Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: Beyond The Pearly Gates, Into Heaven
The sea foams of clouds were devouring the raging orange sunset, with every dewdrop of hope, I felt just like it, brilliant and bleak beyond words. Everywhere awful green meadows and fragrant flowers; a blade of grass dwindling in the winds of eternity, but somehow, still grounded by a rock. To the North, it was green; to the South, lavenders were blooming their last; to the West, was the mad raging sunset; to the East, her laughter.
I sat down on the wet grass, opened my diary;
I AM IN HEAVEN.
I wrote in caps and closed it. It was enough to describe everything around me.
At Vishnusar Lake, Kashmir Great Lakes Trek
I crossed the Vishnusar Lake that day on the trail. Now, I had seen many high altitude lakes during the years I have traveled and trekked across India but something like that, I had never seen. The play of sunlight filtering through the clouds, made the lake glisten and then, not. If you stood there for fifteen minutes, you would see three different shades of blue; changing within every five minutes as the clouds kiss the sun and then, not. I sat there for thirty minutes and then, slept for another thirty.
The day after that, I was on my way to Gadsar pass which towers at 13,800 feet and was supposedly the highest point on the trail. The ascent was steep, so I decided to try the meditation of trail. Just walking on the trail, looking at your feet and not looking about; eventually falling into a trance as you feel the ground zipping up on your feet. Trails tend to do that you, you are floating around in a Shakespearean paradise expecting fluteboys and then suddenly, you’re struggling under a hot broiling yellow sun, forcing one step in front of another.
Standing on the pass, I felt like disappearing into the mist, the tall, excessively green mountains wanted to engulf me or so I thought.
The clouds were dense and I couldn’t see anything,
Just when the fierce wind started to make me shiver, I decided that it was time to descend down to the Gadsar lake, and oh, what a beauty it was.
From the top of the Pass
At Gadsar Lake
The sun came up pretty strong that day, I was camping near the Gadsar lake and the view from the tent was to die for. I wanted to feel the sunshine burn my face, so I got out, lay in the grass amidst the blue forget me not flowers and stretched my limbs in all the four directions.
The mountains, the clouds, everything seemed to be playing smooth jazz on a live orchestra, just for me. A melody by nature, being played just for me. A melody that would put Ludovico Einaudi to shame.
After all this while, it seems that these mountains and the wind gushing past it, are the ones who know me the best; not my mother, not my lover. The mountains tend to do that to you they always look familiar, like the mole on the back of your hand you see every day, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the sea, most of all like golden memories of childhood. The clouds as they pass overhead seemed to testify by their own lonesome familiarities to this feeling.
So, I just lay there, sleeping and dreaming in the grass, amidst the blue forget me not flowers with my limbs stretched out in all the four directions.
Lost in the Valley
Enjoy the drone shots of the Kashmir Great Lakes in this video
A few hours on the trail which lead to Satsar, I spotted a few deep craters towards my right. I had heard, but I did not expect them to feel so surreal. Those craters were a result of cannons fired by the Pakistanis during a war many years before I ceased to exist. I went closer, jumped inside one of them and sat down. I looked around me and I tried to imagine what went down here all those decades back; I had goosebumps on the nape of my neck within minutes. I climbed up after fifteen minutes and continued walking with a heavy heart.
I decided to camp in a meadow that day. A mountain was standing tall on one side and towards the far end of the other side was a deep valley. The sunset and the stars came up, I unrolled my sleeping bag in the grass, lied on my back and stared up at the stars, wondering if they were staring back at me.
The sky was clear that night. there wasn’t a single cloud and it made for a perfect night to stargaze. I could even see the milky way galaxy with naked eyes. I have loved the stars since I saw them with her. There was something about how she looked at the stars that made me fall in love with those tiny specks in the sky; it made me fall in love with her. I took out a piece of birch that I picked up on the first day, wrote a small letter to her and tied it up with the blue forget me not flowers that I picked up that day before leaving Gadsar. They say that Birch does not biodegrade or ruin and that is why manuscripts that age back to centuries ago have been found written on Birch. So, in my hand was a letter to her, that will always be there, under the stars.
The silence was so intense that I could hear my own blood roaring in my ears but louder than that was the mysterious roar of silence itself, shhh…
I spotted seventeen shooting stars that night.
At Satsar Lake
I had to reach Gangbal twin lakes the next day, so I started walking on the flat trail which quickly changed into a trail full of boulders. Boulders as big as me. Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling, with a heavy pack, is easier than it sounds; you just can’t fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.
The campsite was beautiful. Wide meadows, tall mountains and down the lake, vague reflections of mountains appeared, I looked up and smiled at the sky.
What more can I say? Words describe reality only loosely and it ended in tears and wonder anyway.