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Day 40: Srinagar, Kashmir

Dal Lake, India 
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The early morning vegetable market on Dal Lake. Business is all done from boats.
Michael Palin - HimalayaAn hour and a half after the azan (the Muslim call to prayer) has woken me, replacing the barking of dog packs as the sound of the night, I'm reclining like a maharajah's mistress on the soft cushions of a long flat-bottomed boat with a canopy above my head. Behind me a small, tightly built figure is propelling me slowly forward with a single paddle.

A heron perches elegantly on a thin pole, ignoring us as we slip slowly through lotus beds towards a robust stone bridge beyond which I can dimly see and hear a clutter of canoes and the distant sound of voices.

My hooded skiff, known as a shikara, has an English name board fitted above the bows. 'Stranger In Paradise', it reads, and it's very suitable.

Stranger I certainly am and Dal Lake in Srinagar, long, wide and lazy, with high mountains protecting its northeasterly shore, would give many paradises a run for their money. Except that this one is in Kashmir, where, nowadays, heaven and hell come pretty close.

To get to this idyllic place we have had to undergo tighter security checks than anywhere else on the journey. Police and army posts, baggage and permit checks dot the road to Srinagar with increasing frequency.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 40: Srinagar, Kashmir
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Srinagar
  • Book page no: 88

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  • All boats
  • Day 2 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 7 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 8 
  • Pole to Pole