are there. The pine trees converge around us. The stream gurgles along. The horses head out to refresh themselves as we sit down by the bank and take in the scene. Finally the rains tumble down heavily again prompting us to return.
This article was published in National Geographic Traveller.