My Greater Lakes trek did not have a ´shubh arambh`: a good beginning. I fell asleep at Tosamaidan 2 hours after the start of the trek amidst bushes and scampering goats and was so exhausted, that at one point Shuib, my travel guide was afraid that I would want to head back. What happened was that I, being full of confidence owing to my ´multiple-trek experience´ completely overlooked three most important points: my declining level of fitness, my jet lag, and altitude sickness. Sitting comfortably at my office in Germany, I must have talked a lot of hot gas to Shuib thus making him feel that I knew or understood what I was getting into. While I was aware of the trek being a high-altitude one, I forgot the adverse effect it might have on me. Tosamaidan is located at 10170.6 feet (3100 mt) above sea level and I reached there one morning; jet-lagged, exhausted, and sleep-deprived. I had flown in from Frankfurt to Delhi the day before and had not managed to get a lot of sleep on the houseboat. Moreover, it was my third consecutive early morning and I was so tired, that my eyes were burning during the drive from Srinagar to Tosamaidan.

A vast meadow of historical importance

The drive was very beautiful and golden sunshine dappled the little hamlets and wild walnut groves. We were driving through the gorgeous Budgam district and it became lovelier as we ascended. A vast meadow located in the Khag tehsil of Budgam district, Tosamaidan is famous as a pasture. It also has a significant historical background since it was used by the Mughals to go to Poonch. The name is derived from “Tosa Marg” and even Mahmud of Ghazni and the Sikh monarch Ranjit Singh attempted to invade the Kashmir Valley via this route. It lies at the foot of the Pir Panjal range approximately 25 km from Khag. Interestingly, Tosamaidan can be reached only after crossing the upper mountain reaches of Habber, Drang, Sitaharan, Zakhora, and other small villages. A mountain pass called the Basmai Gali(13,000 ft) leads into Tosa Maidan and another pass – Poonch Gali  – on its right side leads to the valley of Poonch. In the olden days, this pass was considered the safest, and the easiest route to Punjab. For a very long time, Tosamaidan was out of bounds for both the locals and the tourists. In the year 1964, the Indian Army leased about 3000 Sq. Km area of this region and used it to conduct military drills. Trespassers were prohibited and it was named the ´Forbidden Meadow´ for nearly seven decades. In 2014, the lease expired and Tosamaidan was returned to the locals. However, it was still a dangerous place to explore since unused shells overlooked by the army maimed and claimed many lives.

What makes Tosamaidan so special

Today, however, it is free of any ammunition and this vast meadow is used by the Gujjar community shepherds in summer. They roam the vast meadow with their flocks of sheep and goats and here and there, one can find their temporary hutments. Tourism is slowly picking up in Tosamaidan and nowadays, it is a popular picnic spot for the locals. Many adventurous travelers from Srinagar, which is only 60 km away, come to Tosamaidan for short treks and overnight camping. There is a small base camp at the beginning of Tosamaidan and it has a handful of shops selling tea/coffee and all kinds of camping provisions. Shuib and I met the local Gujjar guide, Javed there. He and his pony had walked all the way from Yousmarg and after loading up our gear on the sturdy animal, we started our trek. The first glimpses of Tosamaidan took my breath away. An incredible endless vista of green spread in front of my eyes and it was carpeted with wildflowers. Curious plants grew in abundance and dark, rows of pine and cedar created dark green boundaries. The meadows rolled gently upwards and downwards and here and there small streams sparkled. Snowy peaks could be seen in the distance and a vast blue sky spanned overhead. The air was so clear that it almost tasted sweet and the views were completely free of any kinds of distractions. There were no handrails, cafes, restaurants, hunters´ lodges, ungainly camping sites, or villages that mar the beauty of many scenic mountain spots in Europe. It was clear, pure, and exactly as nature had created it without any human adornment.

Then altitude sickness hits

My head was already buzzing by the time we started the trek and mid-way, just after a cold lunch, I started feeling unwell. My head ached and nausea hit me like a punch. Dizzy spells overpowered me, my legs trembled, and soon, I felt so ill that my legs started shaking. I simply lay down on the grass and slept; amidst wildflowers and goat pellets. My nap lasted for a few hours and upon waking up, I faced the reality of altitude sickness, age, and declining fitness. It was not a very nice realization, especially after my previous boasting to Shuib and I seriously considered calling the trek off. But, the day was just so beautiful, and the sunshine so warm, that we just kept walking on the vast Tosamaidan meadow until it was time to camp for the night. We pitched our tents next to a little stream, cooked on a wood fire, and enjoyed dinner under a star-studded sky. My first day of the trek at Tosamaidan seemed to have turned out just fine and I went to bed, looking forward to a lovelier tomorrow. However, little did I know what the day had in store for me… be contd.

Tosamaidan Travel Tips

How to Reach

  • By Air: The nearest airport is the Sheikh ul-Alam International Airport in Srinagar. Tosamaidan is at a distance of 70 km from this Airport and it takes about 2.5 hours by car or taxi.
  • By Train: The nearest railway station is in Budgam town at Ompora at a distance of 65 km to Tosamaidan.
  • By Road: Tosamaidan is reachable from Srinagar in under 2.5 hours by car or taxi via Budgam. Another route is via the Srinagar Gulmarg road. The route starts at Srinagar and passes through Magam, Magam to Khag via Aripanthan. The total distance is about 50 km.

Check out the Tosamaidan blogs by Poorvi S and Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool

Follow the rest of the Kashmir series