It was not my first time in Kashmir, being a mountain lover how can I not knock out Kashmir off my bucket list? A couple of years ago, I toured all the main attractions in breathtaking Kashmir valley, so this time I planned to revisit this heavenly abode for the love of trekking! A new hobby that I picked some time back. It was going to be my third and most extended trekking trip. A friend suggested a serene place in Kashmir valley known as “Tarsar Marsar Lakes”, considering his advice and the experience he had amid lofty mountains capped with snow, glaciers, wildlife, lakes, views and more, I decided to visit there.
An early morning flight from Delhi landed in Srinagar pretty soon, I got down from the plane and started to collect my luggage, as soon as I got out of the airport, I was captivated again with the fresh mountain air. The trek representative was already there waiting for me to arrive wearing a welcoming smile, we sat in the cab and commenced our drive of 4 hours towards Aru through Pahalgam. Alif (my guide) told me about the conditions of mobile network in Aru; he advised me to wrap up all my calls and communication with the world on reaching Pahalgam. We reached Aru, after the most blissful drives of my life, where arrangements were made along the riverside in the camp area, the place was not at all crowded, surrounded only by beauty. Aru is the base for the marvellous Tarsar Marsar trek. The camp was well organised offering a top list of activities like horse riding, fishing and bonfire etc., sadly; I had to keep them reserved for the next time as I was a bit tired after a long day and wanted to regain my energy before we begin to trek next day.
The next morning, I woke up to a sound of whistling in the camp area, when I looked out of my tent, there was still a little dusk in the sky; it was 6 in the morning when someone called my name for a cup of tea, well Alif it was! The tea tasted even better with the cool breeze running through my hair, and a dim view of rust orange sun seemed as if emerging from the mountains. Today, we were scheduled to walk along the Lidder River to cover a soft sloped stretch of around 9-10 km, after which the trail leads to dense conifers. The aerial view of Aru was still visible on the left playing peek-a-boo through the woody forest. After walking some more kilometres, we entered a village, belonging to the Gujjar community and shepherds. The village is called “Nandekai” village that remains inhabitant depending on the season; the entire site is worth watching, filled with picturesque views. As we walked through the village, I tried to capture everything I could with my camera lens. After walking a couple of steps we reached meadow grasslands, offering unbelievable views, it was so unusual to witness all kinds of terrain in a single stretch. As we moved more, the trail started to cut through the valley streams; we crossed the log bridge resting patiently over the brook. This side of the bridge was a point to refill your water bottles, eat lunch and catch some rest. Now, the trail started to head to another woody forest across which, there was a river flowing with water as white as milk, housing a quaint locality of Gujjar community. I was glad to see various food joints and house stays as established by Pahalgam District Authority, though our camp side was fixed at a quiet spot near the flowing stream. Since we managed to reach the place, well in time, there were still a couple of hours to stroll around and capture the tranquil, before surrendering to sleep.
Today’s trek included a long walk of 5 hours, as we started to move, I could see the Lidder River diminishing away. The forest was not thickly populated now, opening into vast lands, soon we entered Lidderwat stretch expanding into snowy elevations and deep ditches, crossing through which there were multiple water streams, we again refilled our bottles and proceeded on the trail. After walking for a while, we reached Homwas; another Gujjar village, from where the river joined us again. We hopped one more bridge, which directed us towards another small locality, a delight for trekkers to relax and chill. After regaining all the strength, we continued to follow the water stream, leading to a spread of lush green land, Shekwas. At Shekwas, you will again find Gujjar habitation along with some shops for daily needs, the houses are built with low roofs, and huts made up of leaves. The site for our camps was at a slight height, away from hustle-bustle in the land of dreams.
The next day, I woke up to a mighty view, green fields widened till wherever I can see. This day was a trek to stunning Tarsar Lake; we moved along with the grassy trail for some time, which changed into a lunge over a mountain. After passing through a decent number of ridges, the path changed again to the land embellished with emerald blue lake, as seen far away. We started to trek almost 5 hours ago, and still, there was a trek of 3 more hours to reach the astonishing lake. We crossed various water streams, hopping and jumping before we finally arrived. The camps were fitted on the gliding green lands touching the lake. It was altogether a fun filling experience to see the sky changing its shades from red to orange and blue to grey.
On the 3rd day, we were ready to accomplish a trek of 5 km to Sundersar Lake via Tarasar pass. We started to trek towards the meadows of Sundarsar Lake and Shekwas; this trail is ideal to save time but can be a little challenging at times. Walking through Terasar Pass is a great way to test your stamina, after walking through earlier covered gentle lands, this one seemed a bit hectic, but the beautiful sites and sprawling grounds kept us moving and after some time we reached an ascending path that gets steeper but mellows to a milder slope to fabulous Sundasar Lake. On reaching the levelled ground, I sighted the most impressive view of my life; it was gorgeous Sundarsar Lake from the other side. As we began to get down the valley bed, a group of shepherds was there to greet us with a smile. Mingling up on a break helped us revive, and after a cup of a hot drink, we decided to proceed. Walking some distance took us to the most picturesque site; it was a lake falling at the feet of the snow-clad mountain. The place was overpowering, made us halt there and capture every vibe. The captivating lake ends to an astounding patch, which was differently bright filled with colourful wilds. There were wildflowers everywhere you can see, it came to us as a surprise. The wondrous patch leads to the startling lakeside, it was Sundarsar flaunting with pride. At the end of the day, I realised that it was worth getting drained with pain. Lost in the starry night, I bid goodbye to the cosmic sky.
This day, we were all set to walk our path through Marsar ridge, the stretch seemed even trickier as we were supposed to walk on the icy snow patches, but the feeling of achievement kept us going. Now I was close enough to the partial snow dipped mountains that I could see from the far, it was so rewarding to walk each step towards them. Continuing a short walk, we arrived at a patchy grassy land that started to descend to a flatter area after a little more walk, cutting through the tiny water streams. As we ascend towards another ridge, we could see the glance of turquoise blue Marsar Lake, neighboured with sky touching white mountains and the almond-shaped lake falling on their feet, catching their reflection to preserve it forever. The view left us spellbound, but the mind was overflowing with limitless thoughts. Nature can never disappoint anyone, it is effortless yet engaging enough! The melting snow from the decorated mountains merged so well with the lake water to give the most splendid bluish-green colour.
After being lost in the most outstanding views, we braced ourselves to head back to Sundarsar camps followed by Homwas. Reversing again on the same trail, we reached Homwas before it was too late. The day left us tired and exhausted, and with the head full of endless undying memories, I was caught by the sleep!
Today was the last day of this enchanting trek; we got up early in the morning to get enraptured for the last time, the changing colours of the sky with all those glowing shades of rust and orange made me nostalgic again! We packed our belongings and started to descend towards Aru, walking over the same landscapes again along with the Lidder River and the wet meadows added more to the missing quotient. We took a short lunch break on reaching Lidderwat and decided to rest a bit before setting off again. Our last patch of the trek was to cover a distance of 10 km in approx 4 hours to Aru, where a vehicle will be waiting for us to drop to the airport to head back home from this magical land.
By Rameek Kaur.