I fantasised about trekking over the Himalayan range and exploring regions of the Himalayas that aren’t easily accessible. The accounts in that book sent shivers down my spine, and I’ve wanted to experience the adrenaline rush that a tough Himalayan Trek would provide ever since. I could never quite appreciate Kashmir’s actual splendour through images, despite having read about it as “paradise on earth.”

I opted to explore Kashmir on foot, and the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek – A Himalayan Expedition was the result of combining two of my dreams: “Exploring the heart of Kashmir” and “Trekking the Himalayas.”

I spent two months researching what it would take to Himalayas, and in May 2014, I chose to embark on this adventure alongside my friends. When I first told folks back home about my idea and plans, they were sceptical, but I persuaded them by painting a lovely picture of the Himalayan Trek. They gave me the go light with some trepidation.

I made a reservation with an organisation on July 12th, 2014, as well as return aeroplane tickets to Srinagar. I spent restless nights dreaming about the Himalayas after all of the bookings were completed and everything was in place. I used to be scared about things like what if I couldn’t finish the walk, what if I got Acute Mountain Sickness, what if I got hurt, what if I couldn’t stand the cold, and so on. The “what ifs” were limitless, and the internal conflict was never-ending. There was no going back now that the reservation had been made.

Moderate to difficult Himalayan treks necessitate good physical fitness and stamina. To develop my shoulders, arms, legs, and core, I worked out for an hour every day – 30 minutes of running and 30 minutes of weight/resistance training. In the meantime, I compiled a list of important items to bring. The most difficult part was keeping the list to a minimum because the more items I have, the more weight I have on my back.

The most crucial trekking tool is a good pair of waterproof, ankle-length hiking shoes, which you should invest in. Trekking Organizer was also quite professional, and they supplied a list of Trek basics, which made things easy.

On the night of July 11th, I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t suppress my enthusiasm. The big day was approaching, and I had no idea what to expect. I started with a blank paper, expecting to create a lovely representation of my experience when I returned. On Saturday, July 12th, 2014, we flew from Bangalore to Srinagar early in the morning. We arrived in Srinagar at 1.30 p.m. and were sent to the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) for pick-up. At TRC, we met a few other trekkers who shared our sense of excitement and apprehension.

I felt at ease because I knew I wouldn’t be climbing these mountains alone. Trekking Organizer sent us a car to take us to the Sonamarg base camp, which was a 4-hour trip from Srinagar. As we approached Sonamarg, the temperature began to drop. The drive was breathtaking, with the magnificent Sindh River running on one side and the lush green mountains on the other. We came to a halt beside the Sindh River’s bank to take a few photos.

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The air smelled so good, and I could feel my lungs expand with joy. We arrived at the base camp, which was set back from the main road. To get to the base camp, we had to go upward for about 20 minutes. We were the first to arrive, and the tents had not yet been set up. The gorgeous scenery around me astounded me, and it felt like I was in a dreamland. I was lost in thought as I sat on one of the stones, admiring the infinite magnificent mountain range.

The sky changed colours as the sun set, from blue to pale orange, dark orange, and pink. The sun setting behind the mountain looked stunning, and it was eventually dark around 8 p.m. When my fellow hikers and I arrived, we were treated to a beautiful moonrise. It was a Full Moon night, and the moon shone brightly on the mountain like a diamond. The sight of the moon rising over the mountains is breathtaking, and we were fortunate enough to witness it.

We introduced ourselves to our hike leader, and our other trekkers. We were a happy and thrilled group of 16 people from all over the world. Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, and Japan were among the trekkers. After exchanging greetings, our trip leader briefed us on the hike’s itinerary, and we were served Daal/Rice for dinner. We then retired to our tents, knowing that the journey ahead would be long and difficult. With my fingers crossed and a nervous smile, I nestled into my “not so comfortable” sleeping bag, unsure of what was ahead.