There is something in the air,

It makes my husband sometimes pull his hair..

but the mystery and romance calls me to its lair!

I am but a mortal, such seduction, how can I bear?!

Now that’s the sorta poetry (and the only sort anyway) that I will spout in the middle of a hectic work day.

My love affair with the mountains continue with my latest trek in the Kashmir valley and how!! I am addicted beyond any hope of recovery. The colors, the silence, the people,the simplicity of the life in mountains call to me..

We landed in Srinagar on the 14th of July and I felt let down to say the least! It was not the Srinagar of my dreams, it was a blistering hot 38 degrees, way above the 20 of my beloved Bangalore. For a moment I wondered whether this trek was going to be all that it was promised to be. Boy-oh-boy was I in for a surprise or what!

The temperatures dropped down as we neared Sonamarg. We were made to listen to some of the most tragic songs by our driver en route, but he then made up for it with his wonderful hospitality and offered us namkeen chai (which didn’t agree with my tummy but was still yummy)and pooris in his humble yet spik n span home. The round rosy-cheeked kids rolling around in the lawn playing like happy puppies made me think of my son and how he would have gone crazy with so much space right in the front yard.

We then stopped a kilometer away from our camp site in Sonamarg. The view was breathtakingly beautiful and the weather turning chilly. I ditched my flats and put on my trekking shoes and we started what was going to be the most memorable trek of a lifetime.

Camping itself was an amazing experience. Crawling into the tents and wriggling into our sleeping bags, the day caught up with us and we were blissfully asleep and woke up early next morning.

The next day was a breeze compared to the days that were to come ahead. But the beauty of the journey to Nichnai which was to be our next base camp, made the journey more bearable. After around 8 hours of trekking the three of us, myself, husband and Yashu, were ready to give up and decided to nap in the meadow. It took Altaf, our trek guide to wake us up and assure us that our camp site was just over the hillock and it was..we were treated to hot chai and pakoras as soon as we hit the camp..

The second day was less arduous but I had tummy trouble and wasn’t able to digest anything I had eaten. I had to cover the last hour of the trek on horseback and that ended up being more painful than walking, The horse I was riding, Nila was er-rm spirited and decided to jump over a stretch of rocks and I was riding the wind for a split second before I landed on her back…not pleasant at all.

The third day saw a weaker but better me. It was the toughest climb of all from 12000 feet to 13750 – over the Gadsar pass and then an equal descent back to 12000 feet. The climb was tough, and my fear of steep falls overtook me several times, but i made it, all by myself (without a horse I mean). It was with a sense of achievement and wonder and humility that I looked down at the brilliant Vishnusar and the Kishansar lakes sparkling blue in the distance, twin jewels of the valley. The descent was a killer on our toes and knees but then Gadsar lake came into view. The tranquility was beyond compare and many of us were unwilling to move from the spot.

The next day saw us trek to the beautiful Nandkol lake via Satsar lake where we camped. We climbed over boulders for almost three hours at a stretch and this was scary and exhilarating in equal parts.

The music that water makes as it flows beneath the rocks is the sweetest sound ever heard and I think it will always come back to me when I am scared, soothing me, lulling me into a sense of security!

As we neared civilization, we could see the ugliness we leave behind in the form of plastic bottles and plastic waste. I must say that it is a great initiative of Indiahikes team and we all made it a point to collect as much garbage and plastic as we possibly could and bring it down along with us. This we did at every camp site and along the way and I am proud to say that we left each campsite better than the state we found it in.

The fifth day was a rest day, where we explored the nearby Gangbal lake and one of our team members also dared to swim in the pristine, but icy cold waters! We sang danced, played kabaddi and had a wonderful time bonding with each other.

The sixth and last day was a descent to Narnag. This took us through some minor climbs and the steepest, most demanding descent ever.

That, my friends, was just the trek itinerary. How do I tell you about the wonderful hospitality at army camps, the friendly yet thorough checks that we were subjected to..the amazing chai spiked with bay leaf that they served us!

Oh I really shouldn’t forget the people- Pradeep, chacha, Bilal, Altaf- all supermen in their own right, who made sure we had a safe and wonderful trek.

Or the cooks who served us wonderful food, three course meals and rasogollas on the last day. The effort they put into making food at that altitude was amazing..

There is no way I am going to miss out telling you about one of the helper boys who had a kettle full of tang ready for us as we came down from another tough climb, that he never said anything about having to walk several kilometers back and forth to do this and that, made the gesture and the drink all the more sweeter!

How do I tell you about all the wonderful people I met and the things I learned about myself and others, about extending my boundaries, about walking in a meadow of golden flowers offset by rugged stony mountains, or the sweetest water that I drank from the streams, about hands that held me when I was about to fall or give up..oh how do I put this all in a meager blog?

It somehow changed me and made me better, challenged my self-imposed boundaries and added much to my character. As one of the army men from Pune told me, “when you climb there are just the two – the mountain and you! Allow the mountains to teach you and you will learn things that you never would have otherwise..”

When you climb , it’s not the mountain that you conquer, but your fears, limitations and boundaries! Even with so many along, the task is yours alone, the climb is yours, the ache and the tiring too..oh but the sweet sense of achievement is yours too..the lessons learnt and the stuff un-learnt, the magic of nature unfolding before your eyes, the gurgling of a stream beneath the rocks, the flight of an exotic bird and the exhilaration of lying down amidst a meadow full of glorious yellow flowers, nodding their heads in the breeze as if to say “go on” is yours too…

Till the next time the mountains call, I shall wait and prepare and dream!

Leaving you with a few snippets of the dream that I lived in for a few days..

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