Tag Archives: Naranag

When getting down becomes the toughest part : Gangabal to Naranag

When it comes to last day of a trek, we often expect it to be a relaxed day, more so when it is all down hill. But don’t think so when you are on Kashmir Great Lakes trek. To my surprise, last day trek from Gangabal to Naranag actually turned out to be one of the toughest day of the trek.

Also read: Thajiwas is a perfect acclimatisation for Great Lakes Trek

Nandkhol Lake in the backdrop of Harmukh peak

Weather has been perfect accept for the first night rain. It has been bright and sunny. Well, it was known before hand that last day has to be steep descent. But excitement of finishing the trek did overcome the challenge. Moreover we didn’t expect it to be that tricky affair.

Time to pack up for the journey.

Also read: Kashmir Great Lakes- First day trek to Nichnai

Looking back at the tents, which were our shelter for the night.

This is one of the trickiest descent I had faced in all these years of trekking. I will still not call it ‘the’ trickiest as I have kept that tag for trek from Chandaniaghat to Sutol in Uttarakhand during the Nanda Devi Rajjat 2014. That still sends shivers down my spine. Will talk about it some time later.

Stream that comes from Gangabal lake and goes down to Sind river

Also read: Romancing the rains at Nichnai Pass

Route along the stream

Gangabal is at an altitude of almost 11,500 ft and Naranag is at 7,450 ft. Thus it is a descent of around 4,000 ft. But out of this a steep descent of 3,000 ft has to be done in just last 4 kms of the trek on muddy, boulder filled route in the midst of thick of pines. It takes a toll on toes and knees to hold the body weight and keep hold of the slippery path.

Saying goodbye to the last of the higher camps of the trek

Initially, trek doesn’t look so intimidating. Its a beautiful river crossing, with a very relaxed and gradual walk along the stream. Horses were packed with luggage and ready to move on path different from us, right through the valley.

Horses crossing the stream, but they were supposed to take a different route from us

After walking along the stream for a while, we leave it aside and move upto the ridge, on the other side of the Harmukh peak.

Stream goes down to the valley

Also read: Paradise regained- As beautiful as it can be

There were few boulders on the way, but they were easy to negotiate.

Climbing up the ridge through boulders

It was a beautiful view on the other side of the ridge. There were signs of reaching close to the civilisation, as we could see shepherds, flocks of sheep and some women from the nearby villages.

On to the ridge, you can see hundreds of sheep spread in the meadows.

Also read: A tale of seven lakes- Gadsar to Satsar

Its a beautiful view out there. Treeline at the far end, beautifully crafted green hills on one side, stream on another and majestic Harmukh peak on the back.

A panoramic view of the right side of the trek

The route from Gangabal to Naranag is one of the busiest on the whole trek. Despite trek being tough, there are many adventure lovers going to Gangabal from Naranag for short trips, camping or just fishing fun. Actually, on this trek, this particular stretch has been in use for ages due to its mythological importance as well as natural beauty.

Also read: Satsar to Gangabal- Photo Journey to the climax

At the far end of the hill, just where the tree line starts, you can see a Forest Hut. This place is also ideal for camping, if while coming from Naranag one has got no more courage or energy left to go upto the Gangabal lake.

Treeline and a forest hut

Even when we reach the tree line, we actually don’t just enter the forest straightaway. Still, for a fairly good distance we have to walk just along the fringe onto its right. Interestingly, we don’t loose much of altitude even till here.

Curious looks of the cow give enough indications of the village close by

We keep going up and down the trek, in and out of the pine forest for some distance. By this time, we will be encountering locals in a fairly good number. Some gujar villages are also there to be seen.

Entering into the pine forest.

Almost after covering six kilometres we get a restaurant and it gives a welcome break with some kahwa, tea, biscuits and maggi.

Also read: Kashmir we know less about – Naranag

Ever changing vista of the route

The real descent lies in last four kilometres, that means after covering two-third of the distance. Its a muddy, rocky, slippery, trail right amidst the thick of the pine. It has to be covered very carefully. At time you start feeling for the ones going up to the Gangabal through that route. These last four kilometres almost seem endless.

First view of the Naranag

Even when, we have first sight of the Naranag, it is no relief, as there is long distance still to cover. But you can always relax yourself by talking to the locals, enjoying the beauty, clicking the photographs and make the last day as enjoyable as possible. Its always good to take firm steps, even if you walk slowly. You can still reach the road head at Naranag by 3 pm.

Also have a look at the video of the highlights of the day’s trek on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below-

Have you trekked from Gangabal to Naranag? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Satsar to Gangabal : Photo journey to the climax!

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After a satisfying fourth day, it was time to move towards the climax on the 5th day of the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. It was supposed to be the last day of climb. Satsar campsite is at an altitude of 12,000 ft and Gangabal campsite is at a an altitude of 11,500 ft but on the way we have to cross the Zach pass at an altitude of 13,400 ft.

How to prepare? Read: Thajiwas is a perfect acclimatisation for Great Lakes Trek

So, lets travel through the day’s trek in photos. Starting right from the first light of the day-

Its early morning after a wonderful night of stargazing. You just can’t imagine, how this sky looked like in the night. Its cold still, but all ready to move.

Its getting brighter and campsite is buzzing with early morning activities.

Also Read: Kashmir Great Lakes- First day trek to Nichnai

Its climb right from the word- go. A steep fall on the left and cliff on the right. We had to cross through boulders and loose rocks.

Looking back at the Satsar campsite from bit of height.It is tiring though. Crossing boulders is always tricky and tough on knees. Reaching to another ridge.

Time to have some rest after having crossed most of the rocky terrain. Looking at those mountains make you you so humble.

Closer look at the mountains far on the other side of the valley with a stream flowing down.

Though flowering season has almost ended, but we could still find some smaller carpets here and there.

Also Read: Kashmir Great Lakes- Romancing the rains at Nichnai PassContemplating the moves! Looks like another peak to climb!! The ridge at the top is the Zach pass, the last high pass of the trek. It would be all down after that hopefully.And than climbing to the top turns out to be a feast for the eyes, when all of a sudden nature turns out to be a big canvas spread right in front of you (see the video below)

They were indeed moment of pure joy. Everybody assembled on the pass with twin lakes in the background. Tricolour was unfurled and numerous pictures were clicked with every possible angle.

What was one of the best places to click an image of the lifetime… our guide stands here.

Harmukh Peak in its full glory. See hoe the snow cover its edges.

The view of Gangabal lake (also called as Harmukh Ganga) located at the foot of Harmukh peak, as seen from the Zach Pass. It is one of the most sacred places for Kashmiri Hindus.

This is Nandkhol lake at the base of Harmukh Peak, it is smaller than Gangabal, but is used more often for the camping.Also read: Paradise regained- As beautiful as it can be

It is now descent of around 1400 ft till the campsite. Looks easy?Not so, if you see from this side… Mules on their way to the campsite at Nandkhol.It isn’t a straightforward descent as well. What we see is the first halt in a valley at the base of Zach Pass in this side. We can see some shepherd huts and a small stream flowing down from Gangabal lake.

Another view of the Harmukh peak in the glaring sun.

Reaching at the first stream. There is another small hill to climb, before another descent.

Time to relax, as we were aware that campsite isn’t far now.


The perennial trekkers for the company in this huge meadows.

The Harmukh Glacier that feeds the twin lakes. Glazing in the sunlight.

Whodunit? A rock as big as this one, cut into two pieces in the manner would have been due to hell of a happening!Finally the campsite on the banks of the Nandkhol lake. Looks so pristine!
The man-made bridge to cross the stream coming from Gangabal lake towards Nandkhol Lake.Finally, the Gangabal lake an altitude of 3570 metres. This fish is home to many types of fishes including rainbow and brown trout.Joy of reaching the climax!July to August is the best time to be here. You will find more snow if you are here in June. You feel so calm and relaxed here.

Having visited the Gangabal lake in he evening itself, there was an urge to go there again in the morning. Campsite was at Nandkhol lake and it is almost a 20 minutes trek between the two lakes. So, quite determined, it was the early in the morning.Mules were getting themselves ready for another hard day.It was getting brighter on one side.And then, there were first golden rays of sun on the Harmukh Peak.

The 4th Day: A tale of seen Lakes – Gadsar to SatsarSun was very quickly to its full glow..Calm waters of Gangabal lake in the morning. But it was still not calm enough to get a clear reflection. You never feel like it is enough of the photographs. Its amazing that how nature keeps changing its colours. Kashmiri Hindus still come to this lake for many rituals or to pay homage to their ancestors. Locals often travel from Naranag to Gangabal for fishing or just a short trek.

Light falls on the Gangabal lake and the whole colour of the nature changes once again.
Also read: Kashmir we know less about – Naranag

Some tents at the banks of the Gangabal Lake.Reminiscent of what would have been a part of a pontoon bridge  long time back. It looked quite astonishing as to how these extremely heavy pieces of iron would have been transported here. They seemed too heavy even for a mule to carry it. Its all bright, mules have had their green feast and everybody seems to be ready to move on the final day…You can also watch a video of this 5th day trek on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

Have you been to Kashmir Great Lakes Trek? How was your experience? Please share in the comments section below.

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A tale of seven lakes : Gadsar to Satsar

The best thing about six day Kashmir Great Lakes trek is that every day, you get a new landscape around and that prevents it from getting monotonous.

Early starters: trekkers crossing the glacier

Also read: Thajiwas is a perfect acclimatisation for Great Lakes trek

Fodling up: Gadsar campsite

Having already covered the first three day, we move ahead to the next campsite. Fourth day trek is from Gadsar to Satsar. First two days of trek were without passing through any lakes but next two days were all about lakes. Third day, we passes as many as five lakes on the way including big ones like Vishnusar, Kishansar and Gadsar. This fourth day was also all about lakes. Actually name of the next campsite is Satsar which means seven lakes.

Also read: Kashmir Great Lakes- First day trek to Nichnai

The altitude for the day hovered around 12K feet. Trek starts by crossing a glacier and there is small climb after that. Albeit small, but it was first glacier to be crossed on the trek.

Looking back towards Gadsar from the ridgeside trail

Also read: Kashmir Great Lakes- Romancing the rains at Nichnai Pass

Zigzag climb upto the hill top

Also read: Paradise regained- As beautiful as it can be!

Lonely at the top, well above the treeline, a tree stands alone on the ridge

Trek thereafter is gradual and quite beautiful. It was a small climb though initially followed by a gentle ascend along the hillside. The climb goes on becoming smoother as we pass through a ridge covered with lush green meadows.

In no time we are at a high again
With the trail getting easier, the walking moves turn to dancing
Landscape to the right across the stream. See the waterfall emerging just from middle of the hill… amazing!

Second half of the day’s trek passes through a stream and than a couple of lakes. Once we leave this ridge and river valley and turn left we come across a large plateau with mountains to the left and a stream flowing on the right.

Meadows on the left of the trail
The perennial trekkers giving us the company

Its a flat trail through the meadows. There is another ridge far on the right side. River does have a rocky side and we can see a lot of boulders.

Turning left to the plateau, leaving the valley behind
Along the stream towards the lunch point. You can see the ridge in the front, across which will start the seven lakes of Satsar

We had our packed lunch on the far end of this plateau alongside the stream, just before the start of another small climb towards a ridge, which houses another army check post. Thus it is second consecutive day of passing through an army check post. But this time the checking wasn’t as rigorous as was the previous day.

First of the lakes of Satsar

We cross the ridge to be on the other side and all of a sudden the landscape changes again. Its a tough walk through boulders. Now we approach what is first of the seven lakes of the Satsar region and the biggest one.

First lake is the biggest of seven lakes of Satsar

Calm and cool water of lake tempted a few of us to take a dip, but this isn’t advisable for all as the water is too cold and bodies are quite hot after a long trek. Jus be careful. This first lake also has a plenty of place for camping and the surroundings are quite picturesque. But we still had some trek left before reaching our campsite.

Meadows have now turned into big boulders

Trek further is bit tricky as there are a few ups and downs through rocky boulders on either sides of the lakes that we come across. Purportedly there are four to five lakes in a series on the route, all connected to each other.

We keep moving and passing by the lakes

But how much water you will find in them, depends lot on the season of the trek and also the weather. As soon as we cross last of the lake on this route, we have a small descent to the campsite on the right.

Lake on the rocks! Lake no…

There is a stream flowing close to the campsite, but there is no lake here. This is Satsar campsite.

First view of the campsite from the top of the ridge

Having already counted four-five lakes, obvious curiosity was about remaining couple of them. Once at the campsite, we came to know about two other lakes hidden high up in the mountains on the opposite side of the campsite and to the left of the last lake that we passed through to reach the campsite.

Early signs of autumn!

It was another at least half an hour climb from the camp. Broadly easy trek all day through helped us in reaching the Satsar campsite well in time, hence we had enough time to go to the twin lakes. But only few of us were able to gather courage to go for a trek again after a tiring day.

That is the mountain in whose lap are hidden two beautiful lakes
Shepherd huts on the way up to the two hidden lakes. Far down you can see the Satsar campsite along the stream

We climbed upto the first of the twin lakes, only to know that the second lake was further up. It wasn’t far but the way was quite tricky, with huge boulders on one side and steep ridge on the other. Finally three of us mustered some strength to go up.

First of the two lakes… second lake is further up in the mountain in the bowl
View of the first lake from the other side (on the base of the second lake)

It was another 20-25 minutes of challenge but we were finally through and it was indeed worth every effort. These two lakes were also connected. Water from the first one will flow down to the second one and then overflowing water from the second one will turn into big water fall.

Finally we reach to the second lake and you can see the glaciers around. This should be well above the altitude of 13K ft
An iceberg flowing in the lake!!!
In this image, you can see the tail of the first lake and the mouth of the second lake, although there is a difference in the altitude. I would have certainly liked to take a shot with both the lakes in same frame but for that another climb of half an hour was needed and that would have been tougher than all what was done so far

All these water bodies were being replenished with glacier waters. Both lakes were quite beautiful, just like a bowl in the lap of mountains.

View of the first lake from the height of the second lake

Quite satisfied after enjoying the second lake, it was time to reach back to the campsite. It felt more fulfilling due to the fact that only three of us among the group of more than 30 trekkers managed to trek to the hidden lakes. We had seen the all possible lakes among the Satsar. It almost seemed like a mission accomplished, for the day at least!

View from the top. The peak you see on the centre left in the background is the Harmukh Parvat, base of which was going to be our destination of next day, a culmination of the great trek

Also read: Kashmir we know less about- Naranag

We could have enjoyed the views from the top for ever, but than the sunlight and clouds signalled us that it was time to be back to the camp.

You can also watch a video of this lovely day’s trek here on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below-

Have you been to Kashmir Great Lakes trek? Share your views in the comments section below.

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Kashmir, we know less about : Kheer Bhawani at Tulmul

There have been many facets of this paradise on earth. The political disturbances since last many decades have made many places either out of bounds or less frequently visited. One of such places is Kheer Bhawani temple at Tulmul (Tullamula) in Ganderbal district of Jammu & Kashmir. Just a few days back on eighth day (Ashtami, अष्टमी) of brighter fortnight (Shukla Paksha, शुक्ल पक्ष) of the hindu month of Jyeshtha (ज्येष्ठ या जेठ) pilgrims gathered at three shrines in Kashmir valley including the Kheer Bhawani temple. Devotees, mostly Kashmiri Pandits, thronged the shrine situated in south Kashmir, which is currently hot bed of  unrest in the Valley. Other two shrines are Tripur Sundari temple in Devsar (Kulgam district) and Ragnya Bhagwati in Manzgam (Kulgam district). This particular day is considered to be the birth day of Goddess Bhagwati. The day is celebrated  with hawans, community kitchens and mass prayers.

Outside Temple compound

Despite all fear created in media, devotees came here and paid obeisance at the shrine. It was usual as was in the past. Much hype was given to element of fear on social media, which led to fall in number of pilgrims but there was no such fear there. Besides this annual festival, people come here every month on the same day to perform rituals and seek blessings. Kheer Bhawani is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in Kashmir valley.

Also read- Naranag: Kashmir we know less about!

Message is clear: Go Vegan!

Though this temple has a rich mythology associated with it, the present temple was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1912 and it was later renovated by his nephew Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra king.

Inside compound of the temple

Surrounded by streams, this place is rich in true Kashmiri beauty, Its abound with Chinar trees- inside and outside the compound. There is a stream surrounding the temple. People take holy bath in this stream.

Also read: Wedding Bells

Stream surrounding the temple.

Now there is a legend on how Goddess Bhagwati reached in Kashmir. Mythology says that King Ravana of Lanka worshipped the goddess and pleased by his prayers, the goddess Bhagwati agreed to shower her blessings and reside in Lanka. But later because of Ravana’s misdeeds goddess cursed him and then she asked Hanuman to take her far in northern mountains away from Ravana’s kingdom. Hence goddess along with her vehicle and 360 nagas (serpents) was brought by Hanuman here at Tullamula near Shadipora.

Its a beautiful compound surrounded by Chinar trees

Then there is another legend on how the temple was discovered in medieval times. It is said that a Kashmiri Pandit, Krishna Dayal Tapilu from Srinagar had a dream wherein the goddess asked hime to travel from Ganderbal to Shadipora in a boat. From Shadipora a serpent would guide him to a pious spring. It so happened. Serpent disappeared after leading that pandit to this spring in Tullamula and this is where the temple is built today. Once you visit the temple, you will find many details about this legend.

Samadhi of the priests

The main spring called as Amrit Kund (अमृत कुंड) of goddess Kheer Bhawani is an irregular hexagonal shape. It has an island in the centre where a mulberry tree grew. And  here goddess Bhagwati is decorated and housed in a small white marble temple. It is said that idols in the temple are the ones that were taken out from this spring.

Devotees offering prayer to goddess

It is also said that water of this spring changes its colours from time to time. These colours are found to be red, light green, lemon yellow, milky white, grey white etc. There is no definite time or reason of changing the colours but any colour in shade of black is considered to be inauspicious. It is also said that there are bubbles rising out of spring water at times and they form a chakra (a mystic symbol, चक्र या यंत्र ).

The temple in the spring

The goddess here is offered Kheer (a sweet dish made of milk, rice and sugar) as prasad (offering, प्रसाद). People are not supposed to eat any form of meat when they visit the holy shrine.

Also read: Tulip Garden in Heaven

The main temple of goddess in spring

Years of unrest have decreased the number of tourists and pilgrims coming to this temple. Tourists just remained glued to their fixed itineraries. Hence, you won’t find many people here on regular days. There are number of restaurants here in the compound which also double up as prasad selling shops, and there is also availability of some rooms for pilgrims willing to stay. These restaurants also serve some local vegetarian delicacies. There is a guest house near by with all facilities.

Restaurants in the temple complex and guest house in the background

Also read: Never a dull morning in the Dal

How to reach: Located in foothills of Himalayas, this temple is not far from Srinagar. Once you move out of the city on the Srinagar-Leh highway, you come close to Ganderbal. Cross the Sindh river and move to Manasbal road. After few kilometres, there is a diversion towards Tullamula. Temple is around 25 kilometres from Srinagar and you can easily find taxis or buses to this place.

Beautiful surroundings

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Naranag: Kashmir we know less about

Talking about tourism in Kashmir, will generally take you to Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg and Pahalgam. No doubt that they are the gems of the valley, but there is still a lot besides these four top spots. Lot many places to see and admire and lot beyond the regular natural beauty spots. Naranag is one of them and it was an altogether different experience for me to visit an archaelogical site in such a scenic surroundings. But equally anguished was I to see such a place in total shambles. Nobody to protect or even take care of such an important site. It has been left to be ruined. I was astonished to see that there was not even a single sign board or a plaque which could give visitors any idea about the site, its history, importance or architecture. Go googling was the only option left.

Naranag is in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir.  While going to Sonmarg from Srinagar on the Kargil-Leh highway, just before Kangan there is a diversion to west. It takes us to Naranag valley and Naranag village. Naranag has two clusters of temples and historians believe it was built in 8th century by King Lalitaditya. That this was dedicated to Lord Shiva is quite obvious because of the presence of shivlingas here- in the temples and on the carvings. The architecture of the temple is also said to be of that period.

Located on the left bank of the Wangath reiver Naranag is also known for its scenic meadows. It is also base camp for trekkers to the Mount Harmukh, Gangabal Lake and Satsar lake.  There are also long distance treks to Gadsar lake, Vishansar Lake and the Krishansar Lake.