By D.S.D. Solanki, Tiger Adventure Foundation
Kashmir, the land of saffron fields, pristine lakes, charming houseboats, meandering rivers, lush meadows, fragrant orchards, and other such natural wonders, never fails to captivate anyone.
It all began after a successful expedition in Himachal Pradesh in May 2023 when we decided to shift our focus from snowy peaks to the enchanting valleys of Kashmir. Known as a paradise for trekkers and naturalists, Kashmir has also been a favourite location for film shoots in the past. However, due to the unfortunate actions of a few political groups, the entire valley seemed to have fallen into despair.
The shadow of terrorism cast over the region for the last few decades dampened the spirits of the people, causing them to lose their livelihoods and faith in the government.
Nevertheless, things began to change after Aug. 5, 2019. The State’s economy started to recover, and the tourism industry, a vital source of income, began to thrive again after the pandemic.
Despite best efforts to reassure potential participants of a trekking expedition, many were hesitant to join the trek when they heard it was in Kashmir. The region’s past volatile situation still haunted the minds of many. However, only a few managed to gather the courage to participate.
The journey began in May 2023 with an invitation from the Tiger Adventure Foundation for a trek to the Twin Lakes in Kashmir. Before setting off on the trekking expedition, participants underwent several endurance sessions at Chamundi Hill to assess fitness levels. The highlight was a 13-kilometre circular walk that boosted confidence.
As the departure date approached, excitement filled the air. The trekkers gathered at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru and boarded the flight to Srinagar. The flight to Srinagar included a stop in Amritsar, making it a long journey from Bengaluru. However, once they reached the region and witnessed the breathtaking aerial views of the mountains, landscapes, and meadows of Kashmir, the fatigue of the journey faded away.
Upon landing in Srinagar, the trekkers immediately proceeded to the Aru Valley in Anantnag District. Along the way, they were surprised to see armed CRPF Jawans, dressed in green uniforms, standing guard. Although initially perplexed, the guide informed them that they were there to maintain peace in the region, which reassured the trekkers.
By evening, the trekkers had reached the Aru Valley, where the enchanting meadows served as campsite. After a brief orientation by the guide, the trekkers enjoyed a hearty dinner and retired to their tents, falling asleep to the soothing sound of the Lidderwat River in the background.
The trek to Tarsar and Marsar Lakes followed a magnificent trail alongside the Lidder River, leading to the Lidderwat area. From there, they traced the path of the glacier meltwater flowing down from the Tarsar side until they reached Shekwas.
In between, there was a 1-kilometre stretch where the clouds enveloped the trekkers, creating a blissful sight. Once the rain subsided, witnessing the clouds at ground level was a sight to behold.
One of the unique experiences during their stay in Shekwas was the sight of starry nights. Initially mistaken for UFOs, these lights sparked various theories among the group of 21 trekkers. However, an astronomy expert confirmed that they were Starlink satellites launched by Elon Musk. This nightly spectacle lasted for four days and never failed to captivate the onlookers, particularly at 8 pm.
On the third day, they reached the stunning Tarsar Lake. Although interpretations of its name varied, it was a momentous occasion. They reached the summit, capturing memorable photos and appreciating the unique shades of the water, which resembled colours from a pencil box.
The view from the Tarsar ridge offered a different perspective on life, with Tarsar Lake on one side and Marsar Lake on the other, leaving a lasting impression on everyone’s hearts. The Marsar Lake, always shrouded in clouds, lacked the immediate charm of Tarsar, but local legend had it that any litter or stones thrown into the lake would trigger rainfall.
The entire expedition concluded on Sept. 5, 2023. The group consisted of 21 trekkers from diverse professions, including doctors, realtors, software engineers, golfers, business entrepreneurs, builders, housewives and Police officials. They hailed from Hyderabad, Mysuru and Bengaluru.
The trek was organised in collaboration with The Mountain Goat & Pahadi Adventure, Uttarakhand, from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8, 2023, in the Kashmir Valley.
The trekkers’ are: A.S. Srikar, S. Anagha, B.R. Kiran Kumar, Balachandra, Dr. S. Hema, Dr. Veenu John, Dr. Sharath Chandra, Dr. B.N. Rashmi, Hemalata Naik, Karthik Nagaraj, T.A. Krishnamurthy, Lenin Chowdhary, M.P. Manjunath, Nagesh Kumar, S. Pradeep, Raghavendra, Rani Narendra, S. Prakash, D.V. Sridhar and H. Vijay Kumar.