Star Date:  July 2018


Hello Dear Family & Friends



"Hey, Yo Kun Wich"
(Kashmiri Greeting)

(Thank you in Kashmiri)






"Life is a bunch of 'Nows' strung together in an enchanting, colorful necklace called our life."



Tranquility.  Life on a houseboat in the Himalayas of Kashmir.  Enveloped in a ring of majestic mountains, floating on a stunning blue sapphire lake fringed with pink lotus; life is simple.  What better place to relax, read and write undisturbed by the outside world?   I even had time to read the Mists of Avalon series of over 2,000 pages.

In this forgotten kingdom the world and its problems vanished.  Our modern minds are constantly bombarded by the weapons of mass distraction: cell phones, social media, internet.  Silence is becoming obsolete.  Here one is reminded of the importance of keeping our connection with that which is larger than ourselves.  That which is made clear to us if we only take the time to quiet our minds and open our hearts.

Aromatic, rich Kashmiri tea made of fresh cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron is provided throughout the day. Saffron is grown on the hillsides surrounding the lakes.  Spices are plentiful in large bags in the market; sold alongside nuts and dried fruits from neighboring farms  Our every desire is served by our trusty Gulam, the servant or houseboat man.  Many Kashmiris, especially now with no tourists, can get quite pushy.  Not our dear Gulam.  Gulam is like Chance in "Being There".  He goes about his duties the same every day and every season like clockwork; as he has done for over 40 years.  Wonderful, tasty dinners are served in the evenings by cook #1 and cook #2. (our fun nicknames we joked with them).

To go to shore one must ride in a small wooden canoe or for longer trips hire a shikara.  A shikara is a brightly painted boat with a bed on which to lounge while surveying the majestic surroundings.  Curtains on three sides adjust for comfort against the sun or wind and pillows make us feel like royalty.  All that is heard on a shikara is rhythmic paddling of the driver, gliding stealth-fully through the maze of pink lotus blossoms, yellow and rose colored water lilies or the thick patches of floating water chestnuts.  Floating gardens loaded with bottle gourds, tomatoes, cucumbers are waiting to be harvested.

Each houseboat is either connected to the shore by a wooden dock or if out in the lake a sort of floating garden and dock system has been erected.  Our 'dock' has pomegranate trees, flowers, a full vegetable garden and the usual houseboat for the family to live in behind the main guest houseboat. 

One of the first things we noticed is how alive the lake is.  It is absolutely teeming with waterfowl of all shapes and sizes.  Ducks, brilliantly colored kingfishers, swallows, myna birds, finches, ravens and hundreds of mighty eagles all swim the waters and circle overhead.  The pomegranate tree outside our bedroom window is alive with life.  The hallelujah chorus at daybreak is just like when I was a kid.  There are still pockets of untouched Nature on this planet.  It isn't that it is untouched here, it is more like the Kashmiri lake dwellers have lived harmoniously with Nature for centuries and continue to do so.  Like us, after a trip into the chaos of the markets and shops on shore they can't wait to get back to the quiet they call home.  Five times a day the silence is broken on Nigeen Lake by Call to Prayer from the local mosques; adding an exotic touch to the already spellbinding atmosphere. 

We take the canoe over to shore once every evening to take a walk around the well manicured Nigeen Park, admiring the flowers as we walk with other locals enjoying the cool of the sunset hour.

A guest would actually never need to leave their houseboat if they wished.  Shikaras ladened with handmade shawls, paper mache handicrafts, jewelry, flowers, vegetables, carpets, homemade candy and cookies, actually just about everything, come by selling their wares.  The predecessor of home shopping. 

We preferred to venture into the busy markets of town 2 or 3 times a week to stock up on our fruits and vegetables. The bustling narrow streets of the market were teeming with fresh produce from the surrounding mountainside.  Apples burst in your mouth, leaving sweet juice dripping down your chin.  Definitely the artery of life surrounding Nigeen Lake, we were soon regulars and spent many fascinating hours hanging out with the locals.  

The houseboats here are unique to Kashmir.  A 60 ft long hand carved wooden houseboat, with Kashmir carpets lining the floors, crystal chandeliers and 4 poster canopy beds it is like stepping into an era of luxury.  A bit of an Orient Express on water.  Our boat was built over 50 years ago and although showing wear; it is full of history and charm.  It's predecessor was the Dangola Houseboat, boasting of guests like King Edward VII, the Sultan of Oman, Brigadier General of His Majesties' Forces during its 60 years in service.  Scrapbooks full of letters from as far back as 1887 relive the lively history of foreigners from the continent of India; escaping the devastating heat of summer.

This is our 3rd trip up to hide out in the lakes of Kashmir (Joseph's 5th trip).  In 2008 we arrived just as all hell broke loose. Wanting to escape the conflict between demonstrators and military we were put in the back of a van driving from Dal Lake.  Lying down and covered by a blanket as we went through the checkpoints, we arrived in the peace and serenity of Nigeen Lake.  And so the haven of Nigeen Lake has a special corner in our hearts.

In 2008 there was a mass demonstration by the citizens the day I flew in to join Joseph.  A curfew was imposed and we were basically under house, or should I say boat arrest for over 2 weeks.  (Check out our page from Sept. 2008).

So have things improved over the last 9 years? This is how it went this time.

"Wifi down.  Everything ok in Srinigar?  Maybe."

"Demonstrations for Independence today - tear gas, rubber bullets, students throwing rocks at soldiers,    "Wifi banned - also cell phones."

70 km away in a town 2 young men shot.

"No school today - strike."

"No wifi today - banned."

You can die in the dark too!  Roused out of our sleep we heard nearby bang, bang, bang of gunfire.  Crowds were yelling!  Occasional loud booms - we assumed some kind of explosive from the Indian soldiers.  In the middle of a lake sounds are amplified.  No information.  We were literally in the dark.  After our 15 years of travel we just rolled over and went back to sleep.  Never knew what really happened.

"No shops open until the 15th of Aug - India's Independence Day - better go get fruits and vegetables before dark today."

We just played it by ear and quickly blended into the flow of the lake and it's massive backwaters.  Observe.  Allow.  Accept.  Who knows what the future will bring to the former Kingdom of Kashmir?




And so it goes.........................................Next more on the exotic, yet at time tumultuous Kingdom of Kashmir.  Until then let's remember to add a few colorful gems to your necklace of life this year.  Thanks for stopping by. We love getting your emails and news!  Take care and keep in touch!




Love, Light & Laughter, 


xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph



Travel notes:

$1.00US = 45.5 Indian Rupees

Srinigar/Dal Lake/Nigeen Lake:
We come to Srinigar to have a one of a kind houseboat stay, as with the British of old escaping the heat of India.  Step back in time and relax.  Be smart and make a wise choice to start with and have a hassle free stay. 
1) Never book ahead.  You will pay 10 times the price for a shabbier boat if you book from Delhi, etc.  Everyone has a cousin who owns a boat and wants a commission.  Meet the family and get a feel if they are genuinely glad to have you stay with them or they just want your money. 
2) When choosing a house boat look for a good wide open view of the lake; no barking dogs or street noise; no screaming kids; no garbage floating.
 3) You need a breeze, not in a row of houseboats listening to each other's noise; away from boatloads of backpackers or worse Indian pilgrims visiting the Ice Lingum by day and partying by night; not next to mosque loudspeakers.
4) Clean and well maintained rooms, hot water, good decks from which to enjoy the lake, close accessibility to markets, etc
5) We suggest getting everything in writing as some owners promise the moon and try to increase the price later.  Write down what meals are eaten every day w/price and have them sign.  Settle up often.  We had no trouble with Habib and family, but we all forget things, change isn't given, a common little scam, and on & on. Keep it businesslike to avoid trouble at the end when leaving.  You can also get to know the family better without money issues ruining the relationship. 

Nigeen Lake is cleaner and more pristine than Dal Lake. You can get a shikara driver to paddle you around looking at the back side of Dal Lake and for another 200r go over to Nigeen (settle the price per hour ahead of getting in: 100r per hour, or per trip).
Nigeen Lake:
A quiet, pleasant place to enjoy life on the lake.  Bargain hard for a good price. ranges from low season 300R to 1000R rarely in high season). 
Check a number of places first to find out the range of quality of accommodations and prices at the time you visit. An overabundance of houseboats has lowered prices.  As stated above get the price and what's included, in writing.  We hope for everyone's sake that political tensions ease and life and business will resume.    You won't ever want to leave.


Eating around Nigeen Lake:

Second falafel restaurant past Nigeen Club on left side of road - great veg curry and naan

Nairobi Houseboat:
Deal with Daughter Nazima  9622429180
Her Father can get pushy but is away most of the time.

near Ghat #2  Nigeen Lake
Take Shikara over

Taxi - 600 to the airport
Mehraj Din Dar
9906476319  9419951409

Nisar Beigh - one of the gem dealers who will drop by your houseboat if asked.  He wasn't pushy and had certificates for many of his stones.  Kashmir is famous for blue sapphires.
Nisar Jewels  Email or call Nisar



Stuck in Srinigar/Dahl Lake? - go online to find a place or last minute try for a local experience:

Punjabi Haveli - pure veg near crossroads of lake and road from Nigeen to Srinigar

Across from lake - best naan and aloo palak in Srinigar

Hotel New Green View II
Gate 15 - Dahl Lake - friendly owner and family.  Basic accommodations - houseboat, tours, and very basic hotel but low prices.  Go to the market with Ghulam and pick out vegetables for him to cook.  Great mixed-veg curry.

Saklains Coterie
Phone # 91 9818731913

32 Polo View Rd., Srinigar

We bought wonderful freshly distilled essential oils from this tiny shop , at a great price.  Their organic farm outside of town grows and processes everything from heavenly lavender to zippy lemongrass.




Stunning Lake Nigeen,
enveloped in a ring of
majestic mountains, floating on a stunning
 blue sapphire lake fringed with pink
lotus; life is simple.


The preferred mode of transportation,
the shikara.


All that is heard on a shikara is rhythmic paddling
 of the driver, gliding stealth-fully through the
 maze of pink lotus blossoms.


Chillin' on the lake.


Many old bridges cross the waterways.


Kingfishers galore.


A heron waiting patiently for a frog to appear.


The tranquil front porch of our houseboat.


The traditional Kashmiri houseboats are filled
with antiques, Kashmir carpets and chandeliers.


The wooden 60 ft. houseboat is over 50 years old,
but full of history and charm.


Antique but functional bathroom.  Water is heated
 in a wood burner stove right outside the window.


Scrapbooks full of letters from as far back as 1887
relive the lively history of foreigners from the
 continent of India; escaping the devastating
 heat of summer.


It's predecessor was the Dangola Houseboat,
boasting of guests like King Edward VII, the
 Sultan of Oman, Brigadier General of His
Majesties' Forces during its 60 years in service.


Hunting party into the mountains.


A cheeky kingfisher.


An endless parade of waterfowl.


The little ducks loved walking on the lotus leaves.
Look at the size of this baby duck's feet!


The lake is fringed with striking pink lotus.


A regal kingfisher watching the fish below.


Bright dragonfly drying it's wings.


A hawk resting on a post.


Hundreds of eagles circle daily!


Riding the small wooden boat over to Nigeen
Park.  I enjoyed sleeveless tops on the houseboat
 but had to put on long sleeves once on shore.


Our nightly walk through the gardens.  Eagles
would sit in the beautiful regal trees and daily
feathers appeared on the ground as presents.


Home at sunset.


Waterfowl of every size and type.


The valley is surrounded by majestic mountains.
When the snow fell on the mountains it was time
to leave.


Paddle by shopping.


Fresh vegetables from neighboring farms.


Our 'cheescake' fruit vendor.


From garden to table.


Spices and condiments.


Fresh bread served with curry.


A sheepherder passing through.


A typical large brick home.  The whole
family lives together.


The local mosque.


Joseph's friend in the market.  He sold
the freshest, juiciest pears on earth.


Me and 'mini me'.


Hanging with the guys across from the mosque.






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