Ever since I was kid I have been fascinated with this Yin-Yang symbol. According to Taoism it signifies the balance of the contrary forces of nature. Shadow and Light is what it literally translates into and it depicts the contradiction not as an opposition but as a complementary balancing act of nature. The concept no doubt has a deep spiritual aspect to it but one of the simplistic ways that I relate to it while trekking is “If you had a bad day….now look forward to a great next day! (or vice versa)”.
However, the dawn that greeted me the next day at Gadsar camp did little to justify that we were through with the Yin and now it was time for us to enjoy the Yang.
It was 6.12 am when I took this picture and the clouds were still hovering over our tents, casting a dark shadow and perhaps forecasting a day as bad or perhaps much worse than even the horrors of yesterday. But I guess I haven’t told you yet about the special friendship that I share with the wind. Our friendship in fact goes back a long way to my wanderings in the magical land of Sandakpu and then in my quest to get up close to my muse in Goeche La. Well, he has been a great friend so far but it’s not that easy to summon him for help as he keeps busy howling himself deaf. But, with memories of yesterday still fresh in my mind; I admit that I silently did send out a few prayers summoning him again this gloomy morning.
When nothing changed for a while, I reckoned that he must be still busy playing his games atop the Gadsar pass (where I had met him yesterday) but then like always he makes a late entry and greets me ‘Good Morning’ with a chilly hug. It doesn’t take long for him after that to work his magic with the clouds.
Luckily, I had my camera out to capture this interesting banter between the wind and the clouds:
To our delight, the skies clear up and the early morning sun warms up our cramped muscles and spreads cheer across the camp that was gloomy till a few moments ago. We quickly pack our tents and dump our (still wet!) clothes in our backpacks and start our hike towards our destination for the day, Satsar Lake.
We walk through a trail that’s peppered with wild strawberry bushes and by the time we reach the top of the hill my hands appear as if I have committed homicide and even my trousers are smeared with their juices as I greedily pluck, munch and then stuff some more of the delicious berries down my pockets.
It’s almost noon and the warmth of the sun and the incredible landscape that greets us from the hilltop makes me linger around even as the rest of the gang carry on ahead.
An hour’s walk through this captivating landscape brings us to the meadows of this place called Maengandob. The weather couldn’t have gotten any better – warm and sunny yet cool and breezy. We walk through vast meadows, carpeted with lush green grass that is occasionally crisscrossed with sparkling rivulets bubbling with frosty, white waters.
This amazing frame in our line of sight is made perfect with the mighty hills that rise on both sides of the meadows and lend a perspective that makes us feel like tiny, happy dots in the whole setup.
The linger-around-fever strike a bunch of us now and we drag our feet slowly; savoring every single moment of this visual delight. We realize that we’ve got left behind the group by a far distance and we needed to catch up with them but who wants to move on after reaching Heaven?
We get high with the the infectious mirth in the air and the antics follow: 🙂
So enamored were we with the landscape that finally the Indian Army had to be called in to yank us out from the place! Yes, I guess we moved on from this place only because of the army men hollering at us from the top of the hill, which we later realized was the Satsar army checkpost, the 3rd line of defense from the India-Pakistan LOC. As we make our way towards the hill and the army checkpost, I can’t help but wonder how difficult it must be for the men posted here to still remain vigilante and carry a gun when the surroundings seduce you with such tranquility? But given the history of the place, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they would have started firing on us if we had ignored their frantic calls any longer.
Once the mandatory entries are done and our identities are verified the warmth of these lonely men guarding our frontiers overwhelm us. They serve us hot tea with cookies and share with us their stories and queries about the news from mainland India. The outpost supports about 10 soldiers, hailing from all corners of the country, who guard the place for six months of the year during the summer and boy! were they happy to talk to us!
What irks me though is the cold approach they adopted while speaking to our local friends (guides, horsemen, cooks, helpers). Again the sad history of Kashmir i guess has a role to play here but then the apparent approach of Suspect, Affront, Disrespect and then Verify of the Indian Army towards the locals sure does not win any hearts, forget about resolving a 60 yr old dispute!
We move on towards our camping site at Satsar, which is actually a place with a collection of three to seven lakes (depending on the season on which one travels here). Again! the landscape seduces me and I get left behind, whistling a happy tune and strolling along a path laden with yellow flowers swaying in the breeze. The four of us (Aditi, Sunitha and Sophie are the other linger-ons) refuse to budge from the place and this time it’s Amit’s threats of we missing lunch if we delay any further that convinces us to move on from yet another place that was heaven on earth.
Amit by now is almost tearing out his hair in frustration as we stop every few minutes and enjoy the sights that surrounded us (I am running out of adjectives now!). We finally reach the camp around four in the evening (almost a couple of hours later than everyone else), ravenous and hoping to salvage something from what was left over from lunch.
The day was a perfect Yang day and I wrap it up by taking a short hike up the river from our camp and enjoy my first skinny dipping session in the freezing waters of the mountain river, as the sun sets down the horizon and marks an end to an incredible incredible day!