Travelling means different things to different people. For some, it means thronging popular tourist destinations and getting yourself clicked at famous monuments or beaches. But for others, like me, travel also means getting away from the noise and crowds to places that are blessed with nature’s bounty, are relatively unexplored and where for once, the mobiles don’t work!
And the latter kind of travel opportunities will strike you only when one is willing to go beyond our comfort zone.
The story of my trek to Tulian lake was an unplanned adventure I undertook with a buddy of mine whilst on a family vacation to Pahalgam in Kashmir in the month of July.
This Trek was triggered by a serendipitous glance at a board pointing to the Trail that led to the Tulian Lake while we were exploring the grasslands at Pahalgam. Curious as we were we started inquiring about the Tulian Lake from our driver Javed and the pony/horse owners there and they helped connect us to Altaf, who went on to become our brilliant chosen Guide on our trek to the Tulian Lake, that we began next morning at 9am.
Please choose your Guide/Trek Leader carefully as it is their knowledge of the trek, the trail, the challenges, weather and geography of the region that determines how good your trek would end up being!
Loaded with some bread and Maggi noodles, we began our approximately 16km long Trek from Pahalgam. Passing through Pine forests, we crossed the Meadows and met a Gujjar (gypsy) family on the way, which had 4 young children, loads of sheep and 2 loyal dogs to guard them and their sheep.
The very hospitable Gujjar couple offered us Tea (which was salty as opposed to the sweet tea we were used to), they even offered us a stay in their Hut which we politely refused and then continued with our Trek, watching Marmots, Yaks and Horses grazing along the way in the green pastures. The flora here would fascinate any botanist. For the first time in my life, I saw insectivorous Pitcher Plants.
While the Trek can be termed a not-that-difficult trek for a fit person, it is the last 500-800 metre steep stretch of this Trek that is the most challenging; as it involves a steep climb at an angle of almost 80degrees on a mountain with no steps and lots of stones. One wrong step here can send you in ‘deep’ trouble!
Braving it all, we reached the Tulian Lake located as we learnt on an altitude of 11000 feet! It was a sight to behold with its crystal clear Turquoise coloured waters, surrounded on three sides by mountains belonging to the two Himalayan mountain ranges of Pir Panjal and Zanskar.
It took us about 5-6 hours to reach the lake with the last tough stretch taking about an hour and a half!
The lake is simply beautiful and is an ‘8’ in shape. The waters of the lake remain frozen all year long with about one-third of the lake remaing unfrozen in the summer months.
We spent about half an hour at the Lake and then at 3.30pm began to hike downwards to find a space for us to pitch our Tent for the night.
It starts turning dark at 4.30pm here even in July, because of the shadows cast by the mountains on all sides.
There is very much less space at Tulian Lake for camping, you have to go down to Tulian valley for camping for night. The whole scene is depicted in the picture attached. This is the valley where i pitched my tent. The lake is situated on the top of the mountains and you can the small stream coming from it. The climb over these mountains is the most difficult part of trek. The Dark and fog setting in can also be seen in the picture.
We pitched our tent in the Valley, used the fuelwood collected on the way to light a fire and cook us all dinner and then lied down gazing at the twinkling stars in the clear night sky; which also gave me much needed time and solitude to do some self-introspection.
Next morning at around 9am we started our downward trek back to Pahalgam, which we completed swiftly in about 2 hours.
The trek to the Tulian lake and the overnight camping in the Tulian valley was worth every bit of effort it took!
So, do try once in a while, on your travels to venture on a ‘trek’ less traveled and you will make memories of a lifetime to cherish.