I was always dreamy eyed about Kashmir, thanks to the onscreen Bollywood romance that periodically boosted my teenage desire but geo- political disturbances had other plans. As they say, steps to paradise reveal themselves after much hard work and more than 2 decades later, the time had come to visit this land which owes its name to Rishi Kashyapa (more about it later). Walking through meadows from lake to lake, sleeping under the stars and connecting with the self, it was bliss beyond my imagination!!
Trek – Day 1 (8000 ft to 11,500 ft ~ 9 kms)
We started off from Gagangeer near Sonmarg and trudged upwards towards Nichnai Pass via Shekdur. The uber green meadows lined with pine and maple trees welcomed us with open arms. At every step, nature revealed a little bit that urged us to move on. With the lambs grazing on the meadow side for company,the clear blue sky giving constant cover and the swaying birch and pine playing hide and seek, I was walking in air. Soon, I began to thank the universe for this award earned for a seemingly good deed which still remains unknown to me. After about 2 hours we passed by a rather densely forested area of silver birch, the tete- e- tete on the tree by Kashmiri youth with legs dangling in air was rather amusing. I rolled on the grass to rest my aching legs wondering what William Wordsworth would have to say if he were to be here right next to me.
With the warm sun on my back, giving me a gentle push to move on as the actual reward lay much ahead, I repeated the Persian couplet under my breath
“Gar Firdaus, Ruhe Zamin Ast, Hamin Asto, Hamin Asto, Hamin Asto” which essentially means if there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here !!
The shepherd houses that showed up now and then tempted us to sit and relax but we had to reach the campsite before dark. We fixed our tents next to a gurgling stream which was a welcome break after a 6 hour walk and at hind sight appeared to be steps to heaven. The first lake was yet to make an appearance and on a moonlight night with a grand party of stars in the sky, the flowing stream lulled me to sleep after a hearty meal !!