Great Lakes of Kashmir Trek – Day 5


YinYang

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.

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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:

At first the clouds refuse to let go of their suffocating grip on us…

At first the clouds refuse to let go of their suffocating grip on us…

But my friend can be stubborn (not unlike the mule that held on to its dear life yesterday on that deadly trail) and he makes the clouds slowly loosen their grip despite their protests.

But my friend can be stubborn (not unlike the mule that held on to its dear life yesterday on that deadly trail) and despite their protests he makes the clouds slowly loosen their grip on the hills that surround us.

He persists and I guess by now the clouds are bloody irritated with his rants.

Slowly the mountains are unveiled against the backdrop of the azure morning sky.

He is gone before I could say goodbye but he takes the clouds along with him, perhaps promising to take them to a more welcoming, thirsty land somewhere else.

My loyal friend is gone before I could say goodbye but he does take the clouds along with him (perhaps promising to take them to a land that’s more welcoming (and thirsty!).

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Their chatter makes even the sun peak through the skies wondering what’s all the fuss about this early in the morning and we? well, we watch this cosmic show… spellbound! Twitching our toes occasionally, looking at our still damp and soggy shoes.

Ah the other joy of trekking with women…they can fashion out a fancy wet clothesline anywhere they go whilst men look on smugly!

Ah! the other joy of trekking with women…they can fashion out a fancy wet clothesline anywhere they go whilst the men look on approvingly. :-p

A clothesline that piques the interest of even this lil birdie (a gorgeous fire-fronted serin).

A fancy clothesline that piques the interest of even this lil birdie (a gorgeous fire-fronted serin).

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.

A walk on the frozen river bed that connected us to the trail at the other side of the hill.

A walk on the frozen river bed that connected us to the trail at the other side of the hill.

Preeti cuts a lonely but happy figure at the frozen river bed. The 'linger-on' fever seems contagious!

Preeti cuts a lonely but happy figure at the frozen river bed. The ‘linger-on’ fever that makes trekkers fall behind seems contagious!

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.

A flock of sheep grazing at the meadows.

A flock of sheep grazing at the meadows.

And what do I do when there is such a beautiful sight to behold? I empty my backpack and spread out my wet clothes, to savour in the sight till they dry out in the warm sun.

And what do I do when there is such a beautiful sight to behold? I empty my backpack and spread out my wet clothes to get dried in the sun while I savor in the glorious vistas. Damn! a chilled mug of beer in hand would have made it peeerfect!!!

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.

Green grass, blue skies, white fluffy clouds and a sparkling rivulet.....paradise?

Green grass, blue skies, white fluffy clouds and a sparkling rivulet…..paradise?

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.

Tiny, insignificant, happy  walking dots.

Tiny, insignificant, happy walking dots.

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:  🙂

Had heard about crop circles before but human circles?

Had heard about crop circles before but human circles?

Dunno what it is about rocks and me during this trek. Another moment of horsing around - guess i was hoping to ride the wind on this rock.

Dunno what it is about rocks and me during this trek, another moment of horsing around – guess i was just hoping to ride the wind on this rock.

Oblivious to our antics and lost in their own little world. Love birds - Ankur and Nandita.

Oblivious to our antics and lost in their own little world are the lovely couple, Ankur and Nandita.

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.

Photo op with the army men at the Satsar check post.

Photo op with the army men at the Satsar check post.

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.

The paparazzi into the act.

The paparazzi getting into the act.

The impossible act of trying yet again to capture the sanguine moments that only nature could paint so effortlessly.

The impossible act of trying yet again to capture the sanguine moments that only nature could paint so effortlessly.

Moments that make one go mellow and not just because the flowers were yellow.

Moments that make one go mellow (and not just because the flowers were yellow).

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!

Day 6>>

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