Srinagar, July 19: Barely an hour's drive from the Lal Chowk is a calm hillock away from the hustle and bustle of the city and unlike the district in terms of the pollution levels making for an ideal picnic spot for people more so for the Srinagarites.
Nestled in the Zabarwan hills at a distance of 20-odd kilometers from the city centre, Faqeer Gujri is a go-to destination for people in Srinagar in the ongoing summer, be it to take a bath in fresh glacial waters, remain in a moment of solitude or make barbecues.
“This place is not far from the city, it’s economical, not over-crowded and has good spots for swimming,” said Saliq Bhat from Gaw Kadal in Srinagar as he trekked towards the upper hills of Faqeer Gujri to feast on barbecues along with his friends.
“It’s good to see friends and families having a refreshing time here. COVID-19 pandemic made us realize the beauty of being out in nature,” said one Sahil Nilla as he sat on the rock overlooking the city.
Another picnicker, Suhaib Khan said that he didn’t expect this huge number of people thronging the place to enjoy barbecue parties. “In the beginning of our trek, it felt like the whole place was up in smoke. It was only after we got up a bit, we realized everyone was grilling here,” Khan said while igniting his own grill.
Dawar, a youth from Srinagar said that the place has emerged as a favorite picnic spot for people from the district, especially in the aftermath of the COVID restrictions.
"This is a much preferable destination for us than Sonamarg and Pahalgam, because of the shorter distance and less crowds,” said Dawar as he lay down on a rock, sunbathing after beating the heat in the cold waters of Faqeer Gujri.
After parking their vehicles near Scholars School in Dara, visitors in huge numbers are seen treading the tough terrain, full of rocks and pointed stones and a steep slope towards the upper hills.
While the sound of glacial waters running below soothes ears, the wafts of smoke blown from the barbecue grills with an aroma of meat and spices fills the air with taste, making trekkers forget the difficulties and trekking more tasteful.
A couple of months ago, locals of the area had blocked the road and didn’t allow people to go up after a video of some people bathing their dog in the water had gone viral.
But they have been generous now allowing visitors to go up, requesting them not to pollute the stream which feeds Dara hamlet and adjacent villages.