Not far from Pahalgam are Betaab Valley and Aru Valley. The first became famous thanks to a Bollywood blockbuster from the early 1980s called, curiously enough, “Betaab.” Apparently, scores of Bollywood productions have been shot here or hereabouts over the years.
The Betaab Valley has a very palpable “made by man” look and feel about it. The Lidder river looks tamed and has become a well-behaved stream while passing through the valley. We visited the valley on a Sunday, and it looked as if the whole of Pahalgam had decided to picnic in the beautiful green grass meadows of the valley. And why not? The rains had stopped after 5 awful wet days; the sun shone again, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the squirrels, the dancing river – every single living creature was out having a party in the bright sunlight.
The hand of man was very light in the Aru Valley. It looked as if man decided to leave Aru as little touched as possible. The Eco Resort, just outside the village of Aru, was a tent resort, nestling high above the Aru river, a tributary of the Lidder river.
This is where we had our by now customary kahwa tea, and we found mushrooms growing out of the makeshift tea-table.
The views from the road and the valley were spectacular.
It was very tempting to lie under the hanging pine cones, and I did try to quote a bit of Omar Khayyam – the bit about A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou… – but the wife retorted that the flask of wine in the middle of the afternoon will probably put me to sleep. Man proposes, wife disposes.
Now I have three reasons to return to Kashmir at the earliest opportunity – I want to ride the helicopter from Pahalgam to Panjtarani (on the way to Amarnath); I want to do a bit of safe white water rafting down the Lidder on the way to Aru; and I want to go to the Martand Sun Temple.
Next summer should be a great time to get back to a place which beats Switzerland hollow.