During our stay at Pahalgam, we wanted to visit Tulian Lake which is at an altitude of 11,000 feet above sea level. It is a 6-hour trek which can be covered by foot and a horse. Somehow, Tulian Lake did not happen because we were not well and an arduous trek did not seem possible. As we were discussing this with our driver-friend, Shaukat Bhai, he suggested we go to Sinthan Top, instead.
Some of the life’s best moments happen unplanned.
“Chalo, Sinthan aur Daksum chalte hain”, he said. The plan was made. We started early next morning and drove down the Pahalgam valley. Sinthan Top is a hill station in Breng Valley of Anantnag district. We passed through Kokernag and the sleepy, little village called Daksum. At this point, we had to obtain permission from Indian Army to proceed further. Sinthan Top is approximately a 40 KM uphill ride from Daksum. Daksum also happens to be the last inhabited village on the way to Sinthan. After which, it is rough peaks, narrow roads, rocky terrain, lots of snow and a few Gujjars for the company.
I do not how it would have felt to be at Tulian Lake, but, I was glad we chose to come to Sinthan Top. The drive uphill was one of its kinds. Like I always say, every valley of Kashmir is different. Sinthan Top is a bit of heaven with a wild side. Sinthan Top is raw. Yet, stunning.
We rode across broken rocks and fallen trees. We passed through tiny brooks and waterfalls by which we always stopped to drink some mountain water. The ride was rough the rocky terrains soon gave way to roads covered with snow. The snow was freshly cut to reveal the roads and there was a team constantly working to keep the roads functional. It was a risky ride because parts of the roads were broken. Every turn, every hairpin bend was dangerous but it was exhilarating and worth all the effort.
The climate was as unpredictable as the roads. For a moment, the sun shined gloriously, then it began to rain as if there were no tomorrow, and before we could even dry ourselves it began to snow.
There was not much crowd at Sinthan Top except for a few Gujjars and BRO men. Thankfully there was a tent where we took shelter due to the sudden snowfall. We shared the tent with men who worked for Border Roads Organisation and had a couple of chai and omelets; spoke on varied subjects until the snowfall reduced. And, we continued our journey.
We were on our own in this wild wonderland. Sinthan Top was intoxicating. I was (and still am) in awe of this wild heaven and the memories make me smile. I always tell people that Kashmir is a beautiful dream. For me, Sinthan Top was the best part of that dream.
As we rode down, I soaked in as much as I could of the Himalayas (and Kashmir).
Jumping across small cliffs, rushing down the mountain slopes, sharing tents with unknown strangers, talking to gujjars, playing with little children and… Oh well, some of the life’s best moments do happen unplanned. Do you agree?