The birch trees hang in the air as the valley below looks green and soft. The sun has casted it’s long shadow as we start our hike through a trail before approaching Sonmarg. This place is called Gaggenger. It’s just few kilometers ahead of the famous tourist spot called Sonmarg. This place sonmarg is known to everyone, a famous picnic spot for both tourists & local kashmiri. It solves many purposes, often called the gateway to Ladakh as this highway connects Leh with Kashmir .
Trekking has been a famous activity in Kashmir which provides ample opportunities for a tourist to see the pristine & virgin beauty of a place which has been deprived of the tourists by many foreign agencies & FCO’s who deemed this place unsafe for tourists. Contrary to it since the civil unrest of 16 years no tourist was hurt or killed. Kashmir people are very sensitive and hospitable, with the utmost care and warmth offered by locals tourists feel comfortable, many people I met in the houseboats or in the other parts of Kashmir they feel in comfort zone and are obliged to the humanity and kindness of kashmiri people. This trek I am talking about is a famous trek in Kashmir, also called great lakes trek, because you can see around seven to eight alpine lakes during this trek. This trek starts along a pony trial uphill a small mountains laden with pine trees, the “hoput” black bear roams freely in the distant forests. As we cross the long trail which becomes stiff as we walk and down there the sindh river becomes a blue line minutely visible. Shepherds coming down with their cows, their utensils packed in bags which are carried by mules, right above the ridge the fog wraps a large meadow and gusts of cold chilly winds which come from the sonmarg glacier makes us shiver. The mountains unfold after one another, it looks like a last mountain when we reach near it, the other one appears. Our guide told us the first stop will be nichnai, a thick carpeted meadow decorated with the beautiful purple flowers. In these parts lot of varieties of wild flowers grow in abundance. As I discussed with one passerby who lives in these mountains mentioned the use of these flowers & roots as remedies for various ailments. The day has been calm except the light wind which blows when we reach to the edge of mountain, there a clump of trees is bent on the river, the forest looks deeper and no trail can be seen except some of the tin roofs which reflect the sunlight in to the green pines. There are the big logs and above the boulders some dogs keep a keen eye on the cattle which they escort into these woods.
Above, windy clouds erupt with the white summit, rain in one side and the rainbow visible from the other side of mountain. The grass trail looks fresh as no one has walked on this for the long time. The cattle mown the grass here, they are also strewn by the drizzle by now which has start to beat incessantly. I bend down onto the patch of grass near the river butterflies of various colors and some dotted in sweet fragrant wings encircle the flowers which grow nearby mossy stones , the river splashes through their flights and murmurs into the deep pools nearby waterfalls.
Our stop over was a temporary camp consisting of few tents and a patched kitchen tent. in trekking staying in a kitchen tent is the best experience, staying warm wile a meal is being cooked. The views from the tent are so pretty that a person forgets all hardships of the trek for some time. Everything becomes green after the rainfall, I go out to buy milk from the gypsies and the smoke comes out from the kitchen tent. The gypsies are living in a small stone build rooms roofs are thatched with leafy branches of trees. These houses are empty when the winter starts the gypsies move down to low lying areas. I had a salt tea (kashmiri butter tea) along with a long chat about these mountains & the times which have transformed the lives of these people. They have seen tourists climb these mountains in full excitement these trails are awaiting tourists who would come again and get enthralled by the beauty & splendor of the snow clad peaks. Since a long time that they have spent in these solitary mountains they have seen a decline in tourism. Their eyes stare at the peaks and valleys “ these valleys are still beautiful as they were long time ago , since we were born and lured into the laps of these mountains” I hope good times will return back to Kashmir again after the political turmoil, it has been caught between India & Pakistan. Kashmir is a separate country with its unique culture & traditions that have been flourishing since ages. It has a rich history of its own. “Kashmir is beautiful & it will remain beautiful”
About the author: Tanveer badyari , was born and raised in the mountains, he travels regularly into the high reaches of ladakh, spiti & Kashmir. An adventure lover and trekking enthusiast tells the tales of famous tourist trails in Himalayas. Follow his adventures at www.heritage-indian-adventures.org