After reaching Lidder Valley, the rain kept me confined in my tent, except for short walks under a large umbrella. But around 2 pm the sky cleared and I was seeing the sunlight for the first time in three days. It was my last day at the camp and I wanted to do something useful; to explore new places in particular.
There were 8-9 hiking destinations from Lidder Valley camping site but at 2 pm it didn’t take long to decide which place I would visit. I settled for the nearest lake, i.e., Zaser Lake, some 8-9 km from the camp.
My guide was a Gujjar boy named Bashir, who works for the Malik brothers, owner of our camp. He has been camping here since his childhood (with his family) and was well familiar with the place and other Gujjar families living there. In fact, their family owns a small hut and feeding ground just beneath the Zaser Lake. He was mature beyond his years and could walk as good as a pony. He pushed me hard and we walked at good pace. The mountain was stern and we had to do a lot of climbing but the silence between the steep climbs were filled in by the humming of Bashir, crooning to popular Bollywood songs.
The mountains were daunting and liberating with just one or two Gujjar houses hidden in the vast mountains. After we walked a good two and half hour climb we reached the Zaser Lake, a small lake at the base of a snow covered mountain. The water was pure, bluish in colour and it looked beautiful. We sat down by the lake for a while, but we couldn’t sit longer. The yellow carpet of flowers by the lake was captivating to say the least but it lasts only till the cattle arrives from the lower valley to graze it to the earth.
The lake was beautiful in its own way but to me, the stunning view on our way were even more mesmerizing. From that altitude the mountains appeared like never ending sea waves.
Walking down from the lake was much easier and quicker. We met some Gujjars on the way and they have no hesitation asking for sweets or medicines. They still live a very rustic life, looking after their cattle all day long in the rough terrain. They are as tough as the mountains and are more or less immune to the beauty of the place. And like Bashir, my guide, they would be more interested in doing other jobs.
They don’t know what a beautiful world they live in. Some people would trade anything to live in such a scenic place cocooned by timelessness and serenity. But everything comes with a price!