Those of us going to the vegetable market were up and drinking tea at 3.30 am to leave at 4 am for the floating vegetable market this morning. It was still dark when we set off in the shikaras and quite magical. The motor boat towed us through a maze of waterways to the area on Dal lake where the market is held. Organised chaos is probably the best description – buyers and sellers’ boats mill around and the vegetables grown by Mihrbahri farmers in the floating gardens are sold on to traders and shopkeepers – it must be something of a lifeline at the moment when so many shops have been shut for days.
Vegetables are weighed out in large brass pans balanced on a stick. Often the counterweight is just an appropriate-sized chunk of brick!
Nikhi got involved and had great fun buying spinach, beans, aubergines and bitter gourds which the houseboat cooks later converted into delicious vegetable curries for our lunch and dinner. We all had a piece of fresh Kashmiri bread to munch on while we watched.
On our way home we paddled through narrower and narrower waterways to visit Ms Hasina’s ‘Oriental Apiary’ and try her special honeys.
Ms Hasina told us about the devastating effect the 2014 floods have had on the business, started by her father 70 years ago, and how many of her family have now left Kashmir to find work elsewhere. We tasted lots of different, delicious honeys – saffron, almond, apple, water lily, lotus, cannabis and opium based and heard a lot about the putative medicinal properties of each. David suggested we rename ourselves Rocks, Routes and Happy Shoots!
The shikara ride home from here to the south end of Nagin lake was rather depressing – in places a carpet of Azolla supported a sea of rubbish – shoes, bags, bottles and an unspecified dead animal.
We did get a good view of an iridescent blue kingfisher on an overhead wire as compensation.
If felt like we were half way through the day by the time we arrived back at the houseboats for an 8 am breakfast! Afterwards we crashed out for a while and then John and I had time to think about the afternoon activities and do a little souvenir shopping.
We started with a brief talk after lunch, then people either spend some time recording the types of insects pollinating plants in the garden or tried some pond dipping in the water near the boats. It was rather a cool afternoon, with rain threatening, which may be why flies, hoverflies and bugs accounted for the vast majority of insects recorded. The pond dipping produced little in the way of aquatic life, perhaps demonstrating the effects of the really dense plant cover on other organisms. People enjoyed looking at the Azolla leaves under the microscope and hand lenses and were intrigued by the water-repellent surface on the leaves of the other, unnamed floating plant.
Azolla (left) and the unknown plant (right) – water repellant surfaces help keep the leaves afloat
We all met up for afternoon tea and then John and I had to meet Yasin to sort out plans for tomorrow and also our recce trip – Yasin will head back to Delhi tomorrow when we get to Sonamarg.
Afternoon tea on the balcony with our houseboat captain.
There was just time to sort out the tips for the houseboat and shikara staff before dinner – mainly because I panicked when I couldn’t find the wallet containing the tips in my bag! After dinner John talked about the geology we missed by not being able to go to Guryul and gave a brief introduction to tomorrow’s geology. Early nights all round after we’d packed as we have to be ready to go by 4am tomorrow to get through a couple of potential trouble spots on the way to Sonamarg before people are up and about.