Why Should We Start Looking Beyond Kounsarnag?

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by Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri

While talking about tourist spots in Kulgam we only talk about Ahrabal, Kongwatan and Kounsarnag. Beyond this is an unknown world which most of us don’t know.  This piece of land is not less than a heaven.

Kousar Nag Lake has snow floating over it round the year

The world I am talking about is a hidden jewel in the surroundings of Ahrabal. Along with the Pir Panjal range in Kulgam from Dandward (Damhal) to Ahrabal, there are so many treks that lead to beautiful meadows, attractive peaks, numerous rivers and Lakes. Noorabad region is bestowed by nature with great scenic beauty. From Pari Top (Sondir Top) to Kounsarnag everything is beautiful.

Pack your bags and move on. Icy shades of Himalayan trees especially Pine and Fir are eagerly waiting for you. Let us comfort ourselves with cool environs of Pir Panjal.

We all know the glory of Tarsar-Marsar Trek. Everyone in Kashmir though not visited but has heard about these wonderful places. Among the few famous lakes in Kashmir is the Kounsarnag. Throughout the summer season, people usually visit this beautiful lake from Jammu as well as Kashmir side. But how many of us know that some kilometre away from this great lake are many more lakes though small in size but much elegant and stunning than Kounsarnag. Filled with absolute beauty, this adventurous trek will lead you to picturesque alpine peace-giving lakes. Kulgam has the potential to generate much income if not ignored by the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department.

This vast piece of land is spread over more than 70 kilometres and is accessible through different routes. It is bestowed by nature with dense forests, beautiful meadows, gushing rivers, snow-clad peaks and captivating lakes. Here it is necessary to mention a few of the margs or we can say best-camping sites for trekkers/hikers. Among them, Posh Pather, Badi Beh, Yadi Pather, Humpather (Panchan), Nuss Pather, Zaji Marg, Hakwas, Chiranbal, Lahan Pather, Kadlbal, Niksar, Sekjan, Kongwatan are worth mentioning. Throughout this route, one can pass through a number of glaciers and snow-clad peaks such as Pari Top, Huen Heing, and Bramshakri Hill. At the same time, it is difficult to ignore famous alpine lakes of this region: Bram-Sar, Cher Sar, Inder Sar, Kounsarnag, Mahinag are most fascinating lakes.

Zajimarg is a large alpine marg which gained importance in recent past. The importance of this place is because of two things. One it serves as a base camp for visiting Bramsar and Chirsar if one takes Nandmarg or Yadikhah route. Second, there is a spring (it came out a few years ago) of which it is famous that it cures skin and bone-related diseases. Besides you can pitch your tent on the riverbank for one night stay. Don’t forget to take a horse ride.

Chiranbal is the biggest sub-alpine meadow on the bank of Zajinar, the most important tributary of Veshew. Chiranbal meadow is bifurcated into two spots Hear and Bon Chiranbal. Hear Chiranbal is smaller than Bon Chiranbal. A vast range of alpine margs like Kachoi, Bardalow, Manzpal, and Hapatnad can be viewed from Chiranbal meadow. Hakwas is a big meadow. Around this flows a river called nallah Hakwas. Above this is another marg known as Krishna Marg.

The scenic meadow of Kungwatan is surrounded on all sides by a dense canopy of lush alpine trees. The meadow is a calm and tranquil place, mostly inhabited during summers by the cattle herders. The place is ideal for fishing. What one needs is permission from the fisheries department situated at Ahrabal.

The Aharabal Waterfall, the source of the Veshaw and Toungri rivulets – the two main water bodies irrigating most of upper south Kashmir. Pic: Tourism department

The water of Bramsar looks black due to the shadow of peaks falling over it. The lake has a fearful look especially when dark clouds surround it. The hill behind it is known as Bramshakri. The shape of the mountain top looks like fingers and is visible from distance. Chirsar is circular in shape. The snow white water of the lake is much stunning. This lake has a clear outlet for water. The stream coming out of it is known as Chitinadi.

Kounsarnag is a high-altitude oligo-trophic lake. The lake is roughly 2 miles long and half a mile at the widest point. The lake is located in a valley that is surrounded by peaks on all sides which for long are enveloped by Snow layers to give lake most fascinating view. Almost throughout the year snow sheets float on it, this adds to its beauty. It has an elevation of 4,000 metres above sea level.

The lofty valleys and meadows of this region are doted by numerous rivers and streams. All these rivers finally drain into river Vishew.  Zajnar is the most important tributary of river Vishew. The source of Vishew river is Kounsarnag. The Vishew river will give you the chills! It will make you forget everything and consume you in its glamour. Proceeding along with the pine-covered mountains of Pir Panjal range, the raucous waters of Vishew river feeds two districts of south Kashmir – Kulgam and Shopian. The sheer volume of water that comes crashing down on the rocks below is enough to make its roar audible from a distance. The serenity all around pronounces the sound of a waterfall to deafening decibels as one nears it. All along the way wildflowers, tall alpine trees, booming waters of Vishew and diverse wildlife stimulates the trekker.

For more than 5 years as an explorer, I made a number of visits to this unexplored world. Let me introduce new treks to passionate trekkers of the world.  Few of them are as under-

One must reach these places while taking Damhal – Tchemer route.

  1. Dandward- Walinad-  Posh Pather- Badi Beh- Yaadi Pather – Pari Top/ Sundir Top- Moh Mangith.
  2. Dandward- Walinad- Saf Marg- Wasekh Nag (Kund)
  3. DK Marg- Hum Pather- Panchan/ Panch Pather- Nuss Pather- Huen Heing (mountain)- Lashkoor- Kounsar Nag.
  4. Yadikhah- Dadrin- Zaji Marg- Hakwas- Bram Sar(lake)- Bram Shakri(mountain)- Chersar (lake)- Kounsarnag.
  5. Nandi Marg- Zajimarg- Bramsar- Kounsarnag.

From Ahrabal side you can also follow these routes-

  1. Avil- Chiranbal(lower)- Lahan Pather- Manzpal- Kounsar Nag.
  2. Manzgam- Halan- Chiranbal (upper)- Lahan Pather- Manzpal- Kounsarnag
  3. Manzgam-Halan- Chiranbal – Kadlibal- Hakwas- Zajimarg- BramSar – Chersar- InderSar- Kounsarnag.
  4. Ahrabal – Kongwatan- Mahi Nag- Kounsar Nag

Most of the people took Ahrabal route to visit Kounsarnag. Rest of the trails are not known to the general public. Only locals, Shepherds, Gujars and Bakarwals know about these routes. That is why there is a great need to tell people about these routes so that they cannot miss even a single site while visiting Kounsarnag. Beyond Kounsarnag, there is a beautiful unknown world which most of the trekkers slip.

(The author, a post-graduate in history from the University of Kashmir has MPhil from Punjabi University, Patiala.)

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