Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trek To Remember..Kashmir Great Lakes Trek






“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money.”


                                       George Leigh Mallory


There were some desires which I had as a child and which I was not sure would ever fructify. But as they say no desire remains unfulfilled. Thanks to Indiahikes I was able to do Kashmir Great Lakes Trek which was not a trek but a spiritual odyssey and a journey about rediscovering myself.


 Kashmir has been integral part of my being. In every mountain, in every valley, my soul resides. I had to leave Kashmir due to militancy in 1990 and I was a little child and went into oblivion and put a lid on all that my heart desired. Stories were only thing which were told and through stories I lived elusive dream not quite sure if I could redeem them one day. My father being an avid mountaineer, I was always fortunate to hear stories of his adventures and various peaks he climbed. One that always fascinated me was 50 Miles 50 Lakes. It was always trip in fantasy world. Looking at those pictures I always thought will I be able to experience the magic which my father had eons ago. And trust me it never looked like the reality till I stumbled on Indiahikes website and saw that they are conducting Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed surrealistic. I booked for 7th July trek which coincided with my sister’s birthday who also was supposed to go with me but due to some official work had to cancel. Now looking in retrospect, I see it as a blessing because my experience as a solo trekker has been exceptional and soul nourishing too.


Excerpts from trek diary:


I have tried to retain it the way my mind and heart felt back then.

I reached Srinagar after 13 hours bone denting ride, thanks to Amarnath yatra. I met Anand who was a fellow trekker who was also going by road but Anand was sleeping for like 12 hours so I was literally on my own ;)


DAY1: Srinagar to Sonmarg


I reached TRC and first people I met were Vaidehi and Mich who would be my future best buddies and tent mates too. Vaidehi looked all ready to go for trek with her camera dangling around her neck looked all excited. Mich was an extraordinary women, calm composed and one with great determination carrying her back pack and two trekking poles. After formal introduction, we met other fellow trekkers. I met Anand who looked in better shape, Deepen whom we would tease so much in coming days, Jasmine and Naman brother sis duo with whom I would have in coming days so much fun. Anurag(mamu;P) and Neera another brother sis duo who were seasoned trekkers, Bhawna and Khurram(The Mafia guy;P), Tanuj and Chamara from Srilanka,group of three friends from Mumbai who remained more or less with each other, Vainik and Chris and Tanya from Denmark. And not to forget Mr sloth Roopesh who could sleep anytime anywhere. I was also the Team Doctor for the trek.

I boarded Tata sumo which was to drop us to Sonmarg our first campsite, all excited and raring to go. Our campsite was at Shitkari on top of a hillock. I met Vikrant, Josh and Saranbir our trek leaders who gave us formal introduction about the trek.  The best thing about Indiahikes is the concept of green trails, preserving the ecosystem and not spread litter around and carry garbage which we found on way in our garbage bags.I felt so thrilled looking at mountains and general aura was mesmerizing. Snow clad mountains, overflowing river, chirping of birds and garam chai; it was beginning of bliss. My tent mates were Mich and Vaidehi. All fellow trekkers were excited and were seen soaking in bliss which surrounded them. At night sky looked overcast and it started to drizzle. We all hoped weather to clear for coming days and I can tell you for rest of the days it was such a great weather on trek, clear azure blue sky, pristine lakes, reflections in lake and nature in it’s magnificence.

                                                     Sonmarg camp site


                                                      whole team


DAY2: Sonmarg to Nichnai

We were supposed to leave for Nichnai at 8 am but due to rains managed to leave only at 9am when rains stopped. It was fun packing our tents. So we started at 9 am in the morning and reached Nichnai by 2.30 pm. After group photograph we left for Nichnai. We reached Shekdur where we filled our bottles and singing songs and chatting along with Naman  reached Nichnai. I wanted to reach Nichnai early as I wanted to learn how to pitch tents which thanks to our trek leaders I learned. For rest of the days I was part of sweeper gang as I walked leisurely soaking in beauty of nature, absorbing the aura and since I love photography clicking pictures was mandatory. We all stopped by river to have our packed lunch which was much needed. Weather had started to clear up and it was bright Sunshine. Finally reached Nichnai base camp where hot tea and pakoras awaited us. Rest of the day was spend in leisure chatting ,basking in Sun. I still couldn’t believe that I was finally on trek that I had envisioned. It was sky full of stars at night and such a treat to watch the Starry nights. Next morning was the beginning of dreams I envisioned.

                                                       on way to Nichnai



                                                altitude surely gives perspective..datz me;)



DAY3: Nichnai to Vishansar


We started from Nichnai towards Vishansar base camp. We left Nichnai at 8.15 am and reached Vishansar base camp at 3 pm. Our journey to Vishansar started with river crossing in freezing waters and it really was chilly. We could see our camp at Nichnai on other side. After a climb, panorama changed drastically as we crossed the Nichnai Pass. Snow clad mountains, overcast sky, melting glaciers, ferocious streams. Jasmine felt quite cold at Nichnai pass and had to be stuffed with whatever jackets, mufflers we had. As soon as we crossed Nichnai pass, it was walk through flower beds, wild flowers who owed nothing to nobody.

It was carpet of flowers. It reminded me of movie Sound of  Music and the song, The Hills Are Alive With Sound Of Music. I hated walking on flower bed for I did not want to crush them but as someone rightly said; “ Forgiveness is the fragrance violet sheds on the heel which crushed it”. I would stop after every few steps soaking in the beauty and clicking pictures. We sweepers (term for people last in trail) walked and enjoyed. For us journey mattered. But the award for consistent sweepers goes to three friends from Mumbai who held the sweeper banner high till the end;) I kept asking our team leader when will I see Vishansar. I reached  base camp but that was not our camp but of earlier batch of Indiahikes. People over there were very warm and they showed me way towards my Camp at Vishansar. By that time Vaidehi and Saranbir also had reached there so we didn’t leave before eating mouthful of aloo paranthas;) Again a river crossing followed and still Vishansar lake was not in sight, it was behind the small mountain which had to be crossed. We reached base camp and found everyone basking in Sun or taking a nap. Vishansar continued to elude me as they say “Hidden is more beautiful than apparent” so may be I had to wait more. I couldn’t wait. Wasn’t this the moment I was waiting for? And I wanted to be alone in this moment, in silence and in peace. Thankfully  none wanted to go as tomorrow we had free day exploring the lakes. I had my lunch quickly and left for lake, climbing each step till I got the first glimpses of the lake, green pristine, crystal clear lake not affected by time or vagaries, lying there in calm solitude. And I thought emerald was only green! I started trembling and tears welled in my eyes, tears of joy as they say could fill the lake with happiness. It was a deeply emotional moment for me. I had never thought I could be there and feel the same way my father must had felt. I realized my life was mountains and if I drop the parenphelias I associate myself with, My soul lay bare there in all it’s nakedness. I walked around whole lake as if some lost traveler is reconnecting with it’s roots. It was almost sunset when I realized other trekkers had come. I asked someone to click my picture on the same rock which my father had. It was a immensely gratifying day. A day I would not forget at least in this lifetime.

                                                        Vishansar lake one end


DAY4:Exploring Vishansar and Kishansar lakes


It was about exploring Vishansar and Kishansar lakes. Since I had seen Vishansar I headed to Kishansar lake.It was a different experience altogether. Kishansar Iake is a lake of reflection.You meet your soul,your essence in the clear waters of Kishansar. It bares your soul and you are naked without a façade. Reaching there I realized what life was and what it meant. How foolish I was all my life chasing things and goals which never mattered. What hurts me is the fact that why I took so long to realize that. I am peaceful now, at peace with myself and giving my life for things which define me and matter to me.

Coming back from Kishansar, Khurram introduced Mafia and trust me for rest of the days mafia addiction engulfed all;)Deepen’s logic, Chamara the perpetual mafia, Jasmine the good citizen..hahahaha. I had found amazing company in Vaidehi,Jasmine,Mich my amazing trio!!Anand,Me,Vaidehi,Deepen,Naman,Jasmine wouldnot sleep till 12am and would laugh laugh and laugh and would do all bakr bakr;) and I am sure everyone wanted to seal our mouths with fevicol.  Anurag(mamu) was equally entertaining. My symphathies with Vikrant who had to bear the brunt of our laughter;)



                                                      wild flowers

                                                         green trails
                                                  saranbir defying gravity

                                                        our tend..me,mich and vaidehi
                                                     anand posing at kishansar lake;)


DAY5:Vishansar to  Gadsar


We left for Gadsar at 7am in the morning and reached by 1pm. After crossing Kishansar lake which was engulfed in fog, mighty Gadsar pass waited for us. It was a steep ascend, Sun was blazing. Finally view from Gadsar pass was worth dying for. One could see both Vishansar and Kishensar lakes. It was a magical moment. After crossing Gadsar Pass, a slide through the glacier awaited. Mine was the funniest.I twirled, twisted and did acrobatics in full 360 degrees till I landed with head first;) After crossing glacier walk through beautiful valley follows. Zillion of wild flowers and riot of colors. Next is descent and long walk till Gadsar camp site. Gadsar also called Yamsar according to Kashmiri mythology is a lake of monsters. Finally reached Gadsar camp site. Gadsar lake is also very serene and peaks high and above bath in engulfed lake.I sat amongst wild flowers and flowing grass and kept gazing at lake and Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra to give me company  . Sun rays shone in lake like mini diamonds.I dont know what else is bliss. Let this moment last forever. Mid afternoon nap in mountains and a raindrop hits my face and I realize whole nature is around me and I  feel a lost child who has come back home to where she belonged. It was a balmy evening at Gadsar which felt so invigorating to senses.Every blade of grass leads a dignified life. Each flower is happy to bloom. What more is to life than this moment?
 Thanks to Mich, was able to see moon for first time during trek, a crescent hiding behind mountains. I was soaking in every moment of my trek. I couldn’t had asked for more.
                                                         Climbing up the Gadsar pass


                                                     at Gadsar pass

                                                     Jaminez smooth slide
                                       
                                             
                                                      My turbulent fall

                                                           one soul in three bodies:)

                                                          Gadsar lake

                                              scribbling my thoughts at Gadsar lake



DAY6:Gadsar to Satsar


Trek from Gadsar to Satsar. Long long long walk through valley of flowers. We have to cross Gadsar army camp in way. They were very warm and cordial with us. Jasmine got a French plait done by Tanya and I stud it with wild flowers. A lone tree you meet on trail. Trek to Satsar is long and tiring too.What keeps your spirits up is the beautiful meadow and wild flowers which are so captivating that you feel like staying there only.Finally  we reached Satsar camp site.I was tired at the end of this day and I had stopped at so many places clicking pictures. Also I started feeling saddened that trek was about to end. I took a midday nap to freshen me up as normally I would never rest but keep on exploring. Satsar lakes area was collection of 7 small lakes. I could spot five lakes. Next day was trek to Nundkol and Gangbal and climbing up the Zaij Pass.

                                                       Bakr bakr gang;))
                                                       Finally a moon at night at gadsar


                                                  French plait studded with wild flowers

                                                                  Satsar
                                                        4 leaf clover..so am i lucky???


DAY7: Satsar to Nundkol and Gangbal


We started early morning.First there was river crossing and then boulders, boulders and boulders of all shapes and sizes and then climbing up the zaij pass to have view of majestic Harmukh and Nundkol and Gangabal lakes. Ah! The view was majestic. My all tiredness vanished. I couldn’t believe I was seeing mount Harmukh called in kashmiri mythology as abode of lord Shiva. It was Deepen’s birthday also and he got birthday bumps at 13500 feet;) After ascent ,steep descent followed and we could see ourselves inching close towards lakes. Both lakes looked magical and pure. While everyone else moved towards camp site at Nundkol lake, I proceeded towards Gangbal lake. That walk towards Gangbal with all tired body and hungry soul was nevertheless enriching. As they say save the best for the last.So was Gangbal. I cant say how I felt. Mount Harmukh overlooking Gangbal, I felt a strange serenity ,silence which had eluded me. I sat on rocks and washed my face in rejuvenating waters of Gangbal. It is the same lake which had ashes of my Grandparents and Forefathers and I know my ashes too will have to be immersed in Gangabal when I die because that is only place where I shall find solace. Last year when my Grandmother died, my uncle came to Gangbal to immerse her ashes in Gangbal as it was my grandmother’s wish. I could feel a strange connect with demons and Gods, Ying and yang of life which existed. I sang bhajan in kashmiri which is about Harmukh and devotee waiting at Harmukh for lord Shiva. I really missed my family at that time for the first time on whole trek.

I sat for few hours at hill overlooking both lakes.Gangabal reminded me of centuries of requiem showing exultation with garland of many peaks and Nundkol getting wary of not annoying Shiva.

I came back to camp site in evening having witnessed Godliness in Wilderness. I melted in the melee but I knew one part of me stayed at Gangabal forever. Tonight was the last night of our trek.We had camp fire in evening,celebrated Deepen birthday, sang songs and soaked in the jamboree.

                                                      Deepen bday bumps at zaij pass
                                                     team at zaij pass


                                                   me at gangabal lake

                                              
                                                        Night at nundkol
                                                          trek completion certificates

                                                 our trek leaders

                                                      happiness

                                                      day of descents


DAY8: Gangabal to Naranag


It was the last day of the trek. Day of Descents.Our knees were rattling and through Birch and Pine forests  we reached Naranag.I never wanted the trek to end but endings are necessary for new beginnings. I came as a solo trekker but was carrying truck full of memories, many friends, connected with nature (thanks to Saranbir for that) and tantalizing memories of mysterious lakes which will envelope my mind and soul for time till I visit them again.

My heartfelt thanks to our Trek leaders, supporting staff, fellow trekkers, weather and especially to Indiahikes who gave wings to my dreams.

My journey wouldn’t have been as amazing if not for you all…Mich, Vaidehi, Jasmine, Anand, Naman, Deepen, Roopesh:)




PS: All photographs are copyright protected. 
More pictures at
 Varuna raina Photovisions






















50 comments:

  1. Even though i cudnt be there physically.... with the help of ur words... i could see myself running along those trails, climbing down the steep slopes.. swimming in d lakes..... taking naps midst the fields covered with wild flowers...
    Nw I'm really jealous....

    Btw... the pics have been shot brilliantly... thanks to my teaching :p

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  2. thanks:)
    I took extra effort to click good photographs to make u jealous..
    But I am glad that i have friend like u who taught me photography so patiently..:)
    u were fool not to come i must say!!!!!!

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  3. Beautiful articulation.... I reached to this post while searching Gadsar lake...Seems like there is a lot on this blog complemented with beautiful photographs... will paddle more around your posts...great work...liked the name of the blog as well...

    Cheers
    Vishnu

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  4. its beautifully written or should I say felt... and having heard the stories of your dads travel/treks across the valley, i know how much you would have loved to see these places... i am so happy you got to appreciate the serenity and the peace mountains have to offer...Keep travelling and keep feeling :)

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  5. beautifully written varuna...n ofcourse no words for ur pics...i am also a trekker....i have done many treks with yhai i.e youth hostels association of india...in himachal and uttaranchal but never been to j&k...ur trek has inspired me to explore this area too....do indiavision conduct these treks every year ???

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  6. sorry indiahikes

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  7. Awesomeness. People kept asking me and I was confused which day we visited which lake. Well, no more!

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  8. @giri..thanks:)
    @Roopesh..slothy hve dne ur work;)
    @Neha..Thanks..glad to know u too are trekker!! well indiahikes hve dem every year. You should go.Are you the same Neha from GMC Jammu??

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  9. really amazing .........u have done a tremendous job of photography, trek and writing the blog...........5 stars...wished to see more pics though...... nyc ...rlly nyc

    AVIJIT KOHLI

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  10. Thanks Avijit:)
    Pics will come gradually on my photography page:))

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  11. Nicely done Varuna, great going...!! Proud of you Doc....!!!

    Keep the amazing feel of Bliss going and no matter what, keep trekking...!!!!!

    CHEERSSS....!!

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Well, so much has been written by other people already that I feel I might not be able to top the comments. This blog is beautiful for so many reasons: chosen words, depth of feelings, photographs and my connection with each incident documented. I'll just add to Saranbir's comment by saying, "Keep trekking and keep writing."

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  14. thanks DEEPS:)))
    ur part of every memory:))

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  15. yes am neha from med dept....anywaz how r u....where have u joined??

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  16. im all good...
    Glad to know that u too love trekking..
    i have seen u only as Medicine ka pg busy with duties and studies;)

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  17. u knw how pg life is ...i did my last trek during internship..uske baad time nahi mila.....i hope to go for this trek .....lets see....anywaz all the best

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  18. Oh yes u should do thsi one...
    all the best:)
    God bless..

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  19. What a read..!was shifted to another world:)
    great writing:)

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  20. Amazing pics and equally amazing writing -- "It bares your soul and you are naked without a facade" - Superb.
    I will be doing the trek in a few days. Your blog post multiplies my excitement more.

    ReplyDelete
  21. its nice. trekking is thrill, newness.

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  22. Great Blog and plus great pictures

    thanks for posting the information and pictures

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  23. really amazing .........u have done a tremendous job of photography :)

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    ReplyDelete
  24. Awesome .....just awesome.........

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  25. Awesome .....just awesome.........

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  26. Awesome .....just awesome.........

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  28. Pen down soothing is not as easily as what we feel, but this bog is well expressed where I can surely relate with my tour to Kashmir. It has written in such as if we are looking for some excitement and thrill tour in life where e can explore the beauty of nature with perfect wonderful Kashmir adventure tour.

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  29. Nice blog! Great pics! Congrats!! Plan to do this trek in last week of July-2014. Came upon this via the IndiaHike site. Your blog & pics very useful for my trek coming up. Thanks!
    I have a travel-trek blog too; if you like see it here: https://sites.google.com/site/suhanasafarbyks/

    ReplyDelete
  30. wow , that was amazing , thanks for sharing . these pictures are beautiful . Jammu And Kashmir Tour

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  31. Well narrated. Good photos too. I treked this July with TTH. Unforgettable memories. Details here.

    http://www.trekthehimalayas.com/User-Trekking-Stories.aspx?title=Kashmir-Great-Lakes-Trek%20Himalayan-Experience-of-a-First-Timer

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  33. Wonderfully written, loved reading it. It was almost a spiritual experience. I would love to do this trek but am a bit apprehensive about it being too tough for me a 54 yr old. I have done one trek with india hikes -Kedarkantha, and believe it or not saranbir was one of the trek leads. Had great fun and the Himalayas have got into my blood. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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