Nagakoti to Sheshnag Lake(11730 ft) – Distance 3 Kms
By now, I became familiar with ‘Chamriya’ – the horse I was riding. Occasionally, I too was giving him instructions, “Bach! Bach!” navigating him on the right, and the left. It was pleasing. But alas! No one was to issue me a riding licence. “Sa-ba, aage dekho”(Sir! Look ahead), said the horseman, and I saw the nature’s wonder unfolding before my eyes. We were nearing to the much famous Sheshnag Lake. The lake that belongs to seven headed giant serpent, as believed in mythological stories, left here by the Lord Shiva on his way to the cave. From this lake originates the river East Liddar and meets at Pahalgam with the Liddar River that originates from Kolhoi Glacier in the vicinity of Sonamarg.
Few minutes before 11 AM we reached Sheshnag. As we arrived, the crystal blue lake amidst the high mountains unfolded and we got mesmerized. It is the jewel of Mother Nature, or should I say the beautiful gift of Lord Shiva to his devotees. Reaching here and witnessing such a wonder was fulfilling.
There were tents on the bank of the lake where pilgrims could stay to break the journey on day first, but to reach there, one needs to walk on a steep slope. The tents in large numbers were also pitched at Wawajan in Sheshnag from where pilgrims would enjoy the beautiful lake and also the Trinity peaks.
Sheshnag Lake to Wahbal Top (13500 Ft) – Distance 3 Kms
For the first time at Sheshnag we felt shortage of oxygen, we were breathing short while climbing the nearby areas, that’s due to rapid climbing of altitude, more than 2000 feet in less than 5 hours, that’s for sure was against the general norms of mountaineering which suggest climbing of not more than 1500 feet a day. We knew that, and therefore were on AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) preventive drugs “Diamox 250mg” (not to be taken without consultations of physician) from the previous day. We took the second dosage immediately here, because higher the altitude greater the risk and ahead of us was the Wahbal Top and then Ganesh Top at an altitude of 13500ft and 14500ft respectively. Not to get dehydrate we took plenty of water and ORS. I am writing this not to make anyone scare, but to let all know that there is a little scope for heroic action in climbing high altitudes.
True that, every single life is precious and it is the responsibility of the Government as well as the authorities organising the pilgrimage to care for that, but we must also know how precious the life is to ourselves and to our families who pray every day back at home for our safe return. So it is essential that one have the knowledge of AMS, first aid medicines and their uses before undertaking the pilgrimage or otherwise they should go slow, get acclimatized, not over stress the body and report immediately to the nearest medical camps on the route in case of physical discomforts.
We made calls at home from Sheshnag (only BSNL SIM works in these mountainous terrains) and resumed the onward journey on horseback. Not much later, we saw four people were carrying a pilgrim on their shoulder wrapping the body completely by red blanket. Alas! That life could have been saved.
Nevertheless, the Indian Army and Border Security forces assure their support and care all along the way by their presence on duty 24 hours a day.
The road to Wahbal Top was steep and snowy. “Bhole, dahine dekho” (Bhole, see at your right), horseman pointed to our right, we saw three distinct peaks, they are believed as Trinity and each peak from the left are called “Brahma, Bishnu and Maheswar”.
We first climbed through icy route and then steep rocky track that led to Wahbal Top. We left behind the Wawajan tents and Bhandaras of Sheshnag soon.
The song of Lord Shiva was playing at the top. I looked up and up, there was fluttering our Tricolour and a Jawan was walking towards it. That was Wahbal Top at an altitude of 13500 ft above the sea level.
At Wahbal Top
We arrived at Wahbal Top at around 12.15 AM. We were taken down once more from the horseback. We saw our National Flag fluttering high there. Suddenly, a disk of satellite TV attracted my attention and I wondered, “Here too you are available!”
“Bhole Kuch Kha Lo” (Bhole please take some food), the horseman showed his concern for us. We were actually not taking anything and mainly were on dry fruits and chocolates. A Bhandara (they provide free hot foods, tea, snacks etc to the pilgrims) was pitched there too. We thought to have some tea there. As we were about to move towards that, the horseman started coughing, he looked thirsty. He was a nice fellow and I had no hesitation to pay him for a cold drink. With a smile on his face he took it and we moved towards the Bhandara.
It was cold; most of the pilgrims were wearing warm clothes, and some, layers of them. But there were great devotees too, who kept their needs of life to basics and were above such normal human feelings. They were wearing only Dhoti, and a shawl or a cotton cloth to cover the upper body. Even most of them were not wearing proper footwear but a Chappal only. But then, they live with a faith, the faith that binds them with the Lord. It is the Lord who takes care of them, they are his great devotees. They are Sadhus.
We returned to set off again. Some People around were smoking after the food, and my horseman too. I wondered that people could smoke at that altitude! Nothing but a wish I could make for them. May the Lord keep them well!
“BHOLE, GHORE PE BAITHO”(BHOLE be sited on the horseback), requested us the horseman. How remarkable it was to be called ‘BHOLE’ during the whole Yatra! There every pilgrim is called ‘BHOLE’ when ‘BHOLE’ is the Lord Shiva himself.
Journey to the Holy Cave continued……………..