Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
The Ardor for mountains pulled me to the pinnacle of the Himalayas, to explore beauty and serenity, which had always been a dream. Hence I peregrinated to the great lakes, which is located in Kashmir, India. The nearest airport to get here is the capital of Jammu & Kashmir, which is, Srinagar. The hiking base camp is located in Sonmarg, which is around 50 miles from Srinagar.
It is an eight day trek covering about eighty five kilometers. We started our trek from the foot of Himalayas and covered up to 10-15 kilometers each day, hiking and camping. Our final destination was to reach the other side of mountain, Narnag.
It was dark by the time we reached our base camp and we decided to start our hike early next morning. We set up our tent & slowly got out of our comfort zone to surrender ourselves to Mother Nature.
Brilliant rays of sun entered the tent & woke us up from the sleep which had taken us to another dreamland. We started off our day early.
The First day of our trek was fairly easy, the ascents & descents followed by meadows of clouds & lush green canopy of deodar and pine trees along the foothill of Himalayas. It was a warm day & the sun had almost drained our bodies. We had to hydrate frequently to keep ourselves moving ahead. I was blithe to see the Sindh River flowing all the way to slake our thirst & keep us alive.
Hiking is all about taking one more step ahead. Away from civilization, surrounded by mountains, what mattered to me most were not the luxury and flamboyance but sheer survival & humanity. It was just me, the mountain & the silence which kept going.
Day two was one of the most difficult trails in the whole trek. Vishansar Lake, which is at a height of 12,000 ft. above the sea level, was one of the daunting experienced that we faced. The boulder pavements were taxing on our legs. It is magical how the mountains transformed into rivers & the rivers into carpet of psychedelic flowers and these carpets into boulders. Each step was breathtaking and the view was spectacular.
Our enthusiasm to see the twin lake – Vishansar & kishansar had reached to another level where we just kept hiking without stopping. All good things takes a while to occur and similarly, after a tedious hike, there stood, in a majestic way, the twin lakes, welcoming us with its arms wide open just like how a mother would welcome her children. We forgot all the pain that we took to reach this point; we surrendered ourselves to what we saw that day. Turquoise blue, clear glacier water was tremendously fascinating and we were speechless, seeing this. We spent the rest of day fishing trout and cooking dinner, paying tribute for such an adventure that we had.
Day three was to reach another highest peak in our trek which is around 12,800 ft above sea level. The rich fertile soil in the Himalayan Mountains is a home for a variety of flora & fauna. We saw species of colorful flowers & berries. It looked as if someone had covered the mountains with an embroidered carpet.
The river crossing had damped our feet and our shoe was heavy. Each step had become quite tedious till we saw the magnificent Gasar Lake standing in front of us with melted ice floating on its surface. It is considered to be the most pious lakes of all seven. There is a mythological story behind this lake which says, their lives a humongous creature deep down the lakes, whose existence is unknown. This creature swallows whatever comes by; the Shepherds never dare to rare their sheep close to this Lake. India is a land of such mystical stories.
Each lake has its own beauty to glorify. Where one lake showed its Turquoise color, the other was a home for fishes and the other had a mystical story to tell and Satsar had a creative boundary to show. It was as if someone has just painted the canvas and allowed it to dry. Such pristine landscape it was.
Our next destination was to see the twin lakes, Gangbal & Nandkol, which literally tested our stamina and will power. It was a gloomy day with no sign of sun to turn up. The cold pricked us like a thousand of tiny needles. There were showers to complement our difficulty. The whole trail was filled with massive, scary, slimy, slippery boulders. We had to be extremely cautious crossing the boulders. With the weather being so bleak, the boulders seemed like chunk of ice cubes and we literally crawled over them like a reptile.
As we kept moving, we saw the twin lakes hiding in a veil of humongous fluffy clouds. I cannot express what joy it gave to me. Things started changing suddenly. The weather got better, the rain stopped, the sun appeared, shooing off the clouds and the two lakes were visible like two glittering gems kept together.
Our camps were set besides the Lake, we spent the rest of evening playing Frisbee and sipping hot cup of tea & Maggi. Maggi at this high altitude takes cooking to a different level.
In solitude I sat there appreciating things around while the others were in their own world. Some wrote their personal dairy, some sang songs, some sketched the landscape and some did photography.
I could not believe this whole hike of Himalayas was finally going to come to an end. The final day was to get down at Narnag and it was all descent.
I had no clue that the descents would tax on our knees so much!
With a final bit of energy left in us, we got down at Narnag, hugged each other with a sense of pride & achievement.
No sooner we reached, our cellphones beeped, with 100s of unread messages. While it was nice to get back to reality, it also made us miss something big, something priceless and something which got too much connected to our heart.
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