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We were on the arduous journey to Gurez, a valley tucked deep in the Bandipore district of J&K, the turquoise blue waters of the Kishenganga river bisecting it between India and Pakistan. The inhabitants of the valley belong to the Shina-speaking Dard tribe, a mountainous people who have spent centuries in the Himalayas; a larger section of the tribe now living in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. The isolation has been a boon, which has preserved the cultural heritage of the place.
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Tonight was the last night of the trek, and everyone got down to the quintessential Antakshari, followed by a special handmade cake for the birthday girl Puja.We had a briefing session, which, in turn had all the trekkers and guides come and say something about their experience of the trek. Everyone was in love with Kashmir, and everyone would come back.The Gods were kind to us, and we got a spectacular view of the milky way, glittering across the sky in a ribbon of stars.
Gurez is a valley located deep in the snow-capped mountains. Due to heavy snowfall, the valley remains cut off for around six months in a year. The road to the Gurez Valley is broken and difficult, but the stunning scenery and the majestic Habba Khatoon peak make it completely worth the pain. Special permission is required to tread into this valley that can be obtained from the police station at Bandipur, which is on the way to Gurez.Location: Around 123km from Srinagar, through the Bandipura and Razdhan PassHow To Get Here: Get a shared taxi for Rs 250 from SrinagarWhere To Stay: At the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation hotel in Dawar or tents in GurezTulail Valley
'Wular' means ‘stormy’ in Kashmiri, and this is how the lake, known for its turbulent waters and fierce winds, was once described. It was praised for its beauty by writers in their books and loved by travellers who liked to camp along its banks.Most people, especially on the internet, have falsely claimed that Wular Lake, located in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, is the largest freshwater lake of Asia. Though the fact might be untrue, but the lake's beauty is not made-up. Being fed by the water of the Jhelum River, the lake was once so clear that you could see till deep below. Children played in the lake and local families used the water to cook their meals. Today, however, Wular Lake is less than half the size it used to be. Its total surface and surrounding marshlands have shrunk from 216 sq. km in 1911 to 104 sq. km in 2008. The waves have disappeared and the water lies stagnant, swarming with mosquitoes. In fact, sometimes it is difficult to even spot the lake, as it now looks more green than blue, with it being covered by rice paddies, floating vegetation and water-sucking willow trees. What happened
It had rained in the night, and we got up to a view of the surrounding mountains dusted with a light layer of snow. Today we would see the first of the great lakes, Vishansar Lake.It was a comparatively shorter distance today, and we reached in time for a nice hot lunch.Everyone decided to take full advantage of the bright sunshine and stayed outside, milling around ,and just relaxing.Towards the evening, we all took a short walk to get our first glimpse of the Vishansar lake, which we would cross the next day. We reached just in time to catch the last rays of the setting sun sneaking through the mountains and glittering on the lake.
If Kashmir is the most beautiful place in India, then the trek to the lake duo of Tarsar Marsar is undoubtedly the most alluring trek in the Himalayas. Surrounded by the peaks of Kolahoi Glacier, the trail to Tarsar Marsar will take you through terrains and landscapes that change everyday. One day you’ll witness water cascading over ledges, and the next day, you’ll encounter lovely grasslands that stretch as far as the eye can see!Region: Jammu & Kashmir | Highest Altitude: 13,201 ft | Difficulty: Moderate | Duration: 7 daysRead more about the Tarsar Marsar lake trek here.
Day 4 was to be a longer trek, we were to make our way through the Gadsar pass , past the Gadsar lake and then camp ahead of a army post.We started with walking past the Vishansar Lake, and then moving on towards the Kishansar lake.It was when we were moving ahead of Kishansar that I realised the magnitude of the Gadsar pass. I was instantly dismayed, while, to my chagrin , Prashant was delighted!
As we packed our tents and got ready everyone were drowned in their own thoughts. Few were anxious to reach the base camp and many more were saddened that the trek had come to an end. With mixed feelings we started our final leg of the trek. I bid one final goodbye to Mt. Harmukh which stood head high in all magnificence.The trail started with a small ascent and then it opened into meadows where we started to bump into people.The feeling of trek had passed and it was more like a walk through the forest. How mistaken I was to think this way! Post lunch the actual challenge began.The initial descent was steep and full of rocks with slippery sand. Many had their first, second and innumerable falls here.The trail got steeper as the time progressed and the knees were abused to glory. One was forced to descend without stopping as legs had started to shiver in agony. After four hours of descent we reached Naranag. It took a couple of minutes to adjust to the voices around and realize we were back into the civilization. An aura of accomplishment filled the room and everyone burst into loud cheers!!!
This was one of the most beautiful campsites.The Nundkol lake lies at the base of the Harmukh peak. The Harmukh glacier hangs on the the sides of the rocky edges of the mountain. Both the Gangabal and Nundkhol are famous for trout fishing. Several trekkers, trek up from Naranag side to camp at Ganagbal Twin lakes.
The river Krishanganga flows adjacent to the untouched land of Gurais. Through scattered villages on the hills and inhabited slopes, you reach Gurais; pristine and natural. The beauty cannot be questioned of the tiny cottages built in the shade of the Deodar trees. The ever smiling locals always ready to welcome new people and available guest houses solve the problems of a safe stay in the valley. Gurais is just another valley unexplored and undiscovered by the touristy flock of the country who otherwise rush to Srinagar. Travel to Gurais and enjoy the ultimate silence. The road to Gilgit also goes through Gurais; Permits are required to travel here.
Day 5 was a shorter trek, where we passed the Satsar Lake, and a few other smaller ones on our way.I decided to try my hand at painting the scenery , managing to paint the basic frame before I got called away. We crossed another army camp, and sat down to an early lunch.I managed to finish my landscape, too!
Some things that mesmerised me about Srinagar were the Houseboats and back waters of Dal Lake. A shikara ride till one of the houseboats in the lake is an experience that is a must in a lifetime. As the Shikara passed through the various channels, we passed many houseboats which were managed by sincere dexterity by the locals. Kingfishers and other birds become a frequent sight once past the house boats into the backwaters. The kingfishers sit on the tops of houseboats nonchalantly almost within the touching distance of humans who seem to be equally unmindful of the birds. We moved further into the calm waters of Anchar Lake where we were in a totally different world, no crowd of boats, no motor boat engines to be heard and the mood was different altogether. It felt almost like we actually were in Venice, just with a lot of fauna instead of architectural structures.
Next day we drove towards Sheikhpura Tuleil. Sheikhpura is one of the hamlets on the banks of River Kishenganga called Neelam by our neighbours Pakistan. there is a bridge which connects the village and around a dozen houses some red in color and some wooden. The village is free from pollutants seen always in towns and cities. No television, No coverage and food so tastty you would want to eat your fill.In short If your soul aches for serenity and solitude, for crisp fresh air and a surround which will remind you of your first love. Then Gurez is a must.
Next stop on this tour with the two girls was Jamia Masjid.For those looking for a silent spot to spend a great afternoon, this sacred shrine in the centre of the city can be a great hideout. Even for those who don't believe in God, the aura of Jamia Masjid evokes a certain calmness and it would find a place in your travel recollections for years to come.