One of the most heavenly beauties witnessed on earth, Tulian valley is about 12-13 kms. from Pahalgam; ascend about 2 kms. further, and you reach Tulian Lake. To reach this place, you may either trek your way up [this needs to be comfortably a 3-day program] or hire a pony. We opted for the latter. The pathway leading to the valley is a mixture of steep, not-so-steep, dense, narrow and without-a-definite trails. Abdul Rahman, the guide and Mastaan, the pony, had a remarkable sense of navigation. Under their direction, you may as well enjoy the sights en route, where you may find a mixture of native plantations, locals chopping up deodar trees [used for making houseboats] and the abodes of sheep and shepherds. Apparently, these dwellings are vacated during winter owing to the snow and lack of fodder for the sheep; they return in April.
Tulian valley is the pit stop for the ponies to rest, as the trail upwards is not designed for their foot. As a result of the sheer steepness laid out with stones and pebbles of all shapes and sizes, the last 2-km. stretch needs to be covered on foot. The climb may look deceptively easy; it took us more than 2 hours to climb up and get to the lake. The altitude combined with the lack of oxygen can get the better of you. However, given you keep the climb slow and yet steady, it becomes comparatively stress-free.
It is worth all the discomfort, once you get to the lake as you tend to forget all other worldly creations. It takes about 2-3 minutes to digest the lake’s pristine beauty. As we had travelled in the last week of October, the surrounding mountains no doubt were bursting with snow, but also, the lake had a thin layer of ice. Just imagine, the lake, serene and calm with no ripple up to a point, after which you see a miniscule wave caressing the banks. On closer observation, we figured it’s ice only up to a point, and what’s more, since the layer was thin, you could break it with your hands [God, our hands froze too quickly], and taste the lake water underneath! It was yet another one-of-a-kind experience, when you could slide the broken ice pieces over the lake, only to see them slide ever so smoothly - similar to the slick slides King Kong had in the movie!
Although it took us 6 hours to reach the lake, where we spent about a half hour, and another 5 hours to descend and reach our place of stay, that half hour is rather spent pricelessly, and cherished more often than not in the days to come. The experience is unquestionably impossible to forget and stays alive for longer than a long time. A must-visit, especially if you’re the kind on a lookout for spots that hasn’t been exploited by mankind yet.
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