Tarsar and Marsar are two lakes situated at around 13400 ft in Aru Valley near Pehelgham in Kashmir. Since this was my first visit to Kashmir I had no idea what was in stored. I was staying in Srinagar, we were told to meet near the state tourism office from where we would be driving to Aru valley. The drive from Srinagar to the first day camp took around 3 hrs. We crossed many check post where the place was heavily guarded, finally we arrived at our first camp site. It was a wonderful setting, surrounded by pine trees and mountains all around. I could gauge what was in-stored for the coming days.
We settled in our respective tents.My tent mate was 65 years old Mr Paranjpaye. I was surprised as well as inspired to know him and to listen to his experiences. It proves that age is just a number and its all in the mind. As always the custom is, we got to know of our trek mates, one of them was a photographer, i thought at the end we will have good pics and good memories to remember. Our trek lead guided and explained us about the trail. The whole trail is of 40 kms spread over 5 days. I had spoken about the trail to people who finished the trek few days back and they said that the first two days were a bit challenging and then it was all normal. After finishing dinner, i wanted to explore the camp site however it started raining and we had to be indoors, therefore nothing to do we went inside our tents and slept. I got up very early in the morning around 4 am, it had stopped raining, got out of the tent and i was shocked at the surreal beauty of the place, it was dark and the moon was up and the whole place was bathing under the moonlight, so imagine the picture above in the night covered with moonlight, those conical trees and the moisture laden grasslands, with hanging clouds shining to the moonlight, it was a ethereal and a wonderful start.
1st day Aru to Lidderwat
It was a cloudy day, with chances of rain, we had breakfast and all geared up with our trekking shoes, raincoats and backpack to start the day. The trek lead gave details of the trail, today the trail was for around 10 km, not very steep however long one, we were supposed to cover this in around 6-7 hours. As we started a light drizzle had already resumed, some enjoyed it, some took out their rain protection, I was enjoying it.
Intially we passed through many tree laden trails some light grass lands and then finally we were in the open, it was all green everywhere, where ever i turned my sight it was all green, this was amazing as well as pure exhilaration
As we moved forward it started to rain. however we kept on walking, there is a different feeling all together in this, the sound of rain, the dripping water from the leaves and water flowing from trail soil. The lidderwat river was our constant companion through out the trail. We were enjoying, since we had packed lunch, we stood under a banyan tree and enjoyed our food, as we moved along just one hour before the end of the trail we found a tea shop, that was great, hot tea in the cold weather.
Finally we reached lidderwat campsite. It was still raining but non of us were complaining, the reason is when one sees the pics of the place.
There was nothing much to do therefore we all got together and then there was this second round of detailed introduction each member of the group. It was a good chit chat with new found friends, every one had their own take on life and why they trek, some very interesting and profound ideas. With these profound theories we had our dinner, it was still raining, we all went to sleep.
Day 2- Lidderwat to Shekwas
I had started to enjoying myself, my body had got somewhat acclimatized to the environment and i was feeling good and better. Today’s trail was a bit challenging there we steep climbs and we had to cross a river as well. As we were gaining altitude we started seeing patches of snow. Summer time had arrived and these snow patches were melting giving source to inlets of water, this inlets was finally turning into small streams which finally was joining the ever flowing lidderwat river. It is amazing to explore how the whole Eco system works and when one see’s this right in front of his eyes it is just inexplicable.
We had almost covered our 80% journey and the last mile was to cross this river lidderwat to reach the base camp, in doing this we had to cross a snow bridge and unfortunately this had melted off. 4 of us were a bit ahead with our Trek lead who told us to wait, he went ahead to find another route, after some time he came back and told us to follow him, we were walking on the river bed on huge stones and boulders, all 4 of us who were following the trek lead the the others had taken the other route which was higher up, the trek lead thought that as we walk along the river we will be able to find a short route across the river and with the help of accompanying rope, we will be able to cross the river, however it did not happen and we were stuck down at the bottom, the flow of water was very strong it was freezing cold and almost difficult to cross, the people on the top went ahead and they found a way to reach the other side with the help of the support staff(locals) who were travelling with us. We were now trying to find a way to go to the higher plane so that we could follow the others, going to the top was almost a 90 degrees climb with no support, I just thought to myself i have to do this the trick was not to look down as i climb up, with 8 kgs on my shoulder, i found a very small opening(leveled trail) on the way climbing up, i just took of with all fours and clutching on to the grass i just kept on finding support for my legs to hold on and started pulling myself up, i don’t know what energy took over my mind may be survival instinct and i didn’t stop until i was up in the plain lands. A challenging experience but a exhilarating one. Now next was to cross the river, a human chain had been formed and each one helped each other to cross the river.
As my legs hit the water there was chill across my spine, it was damn freezing cold, i just ran across the river and was on the other side, that was something. As we were reaching our camp site dark clouds had gathered, we walked fast and pitch our tent just in nick of time, it started raining heavily but we were inside our tent, it didn’t rain for long, it was a good day with varied experiences and tough call right at the end, but an enjoyable one.
Day 3 Shekwas to Tarsar Lake
We were told that today will be an easy trail, it was around 5 km with not much of steep climb. I was looking forward for this day in the trek itinerary cause we were supposed to camp beside Tarsar Lake today, I decided to take it lightly today and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.
Slowly Prodding along with the views as seen from the photograph we crossed one hillock to the other, then when we were distance away from the campsite and as we crossed the last hillock the grand lake with turquoise water was in front of us.
We had reached quite early and now had all day to explore this awesome camping site. Most of us were in great mood and with no time to waste started clicking pics of this vast water body. Striking a pose here and there all walked across the left part of the lake where there was snow patches which was snow one of the sources of water for the lake.
I dont know why, however all of us felt a mesmerizing effect when being here, every one looked happy and we were all laughing.
Finally the day got over, however we were still going ga ga about this place, but as it happens all good things have to come to an end so was this, it was getting dark, the good things was that the sky was still clear, we were surrounded by mountains on all the side, suddenly it became foggy and a wave of cloud descended across our camp site, we were disappointed that we will not be able to see the clear starry sky.
Suddenly, as if god was listening to us the clouds whiffed of slowly and slowly. It had gone totally dark and stars started to sparkle in the sky, we could see so many stars with naked eyes, astonished and dumbstruck we just kept on watching, we saw few shooting stars as well and then we noticed something unique, a star like object moving across the sky, it was not a shooting star cause they move in a blink of an eye, somebody suggested that it was the International space station moving across its orbit, whatever it was it looked very very clear.
I could not ask more from this trek, it was an experience of a life time, things and events which i will remember for a long long time, with these thoughts on my mind I went off to sleep.
The next morning I got up very early around may be 4:30 am, i am not going to write much about it but let the pictures do the talking….
Day 4 Tarsar to Sundersar
Today we were going to cross the Tarsar and reach for Sundersar another camp site with a water body. The initial climb while crossing the Tarsar pass is tough, i took frequent breaks but as one reaches the top of the pass the view of the lake becomes more magnificient.
Finally closing my awestruck open jaw, i started descending down the pass to head towards the next camping site, praising the almighty to giving me a chance to reach this wondrous place. The journey was for 5 km and it took lesser than last day since we were descending down, on the way we crossed vast meadows and grasslands.
We reached Sundersar camp site quite quickly. It was another beautiful spot. We needed to hike another 1 hour to reach Marsar lake, which was bang opposite to the camp site. Therefore after having lunch and resting for sometime we headed towards Marsar lake.
I made a error i did not carry my camera and no pics to show it off however i can say this much that it was not as magnificent and big as the last one.After coming back it was almost dark, this place had a very relaxing aura, a very chilled out campsite, as a group we were becoming friends to each other and since there was some time to dinner we played antakshri and enjoyed the evening. It was a good day spent.
The next morning we were supposed to reach our last campsite at Sonmasti.
Day 5 Sundersar to Sonmasti
Today it was all about descending down, we were coming at the end of the trek, Sonmasti was our last campsite. Descending down is very demanding on the legs, specially for people who are carrying their backpacks, I took it slowly today as i was carrying my back pack and did not want to damage my knees on the last day, there were some tricky places for crossover. The last day always brings about a relaxed kind of mindset which can also make us complacent which is a red flag. Most injuries are cause because of this one reason. Bearing all these thoughts in my mind apart from the backpack, i was slowly and steadily climbing down. We crossed a beautiful waterfall before the camping site
We camped at Sonmasti, all feeling drained out but satisfied that I completed the trek. There was a special cake made for all of us being the last day, we felt loved and honored by this beautiful gesture.
The last day we descended for almost 3 hours to reach motor-able road, all of us felt great, with some niggles here and there, seeing civilization after so many days, back to mobile networks and all the worldly stuff. This trek taught me to believe in myself, right from the apprehension of travelling to Kashmir (a terrorist inflicted state as put up by media) to climbing the 90 degree steep landscape, i did all without thinking what will be the outcome, it made me a bit more courageous cause it took me out of my comfort zone however the initial push was from my inner voice which told me to go whatever be the situation. It also bought out the fact that we have to believe in the goodness, Kashmiris are the sweetest and the most helpful people i have met in my entire trips across india. They are pure at heart and gullible people , that may be the precise reason that their mind’s have been played around with. A wonderful and memorable experience for me to this wonderous land of enormous beauty both outside as in nature and within the people in their heart.