Our Kashmir Great Lakes Trip was going fabulous. It was going to be a long day of trekking, with a distance of roughly 17 kilometres. I felt certain that I could accomplish this stretch without difficulty since that I had successfully walked for two days. I assumed the trails would be comparable and that I would be able to handle them. But I was proven wrong, and I was put to the test both physically and intellectually.
We had to cross a river to get onto the trail when we first started. The water was pounding the boulders and moving at a fast pace. We had to cross a long boulder stretch without letting water get into our shoes above the ankle. When I landed on a loose boulder while crossing the river, I was far too cautious.
I lost my balance and slipped, causing my right leg to collide with one boulder and become wedged between two stones. My leg was ankle-deep in the river, and water got into my shoes, much to my dismay. I was able to carefully pull my leg free and cross the river.
To gain a better perspective of Vishansar, we had to hike uphill for a while, and the water in my shoes made this stretch incredibly tough and painful. We next climbed to the top of the mountain for a spectacular dawn view of Lake Vishansar. The water was very clear, and the natural colours were incredibly relaxing. The human eye is drawn to everything in its natural, unaltered state. God’s creation is so amazing.
The water in my shoes was really bothering me, so I had to squeeze it out before continuing on. Assisted me in squeezing the water out of my shoes and used tissues to dry the sole.
It was then a long, arduous climb uphill. The trail wound its way around the mountain in a circle, but it was incredibly narrow. We had to walk one behind the other because there was no way to walk side by side. You’d plummet straight into the valley if you took one incorrect step. Bend slightly forward and lean towards the hillside while taking short steps is the ideal approach to go across such places. This gives you a sense of security. Every time a stone or rock crashed down into the valley, my heart skipped a beat. It was difficult to comprehend what might happen if one were to fall in this way.
People who suffer from acrophobia would have had their heads spinning. The sun was shining brightly, and the route seemed to go on forever. I looked up after each modest accomplishment to see how much further I had to travel, but the top was always out of reach. To get to the top of the mountain, it took four long hours and a lot of prayer. The Gadsar pass, at an elevation of 13,800 feet, is the highest point on the route. My heart was thumping furiously and I was out of breath. I was caught aback by an exotic vista of twin lakes Kishansar and Vishansar only after reaching the peak did I happen to notice what lies beneath.
My ears and neck were completely sunburned, and the flesh on my ears began to bleed as I peeled it off. I was startled to see one of our volunteers crying out in anguish. He had severe tooth decay that had gone untreated for a long time. Our tour group’s dentists treated him and prescribed a pain reliever. As we spoke with several of the residents, we understood that medical assistance was not readily available. They had to travel considerable distances to see a doctor, and for the same reason, they would often ignore disease.
It’s a pity they have to live in such deplorable conditions. When the weather gets bad, they have to move their dwellings, and they are always caught in the middle of communal strife. I felt depressed and could only sympathise with their position. We are quite fortunate to live in such a comfortable environment, and I couldn’t help but be appreciative.
We munched on energy bars, dry fruits, and Chittale Bandhu Methi vada while waiting for co-trekkers to arrive at the peak. I expected the descent to be much easier after such a terrifying ascent. But, once again, I was mistaken. The descent became far too difficult due to the mixed terrain — loose pebbles, snow, and mud.
My knees were wailing, and my right ankle began to pain significantly after a while. It was due to the morning’s snafu when crossing the river. I was alone somewhere between the snow track and the road. I couldn’t see anyone in front of me or behind me. Because of my leg, my speed had slowed dramatically. Every step was weighty and intimidating. I sat down for a while and told myself not to worry about the destination, but to focus on the journey rather than my leg. After that, I hiked at my own pace, taking in the beautiful scenery. I took numerous photographs of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and flowers.
I was ecstatic to be alive, and I didn’t want this adventure to stop. It was that unusual occurrence that reawakened the inner child in me. I was beaming to myself and bouncing in my heart. I was looking at my own reflection in the lake and saw such a pleased face after such a long period. We are so busy running a race in our daily lives that we rarely spend time with ourselves, and events like these help you relax. I was at ease and grateful to God for such a wonderful experience.
I could see other trekkers sitting near the riverbed after approximately two hours. We took a break for lunch after I joined them. We resumed our journey after a brief lunch break. We had already trekked 8 kilometres and had another 9 kilometres to go. Our local hike guide, Javed Bhai, kept our spirits up all the time by convincing us that the objective was not too far away.
He didn’t want us to be concerned about the enormous distances we’d have to go. It was difficult to keep up with him because he walked far too quickly. The ache in my leg subsided, and I joined on a slow trek. We arrived at a beautiful lake called “Lake Gadsar” in approximately half an hour. The lake appeared magnificent, with a majestic snow-capped mountain range on one side and a gorgeous flower-filled valley on the other. During the winter, this “lake of fishes” entirely freezes over, and we can see a couple of floating icebergs. The vista was breathtaking, and I spent a lot of time marvelling at its splendour.
The trail that followed seemed to go on forever. When your body fails, it is only your intellect that can help you. This was a true test of my willpower since I discovered how powerful the human mind is. I witnessed Yuta, a.k.a. Iron Man, walking with ease while carrying a bagpack weighing about 20 kg. I used him as motivation to finish the last stretch, dragging my foot along the trail.
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