Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, in Pictures

At first I set about writing a travelogue; but then quickly realised I could do that later and instead share the photographs which had created quite a storm on social media, particularly instagram. All the captions are heartfelt memories 🙂 When I went on this trek, in July-August 2016 I was a bit skeptical especially after having already been on the Tarsar Marsar Trek too in 2015. All my doubts have been dispelled and how!

Now I can safely say, with regards to the effort vs reward ratio, the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek offers scenery and landscapes like none other, plus there are the LAKES!

Presenting some of the best photographs from Kashmir Great Lakes Trek.

Day 1

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After the mandatory hellos and exchange of greetings, we had started walking away from civilisation. The happy feeling of the first hour of a trek can hardly be described in words. It has to be felt! As I always try to either be in the front or right behind everyone, this time I was walking with the horsemen and this is what I saw when I turned around. Later on the trek we would have Kashmiri folk songs and dancing on most evenings, after dinner.

Day 1 began at Sitkari and ended at Nichnai after ascending the meadows of Shekdur through a birch forest.

Day 2

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We are secondhand people. We have lived on what we have been told, either guided by our inclinations, our tendencies, or compelled to accept by circumstances and environment. We are the result of all kinds of influences and there is nothing new in us, nothing that we have discovered for ourselves; nothing original, pristine, clear. These words suddenly rang a bell when I first read them. Has someone spoken the truth? Come to think of it, the current generation has actually lived a comfortable life (well, the majority of it anyway) and has rarely had to struggle. It is time to break free from the usual and try something different. Haha, now if you allow me a little humour : So, if you are a sheep; don’t just graze anywhere. Trek to the Vishansar lake in Kashmir and graze! (ha ha) The storm clouds had disappeared once we made our way to the first lake on the trek. It was around 4 in the afternoon and a shepherd was wandering with his troops near this gorgeous water body.

Aligning earth’s heartbeat with mine at Vishnusar Lake.

Day 3

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Sometimes I feel humans get too competitive, maybe it has something to do with evolution and the very survival of our species. There are limited resources and all we are trying to do is to get a lion’s share of it; because we’ve been told to not leave anything for the next person. A beautiful moment on the trek, a regular trekker holds the hand of a first timer to bring him across a non stop ascent. I fondly remember an incident from the trek; on the first day when it was raining, a guy who was walking with me contemplated quitting. I kept egging him on and somehow prevented him from taking the decision, ensuring we reach the first campsite and changing our wet clothes. The guy used to almost always lead the party after that day and actually gave the credit for his completion of his trek to me! Human beings are social animals, think it’s time to act on it too. Bring a smile on everyone’s face, help the ones in need and you shall receive help in return when you need it.

Kishansar and Vishansar (Vishnusar) Lakes as seen from the top of Gadsar Pass.

Continued…

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The moon was just coming over the mountains, and we were happy to watch it rise. A dog began to bark near the houses of the Gujjar shepherds. The river was so still that it caught the stars and magic of the universe among its waters. A night-bird flew silently by. Someone began to sing a lovely melody and everyone sprang up to hum along. Life. After crossing Gadsar pass, the ascent passed through a never ending array of colourful wildflowers. They were there in blue, white, purple, yellow and were so fresh looking that it became mandatory for us to lie in a field of flowers and get ourselves clicked! This is where we had lunch. At this point, the futility of life and usual everyday stuff hit a few trekkers, those who were in their mid 40s. As Murakami says, time is running out; regrets are mounting. Live a life from which you don’t need to escape to really ‘live.’

A place where I slept during lunchtime on the trek. Memories.

Day 3 or 4

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Trekking in the mountains can become a rhythmic activity, tick-tock tick-tock… almost matching the footsteps with the breathing and try to be as still as the nature around. The most beautiful lake of the Kashmir Great Lakes trek doesn’t care to announce itself. It was one such moment when you are walking on the trail, aloof of the wonder of a small water body on the left side. Then you walk closer towards Gadsar Lake. A Gujjar shepherd has chosen to make the lake his abode and has pitched his tent on a vantage point overlooking the lake. Also, after having seen almost all the popular lakes in the Himalayas I can safely say each and every one of them has its own charm. Let’s not compare them.

My favourite lake of the trek – Gadsar (sar means lake.)

Day (do you even care!)

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There are some pictures that do the talking. This I feel is one of them. I was there! A bed of flowers, so colourful that it was necessary to do a DDLJ and get myself clicked.

So cheesy, but even the guides were going crazy here!

Day 4

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Satsar literally translates to seven lakes. It was a foggy day with most views and mountains obscured with mist and we passed a few small lakes close to our path. When we reached our campsite, there was plenty of time left to climb a steep hill and see this one. One of the most secluded lakes on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. What fun in the rain!

A shepherd dog had started barking on the other side of our campsite and we ran helter-skelter to save our lives!

Day 5

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The revered peak Mt. Harmukh stands tall with Nandkhol Lake at the base. I had met with worried faces at Srinagar airport. The locals didn’t exactly approve of travel in Kashmir during the curfew. I had hitchhiked in almost a dozen vehicles to reach Sonamarg from Srinagar. All for this!

Clicked from the classily named Zaj Pass (Locals also spell it as Zach Pass).

Day 6

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The lost sheep. After having tried various shots all day with the camera. I was strolling aimlessly on the banks of Nandkhol lake chatting with Kashmiris who had camped too. They were taking their time off from the curfew situation and like everyone wanted some peace and nature love. Trout fishes in these lakes are a prized catch. The best photograph of the day was clicked from an iPhone!

Aimless walks by a lake in Kashmir.

Day 7 

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This is the final lake of the trek, Gangbal Lake. I could barely believe my eyes when I saw that colour of water. There is a small temple sort of shrine on the banks of the lake. Contemplating, although I know life doesn’t really have a perfect answer. You can live it in many different ways and the satisfaction entirely depends on your frame of mind.

Playing basketball, cricket and football on the banks of Nandkhol Lake remains an everlasting memory as do Kashmiri songs and dancing with the cooks and helpers.

Day 7

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This small hut sort of tent makes me want to believe in the simple joys of life; when a random smile makes you happy, when something you have cooked turns out alright, an unplanned holiday becomes an epic memory. Since when did we start taking life so seriously? There are no questions and no correct answers, so throw away the to-do list and instead figure out what makes you really happy. Also, this is Nandkhol Lake with Mt. Harmukh in the background.

It was one of those speechless moments. Local Kashmiris camped by the lake and enjoyed angling and their time away from the curfew.

It was easy to forget the troubles of the valley while on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek and I was astounded to see colossal ruins of 8th Century Hindu temples in Naranag.

Hope you like this photo-story, I may do a day wise post of this fantastic trek soon. Interested folks can email me if they are looking for a local Kashmiri operator (who helped me on this trek.)

A few of my personal favourites among memorable posts, other than Kashmir : 

Autumn Colours in the Himalayas

Failures on the Road – Chapter 1

Romance of the Manali-Leh Road

Stunning experiences from the most remote monastery in the world

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. swamiupendra says:

    Very beautiful indeed, Shubham! You did this trek with YHAI or independently?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Swami 🙂 I was lucky to have been put in touch with a group by a local Kashmiri; so thats how it happened for me 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nehal says:

    1. I loved all the pictures, but second last was the one I loved the most. 2. Other things I like about your blog: great language, passion for traveling reflects. 3. One of the very best among all blogs is where you wrote about a secret village not mentioning its name. I wonder if there are other such villages you traveled without giving out its name publicly. 4. All the best for your travels!

    Like

    1. Thanks Nehal for this fantastic comment! It is so kind of you to take time out and make a detailed summary.

      Sharing my journeys, slowly with the world… I don’t write as much as i travel and there are so many of these places to be written about.

      Like

  3. Alok Singhal says:

    As pretty a sight as it can get of the lake flanked by mountains! This is indeed heaven.

    I always wish Kashmir was not a troubled part of India. But then that’s why the trouble is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So so glad you liked it Alok. Thanks for taking the time out to post a comment. It was quite unbelievable to be amidst so much natural beauty while on this trek!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No other place can be as pristine as Kashmir. Your pictures and captions capture the same beautifully!! 🙂

    Like

    1. Thats so so true. Kashmir has that incredible beauty about it, and this trek is even more beautiful than anything I’ve seen!

      Like

  5. Beautiful photos! Kashmir is truely heaven on earth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree with that! Many thanks for the appreciation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Niranjan says:

    Breathtakingly beautiful! Stunning frames, Shubham.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Really was Niranjan. Kashmir has that something else about it, and this trek was the pinnacle of natural beauty!

      Like

  7. Surreal. I have seen some of these on Instagram and watching them again here was an absolute delight! Some of them seem unreal. what a beauty!! ❤ Hope to see it someday. I have heard this is one of the best treks in India from a friend who has trekked the Himalayas all her life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the appreciation!! I really can’t believe all the beauty that exists on this planet, and if I really saw this with my own eyes.

      I would agree with that; in fact when I was on the trail I remember thinking – on a reward to difficulty ratio, the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek was arguably the most beautiful in India!

      Like

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