Early morning and we could hear the bells of Mules, mountain dogs barking close by and as we opened the flap of the tent the weather was beautiful with a partial view of Mount Trishul.
The clouds were clear as of now with blue skies and the view of the vast mountains.. What a camping site it was..
There was a small stream near the tents where we could wash up and overlapping Bugyals with sheep, cows up there. There were small hamlets on the other side of the mountain. Just the sight of it was breathtaking..
We had our breakfast and were set for an acclimatization climb. This was to slowly prepare us for the D day.
As Imroze had mentioned on the first day, we were doing a forced altitude climb averaging 2,000 feet every day and on D day we would jump to 16,250 feet.
We walked up and above the bugyals and the ascents were tough, the meadows helped with the soft grass and less rocks but it was a steep ascent nevertheless, going up and up and as we looked back, Bhim and I could see Neha struggling, trying hard to maintain her breath, her pace, Kuldeep was with her along with Mr.Singapore who was using two poles that looked more for skiing than trekking.
We were taking breaths in between, we even wondered goddamn it, we have done two days of tough trekking and yet we were huffing and panting! But as we looked back, the site behind us was beautiful with the pretty yellow tents
The first stop was near a small pond, I can’t even say it was a pond, it was crystal clear water and there was the reflection of Nanda Gunti, the open skies, sparkling.. As I clicked a few pics I wondered if this was real, if this moment was real and was I real?
Before the other trekkers crowded in and started getting trigger happy with their camera we could soak in the silence with Manojji and a few others. There was a small beautiful temple with flags near the water. We still had a long way to go.
We were ascending now, really big ascents through the meadows, we were climbing at a higher altitude up and up, the air was getting thinner, we were becoming quite breathless, literally and figuratively. There was this captivating scenery all around us and our legs and body was aching as we made our way up.
We were to walk to the other side of the mountain and way up there as Imroze and Manojji showed us, there was this Mystical summit with two rocks on it that looked like humans from far.
It was covered in mist and clouds like it belonged to another world altogether. I felt an air of mystery surrounding it, like a No Man’s land sort of.
Every time Neha made it to the spot, Bhim would cheer her and so would we. He also cheered the others who were slowly making their way up.
Rajinder was another solid man who was determined. Being the oldest in the team, he was one man who never complained nor grumbled, he had an air of easiness around him and it was commendable how his friend Prashant was always with him, they were supporting each other all the time.
We were almost there to the top and the Delhi Couple with Subham, The Kannada boys always breaking the line used shortcuts and reached the top first. We took our time slowly taking one step at a time and finally we were there and when we looked back the scenery had changed totally.
We were in a different world altogether, mist was in so it was as if we were in the clouds, it was just so worth it all. We were at an altitude of almost 2,000 feet above from our campsite.
Bhim wandered, Nag went away and up to be on his own, Neha literally flopped on the ground and lied down, Mr.Singapore spoke about Yoga and how it helped him during his CA exams long ago and decided to breathe hard with Om sounds not very far from the group.
As Manojji continued with his stories and local folklore, I became lost in my own world.
To sit here, to be here in this moment was surreal. As usual words fail me when I think of it.. A complete blankness in my mind, there is nothing to be said as one looks around, takes in the clouds, the summit, the scenery that changes and unfolds in front of you constantly, what can one do other than be in it?
Imroze passed some Glucose Biscuits and started chatting as we all bunched up together. Then we looked up and saw Nag on a small hill sitting and meditating, almost like a Yogi, well he was a Yogi.
Imroze got so worried as he was on the edge he shouted and pleaded him to go a little further and not sit so close to the edge. And I remember what Nag said right before he left, something profound, ‘Feel the Silence within’.. So simple and so true..
We are inundated with so much noise, it becomes a habit, in fact we are afraid of silence so much that we run away from it, but the Mountains make you face it, head on, you have no choice but to tune in to that silence, within and outside..
Then Manojji spoke about a scary accident. A woman who had trekked with her family to Roopkund fell to her death. The desire to take a selfie was so strong, she was on the edge and trying to take one when the rock below her gave away. She slipped, rolled and hit a boulder and fell down in the valley..
She was brain dead and her heart was faintly beating when they found her. It was scary as hell when we heard it. I remember Bhim saying Mountains don’t cause accidents, its the stupidity of the people.. It was bloody true, with this new phenomenon of selfies and what not, that was killing people more than anything else.
Another incident Bhim mentioned was about a female trek lead from a Bangalore Trek team who died from Altitude Mountain Sickness.
Her ego refused to believe she was going through it. She rushed up, she refused to ignore the signals in her body… Again one has to let go of the ego up there, the mountains strip you from your so called knowledge, experience and all that sham and call you out..
It was time to descend to our camp site, a long descent through the meadows and it was faster this time.. We would be in time for lunch. My left knee was acting up as usual and I cursed myself for not using the Knee Crepe bandage during descents, as descending kills the knees.
We finally came down and were ready for lunch. Neha’s appetite was decreasing, she was looking even more tired than before and her oxymeter readings were barely touching the normal levels but there was still no panic. After some rest, she felt better.
The skies cleared up and we had a wonderful view of Nanda Gunti! It was quite sunny and as we lied down in our tent with the flap up we listened to music, later Bhim joined us.
I remember us three lying down in the tent with a view of the mountains and playing Beatles, George Harrison, Direstraits, Jim Croce, The Boss.. It was bliss, sheer bliss.
Then Bhim told us that he slipped into the stream while washing his lunch box and fell! He didn’t get hurt but his clothes were wet and he wore the only dry shirt he had.
Yup we all had 3 t shirts and 2 pants in all, no showers, no washing face nothing and we were so content, it didn’t matter. This is what mountains do, it makes you realize how little you require to be happy.
Sometime mid afternoon it started raining and it sounded louder hitting our tents, this was beautiful weather not a Himalayan thunderstorm and fury. We got out our rain jackets and had our chai watching the drizzle.
Another trek team that had started a day after us arrived from Ghaeroli Patal. Imroze did a small briefing about the next day. The terrain was going to get way tougher, we would leave the meadows and only trek on rocks.
The next campsite would be rough, camped unevenly on rocks and water would be scarce, so we had to use as less as possible. Drinking water was available but anything else used for washing, brushing, toilets had to be bare minimum.
Then I saw Kuldeep and started chatting with him. His tent was right next to mine and Neha’s. He was staying with Imroze and Manoj.
He told us about a 70+ year old woman who comes from way on the other side of the mountains with her cow and stays at the campsite. Usually during the summer, the Bugyals would be filled with nomads and shepherds like her who would leave their animals to graze for 2-3 months. What a life! The animals had an all day buffet here 🙂
He told me to watch out for her as she was in the kitchen right now, you wouldn’t believe she was 70+. Ditto with his ‘Buba’ as he called his Father’s Aunt who was 93 years old. She walked straight, would walk down these bugyals in half an hour, pick up firewood and rush back up! And yup she would run after someone with a stick if anyone called her ‘Old’!
Honestly after hearing this, I had new goals in my life now. I thought seeing Pankaj and Jogen who were 65+ years during my previous trek was always an inspiration, now this added up a notch!
Kuldeep was getting ready to go somewhere and when we asked him, he told us that the Delhi Couple seem to have forgotten their ‘sunglasses’ up at the summit, so he was going back up to retrieve them! We were like seriously??!! Are you kidding me??
How could they? Kuldeep was not their personal help! Then Neha mentioned she overheard the wifey asking about the glasses to her hubby half way down, why didn’t they go back up then?? This infuriated us totally.
As this was happening, Imroze in one of our chats mentioned he was getting bugged with the Delhi couple and Subham as this chap was openly asking local dhabas and even the trek guides if he could get weed. This was bad news. Imagine the impression locals would have about us all.They were not following any rules and constantly breaking lines and taking their own shortcuts.
I couldn’t take it and told him about the sunglasses and it shocked Imroze because they didn’t even tell him that they sent Kuldeep. The poor chap went all the way up in the rain and came back and yup didn’t find those sunglasses. This was a big mess and we could see how this could spiral down quickly.
It was before dinnertime now and the two teams were now banded together and we played a game Mafia! The other trek leads were dynamic and totally fun! We had loads of fun which went on for hours. The meadows were wet with the rain. It had stopped raining and it was dinnertime.
Right after that Bhim gave us a nice surprise! Star gazing! Using his app on the phone we looked at the countless stars! Orion, The Big Bear, Sagittarius and so many more. The night was filled with stars, we could see most of the milky way!
Bhim and Nag wanted to retire for the night but Neha and I complained! We didn’t want to hear another Bhangra night and Antakshari night next to us so we all had to do something. So in we went into their tent and Nag did a Psycho analysis game of questions on me and by God he was right with his analysis 🙂
What happened next was a fun game of Dumb Charades from bizarre titles to complicated hand gestures and Nag’s monosyllabic way of enacting some of them, Neha was giggling throughout her enactment which made us all get into fits of uncontrollable laughter 🙂
Luckily, the Bhangra night was off and only Antakshari was happening in the next tent and we were ready to retire for the night.
A long rough trek ahead tomorrow. Where meadows would end and the rough terrain started. Only Rocks and a different scenery altogether..
Another day and another challenge awaited us…