This tour is an exuberant and rewarding journey that will nourish heart, mind, body, soul and all the senses…. It has been designed for confident walkers and adventurers wishing to escape all vestiges of congestion, tourism, modern stress and seeking an immersion in all the joys of being at one with nature –
– the sounds of bubbling brooks and raging streams, the rustle of breezes as you pass through magnificent deodar, pine and birch forests; the springy feel of thick green carpets of vast meadows under your feet, delight at discovering wild flowers and minute blossoms peeking under rocks, majestic eagles soaring the thermals above, and sleeping under a canopy of stars; the heartfelt interaction with the semi-nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal tribes who pass by in endless, dreamy, decorated-pony caravans leading their livestock to higher pastures or inviting you into their slab-hut sod-roofed dwellings to share chai, buffalo curds and freshly made bread or play cricket with their kids.
Camp Sites always by running water. Spacious new tents are equipped with thermarest mattresses, down bags, hot water bottles, comfortable pillows. Mornings and evenings there is plentiful hot water delivered via an ingenious portable ‘bukhari’ heater. Campfires are lit with open fires in the evenings. An abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and delicious, nourishing cuisine each day accompanied by ginger infusions and saffron scented kahwa tea. Unlimited access to pure drinking water derived from mountain springs. All you carry is your daypack and if you feel weary or sore, you can mount a sure-footed pony.
from USD 4500 per person based on twin/double share Based on minimum 8 occupancy. Excluding international airfares.
ALL MEALS, LOCAL GUIDES, ACTIVITES, Entrance Fees
This morning fly to Srinagar and stay in the most luxurious eco-sensitive houseboat on Dal Lake. This afternoon enjoy a walking tour of the old city visiting significant Sufi shrines, mosques and wandering the maze of colourful bazaars . Kashmir has been romanticised by everyone from the 16th-century Mogul emperor Jahangir to Salman Rushdie (who spoke of "the lush valleys, the lakes, the streams, the saffron meadows – the intense physical beauty and culture of enormous harmony").
Pre dawn, leave rugged up in your private shikara to be rowed to the floating markets, a boat-based ballet dance of vendors selling flowers, fruits, vegetables and saffron. After breakfast travel to a special village to see the finest examples of pashmina production in artisan’s homes.
Drive through lush landscapes of orchards and mustard crops drive up to Aru where the amazing trek team awaits you for lunch.
The Sheik family has been guiding people through their mountains since 1952. One could not feel more cosseted or safe in their midst. They have brilliant mountain skills that enable them to build a bridge over a river, run like gazelles over rocks, command ponies to follow without being led, swiftly halal-slaughter a chook for the cooking pot, set up a wonderfully appointed camp in record time, lend a helping hand and watchful eye as you navigate a tricky terrain, prepare scrumptious delicious meals with the simplest gear, or even sing to you from their hearts, songs of love and yearning and hope.
Never before in life have we experienced a kinder, gentler, more capable, caring and respectful group of men.
Camping is by a fresh mountain stream.
Before the day starts join Marieke’s yoga session (if she is leading the group) to stretch and breath the purest air imaginable. There is always a slightly “organic approach to trekking, depending on the weather, local conditions, the group’s stamina. Anticipate days of 4-7 hours walking (max about 15km) with breaks to enjoy the scenery, fill drink bottles from natural springs, interact with the locals,or ride a pony if you feel weary. Camps will be 2 night stays with the option for days to “kick back” or take up the challenge of exhilarating side treks.
Today trek to an elevation of 3100m to a vast verdant lush meadow bordered by a calm icy stream and soaring peaks that gives you the feeling you are have found an unearthly paradise.
River crossings might be on ponies and expect lots of smaller stream-crossings across logs. Rests on the way to appreciate the natural beauty and interact with the many Gujjar folk who are making their way to higher summer pastures.
Today allows for an optional 6 -hour day walk to reach Harbagwan Lake at an elevation of 4100-4500m. A small trail rises through rocky terrain to reach a stunning meadow profuse with wildflowers. The walk is then a steady ascent with the possibility of snow and bigger steeper boulders to negotiate.
You may prefer to just linger at camp to read, relax and meander.
Today is a long and exhilarating, descending walk of 15km, partly down narrow rocky tracks and the rest through soaring deodar forests. You halt at a large Gujjar settlement, where your hostess will prepare fresh flat bread cooked in her wood fired earthen stove.
Late afternoon arrive at 2500m to a lovely sloping meadow intersected by streams, with snow capped peaks on the horizon.
Today’s walk is long (17km) but over moderate and very scenic terrain to arrive in the Lidder valley and the confluence of 2 rivers camping at 2750m. Enjoy the serene landscape of lush meadows alongside the gushing River Lidder and forest- covered slopes that overlook the snow-capped mountains.
Today’s walk meanders closely to the beautiful river lined with birch trees with a gentle ascent to reach 3200m where you camp in a more lunar-like landscape of barren rock face, scree falls, and roaring stream. Nearby is the largest Gujjar village in the Lidder valley whose kids welcome a game of cricket and whose parents are so happy to exchange food.
The final walk is downhill and returns you to the starting point of the delightful village of Aru that sits in the middle of a biosphere and is surrounded by agricultural experimental plots. Lunch and farewells to an exceptional trek team. Take up the comforts of a hotel in Pahalagam, a gentle step back into the built environment, river trout for dinner, warm baths, comfortable beds, and airy rooms with views to the river.
This morning return to Srinagar for an early lunch with friends in a private home. Later fly to Delhi in time for international departures.
You must consult your Government’s latest advisory on travel to the region which can vary from time to time. Political violence can flare up without warning. Tourists have not been targeted since the mid 90’s.
SUGGESTED TOUR EXTENSIONS;
- Ladakh | Leh
- Amritsar | Golden Temple
Tour Leader Marieke Brugman
For decades a keen walker, and smitten and beguiled by recent visits to Kashmir (a lifelong dream), the recent treks Marieke undertook with several private groups held subtle personal challenges:
“could I carry a pack?..how would it be at those altitudes?...” Two simple truths emerged: “How much I had neglected and missed being in nature, a habit formed living so long in the High Country of NE Victoria for decades” and Thich Nhat Hanh’s profoundly simple lessons in mindfulness “so each and every step over all the days became a walking mantra/meditation in mindfulness, connectedness and deepest appreciation of Gaia.”
As the master monk has said: “every step brings us back to the present moment, so that we can touch the wonders of life that are available. Therefore, when I say, "I have arrived," I mean I have arrived in the here and the now - the only place, the only time where and when life is available, and that is my true home.” “You don’t have to make any effort during walking meditation, because it is enjoyable. You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle.” And so it has been.
Ghulam Sheik is the eldest in a family of 8 children whose father started to lead treks in these mountains in 1952. A devout father and husband, and elected Councilor in Aru, his heart and home is in the mountains where his innumerable capabilities shine. Soft, wise, generous, humorous, he can at a moment’s notice rustle up a fantastic meal, whittle a perfect walking stick from a birch branch, mend an injured horse, construct a bridge to cross a stream, walk slowly, steadily, quietly all day or simply sit in stillness or engage in meaningful philosophical conversation and connect you to the Kashmiri soul. Two of his sons and some of his most trusted friends form his chosen team of helpers. A gem!
Muzafarjohn (aka Johnny). 2IC to Ghulam in whose family he has been raised since he was a little boy, Johnny has a foot in two camps, the mystical mountains and the modern Internet world. This long lean streak of a young man exudes boundless enthusiasm, tremendous bush craft, great care of his guests, impressive energy in the walks and an infectious sense of fun.
Guide in Srinagar Muzaffar Andrabi, a native of Srinagar believes Kashmir is the only place on earth with a piece of something from every corner of the globe. Muzaffar's passion for his own country extends to his care for traveller's desires and interests. Muzaffar started his career as a local guide in Kashmir in 1987 and became the first person from Indian subcontinent to lead high profile American groups in over fifty countries starting from the Orient (Japan) on one side all the way through India, Middle-East and Africa to Madagascar. The greatest treat extended to Art of Living clients is an invitation to his home to enjoy astounding home cooked food with his family.