Hiking to Kashmir Great lakes – Part 2 of 2 series post
We had begun planning for this hiking to Kashmir Great Lakes in March 2018, we were already halfway through the trek. I could not believe I had come so far!
By now , we had completed more than half of the trek. I had got used to living in this wilderness. The wet shoes and smelly socks no longer bothered me. Walking for 8-10 hours each day did not stress me out. 3 people squeezing in the small tents and fitting inside the sleeping bags had become fun. I had no complaints on not being able to take a bath for so long (Ok some complaints on that part :P). But I had somehow magically started to love it already. A beach person, falling in love with mountains is ironic!
I also realised why they stressed so much on fitness. I enjoyed the trek because of the views and the experience. But I am sure, I would have enjoyed more, had I been a little more fitter!
But I still kept nagging Pratik, if we should have chosen a simpler trek for my first trekking experience. 7 days is pretty long time and this was a moderate to difficult trek by India Hikes standards too! And I had been consistently among the last ones to reach the camp each day! (ok, that was the real reason, I am little competitive and who likes being last!)
Day 5/7: Satsar (12100 ft) to Gangbal (11650 ft)
But this day was special and one of the most difficult days in the trek! We crossed pebbles, then stones, then rocks, then boulders and mountains. And I was among the first few to happily cross the boulders as I loved jumping across them! Finally I reached, not last but before someone else! (Though I struggled again later with the plain ascents)
And after 11 kms of trek, we reached to this pristine piece of landscape! This finally unfolded the secret of why Pratik loves coming back to the mountains again and again-
Sitting there, watching the sublime Nandkul and Gangbal lake, the view accentuated by the misty Mount Harmukh, made me fall in love with this trek. This hike to Kashmir Great Lakes now made perfect sense!
“The great stillness in these landscapes that once made me restless seeps into me day by day and with it the unreasonable feeling that I have found what I was searching for without ever having discovered what it was!”
We camped quite near to these lakes at the foothills of Mount Harmukh and spent the night stargazing.
PS: I did not know night photography at that time, else it would have been amazing to capture the shooting stars!
Day 6/7: Exploring Gangbal and Nandkul lakes
This was a buffer day and we could laze around in the campsite, or just walk around and chill. We even played cricket along with the guide, cook and helpers who had been managing our Kashmir Great Lakes trek.
Later that day, we went to the Gangbal and Nandkul lakes and cleaned the trails around. We had also been cleaning all along the trail for the past 5 days. But since these lakes were closer to civilisation, a lot of tourists left their plastic trails. It was so heartening to see Dagmar, a Norweigan citizen and our fellow trekker, collected heaps of plastic waste, cleaning our Himalayas, destroyed by us!
“To sit in solitude, to think in solitude, with only the music of the stream and the cedar to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of wilderness “- John Muir
This night was a special one- even Nikhil, our trek leader played Mafia with us. This was followed by a special performance from the kitchen staff and the helpers in their “pahadi” style and a special halwa cake. I wish we could reciprocate even half of their care and love for us!
This was the last night of the trek and the only thing which kept playing in loop in my mind was “Bas aaj ki raat hai zindagi, kal hum kaha tum kaha”
Day 7/7: The final descent – Gangbal (11500 ft) to Naranag (7450 ft)
Our minds felt very heavy and it felt as if the curtains came down on our trip. The monsoon rose up in the thunderous clouds from the parched valley below to engulf the hills and invade them with the opaque mist. A pine tree or a mountain top appeared intermittently and then unleashed a downpour. The rainwater cascading downhills made it so slippery and no one could descend without falling at least once.
But yes finally all of us made it- safe and sound! But I think our hearts were still at the lakes.
I couldn’t put it any better than the way Peter Matthiessen put it,
“Here I am safely returned over those peaks from a journey far more beautiful and strange than anything I had hoped for or imagined – how is it that this safe return brings such regret “
And I long to go back to the mountains! To Great Lakes of Kashmir!!
You can read Hiking to Kashmir Great Lakes – Part 1 here!