To heaven and back – with a backpack!

26th Jul 2014
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 1/14 by Khushboo
snow walking to the next campsite!
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 2/14 by Khushboo
climb. catch your breath. look back and smile :)
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 3/14 by Khushboo
animal love :)
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 4/14 by Khushboo
Destination next? the twin lakes!
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 5/14 by Khushboo
Pristine beauty.
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 6/14 by Khushboo
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 7/14 by Khushboo
floating on the lake, a day before starting the trek
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 8/14 by Khushboo
The group has made it!!
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 9/14 by Khushboo
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 10/14 by Khushboo
Looking out for fellow trekkers, you find bliss!
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 11/14 by Khushboo
Friends in the Kashmir Land!
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 12/14 by Khushboo
The calm before the climb!
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 13/14 by Khushboo
On the edge of Paradise :)
Photo of To heaven and back – with a backpack! 14/14 by Khushboo
Nothing has ever made me happier :)

"Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent in office or mowing your lawn, climb that goddamn mountain!!!"- Jack Kerouac

To anybody who has been wanting to experience this paradise called Kashmir in India, I recommend you explore it on foot! 

The north western part of the Himalayas, home to the Kashmiri mountains make for the perfect destination for first time trekkers, providing visual appeal with every step you take. 

The lush green meadows, bright yellow floral fields, the shepherds with their super adorable and fluffy, innocent sheep keep you so mentally enchanted, that little will  you realise the altitude climbed, and the muscle pain that it possibly gave you!

This trek encompasses some of the most beautiful lakes situated in the magnificent mountains of the Himalayas. 

We started at the base of Zozila, Sonamarg, and passed through the Kishansar, Gadsar, Vishnasar, Gangabal, Satsar and Nundkol Lakes during the course of the trek. This particular trek route is known to be the prettiest trek amongst all, and I would personally second that without battling an eyelid!

We started our trek from our base camp at Sonmarg, snuggling in the tents mounted on the banks of the Indus river where we slept the night to the sound of the gushing waters singing to us! This already gave us a hint about all the wonderful moments yet to be experienced.

After a good night's rest, we began our journey from Sonmarg, and started to walk the ancient routes trodden for centuries. The initial few hours of the journey seemed pleasant, and only got tougher with time, as our muscle strength got tested. However, the challenge is more in the mind than the body. 

The next nine days were spent climbing long stretches of humongous boulders for hours, walking on snow, having to choose between saving our camera and saving our lives while trekking through geographically critical terrains and climbing shaky mountain rocks with minimal visibility due to fog. 

The experience was slowly starting to enrich us. We sat by the river after a long day of trekking and sang our favourite songs, or simply had our best conversations while getting ourselves well acquainted with each other, coming from different states and countries. My fellow trekkers and friends were helpful enough to teach me a thing or two about photography, which made me make better use of my camera, and I learnt how to shoot the clear sky on a starry night! 

Since we were amongst nature in its full glory, we marked our territories every morning, and reserved our private spots to dig a pit and relieve ourselves. This used to be one hilarious exercise, with one of my fellow trekker and friend wearing a bright yellow tshirt one morning, trying to hide behind the biggest rock and as far as he could from the campsite. Unfortunately for him, his t-shirt was too bright for us to not notice him, no matter how far he ran..and eventually? he got so conscious of us waving at him, he came back without peeing!!! 

One morning, our trek leader decided to challenge us by giving us two choices: either to climb a whole extra mountain to get to our starting point of the day, or cross a freezing river with our bare feet. Obviously we chose the river crossing, however , little did we know it would be a challenge to merely dip our feet in that water at that freezing temperature while it flows in full force.

This was one of those moments, where we learnt to challenge our minds, and to eventually push ourselves for tasks, be it crossing a river or any other challenge that life throws at you. Yes! this trek innocently taught us life skills and hacks in its simple little ways. Through more such moments during the journey, the fellow trekkers who were just a bunch of strangers on day 1, came to trust each other completely with themselves when it came to giving a helping hand or a pep talk while treading tough terrains. Eventually, we all successfully made it to the summit!

Personally, I have never slept better on a luxurious bed, but I was at such peace in my sleeping bag at the trek. Chasing the mountain goats, herds of sheep ( I am a complete animal lover)  and talking to shepherds (who we rarely saw since we were in super inhabitable areas at times) has been more than enriching. Those ten days of no connectivity were blissful. But hey, we connected with nature, and deep within, with ourselves! My mother refused to recognise me and take me home after I returned from the trek, since I looked my ugliest with all the tan and sun burns due to extreme temperatures and no bathing ( eooow I know ) but to experience life on the other side and away from the civilisation of the cities, i'd do this a thousand times over :)