What should have been an idyllic retreat to the most beautiful place in the world turned into a nightmare for Vikki Pitcher when she was accused of being a murderer and a spy.
At 52, all Vikki wanted to do was to find a tranquil corner of the world to live out the rest of her days after recovering from cancer and the death of her father.
She sold her English home and took her Irish setter Frodo to live on a houseboat in Srinagar, Kashmir.
Her experiences were so unbelievable even she has trouble thinking it actually happened.
Now she has told her story online – On The Golden Flower: An Englishwoman’s Adventures with Frodo her Irish Setter on a Houseboat in Kashmir’.
It is being reissued as an e-book by the publishers Xlibris.
Vikki said: “I had to write the story because I literally don’t believe it even now.”
She also wanted to highlight the plight of Kashmiri people – and pay tribute to Frodo – the dog who accepted everything she did, protected her and kept her company all through her adventure.
She said: “The idea was for me to literally live and die there.
“I had no plans to do anything but live a nice quiet life.”
However, Vikki got anything but the quiet life.
She ended up teaching English, French and German and then setting up schools.
But events started to go wrong, the houseboat nearly sank, the family she bought it off denounced her as an immoral woman and the government thought she was a spy.
She said: “They didn’t know why was I there.
“They couldn’t see any reason why a silly little English woman wanted to live there.”
It wasn’t until she befriended a retired Englishman who agreed to look after her houseboat while she went away on a trip that her life went very badly wrong.
Her friend died a day later and the authorities jumped to the conclusion Vikki had poisoned him. They arrested her when she rushed back after hearing the news.
Vikki said: “I spent a horrible time trying to explain that I hadn’t poisoned him.
“It sounds absolutely ridiculous but they really did want to put me in prison.
“It was frightening.”
The British Embassy became involved and confirmed the man had died of natural causes.
Vikki, now 71, but with failing health, left the area – only to spend the next eight years restoring a ruined house in Spain and then living in a cave house for five years, before finally coming to Bridport.
Now she is thinking about writing her second book – about her travels in India, backpacking with Frodo.
She hopes to give a talk on her life in Kashmir at a meeting of Bridportand District U3A later this year.