Trekking in Paradise: the mystical mountains of Kashmir late May/June 2019

This exciting programme has been inspired by seven visits to Kashmir in the last three years in which we have been captivated by the mesmerising beauty of this legendary land, and the special allure and mystique of her people, a reminder of the piety and gentleness of a country which has more Sufi shrines than almost anywhere else in the Muslim world.
The sense of wonderment, purity and timelessness of these magical mountains touches the heart and soul of all those who venture here still, and through which over the millennia, a galaxy of saints, mystics, seers, savants, ascetics have left an enduring philosophy of humane universality and rich spiritual traditions that transcend all differences.

Kashmir has been romanticised by everyone from the 16th-century Mogul emperor Jahangir (who, when asked on his deathbed if he wanted anything, whispered "Kashmir, only Kashmir") to Salman Rushdie (who spoke of "the lush valleys, the lakes, the streams, the saffron meadows – the intense physical beauty and culture of enormous harmony") and Led Zepellin ("Ooh my baby, let me take you there").
Most Kashmiris live an agrarian and simple life. Srinagar with its growing semblance of mod cons is hardly the norm. Overall the people are extremely gracious, generous, unfailingly hospitable and sweet. The last decades of strife have brought much grief, pain and suffering, yet they embrace visitors as friends and begin to dream of a new golden era, independence and sovereign control over their own resources.

Photos Courtesy of the Albums photographed by Baxter and Marieke

This tour is an exuberant and rewarding journey that will nourish heart, mind, body, soul and all the senses….

It has been designed for confident walkers and adventurers wishing to escape all vestiges of congestion, tourism, modern stress and seeking an immersion in all the joys of being at one with nature:
the sounds of bubbling brooks and raging streams,
the rustle of breezes as you pass through magnificent deodar, pine and birch forests;
the springy feel of thick green carpets of vast meadows under your feet,
delight at discovering wild flowers and minute blossoms peeking under rocks, and sleeping under a canopy of stars;
expand each morning into exuberant presence with morning YOGA;
appreciate the heartfelt interaction with the semi-nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes who pass by in endless, dreamy, decorated-pony caravans leading their livestock to higher pastures or inviting you into their slab-hut sod-roofed dwellings to share chai, buffalo curds or freshly made bread or play cricket with their kids.

Hi Marieke,

Kashmir Trek Holiday June 2014

It was a trip like no other. The opportunity to stay close to the local Gurjar people and experience their environment as they have lived for perhaps hundreds of years. Little or no technology with magnificent, pristine, wilderness landscapes makes for that rare connection with a way of life we have long left behind. To me this is what made this trek around Aru in Kashmir so amazing and enlightening. On returning home my memories of the mountains and all I experienced have flooded my dreams. Quiet reflection on the daily life we were privileged to be immersed in has heightened my appreciation of this very special tour. Johnny our guide was so passionate and dedicated to the beauty and cultural heritage of Kashmir, he could not help but leave us with a new found love for his people and his land.

Of course the food was delicious, the company excellent and your co-ordination and support exemplary.

Thank you for it all Marieke - a challenging holiday with meaning, warmth, companionship and immense educational value. It will live on in my memory for all the years to come.

With lots of love,
Jo C (Perth)

Highlights include: 

- An exceptional trek/camping team. The Sheik family has been guiding people through their mountains since 1952. One could not feel more cosseted or safe in their midst. They have brilliant mountain skills that enable them to build a bridge over a river, run like gazelles over rocks, command ponies to follow without being led, swiftly halal-slaughter a chook for the cooking pot, set up a wonderfully appointed camp in record time, lend a helping hand and watchful eye as you navigate a tricky terrain, prepare scrumptious delicious meals with the simplest gear, or even sing to you from their hearts, songs of love and yearning and hope.
 Never before in life have we experienced a kinder, gentler, more capable, caring and respectful group of men.
 - Comfortable Camping: Sites always by running water. Spacious new tents are equipped with thermarest mattresses, down bags, hot water bottles, comfortable pillows. Mornings and evenings there is plentiful hot water delivered via an ingenious portable ‘bukhari’ heater. Camp fires are lit in the evenings. An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and delicious, nourishing cuisine each day accompanied by ginger infusions and saffron scented kahwa tea. Unlimited access to pure drinking water derived from mountain springs. All you carry is your daypack and if you feel weary or sore, you can mount a sure-footed pony.

- Yoga opportunity each morning.  Before the day starts you can join a yoga session to stretch and breath the purest air imaginable into bliss and mindfulness surrounded by snow-clad peaks.

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