Monday, August 08, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 4

A wet and cloudy morning in Gadsar.
After a hard and long trek on Day 3, we woke up to a cold, wet and cloudy morning in the valley of Gadsar. It had rained most of the night and we were shivering in our tents.

Our original plan was to do a short trek to Gadsar lake (around 2-3 hours trek from the valley), but our support team advised us that it would be better to stay put in Gadsar for the whole day - instead of venturing into the wet and slippery trail.

I liked the idea of a full day of rest. My bones were aching from the long trek the previous day, and looked forward to a day of lazing around the valley.

Shepherd houses in Gadsar valley.
Gadsar is home to many shepherds and their families. The houses are built using nearby stones and are small and cozy. We quickly became friends with the families living nearby, and they invited us into their house for tea. The children, initially shy, quickly warmed up to us - especially after we shared some biscuits and chocolates with them.

The children of Gadsar.
The early morning clouds were quickly dissipating, and the place was looking like a postcard that you see in the travel brochures.

Gadsar Valley. View of North.
Gadsar Valley. View of East.
I took the opportunity of a sunny day to wash our clothes in the nearby stream, and then headed off into the valley for a relaxing stroll.

After a short walk towards north, I noticed a fresh water stream gushing out from the mountain. Till now, we had been drinking fresh water directly from the stream (after boiling it), but I had never seen the original source of the water. When you drink water from a stream, there is always a chance of some contaminants, but water from the source should be pure and full of minerals. Most importantly, it should be safe to drink without boiling.

A fresh stream with the source at the side of the mountain.
I decided to climb to the source of the stream. It was a short but steep climb. The water was icy cold but it was the most delicious water I have ever tasted. I filled the water bottle to the brim to drink later.

Source of stream.
Fresh and tasty Himalayan mineral water.
A little further up north is a frozen glacier that covers the fast flowing river, and the water goes under the glacier. It was strange to see glaciers right down in the valley.

Frozen glacier at the bottom of Gadsar valley.
The glacier is almost black from all the mud and contaminants as people use the glacier as a bridge to cross the river. My brother and Shawn decided to gingerly test how well the glacier holds as they cross it.

Roy and Shawn walking on the frozen glacier.
We went back to our tent for a hot lunch and some more lazing around in the tent. Nearby, the soldiers at the military check post were playing cricket. If I was good at cricket, I would have surely joined them.

Military check-post at Gadsar valley.
Sheep, and lots of them at Gadsar valley.
We suddenly felt the urge to eat some fresh mutton - probably as a reflex reaction to seeing so many sheep grazing around. Our guide Muzafar assured us that he can score some fresh mutton from a shepherd who lives up on a hill and sells fresh meat. We bought a huge quantity of mutton and shared it with the military outpost. The soldiers thanked us profusely for the kind gesture.

We again visited the shepherd family to sit with them, and observe how they create strong ropes using the long hairs of goats.

Shepherd family enjoying the warm sunny day and making ropes from sheep hair.
Close-up of how a rope is made.
The day was drawing to a close. As I still had some reasonable amount of battery power left in my camera, I decided to do a time-lapse photography to show the dramatic clouds at sunset moving over the Gadsar valley. To make this 11-second video, I shot 349 pictures. I would have loved to continue doing this till night fall, but my battery ran out and I did not want to drain my remaining batteries as we still had 3 days ahead of us. The worst thing that could happen for me would be to run out of battery power in the middle of nowhere.

And with that video, our day was over. A long trek awaited us the next day, and we decided to hit the bed early to prepare ourselves for the long walk ahead.

You can read about our Day 5 by clicking here.


Anonymous said...

Cajie, fantastic. Your pictures capture Jehangir's heaven on earth. He wasnt kidding when he said "gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto" (If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here. Your trip looks pretty strenous, is there anything easier than this? for 3-4 days and your Day 2 and Day 3 is something more manageable for us couch potatoes :) Waiting for your next edition to go vicarously on the tour. Thanks for sharing. Truly fantastic. Angela

Anonymous said...

Lovely! Keep the posts coming.. All of us engrossed are in your exciting travelogue and fantastic pictures.

Cajie said...

Angela, Yes, it is truly a beautiful place.

For those who want to do something less strenuous, what people do is:

1. Day 1 (Same as our Day 1. Naranag to Trunkol)
2. Day 2 (Same as our Day 2. Trunkol to Gangbal. Relax at Gangbal)
3. Day 3 (Return back to Naranag). It will be all downhill, so easy to do in few hours.

You could stretch it to 4 days by relaxing an additional day in Gangbal and or Trunkol.

Or you could do it at the other end of the route. i.e.

Day 1. Sonamarg to Nachnai.
Day 2. Nachnai to Vishinsar
Day 3. Relax at Vishinsar
Day 4. Vishinsar to Nachnai
Day 5. Nachnai to Sonamarg

This option is a bit more strenuous than the first one.

You just need to indicate the level of effort you want to put in, and the guides there will tailor the trekking program as per your needs. You can also carry a spare horse in case things become difficult for you.

Anonymous said...

LOL at me sitting on a horse. Takes me back to about 20 yrs ago when we went to Gulmarg and Sonmarg and that too on a horse. When going down, I thought it was our last moments on earth. The horses were bent on snacking on the grass at the corners of the tracks, and you get to see DOWNNNNN THERE. Eeeekks. And I have to find something to be more humane to those animals :) Thanks for taking the time to respond. We will check on those 'easy trekking tours', my kids would love it.
Your pics just want me to take the next flight out and on to the places you snap... first Aurangabad and now this. Recad, Angela

Haz said...

Excellent journey and excellent photography!!! Surelly will take some tips from you before heading to such a heaven perhaps untold until now!

Cajie said...

@Angela. Hope you get to visit it soon. The situation is quite stable in the Kashmir region and now is the best time to visit there.

@Haz. Thanks.
And you are most welcome.

vieldhie said...

i really enjoying reading and seeing the picture that you post. really stunning place that you went.
is it possible to do trek on April ?
I plan to come to Kashmir on April this year, can you advise me guide to go there?
by email to :
I am from Indonesia
thanks a lot ...

you are really lucky person

vieldhie said...

hi sir, I am really enjoy to read and see your picture on the trekking. is it possible to do trek on April there?
can you suggest me someone who can take care there?
I plan to come to Kashmir on 23 April this year with friends, we are from Indonesia.