Today was another day. From the flat campsite we were going to ascend up and further, we would be closer to the mountains and the vistas would be changing. Our bodies were getting used to the trek now, 13 kms the previous day does have it’s benefits!
We were walking on the other side of the river and looking up towards the mountains and its patches of meadows. Mustard fields, greens used for cultivation.
Slowly and surely as we huffed, panted and ascended Tanmay showed us this beautiful village on top, Osla a 3000 year old Himalayan village and we would spend some time on our way back to Puani Garaat.
The inhabitants were far away from modern civilization but it also meant they had no access to any basic facilities like a hospital nor electricity nor school. Any medical emergency meant dealing with it themselves as it would be a 10 hour walk to Taluka.. He told us that it would be good to donate our medicines especially the painkillers and fever pills when we descended back, that was the best we could do.
We were just fancy visitors trekking and enjoying the mountains and going back but what about them? Life was tough and it told me how much we take things for granted. Mountains remind you of that always..
Sure enough we met one old man near the Dhaba where we took a break, he was the Chacha(Uncle) of Jyotsinghji . Ashish and I started chatting up with him about the kind of food they have.
He told us about a particular kind of grain used to make Chapatis called Ugul, it was unleavened bread and they served it with Hari(green) chutney. He invited us to visit him on our way back, his village was right below Osla and his wife would make it for us. We didn’t know if we could ever make it but we thanked him and hoped we could.
Jyotisinghji was warming up and easing into conversations. We spoke about Uttarakhand region, the places I had trekked and he was surprised when I mentioned Manoj Negi, the awesome guide on my previous treks. He said, to aap boolte nahin ho?(so you don’t forget?) How could I? Uttarakhand and it’s people were something else. Never in my wildest dreams I imagined that this beautiful region would take a hold on me like this..
The terrain became a little rocky as we did short steep climbs and ascents and we would suddenly be led into a vast open area surrounded by Trees and Mountains, the landscape was changing every moment.
And yup we could see the Swargarohini Peaks and a glimpse of Kalanag(Black peak), as I recall now, we had no idea what awaited us tomorrow and how mind blowing it would be.
Then right in the middle of the clearing we took a break, Tanmay immediately flopped on the ground and took a nap just like that under the hot sun! And so did others, taking in their own spaces and gazing at the landscape, while a few chatted and Chetan played some music. We were in our own zones but so present in the moment.
I sat with Surinder for a while as he was playing some songs, I asked if it was Garhwali, to my surprise he was playing Hindi and that too devotional songs. He explained the meaning of the songs and it was so simple yet profound.
A few lines really struck out to me, What is the point of fasting for God if one can’t help fellow humans who have no food? What is the point of pouring milk as part of a ritual to God if one is not humble and does not help others.. This young man was something else. He was listening to it throughout the trek.
We looked up at the skies, was it going to rain or not? Will it be this sunny or not? Everything is unpredictable in the Himalayas and all one can do is accept it as their fate, the Pahadis knew it more than anyone else, you do your thing and let the Mountains take care of the rest.
Sharon was draining out, slowly, maybe the altitude was getting to her, Shweta was trying to keep pace and she was tiring out and they made their move slowly to walk in the front, we would follow them. Archana was motivating Sharon, being in the front, taking the lead and goading her, this lady was something else! Kadambari too made sure she encouraged the ladies in the front.
As for the two young 14 year old boys Omkar and Gaurav, such well behaved boys they were. They had all the discipline and focus that was required to be a good trekker, never once were they rude nor pushed people around.
There was also Semal, a solo trekker like me, so calm and content and his energy was so good just being around. I called him a Pseudo- Gujarati because neither he brought any food, nor knew how to dance the Garbha, nor came with loads of friends, he worked in the IT industry, enjoyed his drinks and yup ate non vegetarian at times too 🙂
Tanmay became quite the story teller to all of us, he would be with Sharon and Shweta and suddenly he would swerve around and say Hey Vidya, Swapna, Swapnali, come join us and tell us a long winded story that would end in sheer ridiculousness 🙂 We would roll our eyes but it worked, it made us forget the steep ascents.
Slowly we made our way up and it was getting windy, Kalkatiyadhar campsite had an incredible vista, the Mountains were right in front of us, like right in front. This also meant that it was really windy, and god forbid if it would rain, it would get worse. As we reached our campsite, Tanmay made us come into a circle and Bindu graciously guided us to stretching exercises after the 7 km trek.
We had to layer up our clothing as it would get colder. One thing I love about Indiahikes is the food. I never knew there could be too much food until I started trekking with them.Timely snacks chai and meals and delicious ones at that!
Tanmay taught us one thing that the other team leads in Indiahikes couldn’t. Do everything together, be it taking down a tent, pitching a tent and always cleaning the campsite before we left.
This is something I take with me forever. Teamwork Teamwork Teamwork. He just didn’t say it, he was it. One thing he said among many that strikes me, Koi bhi kaam pyar se bolo,ho sakta hai (Any work can be done when told with love) He mentioned that in his trek lead career he had banned maybe 1 or 2 people for misconduct that too in extreme conditions but everyone should get a chance to redeem themselves.
We took in the beautiful campsite and looked up. It reminded me of Pathar Nachauni-the rocky campsite of my Roopkund trek but this was more gentle, more welcoming,
The Pathar Nachauni one was terribly rocky, windy with hailstones and there were these bathrooms perched on the edge! This was soft and mellow.
Vidya and I were bonding big time by now, me sharing my ‘gyan’ being much older and experienced and she laughing and sharing hers, whatever little experience she had, as she said 🙂
We would be checking on Sharon if she was doing ok and even though she was an introvert, and more of a listener as she confessed, when she spoke she had clarity and had an incredibly open mind, if not for the sickness she was going through she would have been a lot more vocal. And I must say this, unlike some couples I have seen in my previous treks, Sharon and Vivek always participated in group activities. Always.
And lo in front of us were the outstanding 3 peaks of Swargarohini, so near and yet so far.. The mountains shaded in black with Swargarohini’s whiteness in between just dazzled us.. What a beautiful feeling it was..
Tomorrow would be Har ki Dun Valley, yes the same valley for which we all signed up for… And none of us had an idea how it would unfold..