19 September 2014

Srinagar: before the flood

This was Srinagar and the famous Dal Lake towards the end of August. Since then, terrible flooding in Jammu & Kashmir has devastated Srinagar, badly damaging the guest house where I stayed, and has also affected Leh, where supplies are running low. My thoughts are with Aijaz and Rizvana in Srinagar, Jameel and Saira in Leh, and their families.

[I'm currently in Nepal, after ten days in the UK and three in Kazakhstan, and have just published a new post on Pohanginapete. I leave in the morning for about a week's trekking in the Annapurna area.]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

14 September 2014

Kashmiri carpets

On the way back from Dachigam National Park, near Srinagar, Aijaz took me to visit his uncle's cooperative crafts enterprise (Paradise Crafts, Nishat, Srinagar). Mukhtar's operation sells handcrafts on behalf of thousands of home operations, and among the foremost of these crafts are Kashmir's famous hand-knotted carpets.

Mukhtar explained the process of producing these carpets and what determines their quality. The three most important determinants are the density of knotting (the more knots per square inch, the higher the quality -- top carpets have the astonishing density of 800-900 knots per square inch); the number of colours; and the intricacy of the pattern. Many of these carpets take years to manufacture, even with several people working on them. Some of these I found stunningly beautiful.

But the difference between carpets with, say, 400 knots per square inch and those with 700-800 is immediately obvious. That's the problem -- having seen and touched a top quality carpet you're unlikely to be satisfied with one of lower quality, and even considering that the price includes DHL couriering anywhere in the world, that they'll only appreciate in value, and that a purchase supports a local family, the smallest and least expensive are still several hundred US dollars, so buying one of these isn't a decision to make lightly.

Sadly, the skill of creating these carpets seems to be slowly dying out as young people turn to more lucrative opportunities and those with the skill age.

If you do want to find out more about Mukhtar's co-op, feel free to contact me.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

11 September 2014

Monitor lizard, Keoladeo NP, Bharatpur

At Keoladeo Ghana NP, near Bharatpur in Rajasthan, I was on my way back to the entrance when I was lucky to see this large monitor lizard sunning itself. A nice farewell.

This photograph goes back quite a few weeks now. I've been in the UK since the beginning of September. Next stop, all going well, will be Kazakhstan for a few days, then on to Nepal. Back to India about the beginning of October (more or less -- as usual, I have no definite plans).

Unfotunately, I lost the cable that connects my card reader to the tablet, so I can't download the recent photographs. However, I should be able to pick one up in the market at Kazakhstan, where apparently anything can be bought.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

03 September 2014

Hoopoe at Srinagar

I first saw a hoopoe many years ago in Mongolia. They've always fascinated me, though, ever since I learned such strange and spectacular birds existed. This one appeared unexpectedly, close by, late in the evening, on a bank of the Jhellum River in Srinagar. I managed a few quick photographs before a small child scared it off.

[The post about Leh is now up on Pohanginapete.]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor