a near total collapse of the industry. Few tourists, apart from devout yatris to the ancient Amarnath shrine, opted for Kashmir; instead, they preferred to vacation elsewhere. Undying political unrest and violent insurgency has changed the very image of the state. However, over the past couple of years, there has been a steady, albeit slow, rise in the number of trekkers and tourists in the region.“Heading to Kashmir is not as easy a decision to make as travelling to any other part of the country,” opines Sandhya UC, who has been trekking in Kashmir since 2011.
“I get lots of calls from anxious trekkers and parents, questioning the safety of Kashmir. Although one cannot vouch for the safety of the region, we do reassure them that life is quite normal in Kashmir. Yet, it is better to be prudent,” adds Prathima Chhabria, the mountain coordinator at Indiahikes.
Indiahikes has been running treks in Kashmir for over three years now. The mountains have always been incident-free. Though there were a few sporadic curfews and stone-pelting incidents at Srinagar and Kangan (a small town en route to Sonamarg), the teams managed to safely tide over these incidents with adequate precautions. “When such incidents occur, we simply halt all vehicle movements and resume only when things calm down. Besides, in Kashmir, there are CRPF check posts every few hundred metres on the highway, while driving to our base camps,” says Sandhya.