Someone mentioned to me that creativity might gradually diminish with the prevalence of ChatGPT and similar AI tools. To be honest, it was quite disheartening to hear this perspective. I know that AI is a threat to my job security, but should I be worried about my retirement plans too ? I always dreamt writing/blogging on the beach side or unleashing my thoughts on a mountain with a sip of a coffee.
Nevertheless, my curiosity led me to experiment, and I decided to generate a blog about my recent trek to Tarsar Marsar Lakes using AI. To my amazement, within 2 minutes, a beautifully written blog emerged. It covered everything, from my journey through the Aru valley to each campsite. A detailed insights into each track, including the time taken for each leg of the trek. Kudos to GPT!
However, while I acknowledge that I may not be able to recall every detail as meticulously as the blog’s itinerary, I still stand by my conviction.
“Hey GPT, Your itinerary may be flawless, but I still challenge you, the memories that flood my mind when I see the various shades of green, the rush of emotions beside those freely flowing rivers, and the haunting thoughts triggered by those rugged mountains are uniquely mine.” No script can capture that essence, and that’s precisely why I’m here – because I possess a distinctive human capability rooted in imagination, emotion, and personal experiences.
Disclaimer: This post is a reflection of my personal experiences and the inner motivations that sustained me through the challenges of high terrains and harsh weather conditions. If you want to know the itinerary of Tarsar Marsar lake, check out Chat GPT.
Do you want to know more about Himalayan Trek, read my first experience with the mountains.
Episode 1: Strategic Preparation of Mind and Body
I can’t easily sum up what motivated me to embark on treks. The first time, it was sheer curiosity that drove me. However, the second time around, I was well aware of the challenges and what lay ahead. But, there was a constant itch to trek and I also heard the mountains beckon…. , enticing me to return and relive in its tranquility once again.
Nature is addictive. In a world where I’m constantly immersed in the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced life, the sensation of catching my breath amidst the mountains is incredibly rejuvenating. It instills in me a newfound confidence and clarity of thought that extends to every step I take in life.
However, I was fully prepared to put into practice all the lessons I had learned from my previous trek. My partner, Ms. P, and I were unequivocal about our “DND” list:
- No attempting summits.
- No enduring 18 to 20-hour treks in one day.
- Ensuring that the base camp was easily reachable.
- More of greens than snow
- Not too easy not too difficult – Moderate was our choice
With these criteria in mind, we decided on the Kashmir Himalayan Range – the Tarsar Marsar Lake trek, taking into account logistical convenience and availability.
As part of my prep, I stepped up my regular workout routine, aiming to enhance my fitness level and build endurance and also worked on my yoga and meditation. While my partner neatly charted out the list of items to carry for the trek. What else can I ask for …. All set…
Episode 2 : Turning Ideas into Reality
The anticipation had been building, and on September 22, 2023, the day finally arrived. We packed our bags and set off for Srinagar. Although there were no direct flights, and we faced a full night of travel, there were no complaints from either of us – we were only excited about the week ahead .
Srinagar and the renowned Dal Lake had always held a special place in my imagination, courtesy Indian Movies. But, reality does not have to be the same, the rash driving , narrow & dirty roads, frisking people & vehicles all over, and the sweaty hot weather .. But still it is Srinagar. Despite the heat, our enthusiasm pushed us to explore the floating market at the Dal lake. The experience of gliding on a shikara across the serene waters was reminiscent of a gondola ride in Venice. As always, typical tourist spot, selling nuts and fruits , but Kashmiri Kahwa on that boat ride deserves a special mention.
Next, Meet and greet the co-trekkers—the total strangers with whom we would be spending the next week. We hopped into the car, brimming with dreams and excitement, ready to reach the base camp.
Episode 3 : The Mind Magic – Totally Unleashed
Following a peaceful overnight at a homestay in Aru Valley, the first day of our trek led us towards Lidderwatt. The initial two days of a trek are invariably enjoyable. The ascent is gradual, and there are ample breaks provided, offering plenty of opportunities to capture picturesque moments and take in the scenic surroundings.
I make it a point to follow closely behind the guide in the front row during our treks. Over time, I’ve discovered the strong influence of my surroundings on my mental state. When I observe the guide moving effortlessly, it instills in me a sense of ease and confidence in completing the trek. Conversely, if I find myself amidst fellow trekkers who are struggling, I, too, feel my control slipping away. It reinforces my belief that my mental fortitude plays a more significant role than the strength of my legs or my endurance capacity.
Also, rather than engaging in conversation with someone, I prefer to allow my mind to operate independently most of the time. It’s the difference between “mindfull” and “mindful.” During these moments, I relinquish all control. Whether it’s old memories resurfacing, fresh thoughts emerging, or unrelated musings, I set my mind free to roam wherever it pleases. This unfettered mental wandering is one of the most rewarding aspects of walking alone and leading from the front.
Also, unlike my last trek, where we consistently maintained a tight-knit group, this time we were encouraged to find our own path amidst the wilderness. Getting lost is just not possible if you follow the track.
I find myself in a state of complete freedom with no other responsibilities to attend to throughout the day—no phone calls, no connectivity, no meetings, no kitchen duties, no classes, no helpers, no visitors—absolutely nothing at all. It’s an incredible sensation when, for once, my mind can dwell on something entirely different from planning.
It becomes an incredibly meditative experience. Amidst the rhythmic cadence of my footsteps and the gentle sound of my hiking poles striking the ground, my mind takes flight in all directions, spreading its wings without restraint. This is an experience that can only be felt, as no words can adequately capture what I mean by this feeling.
Episode 4 : A 360 degree Visual Odyssey
When the mind is granted the freedom to wander, it allows the eyes to engage in a complete 360-degree panorama. All that unfolds before me are a myriad of enchanting sights: various hues of green, expansive rolling meadows, the presence of sheep and vigilant shepherds, the graceful conical trees, and the majestic mountains, each with its unique character—some rugged, some lush, and others adorned with glistening snow. No photograph or video could ever truly replicate the breathtaking spectacle that my eyes behold in a single glance.
However, a peculiar apprehension lingers within me as I navigate both uphill and downhill terrains – a fear that compels me to keep a vigilant eye on the path ahead. Perhaps, this unease has been fuelled by stories I’ve heard from friends who suffered ankle injuries during their treacherous descents. This time, I made a conscious decision to use two trekking poles, taking painstaking care with each and every step.
The boulder tracks were not a joke either, you cannot find the trail easily and it was wobbly at times. Among these rocky formations, what struck the most terror within me were the concealed gaps and crevices on the otherwise naturally stacked boulders. The mere thought of an unexpected encounter with “creature who shall not be named” sent shivers down my spine. These rocky tracks were not just a minor stretch; they comprised almost 10 to 15% of the entire trail and were genuinely intimidating.
Later, upon our return, fellow trekkers shared a photo of a massive Python they had come across on the same route. I thanked my lucky stars multiple times because if that had crossed my path, it would have disrupted my entire trek. Reptiles and I, I must admit, do not get along, not even in a zoo or in pictures.
While the allure of the complete 360-degree view remained, it proved challenging to maintain this vista continuously, as my attention was often pulled down to ensure my safety. Nonetheless, I stuck closely to our guide, seeking reassurance and ease due to these concerns.
Episode 5 : Bone Chilling Cold
While my mindset has often been my ally in traversing the mountains, one persistent adversary has been the bone-chilling cold. Another pampered Bangalorean, I can’t stand very cold weather nor extreme heat, we thrive well in our 20 degrees. I’ve faced frigid temperatures across the globe, but never within the confines of a tent. The memories of that initial night spent in the tent still evoke a damp sensation within me, as it poured relentlessly.
Being in sloping meadows, Slowly, my sleeping bag gravitated toward the corner of the tent due to the incline, and water seeped in at the corners, chilling me to the bone. Those nights inside the tent were far from easy, and pictures, no matter how captivating, can never truly convey the icy-cold reality of the situation.
The water in the stream was – brutally ice-cold. Normally, I’m not one to enjoy icy-cold things, whether it’s a chilled salad, cold soft drinks, or even ice cream. But here, everything was cold. I had to keep my feet and fingers perpetually protected while resting; otherwise, I’d shiver uncontrollably. I had strategically arranged myself to conserve warmth as best as I could.
Then, on the following day, the sun finally made its appearance around noon, and an crazy idea struck all the ladies in our group. Of course, on a trek, there’s no room for showers or makeup or even matching clothes & shoes – it’s a liberating moment of just being yourself. However, we made an impromptu decision to wash our hair in the icy stream. It turned out to be a lot of fun, using biodegradable soaps and immersing ourselves in this refreshing, albeit frigid, experience.
Perhaps it was this escapade that led to my downfall on the next day, which involved another arduous climb and descent, coupled with relentless weather conditions. I fell ill after reaching the campsite.
I’ve never liked being labeled as a feeble, sick person, and medications have always been my last resort. But on that particular day, I shivered uncontrollably and longed for the comfort of my bed. The following two days were spent in solitude, as I fought through my illness with sheer determination. The trek continued with a fatigued body but an unwavering spirit. It’s been a week since I returned from the trek, yet my cough and cold have not entirely subsided. That’s the lingering effect of the bone-chilling mountain weather.
During those nights, it’s when my mind begins to pose questions like: “Do I truly need this?” “Why am I torturing myself in this weather?” “Will I dare embark on another journey?” As I mentioned earlier, when my mind is set loose, it can ponder everything and anything. The questions keep coming up all through the night….
Episode 6: Cohort – Diverse Minds but one goal
The following day, we all sprung up from our sleeping bags, ready for our next adventure. Mountains have a way of instilling discipline, and we were always punctual for warm up and breakfast.
Trekking truly is a team sport. Our group consisted of seasoned trekkers, intermediates like myself, and beginners too. People came from different corners of the world, each with their own unique mindset, yet we functioned as a close-knit family for an entire week. We shared not only our food and snacks but even our facilities. Helping one another came naturally. The learning never ceased in the mountains – we learned from nature, from the locals, and from our fellow trekkers. Some enjoyed continuous chitchat during the trek, while others preferred solitude. Some immersed themselves in music, and some took the time to engage with locals along the way.
Indeed, one piece of advice I wish I had received during my childhood is that whatever you read in books can only go so far in preparing you for life. It’s the experiences and the people you encounter, especially in places like this, that truly shape your character and provide valuable lessons. It’s the experiences that truly matter.
However, back at the camp, we all played and celebrated together. It felt like sheer luck to have found the right group of people in the mountains. In my perspective, those who trek shed their pride and become one with the mountains, always ready to lend a helping hand. For me, it was about relishing my solo trek within the group and finding joy in the camaraderie at the camp.
Episode 7 : Farewell to the Mountains
My trekking adventure through the stunning landscapes of the Kashmir Himalayan Range was more than just a physical journey; it was a transformative experience that transcended the boundaries of my comfort zone. Every single step left an indelible mark on my soul.
The mountains tested my physical endurance and pushed me to confront my fears, but they also taught me the value of resilience and the beauty of surrendering to the elements. The icy-cold weather and the unpredictability of nature challenged me, but they also filled me with awe and wonder.
In the world I live in, the internet, electricity, and modern amenities are not considered luxuries, but necessities. However, in the mountains, none of these conveniences were available. It was a stark reminder of how we often take these comforts for granted.
It taught me to appreciate that the beautiful moonlight is not just for poetry; it also serves as a guiding light in the pitch-black mountain nights when you need it the most
Above all, it was the people I met on this journey who made it truly exceptional. We came from different backgrounds and cultures, yet we stayed for week together, supporting and learning from each other.
As I sit back and reflect on this incredible adventure, This trek was not just about conquering peaks; it was about conquering myself, my fears, and my limitations. It was about embracing the unknown and finding strength in vulnerability. It was about finding solace in the silence of the mountains and celebrating the joy of human connection around the campfire.
So, would I dare another trip? Absolutely. Because in the mountains, I found not only adventure but also a piece of myself that I never knew existed.
“The call of the mountains will forever echo in my heart, urging me to explore, to grow, and to embrace the beauty of the journey, one step at a time.”
Goodbye Mountains for now…..