Kevin Swains
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This is Kev's Travel Blog

Kashmir Trek Days 5/6

I'm up at first light having slept roughly well. I've decided to push on hard today and try to get to Gangabal lake which is 2 days horse trek away as I might as well enjoy the lake and I'm still thinking of what the guy with no English said on the Nichhai pass. After 10 mins I pass through the only army checkpost on the trek. I expected heaps of army everywhere considering Kashmirs reputation and even going by what the locals in Srinigar have told me. I sign the 'guest book' but decline a good offer of chai as one must keep moving and cross one of many snow bridges in the area. I traverse the hillside slowly climbing admiring the valley below before turning left and climbing very steeply to some pass that really turns out to be a kind of plateau. The palteau is very long and wide, it's perfectly still and the clouds hang low giving a wierd distorted perspective. There are tracks every where and I have no idea if I'm going the right way and decide to follow the most used one on the basis that I assume the sheperds are going the same direction as me.
After around 4hrs of walking I still have'nt seen a soul and begin to doubt my logic, until I bump into Osamas brother who confirms I doing OK.I descend and go slightly wrong and have to negotiate several boulder fields before getting back on track. 2 hrs later I'm stuck again and pass through what I can only describe as a nettle plantation. I shout to a shepherd on the far side of the valley for directions but he can't hear and I hang a right. Suddenly a dog appears from nowhere and charges me, I quickly pick up some rocks and give it a good dose of verbal before some local bird suddenly appears, shouts at the dog which then heads of and she picks up a stone and launches it at the dog making good contact. I walk 20m and pass a clean and green cutting on the the steep hillside and there is some local guy who invites me for chai and chapatis. It's fantastic how these places just appear when one needs them, I'm really knackered. Gypsy kids appear from somewhere downwards and stand staring at me eat, keeping a respectful distance and saying nothing. I had a good feeling there with the family around while sitting under huge fir trees climbing skywards. They didn't speak English but were impressed with my days progress. As I leave I offer money but again they strongly refuse, but I think asked for something from me, like a gift from my country. I have nothing to give them and feel guilty considering their kindness, but I suddenly can see that giving the wrong gift will set them off wanting my socks and my GPS etc etc etc.
My early morning friend
I'm treated to another huuuuge and difficult climb. At the top a fellow informs me I still have another hill to climb....I descend, cross a small bridge and get directions from shepherds driving their sheep. It's a slow and hot climb through dense woodland. The track splits in many directions and I follow the worn one and listen for the sheperds whistles behind, if I can hear them I'm on track. Suddenly the trees clear and I'm aat the top and things are green and open and there are huts and cattle everywhere. I bump into a Scottich bird doing her Kashmiri guids and skank another chai. I've only 1hr to the lake but the weather closes in before I reach it and I set up cam just before a decent storm hits.
I pack my wet tent and head off for the short walk to Gangabal lake. I see a small animal in the many rocks and it sees me. It then dissapears only to pop up staring at me on a different rock. We play hide-ee-boo for 5 minutes before I spoil the game and leave. I'm expecting big things of Gangabal lake having been told of it's marvels. I see a skall lake and pass it by and keep climbing and eventually bump into another lake. I stop and think....can this be it....I don't think so? I walk 5mins to a sheperd perched on a nearby mound. I ask him for the lake and he leads me to where I just came from....bummer this is it. I spose thats what happens when you get your expectations raised too high!
The top Lake at Gangabal
I set up camp behind a rock and have a fish and amazingly I get one....whupeeee! I build a small damn to keep him fresh for when I catch more. Then the rain sets in and I confined to my tent for most of the day.
Next morning I catch one more trout and take him to meet his new friend in the damn but damn....he's escaped!
I'd been thinking about getting the girls out of the house boat but I'm sure the pony man has told them a wrong date when they'll be back in Srinigar and begin to doubt our plan.
The Bottom Gangabal Lake
I head off back towards be cont
Trout Fishing at Gangabal Lake