Idyllic Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
It was that time of the year, when the mountains call and my heart starts throbbing, anxious to meet an old lover. After a delayed flight, I arrived in Srinagar in the late afternoon. Slowly my friends some old, some going to be new started arriving. Amidst, warm hugs and cordial hellos we all met old and new. Our driver, a young hot blooded Kashmir youth was supposed to drive us to Sonmarg.
By the time we reached our destination, it was pitch dark and our adventure began. The magic which would engulf us for the next six days started to unfold. Away from city lights, away from civilization, the darkness was pierced by a million beaming faces; the entire Milky Way was there to greet us. With so much excitement in the air, reluctantly I went to sleep.
The dawn woke us, to the beautiful site of quaint Sonmarg town in the distance. Sprawling mountain ranges and a silver snake slithering through the mountains, glistening in the rays of early dawn. After our first briefing, from Rakesh our trek leader and an old friend from Trek the Himalayas. We had a quick breakfast filled our water bottles in the fresh mountain stream and off we were on a soul stirring journey . As we walked soon the tree line of maples was left behind and our ascent began. My limbs rusty from a year of non activity, groaned and complained, but slowly they began to toe the line. Day one was to reach Nichnai, an ascent of almost 4000ft. As we climbed the immense vastness which is special to Kashmir enveloped us. After a long really arduous first day of trekking we reached our lovely camp site and lay our weary bodies down.
The next day even though we had to cross Nichnai pass, it was a fairly easy hike day. Ascents and descents were followed by a long walk through meadows. Till we reached a point where down below on a carpet of lush green, with a lazy river by the side, was our home the camp site for the day. We put our tired packs down and soaked in the sunshine and the beauty. Later we all went on a short trek to see our first Alpine lake of this trek, the Vishnusar. A site to behold, the aqua blue, crystal clear pristine glacier water of this lake was simply mesmerizing. A strong breeze swept my hair, as I closed my eyes to capture that moment deep inside and the waves from the lake jumped to caress my face.
Day three was one of reckoning, we had to cross the steep incline of Gadsar pass which stood massive at 13,750ft. But as I huffed and puffed on the unrelenting path, the pristine view of the Vishnusar and Krishnasar lakes, from that height urged me on. The view from atop the pass was truly divine. When you cross over to the heavens on a high pass, you cannot stay there too long, the altitude was making me uneasy and we started our descent. Coming down felt like a walk in the park after that grueling ascent. What greeted us felt like a reward for our hard work, the earth was smeared, in colors so vibrant, it took my breath away. Pink, blue, yellow, purple fields of wild flowers, raising their sprightly heads dancing in the wind and along danced my heart with them.
The trail stretched towards infinity, meadows of flowers became lakes and lakes became meadows and the trail became eternity. When we reached camp our legs were so shot, that all we wanted to do was lounge.
The dawn of the new day started with a river crossing, which some did wading in knee deep ice chilled water and some did on reluctant horses. We walked through wild strawberry fields, into a flock of grazing sheep, to endless meadows an easy walk. Just before reaching camp we walked into wispy clouds. These soft, fluffy objects which make up dreams have a mystical quality like none other. Through the clouds we walked into the land of fairies, protected by guardian sentinels on all sides with horses grazing, which under the cloud cover felt like Pegasus in a mystical land. The curtain was drawn on another angelic day.
Day five was one of lets say challenges and rewards, it was the day of our last pass Satsar. Another very steep ascent brought us to the pinnacle of this pass and the term top of the world’s took a whole new meaning. We were amongst the clouds, an abode of the Gods for sure. Even our treacherous downward path was getting swallowed by the clouds, so we decided to embark on our painstaking descent. After conquering the insidious path we still had hours to go before we could rest. Just when fatigue was gripping my every cell, a visual feast for my tired eyes was in store. Our last camp was at the shores of the gorgeous Nandkhol Lake. Seeing our tents next to the lake, cleansed my body of exhaustion and my heart became brimful with gratitude.
Our last day was all a downward climb. The last walk was a true, knee breaking, toe crushing ordeal. But the descent was broken by forests of whistling pine trees, singing their last song bidding us adieu, till we meet again.