Tarsar is an alpine lake changing its colours throughout the day while Marsar has a mysterious, forbidding quality to it
The 16th-century Kashmiri ruler Yusuf Shah Chak has mentioned these beautiful lakes in his poetry:
When I remember the two tresses of the comely beloved, Tears begin to flow from my eyes like streams from Tarsar and Marsar.”
The twin alpine lakes, Tarsar and Marsar, are situated in the high mountains of Aru belt. These two oligotropic lakes are situated at an altitude of about 3900 m ASL. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains, vast meadows, and having gleaming waters, these lakes are 22 km away from the Aru valley in Pahalgam, which is the base for trekking up to them. Up to Aru valley there is a motorable road, but after that one has to trek by foot. One can also visit these lakes via Tral, a sub district of Pulwama. The trek starts from the last village of Tral, Hajan, goes via Nagbearan and finally to these beautiful lakes but the trek being tough and not known to many except locals is not usually preferred. The trek from Aru valley is a fairly easy one, so it is the preferred one. Along the way one can have the best of views of mountains, green carpet-like meadows, gushing water streams.
Tarsar lake is the more beautiful one, an almond shaped lake 2 km in length and 0.8 km in breadth. The lake is separated by a mountain with a minimum peak elevation of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) from another lake of the same nature known as Marsar. They are also known as twin sisters or twin lakes, the reason being a myth that only the locals know and another reason being the acquaintance in nature. The two lakes are separated by a distance of almost 4 km. One can have a view of both these lakes by reaching the top of a nearby mountain. An interesting fact about Tarsar lake is that it changes its colour when viewed along its length. From turquoise to blue to green and grey, these colours are visible in brighter sunshine. Best time to visit these lakes is from July to mid September.
We, a group of 8 members, started our trek from the spectacularly beautiful Aru valley after spending a night at this place. Aru valley has a unique scenic beauty with lush green meadows, mountains full of deodar and pine, the fragrance of which soothes one’s mind and soul. Early morning we hired ponies to carry our luggage. The horse man was very humble and kind hearted. He enjoyed our company and educated us about the lesser known places in that area. After trekking alternatively through dense forests and barren meadows for almost 3 hours we reached another camping site called lidderwat. The route goes along the banks of Lidder canal. Lidderwat is an amalgam of 2 words’ lidder’ and ‘wat’ meaning that 2 Lidder streams fuse into one. One Lidder stream derives its origin from great Kolhai glaciers and other one from the Tarsar lake, meeting at Lidderwat. At Lidderwat a huge number of camps are set up for tourists and also local people pitch their tents in this perfect place. It is a vast meadow with a way towards east leading to the great Kolhai mountains and towards north are the sister lakes.
After having our lunch, we decided to move further. The trial now was a bit hectic because of a steep rocky mountain. The view of Lidderwat started disappearing and new meadows full of tall grass were visible now. Tourists, a large number of them, were slowly moving along the way and clicking photographs of nomads and of the exuberant landscapes. We now needed to cross the stream but the bridge seemed to be not so trustworthy. The only option was to crawl over it, which we did, successfully. After that we encountered another group of trekkers from Pune who were very passionate to visit the lake but their physical condition was telling another story. We clicked some photos and moved on. Finally we reached Hamwas, a place on the bank of the stream at about 3 pm. Our horseman suggested us to pitch our tents there and we obliged. It was a trek of almost 2 hours from Lidderwat and everyone was feeling exhausted. Our first priority was to collect some firewood. Some persons were assigned to set up tents and prepare food. For the first time during our trek we were mesmerised by the views that the mountains, streams, and pastures were presenting. We looked deep into the nature and got engrossed in it. Kothas (nomad houses) are seen everywhere and the nomads are always busy with their cattle. In our close proximity a person from the kotha approached us for some medicine as one of his children was having high fever. Fortunately we had the medicine and gave it to him. Later they offered us some tea which was a nice gesture. We stayed for the night there and the experience was one to be remembered. Nights here are pretty cool, so campfire becomes necessary, firstly to give warmth and secondly for safety purposes. The sky presents the best possible view, as it is filled with densely packed and brighter stars as is the case at high altitudes.
Early morning sunrays woke up everyone, along with the chirping of birds and the sound of water striking the big boulders. Then the best thing happened. The kolhai mountain top was visible for a minute or two, which is a rare scenario, and then was covered by clouds. After finishing our breakfast we started to move ahead. After walking half an hour we found ourselves in another meadow called Sekwas. Usually, Sekwas is preferred for night stay instead of Hamwas. Tents of various colours were pitched everywhere and most trekkers were busy with their breakfast. Sekwas is a valley within a valley because apart from the entrance it is covered with barren rocky mountains everywhere. The closer we were getting towards the lake, the more curious we were becoming. Everyone was ecstatic about having a glimpse of those pristine lakes. Finally, after trekking for almost three hours through ascents and descents, we had our first look at the beautiful and gorgeous Tarsar lake (‘tar’ means a pass and ‘sar’ means lake). The exhaustion just went away in a breath. Everyone was over the moon and cried in jubilation. Out came the cameras and mobile phones and the clicking of photos began. There was a calmness and tranquility everywhere. The beauty of the lake mesmerised everyone. Everything looked picture perfect. Here we were at an altitude of 13,000 feet experiencing the true colours of nature. The ripples in the water caused by the gentle breeze makes it an awesome experience. A view one could only dream of, the impeccable reflections of tall mountains, the bluish waters, the crystal clear water and an exhilarating atmosphere. Walking along the length of this lake, the colours changed from blue to brown to greenish as a result of different sun angles. This feature is not seen in any other alpine lake. Almost 5 to 6 different colours were seen by us.
After spending some time at this lake we decided to move towards Marsar lake. Marsar lake is locally called as killer lake (‘Mar’ means kill). It is a lake smaller in size than Tarsar with blue water. Marsar is a mysterious lake where camping is prohibited as suggested by the locals. Most of the times it is hidden under thick clouds. It always plays hide and seek. Locals advise not to stay for too long at this lake. There are a lot of myths regarding this lake. The water from Tarsar makes a stream of Lidder while that of Marsar moves in opposite direction, passing from the beautiful meadows of Nagbearan to the Dachigam area of Srinagar. Another lake by the name of Sundarsar, surrounded by beautiful mountains and carpet of yellow wildflowers, is located in the proximity of these 2 lakes. Our trip was cut short after spending 4 days in wilderness due to the August 5 incident. But the memories are everlasting. Life is short and one must enjoy as long as it permits.
These lakes are probably most visited because of the easier trek. Locals and tourists alike throng these places every year. It also provided a means of income to the locals. Everything at that point seems good but a negative aspect which everyone is concern about is pollution. The meadows, streams, mountain trails, everything is polluted by plastic and polythene and that really is excruciating. Even in these remote places we tend to shy away from our responsibilities. Natural beauty is free of cost but by polluting these places it is going to cost us a lot. We should shoulder our responsibility of protecting and preserving these natural treasures.
The writer is a native of Tral and is studying for a master’s in Mechanical Engineering. [email protected]