At OVERDRIVE, we love our long drives and this month we're taking another great one. This time around, we will drive nearly 900 kilometres from the capital to Srinagar, J&K. The state's moist, cold climate is ideal for cultivating saffron and India is the third largest producer of this costly spice. During our stay in the beautiful Himalayan valley, we'll find out what makes this the most expensive condiment in the world.
We'd be making the long journey to Kashmir in the delightful Datsun Go+ and though there would be just the two people making this trip, the extra space is handy for holding our luggage on the way there and our purchases on our way back, but more on that later. The trip goes off smoothly with the Datsun Go+ a delight out on the highway, calmly munching miles. I break journey at Pathankot where I pick up Dinesh, the winner of the Datsun #GoThere competition for this month. Together we make the trip from Pathankot to Srinagar, J&K's capital city and our base for the next two days.
Dinesh Tiwari was the happy OVERDRIVE reader that joined us on our road trip to Kashmir
The signature Srinagar shikaras on a misty morning on the tranquil Dal Lake
The first day we took in the sights and tastes around Srinagar starting with the customary shikara ride on the Dal Lake. It was a foggy morning, so pictures were out of the question but it was a nice, peaceful start to a cold morning. Lunch was at the renowned Ahdoos restaurant, famous for its traditional Kashmiri food. We decided to feast on the Trami Wazwan - a delicious combination meal that features a selection of all of the Kashmiri favourites. It's a must try for your first visit to the city but don't believe the waiter who will tell you it's a meal fit for one person. I would seriously like to meet the person who could leave a clean plate with the amount that's laid out in a regular serving.
The next day, we headed south form Srinagar towards Pampore which is known as the Saffron Town of Kashmir. It's a quaint little one road town, filled with stores selling saffron and dried fruits and is surrounded by fields of purple saffron flowers. This is the best place to buy saffron and dried fruits like apricots and walnuts at reasonable prices.
The beautiful purple saffron flowers that contain just three red strands of saffron each
We visited the fields as well to have a look at the beautiful purple saffron flowers. Each flower produces just three strands of the spice and this is the reason it's so expensive. A whole field just produces just a few grams of saffron. A little further down the road from Pampore, we noticed rows and rows of Kashmiri willow shops on either side, each stocked with lines and lines of cricket bats. Strangely, neither of us turned out to be cricket fans so we were content to just drive past.
We did, however, stop on the way back through Pampore and filled up the Go+ with kilos and kilos of walnuts for the folks back home along with a year's supply of saffron. The return trip went just as smoothly as the rest of the holiday and we bid a sad farewell to the delightful winter cold that was just settling into the valley of Kashmir.
|Iran is the largest producer of the spice, accounting for 90 per cent of the world's saffron! Buddhist monks used to use the spice for dying their robes to give them the traditional orange colour It takes approximately 80,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron In the Middle Ages, the punishment for saffron adulteration was death by burning at the stake|