By Firdous Ayoub Parray
IN the month of July 2019, almost 15 days before scrapping of Article 370 on August 5th, we (an eight-member group) planned to go for a trekking trip to Tarsar and Marsar—the two famous lakes in the Himalayan mountain range of Pahalgam (Anantnag). Thousands of tourists visit these eye-catching places every year to enjoy the beauty of Pahalgam and its upper parts. As it was our first ever trekking trip to the mountains in Kashmir, we started collecting the necessary belongings, which would prove helpful and useful in trekking.
On 2nd August, after Friday prayers we left from Tral, our home town, by hiring a Sumo and took the route via Sirgufwara, and we reached Aru valley at 8 pm. After reaching Aru, which has its unique beauty with lush green meadows, mountains full of deodar and pine, some of the members set up camp and some others went in search of the ponies to carry our bags. We had already taken our home-made meals for dinner. All of us were excited to start our trekking the next morning.
On 3rd August, we woke up early in the morning, had our breakfast/ tea and started packing our stuff, and by 7 am we were ready to start our trekking. We hired a pony to carry our bags. The horse man was very humble and kind hearted and we enjoyed his company and he provided us all the basic information about the twin lakes. After trekking through dense forests for about three hours, we reached another camping site called Lidderwat. The route goes along the banks of Lidder canal. Lidderwat is a combination of two words meaning two streams fusing together and forming a single stream; these streams have their origins from famous mountain peak Kolhai glaciers and Tarsar Lake, respectively.
After having lunch and a brief rest, we started our journey again, towards our destination and the trail was now a bit hectic because of a sharp and rocky mountain. After traveling some miles, we needed to cross the stream but the bridge was not trustworthy. After crossing the bridge, we came in contact with a trekking group from Pune; we had a brief interaction with them and clicked some photographs and moved on. Finally we reached Hamwas, a place on the banks of a stream; and the horse man suggested we pitch the tents there and we obliged. We were feeling very exhausted because of the two hours trek from Lidderwat. Some members were assigned to set up tents and some others were busy in collecting the firewood. Everywhere one could see the nomads and their Kothas (nomad houses) and they were busy with their cattle rearing. They offered us tea, as we provided them some medicines as one of their kids was suffering from high fever and cold.
On 4th August, everyone woke up early in the morning to have the finest and amazing look of Kolhai mountain peak, which becomes visible only for a few minutes and is then covered with clouds again. After having our breakfast, we started our trek again through another valley, named as Sekwas. Finally, after trekking for about four hours, we had our first look of Tarsar lake (a combination of two words: ‘Tar’ means a pass and ‘sar’ means a lake). All of us tried to capture this exciting, amazing and astounding moment in photographs by our cameras and mobile phones. It was a thrilling and exciting moment indeed. Walking along the length of this lake, the colours changed from blue to brown to greenish as a result of different sun angles. We saw at least 5 to 6 different colours, which is a distinctive and unique feature of Tarsar Lake only. After spending some time at the lake, we decided to move towards Marsar Lake locally known as “Killer lake” (a combination of two words: ‘Mar’ means to kill/ death and ‘sar’ means a lake) as most of the time, it is covered with clouds. There are a number of myths regarding this lake. After clicking some photographs of this lake, we were now ready to return back to our base camp at Aru Valley. To reach Aru valley as early as possible, we kept on moving/ trekking continuously and took brief pauses, by taking a rest of 4 to 5 minutes at some places. We reached Aru valley around 7 pm but were very much exhausted and tired, due to continuous walking from Tarsar to Aru.
As we reached Aru, all the shops and hotels were closed. It was very shocking and astonishing as no one had any idea of what actually happened or what will happen. Everyone was taking their guesses as there were lots of rumors. No one actually knew what was happening, at the moment, in Kashmir. This was more due to the reason that none of the mobile networks, except BSNL, works at Aru. So we too were worried about it and had no idea now as to how we could reach our home. We somehow managed to contact our family by using the mobile phone of a local person. Due to an unpredictable, highly tense, situation our family members told us to arrive home at the earliest, as no one knew exactly what was happening and, thus, the whole Kashmir valley was in shock.
Thus, we tried to hire a cab from Aru valley to our home town, and tried to convince many cab drivers but unfortunately no one was ready (due to disturbing situation, which was more perturbing due to a number of rumours and all this turned futile and finally we had to stay at Aru for the whole night. Somehow we tried to sleep amidst this atmosphere full of worries and fears.
On 5th August, we woke up early in the morning and one of the cab drivers agreed to drop us at Pahalgam. Once we reached Pahalgam, we were surprised and shocked to see roads blocked and police and armed forces everywhere on the road. A policeman questioned us about our place of departure and destination and after this place we were not permitted to move ahead anymore. However, they permitted us to move, by foot, but in pairs, and not as a group. After waiting more than half an hour, we started moving by foot towards home, with the hope that we will get a cab or any other vehicle. After walking some miles, we saw a tipper coming and requested him for a lift; he gave us lift up to Sirgufwara village. Once we reached near Higher Secondary School Sirgufwara, we faced a police naka party there. They stopped and questioned us and didn’t allow us to move further. But after about 10 minutes, they allowed us to move towards our homes.
Now, we again found ourselves walking some miles. We were continuously looking for a cab but couldn’t find one. As we reached Mahind village, we saw a cab and one of our group members talked to the cab driver about dropping us at our home in Tral. After a brief conversation, he agreed to drop us at our home town, Tral, saying that Tral was his favorite town. This was, all by luck, and due to this cab driver, we reached safely to our respective homes on 5th August at 5 pm.
- The author is pursuing Masters in Mass Communication & Journalism at Islamic University of Science & Technology (IUST) Awantipora, Kashmir. Feedback at [email protected]
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