Trekking in the "Switzerland of India"
Trip Start Jul 13, 2009
83Trip End Jul 20, 2010
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The mountains we would be venturing into were still the Himalaya range. Actually this is the end of the long chain of mountains that form the Himalaya before they are cut off by the mighty Karakoram range in Pakistan to the north
This area has a classic trek of 7 days where one can traverse from where we started in Narranag over a few passes to reach the town of Sonamarg. We got the heads up that the passes were still snowbound because of the harsh winter and the horses would not be able to cross, so we had to confine our trip to one side of the range. We spent 2 nights at each campsite, usually one day to hike to get there and set up and relax with one day remaining to make day hikes around the camping area. So the 1st spot we took Sadiq, or horseman, with us on a hike up to Kolsar lake up in a high basin overlooking the valley before coming down to build a campfire
At the 2nd campsite near Gangabal lake we spent the 1st day getting there, and a bit of fishing. The 2nd day we hiked up into the upper basin and made a complete circuit around the huge lake, with Majeet (our guide) and Sadiq, and tried our hand at fishing every 20 yards or wherever we thought we had the instinct that the fish were biting. We each came up with a few fish, some more worthy of our dinner than others. By the end of the day we'd put together a generous portion of fried fish to supplement our vegetable and rice dinner.
By the time we'd moved towards the last group of campsites we made our way up to a saddle on the ridge after endlessly climbing. We finally reached the ridge in a cover of fog and saw that the north side was completely snowbound while the south side we'd been climbing showed no signs of snow. We debated the issue until the local guys had convinced us that it might be possible - but Caroline, sensing their doubt and being a lover of horses, pleaded that we turn around and head down. The horsemen clearly didn't want to risk breaking their horses leg. The snow was slippery enough that even I could not descend without falling (I tried my luck a short ways...) and the horses, weighed down with gear, were going to have a helluva time
We had a great time hanging out with the locals, the shepherds in their homes, and our friendly guide Majeet. We immersed ourselves into an incredible backcountry and made it our home for a week, and given the intense political situation in the region, I reflect on our having seized this opportunity as one that might not even be a viable option in the future if ignorance is tolerated and human injustice prevails and it becomes unsafe for tourists to visit this small slice of an Earthly paradise. I consider us lucky to have had this experience....