When I got to Niseko, the Aussie accent was something nice to hear in the hills of Japan. I had heard so much polite-isisms that when I understood the English language instead of the Japanese niceitieis it was great to hear. When I first got to Kashmir and rode the bus with an Aussie, I was just like oh shit, here I go again. I am in deep trouble if the island that is a country took the time to come all the way to Kashmir to infest what I thought was virgin countryside.
Then I found the Global café. I first heard about it from the first hippie chick I met while boarding in the deep pow pow on the upper gondola of Gulmarg. She invited me to a yoga class that night and I thought to myself that if there was any reason to venture out in the Kashmir darkness it was for this hot girl and a yoga class. To be honest, she could have invited me to a bull circumcision and I would have gone out – the beauty of a white woman in white powder just hit me hard at that moment.
Global Café is not the easiest name for Indians to hear. Glow-ball, Glah-bal, it is not a word that they use every day in their pigeon English but ironically it is a word that is so apropos to this region because it is like the Israel of Asia – a small land often written about and conversed about even at the dinner table of the Obama family. Eventually someone gave me the best directions I had gotten all day. Pointing straight to a mountain about 5 km away, the man simply said “Walk Forward.” As I did walk thru the baby ski runs that have been carved out for beginning Indians, I saw it “Global Café and Movinpick Restaurant”. I know Movenpick the german ice cream company and that was enough to get me walking faster toward the first sign of quality. When I walked in the door of the Global[ Café I was greeted by 8 burly Aussies who were all hovering over a fire, drinking Fosters, and watching their day’s epic carves on the flip out screen of a Sony High Def Camera. These were my kind of people. The boss, a good looking Oz bloke, softly told the Indian chef that he needed to send one of the boys to town for “a boat load of fresh chocolate.” When the boys started chiming in that they wanted some too, the owner reassured them that a chocolate cake would be baked in the next few days and this was greeted by “ooohs” and “ahhs’” from the peanut gallery. I was tempted to have a Foster’s with the boys just to join in the camaraderie despite my yoga class, which none of them seemed even close to being the type, but instead opted for the 200 rupee Chicken Chili Cheese Rice bowl mostly because I had just not seen that combination of words in Kashmir and who doesn’t want to try the CCCR in the Kush?
Now its two hours later and the yoga class kicked ass. It was taught my an Idaho-ian named Camille who is in India for 6 months in pursuit of all things yoga with a side of powder in Gulmarg. Very cool girl and she and I are close to the higher end of yogis here so we have scheduled some private yoga time as well.
Met my guide today, Faez. Our group started with me Faez and two Brits, Ben and Tom. Ben is a doctor in the British army and Tom is his mate. They are cool blokes from Region Park in London so they know their Indian food already! Both are very good skiers and we make a nice foursome. W e tried to add an Aussie, Mark, to our group but he is a snowboarder so he has a tough time keeping up. At one point, at 4000m in a whiteout blizzard today he freaked out and started to make his own way down the mountain. Faez freaked as well and started SKIING UP THE HILL to go get him. The three of us waited below and after 20 mins in a blizzard Faez finally came back without Mark. Faez was cursing how dangerous it was for Mark to be on his own and we agreed. “Avalanche problems, right Faez?” “No!” he yelled and pointed at the barbed wire hut less than 20 meters behind us. “We are in Pakistan! He could not have picked a worse spot to go off on his own!” Without Mark, we headed down the hill (he was fine. He downloaded the gondola and walked back). Epic 2 km powder runs and a great full first day. At the end of the day I paid an old man 100 rupees to sled all of my ski equipment about 1k back to my hotel. He was a nice man and I made him stop many times to catch his breath. He and his sled make the daily trip 6k roundtrip to tote tourists around on these little wooden sleds. He wanted 50 rupees but I made him take 100 ($1.75). For your three kid , I told him. PS. Day 3 still no hot water but plenty of dumpage!