which our hero floats high in July when movin’ through Kashmir.
BY PAUL TURNER
“A Led Zeppelin-Inspired Holiday
Back in June of 1995, I decided to go for a trip up to
I booked my flight from Australia
and headed up to Delhi
on the first day of July.
I arrived in Delhi
about midday July 2nd and went straight to a travel agent to book a
flight out of Delhi. I had in mind to go to Goa Puna and Manali.
After talking to the friendly travel agent for about
five minutes, we discussed the best options for an Indian destination.
I advised the nice fellow that I quite liked the idea
of Kashmir. Led Zeppelin had written a great
song about Kashmir and I thought it would be
cool to go there. The travel agent told me excitedly that it is absolutely
beautiful and he could highly recommend a trip there.
He went on to say that he had a houseboat in Srinagar and that I could
stay on stay on it for $20 per night. He also advised me he was going up to Srinagar later this afternoon
and asked me if I wanted to catch flight with him. I questioned him on Kashmir being safe and he assured me that he had lived
there and had never had any problems. It seemed to me that all the stars were
aligned so I booked a seat next to him and we both got in a cab and caught our
flight to Srinagar, Kashmir.
After a pleasant flight we landed in Srinagar and headed off the tarmac towards
the main entrance gate. To my surprise
there were soldiers everywhere with machine guns. I mentioned to my travel guide that it didn’t
exactly seem that safe to me.
We jumped in a cab and proceeded to drive along the
main road, which was lined with armed soldiers.
We continued to drive past soldiers for about 15 minutes before we
reached the lake.
On reaching Lake
Srinagar the travel agent
and I canoed across to the houseboat. He mentioned he would bring my meals out
to me twice a day and I could just chill out on the boat and take in the
beauty. That lake was breathtaking, and surrounded
by huge mountains.
I settled into
my abode absolutely exhausted from my 30-hour trip. I remember I headed to bed
at around 8:00.
After getting on
my bed and preparing to make nice dreams I was suddenly fearful on hearing
gunfire not too far away. Hmm… I
thought. This is not good. The
gunfire lasted for about 20 minutes. I was thinking to myself, I don’t know if
I should have trusted that “nice” travel agent.
I must have
eventually fallen off to sleep only to have the strangest experience in my
suddenly being aware of a state of mind where everything was very gold and
without any sound whatsoever. In this state I remember I was lying face down
and I proceeded to float up above my bed. I was only floating about two feet
off my bed but that was enough to freak me out. The feeling I had was a mixture
of ecstasy and fear. I quickly awakened from that state in absolute distress. I
actually started crying when I awoke. It was as if I’d experienced something
that was well beyond my sense of reality.
I’m not sure if
I had dreamt that golden floating experience or it was some kind of altered
state brought on by exhaustion and a heightened sense of awareness. All I know
is that it seemed more real than anything I had experienced in my life.
After about half
an hour of keeping myself awake for fear of reliving the fearful experience I
must have finally fallen into a deep sleep. I was awakened in the morning by
little clicks on the windows of the houseboat. I jumped out of bed to peer out
the window and find out out what the clicking was.
To my surprise
there were about 30 men in canoes waiting for me to awaken. They were throwing
little stones at my windows. I climbed the stairs of the houseboat and proceeded
up to the roof where I was greeted with hellos. It turns out I was the only
tourist in town and they had come to my houseboat to sell me their wares. They
were selling pens, pencils, toilet paper, toothpaste and other little craft. I
politely declined their goodies and went back inside.
After all the
strange experiences of the last 10 hours I decided to sit tight on my houseboat, read a book and
wait for my travel agent to return with my next meal. With the arrival of my
travel agent a few hours later I promptly asked him to book the next flight out
back in Delhi the
next day I was advised by another tourist that in Kashmir
six backpackers were just kidnapped. I later found out one was beheaded, one
had escaped and the four others were never seen again.
Looking at back at
the Kashmir experience it seemed more like the
Godzilla Puff Daddy remix than the Led Zeppelin song I remembered.
After 15 years I
send warm thoughts to those unlucky travelers wherever they may be now.
Paul Turner’s new album is Another World. Check him out on the web at his official website.