Early morning rise and I could hear the bells very close by, in fact closer to the tent. It was 5.15 am and I saw Neha blissfully sleeping. Not wanting to disturb her I got out and I saw one of the most magnificent mountain dogs with bells around their necks.
They were a part of the Shepherds up in the Bugyal and they were regular visitors here. One of them wagged his tail and came towards me as I petted, made a fuss and hugged him.
He was so furry and lovable, once he got the attention he needed he happily bounced up and about and went away. I guess dogs are the same wherever they come from 🙂
Waking up Neha to use the washrooms before everyone woke up, we set out to getting our Chai and getting ready. The skies were not as clear as a couple of days ago but thank god there was no rain.
Finally I saw the 70+ years old lady coming out of the kitchen. Strong, upright wearing Nomadic Garhwali attire, she was a picture of grit and had sheer presence. I truly watched her open mouthed in awe.
As there were two teams there, we had to make sure we ate on time, got ready and started on time. Today was even more important as we had to get to Pathar Nachauni, our next campsite.
We got ready and set out by 7.45 am. Since Neha was getting tired easily, Imroze told her to make a headstart with Kuldeep, so Bhim, Nag and myself requested him to go along with her.
The other members were still packing and wrapping up so it was good for us to make a head start. We would stop at the same crystal clear waters we stopped at yesterday waiting for the others.
The sight of again climbing up those ascents and up the Bugyal was daunting to say the least. Huffing and panting we made our way up slowly. As we looked back we said Goodbye to one of the most beautiful campsites ever.
We would be coming back this way on our return but not camp here anymore. Two days and two nights at this incredible Bugyal..
Neha was slowing down big time, she was taking too many rest stops and honestly it was worrisome. She was a marathon runner, so it was not about not being fit, it was the breathlessness, maybe a mild symptom of Altitude Mountain Sickness.
She was not on Diamox and this was going to be risky on the day of the summit. If she continued like this the trek leader might not let her do the summit.
Trekking up and up and feeling the effects of higher altitude, we said our goodbye to the last meadows we would see, from here on it would be only tricky challenging rocky paths.
It was pure ascent along these paths. We could see the Delhi couple with that weed chap, the Kannada boys, hop skip jump a line and go in the front. The rule was to always wait for Manojji to lead but it was far from happening.
Pihu the 12 year old was doing great. She was always in the front. Even she was following a line. Not even once did she break down nor cry, she was as fit physically and mentally as an adult.
There would be only ascents, nothing else. We would go up, sometimes take a breath and wait and again trek either with someone we knew in the front, or just wait for Kuldeep at the end.
Bhim and I were watching out for Neha. She was getting slower by the minute. The whole path was sharp bends and turns, sometimes so narrow that you could see where you would end up if you slipped and fell.
In hindsight I realized, Bhim and I slowly started taking the line behind, being closer to where Neha and Kuldeep was. As days went by, we wanted silence, a little bit of solitude away from the touristy camera happy loud trekkers. And being the last in the line helped us a lot.
The never ending paths were killing us, the air was getting thinner but again the weather was perfect, not too sunny not rainy. I guess the gods up there were benevolent towards us in this trek.
While we took a small break, Manojji spoke about Deorital trek we did with him and specifically mentioned Jogen. Yup our friend Jogen was 65+ years and had Parkinsons. His grit, his determination and by far the best trekker who truly knew how to enjoy himself.
Trekking was about the journey, going from one campsite to the other was not the motive, what happens in between was the most satisfying experience. And Jogen was awesome. He savored, he enjoyed and he did exactly what every trekker should do, taking small steps, keeping the same pace.
I remember the group listening in rapt attention while Bhim and I smiled at each other. Jogen and Pankaj were an inspiration to both of us. Their energy, their active participation in the games, them being a part of the team, it was amazing. Trekking was never about competition, it was togetherness.
One of the Kannada boys, yup the only sociable one was not getting it as Manojji was speaking in Hindi, so I told him in Telugu and Bhim in Kannada and he nodded in agreement.
It was time to get up and get going to our next campsite. The clouds were looming in and we were hoping for better weather. Pathar Nachauni was at 12,800 feet and very windy with a direct onslaught of the mountains and very rocky terrain. Everything was raw there.
Neha was looking worse now, stopping frequently and panting.. If this itself was making it so difficult for her, how would it be at the next campsite and the summit?
Bhim was pushing her, showing her tough love, telling her to move on while we could see her wanting to take a rest. She looked phased out and hazy. These were signs of Altitude Mountain Sickness.
Finally we reached Pathar Nachauni and the moment we saw it, we knew Imroze was not exaggerating. Rocky terrain and so windy. What scared me most were the toilets perched on the edge towards the windy side and right opposite was this magnificent vista of Mountains.
The weather could change anytime here. The kitchen team introducing themselves to us told us to use less water, there was a high possibility of Dining tents ripping off and very windy and to watch our steps. It took 3 kms down the mountains to get two barrels of water on a mule.
Manojji also recalled one trek team that had to actually go down and get water as it got over very fast. There was no room for wastage here. Things like this remind you how much you waste natural resources when it’s easily available for you. These guys were spending months at a time in this harsh weather and braving it all.
Imroze also told us to be patient and take it easy if any of the kitchen team were harsh or blunt to us, they were here for months at high altitude and they had seen enough jerks messing around.
As we got ready for lunch, Neha was flat in the tent, refusing to get up, refusing to eat. We got her up and going and forced her to eat. Bhim, Nag and myself surrounded her and prodded her to just gulp the food.
Then Bhim told her the brutal truth. No way will she be allowed to go further if she continued like this. Loss of Appetite, Haziness, Breathlessness were all signs of AMS, and the only way out was Diamox now. Usually the tablet takes 12 hours to start working and we were just two days away from the summit. She had to take it NOW.
Finally she relented and Imroze told her to take a full strength Diamox to make up for lost time.
Going to the toilets was scary as the mud there was slippery and the tents had to be zipped down fully or it would fly off. I remember after resting up a bit Neha and I were contemplating using it and that’s when it happened.
Hailstones! Yup! it started off as rain and we could hear something hitting our tents.
When we opened the flap, we squealed in delight as we saw hailstones! We even managed to record it. Neha forgot her tiredness and that bright look came back when she looked at it! This was an experience for us!
We somehow got the courage and get out to use the toilets. Hailstones and windy, boy this was an adventure, maybe this would be one of the most unique toilets with the most outstanding scenery!
As we were trying to get to the toilets area with hailstones hitting us, we heard a voice calling out our names, we turned around and saw who else but Mr.Singapore telling us to smile and clicks a pic! One had to admire his enthusiasm in the most dire situations 🙂
We didn’t have the heart to go back to the tent, so we waited in the dining tent and saw the hailstones. Neha’s energy was coming back. It was AMS then and I was glad she was feeling better. She was happy and smiling.
Mr.Singapore and Imroze joined us and he asked where is everybody? We said everyone is cooped up in their tents. It was such a beautiful weather, we didn’t feel like getting in.
Later when Manojji was talking to us, he showed us the trekking path for tomorrow. If all these days seemed daunting, this looked sheer impossible! As he pointed up, it was a series of zig zag razor sharp turns that looked almost vertical! Yup that was it for tomorrow..
It was getting pretty cold, really cold and Imroze was telling everyone to layer up, just wearing a Down jacket or thick jacket did not help at all.
Windsheeters, fleece jacket, followed by a Thick jacket and all this over a shirt helped a bit. Yet there were rule breakers. The Delhi couple duo of Gaurav and Saumya along with Subham were going around with just one jacket as if it was spring weather and Imroze was shaking his head to this. Why that bravado here? It was definitely not cool.
During Chai time, we all played games. Right from some game called Ninja to some other Ninja, I don’t remember the exact names but most of them participated this time.Even the distant woman duo who were an Aunty Niece Combo.
The best finale was seeing Nag and another trekker Sampann. Sampann was always with his wife Shalaka (we nicknamed her Shakalaka 🙂 ) taking care of her. She was with her hubby always or kept to herself.
But this time we saw Nag and Sampann fighting it out as the two remaining ‘Ninjas’. In their Ninja stance and both refusing to attack each other and the so called ‘Ninja noises’ Nag felt he had to do was hilarious!
The best part was when it was his turn to attack, he actually held up his arms and asked for permission to attack by saying, ‘Shall I’?? Bhim, Neha and I rolled into peals of laughter. This man was a saint in every way! Where do you get to see guys in action like that? They do exist! 🙂
It was evening and time for dinner. We hoped against hope the good weather continued. Even a good drizzle was good weather for us. Anything but heavy rains in this rocky terrain.
We would be going higher up tomorrow, to 14,000 + feet and from there a day away to Roopkund..
We could already feel the chills and jitters and it was not just because of the weather..