Ever wondered what Paradise looks like in real. Everyone of us have various versions or connotations on Paradise. For me though, I have always loved the idea of living in the woods. A place that has unending lush green landscapes. A place that has valleys with flowers of various hues blooming throughout it. A place where the lakes are so pure that one could gaze through its depths right from above. But, barely did i know that I was just a step away from embracing my dreams ……and how!!
After having heard about Kashmir Great Lakes and after being awestruck by its beautiful pictures, I and a friend had decided to try this trek. Little did we know about what we were getting into. The websites had provided enough caveats about the difficulty of the trek. But being a fitness enthusiast, I wasn’t really concerned about it. But was my lack of concern really justified, only time would tell!! Having made all the necessary arrangements, we were ready to face the truth.
Kashmir survives mostly through its income from tourism. However, lately though, that has taken serious beating, the major reason being the geo political tensions. It was a huge risk and our actions were treading on a very thin line between bravery and foolishness. We landed in Srinagar and were on our way to the hotel. We had observed that numerous army personnel were stationed at every corner of the street that seemed bizarrely vacant. The situation did send a chill to our spine. We however found refuge in the hotel where the staff seemed friendly. After having spent a day and half, we were on board to our camping site that was stationed at Sonamarg. Upon arriving our campsite, this is what was exactly waiting for us:
Some of us including me took our time to grasp the marvel around us while the others had instantly reached for their cameras. We had only begun to pray that our batteries and memory cards don’t get exhausted before this trek ends.
Our eyes feasted to its hearts content at the landscapes, gigantic ice laden mountains and valleys that were as pure as crystals.
The entire trip was nothing short of an art exhibition, Mother Earth being its curator.
And like any great artist, she had reserved the best for the last……THE LAKES!!
It was Day 3 of our trek. And while we were in a completely different dimension, back home things were looking pretty good at the stock market. We were scaling at a record high of around 32K. But that was not the only thing soaring new heights. We were warned that the third day would be the most difficult day of all, for we were gonna scale the gigantic Gadsar pass. That would put us at 13,750 ft high. We were excited but equally terrified too because Day 1 and 2 had been physically very enduring. There was only one way to do it – SHUT OUR MINDS, KEEP OUR HEADS DOWN and TO KEEP WALKING. But that was easier said than done. Barely an hour after we started and after having covered only 20% of the incline, we were panting our lungs out and our legs had started aching beyond tolerance. There goes an adage that never grows old, “Never challenge the mountains. RESPECT IT!!”. We realized the gravity between every letter of those words. 3 hours had passed and we finally reached at the top. We had fallen down on the ground refusing to move by even an inch. Suddenly we heard some trekkers who managed to gather some energy and scream at the marvel that awaited. We had seen it in pictures but to witness it for real was one of life’s greatest blessing. Readers, Behold! I present to you KRISHANSAR and VISHANSAR – the twin lakes conjugated besides each other with majestic mountains covered under fog. A visual delight reserved only for those who braved to scale at 13,750ft.
But that wasn’t the end of it. In our journey ahead we had seen many more. Here is a glimpse of the same:
Highlight of the trek!
There were two things that had moved us so deeply that it only raised the level of experience we were having:
- The LAKES?? Not exactly. The places we were trekking on happened to be not only beautiful but were also very close to the Line of Control which demarcates the border between India and Pakistan. And considering the relation we share with Pakistan, we have our ARMY JAWANs patrolling over these borders. We all considered ourselves to be very fortunate to be able to meet them for real. At first we were a bit scared as most of us had never met an army personnel before. But we all were in for a surprise when they greeted us warmly and with utmost respect. We still remember those faces that lightened at the mention of most of our origins from Mumbai or Pune. And the conversations that transpired in Marathi had lightened the atmosphere. They were very courteous enough to offer us water. At one of the checkpost, the jawans had gone ahead to offer us with kashmiri tea also popularly known as KAHWA. These jawans had their posting in some of the most odd places where temperatures dropped below zero. For their daily supplies, they were supposed to travel for around 20 kms to collect them. But they were very proud of what they did. However, as a citizen of this country, I couldn’t help but ponder if our country was doing enough for them.
- Then, there was this one thing that really put us off to the extent that we were annoyed at its very sight. Every time we would pass by a lake or a valley, we would observed litters of plastic wraps all around. It was very upsetting to look at the garbage around. Considering that plastic takes an infinite time to decompose, how wise is it to engage in such an act! Its one thing to feel blessed to have a beautiful place like kashmir within the boundaries of our country and its another thing all together to not do anything to ensure that we maintain it for generations to come. I was lucky to do this trek under India Hikes that ensured that any route we had taken, we made sure that we not only kept it clean but also we would make it cleaner than it was before. And to ensure this, all of us were given eco bags to collect the trash.
The final day had arrived!
We were instructed the day before to rise at around 4am only to be able to begin our trek at 5.30. And we were all bang on schedule!! It wasn’t as dark as we imagined it to be. Dawn had broke and we spearheaded towards the finale.
Descent…..more Descent and ………….even more descent!! Does it ever end? These were some of the many thoughts doing its rounds. It was almost 4.30 hours past since we left our campsite. With just a short break in between, we were all spiraling downwards, unwilling to take another break and to just get over with it. I along with my co trekker had just spoken on almost everything under the sun; topics that ranged from the passion we shared for running, our workplaces, our last trek experiences(mine being none) and et cetera. And even though we ran out of topics, our course just didn’t seem to end. Our toes were screaming in pain, our water repositories had almost diminished and our motivation was beginning to lose its fuel. We couldn’t take it anymore. Who knew that a descent could be so punishing. But it wasn’t exactly the course that was taking a toll on us, for we had seen the worst of worse courses before. It was the excitement and expectation of returning back home that made us impatient. We had waited for this moment for so long. Those 7 days in the wilderness. Never had we ever imagined that we would be lucky enough to witness MOTHER EARTH in the way we did.
Each and everyone of the 17 of us, out of the 23 that had begun the trek initially had changed from within in leaps and bounds. From the outside though, we had roasted beyond recognition; lost a few kilos and inches from our waist and the best of all, most of us rediscovered new endurance limits that we all were proud about. Just then we could hear the sound of vehicles passing by. We realized we were getting close to the end of our trek; we were getting close to CIVILIZATION. But if you ever happened to ask any of us if we ever did regret to do this trek, we would all scream “NO” at the top of our lungs. For we had all just been to PARADISE and back. We all had a story to tell. Our losses were minuscule in comparison to visual delight we encountered. And at present even though this paradise is embroiled in a lot of controversy, it is worth defending. KASHMIR – a paradise within our reach!