Swachh Bharat and Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
July 28 – August 4, 2018
To some of us who have only seen or enjoyed Kashmir scenes through the eyes of Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagoor in Kashmir ki Kali (1964) or Gemini Ganesan and Vyjayanthimala in the Tamil movie ThenNilavu (1961) and plethora of other evergreen Indian movies, a maiden trip to Kashmir was a dream come true. In this Kashmir Great Lakes Trekking expedition (28 July – 4 August), my family had the pleasure of meeting our fellow trekkers, who became our best friends at the end of first day itself, who came from Netherlands, Karnataka, Delhi, Telengana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamilnadu.
Our group was efficiently led by TTH trek leader Tashi Bhutia and Devendra Bisht, who made all of us comfortable with what was ahead of us on the first day itself. Unlike most of the other trekkers, we were new to Trekking and were not sure what we were about to venture into. We were also not sure about our fitness level as our family was more into running and swimming and had couple of stints climbing two small mountains nearby. First day was a bit challenging but we (the older members of the family) were to able manage rest of the trek with minor support. We would rate this Kashmir Lake Trek as moderate-severe based on our experience. It did give us a good baseline to what we can expect in our future treks if we decide to venture, which was highly recommended and encouraged by Tashi, our leader, who with others provided us both physical and moral support throughout this ordeal.
We realize that the past trekkers have already chronicled their experience with pictorial documentation in this blog, so I decided to highlight our experience on Day 7, our rest day at the Gangabal twin lakes camp site. At the outset, all of us would agree looking at the Gangabal twin lakes from Zaj Pass was the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime, scene that makes the whole trip worth all the efforts. We decided to have our rest day at this site and decided to take a walk to the second lake which took almost 30 minutes. This 30-minute walk did reveal something that should concern all the trekkers as well as other trekking organisation, a serious concern to the environment.
The area in and around the camp site was littered with garbage that includes plastics, food wastage and other disposable and recyclable garbage. When you think of Kashmir, the first impression one gets is its pristine natural beauty that probably ranks the best in the world. We asked one of the leaders of another group that were with us “how many times have you come here?” His response was “only once and you don’t get too many chances to come here and that itself only for few months in a year”.
If we, as Indians, must maintain the beauty and unique geographical advantage of this jewel, we have no choice but to maintain its cleanliness so that our future generation can also enjoy what we are blessed with today. Trek The Himalayas (TTH) trek leader Tashi and Devendra took leadership in cleaning up the place and encouraged everyone to participate in this effort.
On the same line with what was stated by our Honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, “Swachh Bharat Mission is a public movement. This is the need of the hour and a change in our behavior is a must”, we certainly felt the need and realized how best to use our rest day. What we did might be looked at as “just a drop in the bucket” but, hopefully, would set an example for the future trekkers. Mother Earth gave us this gift, a beautiful and pristine environment (with Kashmir as a special gift to our country), for all of us to share. It is a gift where things are changing, perhaps some of which are for the worse as o result of our own making, not keeping it clean. We need to realize that the day is not that far from realizing that we would reach a point of no return. So, we must rise to tackle this need of hour issue and stop abusing Mother Earth before she dies. I take this opportunity to thank Trek The Himalayas team Tashi, Devendra and our fellow trekkers: Bekir, Paula, Mirjam, Iris, Radha, Divya, Nithya, Brinda, Jayaprakash, Santhosh, Chandru, Prapulla, Gogul, Vinod, Geet, Preeti, Karthik, Rajeev, Manasa, Omkar, Nikhil and Bhargobi, for making this rest day as meaningful as anyone could have hoped for and also for making this trip a memorable one, something we will continue to cherish the rest of our lives.