I have been talking a lot about how pretty the Tarsar Marsar trek is. Most treks in the Himalayas are pretty. Almost every trek comes with grand views, lovely streams, forests, good meadows. They are loaded with adventure. And then there is the Tarsar Marsar trek in Kashmir. It takes prettiness to such a high level that it leaves you visually stunned for weeks together!
Camping beside any alpine lake is a rarity. But camping on the grassy banks of a lake as pretty as Tarsar is a gift! And then our trekkers say, “Tarsar is nothing. Camping on the shores of Sundarsar is even better!”
Now here’s what gets my goat. While Tarsar is such a pedigree trek, I am disappointed most trekkers don’t take in everything the trek has to offer. So this year, when you are out on the Tarsar trek look out for these five highlights.
1. Glades of Aru – The Base of the Tarsar Marsar trek
Aru is almost European in its setting. The village is a cluster of lovely cottages with slanted tin roofs. Willow and poplar trees pop up amidst the cottages. A clear stream runs through the heart of the village. To add to its European looks, Aru is surrounded by lovely landscaped grasslands. So landscaped that it almost feels like an architect designed it. When you get to Aru don’t hang about near your campsite. Climb a bit and take a long circuitous walk around the village, hugging the pine trees that hover over Aru.
2. Around Lidderwat campsite
Just outside our campsite at Lidderwat, towards the Kolahoi glacier, is a tiny Gujjar settlement under pine trees. It is absolutely stunning to see such quaint settlements under such big pine trees. Go up to the settlement and observe life from a different era. Take in the smell of the pines. Speaking of which, trekkers don’t seem to be spending any time at the lovely grassy meadows just before they descend to Lidderwat bridge too. The pines there are even better.
3. Climbing the ridge above Shekawas
There’s a grassy ridge that climbs just behind our Shekawas campsite. It is so grassy that you don’t need shoes to do this climb. Your barefoot will do — and the feeling is glorious. The climb is endless; it just gets higher and higher until your tents are just specks. As you climb, the valleys around Shekawas open up. If you are doing the climb in the evening (as you most invariably will), you also catch one of the best sunsets of your life. Don’t miss this.
4. Walks around Tarsar
There are two walks around Tarsar that are an absolute must-dos. First, trekkers must walk to the far end of Tarsar, towards the other side of the lake. Tarsar is a lake that looks different from every angle you see. From the other side, it almost appears to be a new lake with different views. This experience is wonderful. Then there is the walk behind our campsite, towards Shekawas. It can go on for a kilometer or so, crossing lovely brooks on the way. It throws up a whole new light to the Tarsar camp area. You don’t see the lake but you see a Kashmir that you may have just missed. Keep the stream to your right as you walk away from the camp.
5. Spending time at the Jagmargi grasslands
These are the lovely grasslands that stretch as far as the eye can see, just before the final push to Sundersar camp. You don’t expect it at first. The grasslands are almost like a bay in the mountains. They are desolate, pretty – a sight that is rarely seen on treks. A lovely stream meanders through the grass, gentle as a lamb. In a hurry to get to Sundersar trekkers tend to rush through this stretch. That’s a bad idea. You don’t get spots like Jagmargi on treks.
So there you have it. Five highlights that will make your Tarsar Marsar trek in Kashmir a superb experience.