Almost the moment we fly in from Amritsar (after crossing the border from Pakistan) the FCO changes its travel advice from 'Don’t go into the town' to 'Don’t travel to Srinagar at all'. There have been incursions on the border and some riotous behaviour. The roads are all barricaded with barbed wire, all the shops are shut, there is no money in the ATMs and there are interminable searches.
Lake Dal itself would be idyllic. Everything in upside-down duplicate the water is so still. The mountains shimmer, the fish tailed boats are colourful, kingfishers dart by and the water flora are abundant. But it all feels abandoned. The little stilted stalls are mostly empty. We are told our boat is the best one. A palace on the water. Eight ornate bedrooms. It has a butler cum cook cum houseboy who lives on the empty boat next door. There isn’t much food available. He has to scavenge somewhat - most of it is cooked in the house on the shore. Or is it an island.? A succession of uninvited vendors liven things up, arriving in a stream of small boats. They are pitifully persistent – no other tourists here either.
The Portuguese lawyer is considering what might transpire now the five of us are all marooned afloat in Kashmir. Two of the five deranged . (See Pakistan). This could be murder on the Orient Boat - Arsenic and Old Lace. The teacher would be Miss Marple - even the Christian name is right. We have a butler but no billiard room – could the weapon be the cocktail shaker?
Eight people died in shootings last night - another lecture at breakfast as our guide rants on about the iniquitous Pakistanis. We are allowed to pootle round the lake in small boats and disembark at a couple of gardens. Supplies are running low, the food is a werid concoction from cans and we have drunk all the gin available.
One night left to survive. Who dunnit? Perhaps we all did?
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