Dreamy Dal Lake

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I had been dreaming (which turned out to be quite an accurate description of the experience) of the houseboats in Srinagar since I first saw photos at the beginning of the year, so mum and I took a day off from the sightseeing agenda to fulfil this desire.

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The moment we stepped onto the shikara (the small wooden boat used transport people to the houseboat) adorned with lace cushions and flowery curtains, it was as if the whole place had been transformed and reality dissipated like the ripple from the heart shaped paddle of our oarsman as we glided soundlessly through the dusky waters. The sparkle and glow from the nearby houseboats reflected from the painted wood between hand woven curtains of passing shikaras which our driver deftly manoeuvred us between, until the only thing left to manoeuvre were patches of dark green lily pads in the ripple-less lake. It was intensely romantic.

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We had struck gold with our choice of houseboat which was around the opposite side of the lake to where the majority were lined up side by side, and was almost alone with only a few other boats even within sight. Once a-light we sat in stunned silence in the semi darkness of the balcony mesmerised by the symphony of crickets and croaking toads intermingled with the softly murmured Muslim prayers as we sipped freshly prepared Kashmiri tea.

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We began the next day in a similar fashion, only the performers of our musical accompaniment had changed to the variety of birds gossiping nearby as we resumed our position on the balcony with more Kashmiri tea in our hands. We watched the as the sea of lily pads gave birth to a smatterings of golden yellow flowers opening themselves up to the suns warmth, as an eagle swooped to perch on a wooden stump 10 metres away and huge dragon flies danced before our eyes. We spent a blissful day as the ladies in the days of the British Raj may have done, writing, painting or just gazing at the lake with the only other human sighting belonging to a local fisher lady piling her canoe high with lilies to feed her cattle.

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As the day heated up, the clouds evaporated like curtains being raised at a theatre to reveal a stage of majestic purple mountains rising pompously over the lake, and we took a swim in their perfect mirror image in the clear waters…

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you had to look very closely here if you wanted to make out the outline of a plastic bottle or wrapper hidden in the dense clusters of lilies…

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