Kashmir Great Lakes Trek – Day 2 – Shitkadi to Nichnai

Before this readย https://ghumakkarindian.com/2022/08/22/kashmir-great-lakes-trek-day-1-sonamarg-to-shitkadi/

It certainly had been a while since I had slept in a tent (that too of this size) & on the ground without adequate cushioning! After tossing & turning for most of the night, giving rest to one side of the pelvic girdle to the other in sequence, I finally dragged myself out at 5.15 am. It was twilight & a little nippy. The Kannans, I had realised, were early risers. Being a slave to the habit of morning tea, woke up the staff to do the needful which ultimately made an appearance after 45 mins & one more prompting.

The toilet tent was a nightmare presenting a clear & present danger of collapsing on oneself during the act & I dreaded at the thought of having to use it for the next one week! The alternative of ‘going out’ in the open didn’t seem very bright either & barely having managed to complete the ritual I decided to take this up with the staff later during the day.

So with the morning having been taken care of & a breakfast of paranthas (on insistence) & omellette (apologies to Hanuman ji for violating the Tuesday ‘no non-veg day’), we set off on the first leg of our trek at 7.45 am. There really was no hurry but we wanted to be early & beat the rush of some 200-300 trekkers of different groups who were estimated to be on the same section of the route that day.

The Kannans leading the way as we set off on the trek

The weather was absolutely beautiful & the greens of the hills & blues of the skies all blended together perfectly to present a mesmerising picture.

Sonamarg was visible in the distance as some goats took time off from their more important task of grazing to give us a half curious look, probably accustomed to the hordes of tourists in the area in this season, their concern seemingly being not of physical harm but whether we intended to steal their grass!

Sonamarg visible in the valley beyond

Today’s destination was Nichnai at an altitude of about 11300 feet. So, starting from about 8300 feet at Shitakadi we were supposed to gain an altitude of 3000 feet over a distance of about 11 kms which we were estimated to cover in 7-8 hrs.

Having offloaded my bigger rucksack to the more sturdier shoulders & back of the accompanying pony, I was attired comfortably with just the daypack on my own more fragile ones.

The cow photobombed me!!

The breathtaking surroundings forced me to stop every now & then.

We kept meetiing little village children all along the route with them happily chasing us for toffees ๐Ÿ™‚

Around 10.30 am we reached the much awaited ‘dhaba’ (an adhoc streetside restaurant) where even though not really needing it I treated myself to an apple & Maggi just for the sake of an experience.

The mountain huts that the locals build in Kashmir are called ‘Dhoks’. There was one such just behind the dhaba & the group smilingly agreed to pose for a pic with the man even giving an extra puff for effect ๐Ÿ™‚

Horses are locals’ lifeline in this season with them being used as beasts of burden to carry trekkers’ equipment

We started off again after a well deserved break of 45 mins. The track continued to wind up steadily & it was difficult to decide whether the shade of cypress & birch trees was more welcome or the sun. The choice was soon made in favour of the latter as the forest cover gave way to a barren rocky valley. Actually anything was fine just as long as it didn’t rain!

The rock filled Nichnai river valley

The next hour or so of the trek would be walking upwards along the river, practically on the stony riverbed under the midday sun!

We joined the Nichnai river flowing down at great speed, evidence of the steep climb that lay ahead. The water was absolutely clear & milky white & I couldn’t resist myself having a sip or two though my water intake otherwise was with the use of sterilisation tablets, just to be sure.

We had been instructed by our guide to stop by the river for an ‘on-the-go’ lunch without specifying any particular location. I became a Tom Hanks from Forrest Gump that day & continued walking in search of the elusive luncheon point only to reach Nichnai by 1.30 pm, starving & much ahead of everyone else!! Thankfully the cereal bar & protein chocolate which I was carrying in my daypack saved the day. In that state of famish even the basic rice & sabzi (vegetable) prepared hurriedly by the staff tasted heavenly.

Nichnai is an enroute location before one starts hitting the lakes from the 3rd day onwards, just there to break the journey. It was just a vast expanse of the river valley with no hutments or villages or locals, the only visible souls being those of trekkers & associated staff.

Our small campsite with the faint orange coloured tent next to the boulder. How insignificant is our existence!

A spell of rain in the evening made the atmosphere a little chilly. Dinner was announced at 7.30 pm & we packed off for the night by 8.30.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Truly amazing. The best way to lay how insignificant we are in comparison to the universe. You are a great blogger. All the best for a safe and wonderful journey

  2. You write so effortlessly, just like you walked while we trekked to keep to your pace. Effortlessly, very easily reacted by me, but for those who read this blog, I must mention the amount of meticulously planning you by recording daily your minute observations with beautiful pictures to go with the blogging detail. If our Experience of Trekking seems exciting, it’s indeed kudos to Sudeep’s presentation. Eagerly looking forward to the Day 3 presentation soon๐Ÿ•บ

    1. Thanks a lot Sir ๐Ÿ™‚ You just have to put on your trekking gear & realise that your willpower will do the rest ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Lovely read once again, Sudeep. Your blog has brought back memories from some 40 years ago when I did the trek to Nichnai as part of a school camping trip. I remember it being a tough trek, with the weather (rains) making it more difficult. I remember the walk through the woods of birch and cypress. I remember joining my schoolmates in cursing the school for making us do such an arduous trek, even though I was secretly enjoying it. I remember reaching Nichnai and finding that there was no tea and no food because the firewood had all become wet. I remember the cacophony I and my tent mates created demanding something to eatโ€ฆ the school principal had to come to our tent to give us a piece of his mindโ€ฆ those were the days. Thank you for bringing the memories back ๐Ÿค—

    1. Thanks for sharing this lovely anecdote Varun bhai ๐Ÿ™‚ School trips with friends are amazing fun & I could literally sense & feel that from your vivid description ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Batu , a very vivid and explicit write up. I actually feel Iโ€™m there myself. Itโ€™s been many moon years since I last trekked. Youโ€™ve penned down your entire day so beautifully , the valley sounds better than the pictures of it . The makeshift powder room rather tent gave me the jitters ๐Ÿ˜… . Waiting for day 3

    1. Thanks a lot ๐Ÿ™‚
      Powder room tent? Which one?? That little one was my sleeping tent…hahahaha ๐Ÿ™‚

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