Part 1 – The Journey Begins
When I read the book “The Land of the Flying Lamas” back in 2013, I imagined myself doing “Natarajasana” (the famous Nataraja Yoga pose) on a mountain peak in the Himalayas. I dreamt of trekking the extensive mountain range and exploring parts of Himalayas that are not easily accessible.The experiences quoted in that book sent a chill down the spine and ever since I have wanted to experience the adrenaline rush a hardcore Himalayan Trek would give. Having read about Kashmir – Paradise on earth, I could never really comprehend its true beauty through photographs. I decided to explore Kashmir by foot and thus Kashmir Great Lakes Trek- A Himalayan expedition was a confluence of both my dreams “Exploring the heart of Kashmir” and “Trekking the Himalayas”.
I did my part of the research for two months about what it is going to take to trek the Himalayas and in May 2014, I decided to go for this trek with Abhishek, my brother and Nikhil, my friend. When I revealed my idea and plans to people at home everyone was apprehensive in the beginning, but I convinced them by painting a very beautiful picture of the Himalayan Trek.With slight anxiety, they gave me the green signal. I did my booking with an organisation “Trek the Himalayas” for July 12th,2014 and also booked return flight tickets for Srinagar. With all the booking done and things set I spent sleepless nights dreaming about the Himalayas. I sometimes used to get worried about what if I cannot complete the trek, what if I experience Acute Mountain Sickness, what if I injure myself, what if I cannot bear the cold etc. The “what if’s” were endless and the battle within was nonstop. The booking was done and there was no looking back. I began preparing for the trek.
Himalayan treks – of Moderate to High grade require good physical fitness and stamina. I worked out every day for an hour – 30 mins of running and 30 mins of weight/resistance training to strengthen my shoulders, arms, legs and core. In the meanwhile, I made a list of essential things to carry. The biggest challenge was minimising the list because the more things I carry, the more weight on my back. I stuck to just the essentials and hit the Decathlon store in Bangalore. Shoes are the most important trekking aid and it’s best to invest in a good pair of waterproof, ankle length trekking shoes. “Trek the Himalayas”(TTH) was also very professional and they provided a list of Trek essentials which made things easier.
I could not sleep on the night of 11th July unable to contain my excitement. The big day was about to arrive and I was clueless on what to expect. I set out with a blank page only hoping that I could paint a beautiful image of my experience on getting back. We had an early morning flight from Bangalore to Srinagar on the 12th July 2014, Saturday. We reached Srinagar by 1.30 pm and had to report to Tourist Reception Centre(TRC) for our pick up. We met a few co-trekkers at TRC and everybody shared the same sense of excitement and nervousness. I felt at ease because I now knew that I wasn’t going to scale these mountains alone. TTH sent us a car to reach the base camp at Sonamarg, It was a 4-hour drive from Srinagar to Sonamarg. We could feel the temperature dipping as we neared Sonamarg. The drive was resplendent with gorgeous River Sindh flowing on one side and the beautiful green mountains on the other side. We stopped by Sindh river bank to click a few shots.
|River Sindh – Sonamarg|
The air smelt so fresh and I felt my lungs expand with exuberance. We reached the base camp, which was located slightly away from the main road. We trekked uphill for about 20 minutes to reach the base camp. We were the first ones to arrive and the tents weren’t put up yet. I was stunned with the breathtaking landscapes around and it felt like a dreamland. I sat on one of the boulders, lost in my thoughts and spent a lot of time admiring the endless picturesque mountain range.
|View from the campsite at Sonamarg|
As the sun went down, the sky changed its colours from blue to light orange, to dark orange and pink. It was beautiful to see the sun hide behind the mountain and it was finally dark at 8 pm.When my co trekkers arrived, we witnessed a bewitching moon-rise. It was a Full Moon night and the moon shone like a diamond on the mountain. Moon rise on the mountain side is an amazing view and we were lucky to have experienced it.
|Full Moon Rise at Sonamarg|
We introduced ourselves to our trek leader Nitin and to other co-trekkers. We were a happy and excited bunch of 16 from various parts of the world. There were trekkers from Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Japan. After exchanging pleasantries we were briefed on the trek plan by our trek leader and served with Daal/Rice for dinner. We then retired to our tents as it was going to be a long and strenuous journey further on.What awaited lay unknown and I snuggled into my “not so comfortable” sleeping bag with fingers crossed and an anxious smile.
And the journey continues…..