Sunday, July 24, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Route Selection.

Our trekking route from Naranag to Sonamarg.
When we first arrived in Srinagar, we had no clear idea what trek we would undertake. The only thing I had set as an objective was that the trek should last around 5-6 days, and that it should be challenging enough to make the trip worthwhile.

My brother has a lot of friends in Kashmir, and they hooked us up with Baktoo Group, which organizes professional and customized trekking trips and also offers relaxing houseboats on the Dal/Nagin Lake.

I explained our objectives for the trek, and they immediately came up with a suggestion of a moderate to tough trek that would last 6 nights and 7 days. We were warned that the trek would be tough in some stages. 

The itinerary of our trek would be as follows:

DAY 1: Pick-up from Srinagar by car. Drive to Naranag and start the steep ascent from Naranag to Trunkol.

DAY 2: Short trek from Trunkol to Gangbal lake overlooking the imposing Harmukh peak. Relax at Gangbal lake. Trout fishing in the lake.

DAY 3: Tough trek from Gangbal lake to Gadsar. Steep climb up the Zagibal peak (4200 meters) that provides a stunning view of the Gangbal lake and the Harmukh peak.

DAY 4: Rest in Gadsar.

DAY 5: Another tough trek from Gadsar to Vishnasar. Steep climb up Krishnasar pass at 4100 meters.

DAY 6: Trek from to Shokhdari (table top). 

DAY 7: Short trek from Shokhdari to Sonamarg. Transfer by car to Srinagar.

This itinerary matched with my expectations and we immediately decided to go ahead with this option. The tour operator would arrange for tents, guide, porters etc. All we had to do was carry a bottle of water and walk. And walk.....

I was a little concerned about my 12-year old son who was also joining me on the trek. The tour operator suggested that I add an extra riding horse to the package so that if my son feels tired, he could just hop on to the horse and we could continue with the trek. I immediately felt relieved.

Treks such as this cost around $35 to $40 per person per night. Since we were referred by a close friend, we got an excellent deal. The package that we took would normally cost in the range of Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 50,000 for the whole 7-day package for 3 persons (Me, my brother and my son). You can negotiate a better deal if there are more persons trekking. The package included:

1. One Guide
2. Two Porters
3. Six horses (5 for carrying all the luggage and 1 for my son).
4. Tent, Sleeping bags, blankets, etc.
5. All food.
6. Transport to and from Srinagar.

The trek was everything I had hoped for, and more. I shot over 1000 pictures during the 7 days. As and when I get the time, I plan to post a separate entry for each day explaining our exhilarating and exhausting journey through the great Himalayan range.

Monday, July 11, 2011

First Impressions: Kodak EasyShare Sport C123

The Kodak EasyShare Sport c123.

I had purchased this cheap little camera last week to take with me on my Kashmir trip. I got my first chance to test its waterproof capabilities when I went out for an early morning run in heavy rains. I wanted to see if it could stand the test of the heavy Goa Monsoons.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir.

Trekking gear by North Face.
I love the idea of Trekking. Walking in the wild and enjoying nature - and most importantly, being able to photograph nature.

I have not done any serious trekking till now - but it was something that was always on my mind. I had made plans last year (even booked my tickets from Kuwait to Kashmir). But those plans were foiled when trouble erupted in the Kashmir region, and we cancelled our plans at the last minute.

This year, the situation in Kashmir is stable, so we revived our plans to go for a trek there. I will be joined by my 12-year old son, my brother, and 2 other friends. One of the friend (Richard) is a very experienced trekker - which will make our life easier in terms of planning and deciding what to take on the trek. In fact, it was Richard, who had given me very precise instructions when I did the 1-day trek to Dudhsagar.

We fly to Srinagar on 13th July, and we will be there for about 10 days. The exact trekking route is not yet decided, but we plan to do a moderate-to-strenuous trek that lasts anything between 5 to 7 days. The rest of the days would be spent relaxing and enjoying Srinagar and the surrounding areas.

I can't wait.