Imagine a huge beautiful lake with crystal clear water you could drink. Add an island in the middle that can be accessed via a passage made of ice. No motorboats, no sailboats, not even a wooden plank. To all that add a huge swath of land with lush green grass that extends to as long as the eyes can see. Mountains colored red and yellow with flowers sitting at the horizon. Light rustling of distant flowing water interrupted occasionally with the heavy bustling of the mountain wind. Cool breeze flows through your hair reminding you that it is reality and no dream. Not even a walking trail in sight, no signboards and no proof of the existence of animal life, forget humanity. Wild edible strawberries growing near your feet. Eat as much as you like.
You cannot camp in paradise - it is an exotic travel destination which god loves too much to allow mere humans to stay. There are very few tour books that mention this place. The maps cheat, distorting reality by dislocating important areas and blurring out a lot of detail. Fellow toastmasters and honored guests, today I will describe a journey through destiny and hope that you are able to guess this unique destination before my talk runs out.
The first step of getting there is to pray to god - “O great Lord!! Please bless me. Please allow visits to your homeland this year.” A mere 0.000002% of the world population gets to visit this place in the lucky year when this is open. Next you pray to your family - “O great family!! Please bless me. Allow me to go. I will come back.” Lying to god and bribing him doesn’t work, but it works with your family. They would be praying that your visit gets canceled for one of the millions of reasons that are out there. Then you sign a death disclaimer for the that case you don’t make it.
You fly, you drive and then you walk, proving your identity to the prying hawk like eyes that track every action, ready pounce upon the slightest of your mistakes. Then begins your seven days visit in the heavens, always with a chance that something might cut them or cut you short. It takes hours climbing through conifers, through heavy rains where any missteps can be your end. But then if you peek outside of your trail you see the mesmerizing view of two rainbows. Rainbows stretch over snow clad mountains and twinkle in the clouds that you are standing on. You can’t carry the clouds back home in a bag. The cameras fail. It is a view to breathe in and fill your hearts with.
There will be times when you would give up. Climbs would be tougher than yesterday. The bag-packs would feel like iron claws. But then just open your eyes. Sit back and look where you are. You are probably the only thing that the artist would like to remove from the picture. Or maybe let you to live to leave a glimmer of hope to the mortals that men can visit this place in their lifetimes.
The place is magical - plain water is better than wine. The air is clean and pure and thinned by the altitude with an intoxication akin to a few shots of tequila. You can sit anywhere to amaze at god’s creations - meandering river nourishing the mountains; parched valleys as if sucked dry; or grasslands with winds that can make you fly stretching across to infinity. Plates don’t get dirty. Strangers become buddies. Grass feels softer than a feathered bed. Then there is the pass, a 4 hour continuous climb into a point of no return. The rains sweep everything every time to an abyss 500 feet deep. The lucky get to see, the home of the gods - the most challenging piece of rock that mankind has found, smiling from above the clouds, away to glory. On your way down, you can witness everything that you missed, a sea of flowers going right to a lake. The lake which bends into a waterfall. The waterfall that falls into another lake whose other end is beyond the horizon. Forget humans, no fish, no animals inhabit this place. There is only a piece of rock at the corner, worshiped every three years by the rare few who come to the place from the other side skipping the pass.
Let me help you more in guessing this place. There is also a frozen lake for a week long trek. There is a gigantic region of huge volcanic rocks that you can drive over, right to the mountain of magnet. There is a city build over a lake. This place has been untouched for centuries and mankind is making sure that it remains like that. We have shoot at sight orders by three nuclear powers. All vie for a piece of it. Who can blame them. There is magic in Kashmir.