Waking up early as usual, I came out and saw vista of mountains surrounding us. The Bhutiyas were playing and scampering around. Even though we would start a little later today and there was no hurry, I couldn’t help waking up, it was blissful just being out there in silence.
I looked around and saw that our fellow campers, yup the other Indiahikes team were slowly getting up and about, they had to start off early to move towards the Upper Waterfalls. And just then something happened..
Before I start, let me tell you something. I believe that there are no coincidences and no accidents, things happen for a reason, and people you encounter however fleeting it might be happen for a reason.
In my previous trek Har ki Dun, our trek lead Tanmay Bain had shown an outstanding video taken by one of the trekkers Dhaval Javal on Goechala. It was beautiful, emotional and in six minutes he had shown the entire trek with the human element in it. Tanmay had shown this video not just because of the beauty of the mountains, but the human spirit, the teamwork where everyone supported each other.
And then he showed a photo.. A pic of a young woman overwhelmed, crying when she saw the sun rising on the Sleeping Buddha, this pic was taken by another trekker and it was so arresting I tell you. It’s also on Indiahikes website on Goechala and what remained with me was that face, those emotions because she embodied what I felt every time I was in the mountains and being there at that moment..
So imagine this, I was looking around and I suddenly saw this girl, yup the same girl walking towards the other campsite! You have no idea what it did to me. I rushed towards her and asked her, and she was the one. She was so shocked that someone could recognize her and no one till now did! I told from my heart how that picture impacted me and it was destiny that I had to see her. She was equally overwhelmed about all this.
Her name was Pratibha and she was from Bangalore. All it took was ten minutes to connect to each other. Little moments like these tell you how significant it is..She is a classical dancer, yoga enthusiast and had done Goechala, Annapurna and now doing Rupin with Indiahikes. A multi talented soft spoken girl. Believe me, she had no idea how that photo impacted me, she is an inspiration.
I told a few of them about this but how could anyone understand how significant that moment and that picture was.. So go ahead if you can and check that picture on Goechala in Indiahikes and you might get what I mean..
After we finished our breakfast, we were going for that acclimatization ‘walk’. But before that the guys got together and played football for an hour. It was fun watching them!
The acclimatization walk was going to be in the opposite direction of the Upper waterfall and Himanshu clearly mentioned that the next two days would be technical. This meant only one thing. TOUGH. So today would be getting acclimatized to it.
Bhim was on fire, he surged ahead with Roka Bhai and was in the front with Advaith, Akash(Sarala Birla not the mumbai one) Amish Neel Shravan and a few others. Only 15 minutes into the walk we looked up and said What?? This was not a walk, this was a climb! Yup it was a proper climb and one had to use hands and legs! I was like Hell, I didn’t sign up for this! All those fears started coming back, every single one of them. However you might try to push your past away, it comes back because you manifest it..
We were huffing panting and as I looked ahead, Rokabhai was going up like a force with his band of boys until they appeared like dots while we were struggling. I was shaking with fear and I should tell this unashamedly. I was stopping and seeing we were going higher and higher and the only way was to climb damn it.
Himanshu with this quiet gentle presence egged me on, not by giving me a hand but by talking to me gently, very gently. He told me one thing, he said look when you are here, in the Himalayas, one has to give an offering, give something to the mountains, so make an offering, give up your fear, leave it here and go,’ I don’t know what happened but his words clicked something inside me.
I had no choice, it was my hands and legs, my fear, my body, my courage, I had no choice but to go up. There would be no one to help me except myself, people can only push you so much but you are pretty much alone in anything you face, like life. I kept on climbing, struggling moving ahead, stopping when I had to. I saw Praveen, I could see the same fear in his eyes, the fear of heights, the fear of losing it, I told him it’s ok, we are all in it together, telling him calmed me too, because I was talking to him and myself..
We had to cross tricky snow bridges, very scary very slippery, one slip and one could just tumble down and you won’t even know where the body would fly off to. We were going further and up, the boys had already reached the top and Roka Bhai was encouraging them to go further. Himanshu was telling Rokabhai to stop, it’s better we head back but he kept going like a force.
At one point, almost to the top we saw another Snow slope and it was getting very slippery, muddy and I told Himanshu I couldn’t go further, only a few were going ahead now. Himanshu told me to wait where I am, they would finish up and come back. Kashif had decided long ago that he wouldn’t come up and it was enough,he was way down there with Kiran who was getting vertigo.They were not visible at all. Below me way down was Pooja and Nirvi along with Aadit- the Sarala Birla boy who was having a pounding headache and couldn’t go further. Below them was Mihir, Karna’s dad.
I climbed my way down to the girls and sat with them. After sometime, suddenly we heard a shout. It was the shepherds telling us to climb back up as the goats were coming down and there would be rock falls. We were like shit! And scrambled our way a little up somehow and found a space.
And there you go, hundreds and hundreds of goats with the ferocious but friendly Bhutiyas(Mountain dogs) were descending down as if it was like a walk in the park! It was so easy for them. Hearing our voices and seeing humans at this mountain, we could see so many head tilts from the goats 🙂 Most of them would pause, look at us, do that head tilt trying to figure us out and move on in herds! It was a thrilling moment for us!
Here we were, somehow balancing some space at the edge of the mountain and surrounded by hundreds of goats. And then comes one perky goat right next to me, finding some leaves to eat. Nirvi was trying to talk to the goat saying, “Jaao na!(Go on!) but nope this one decided it liked us and just like a pet comes and sits right next to me. Nirvi, Pooja and I laughed! Here we were on the edge at 14,000 feet and this happens! Aadit was smiling too looking at the scenario, what could one do but just be?
We asked one of the shepherds, how many? And he said 450 goats! Yup we had 450 goats crossing us seamlessly and in no time they looked like tiny dots already down the mountain! Slowly we heard voices from behind, it was time to climb down. Let me tell you descents are scarier than ascents and sometimes we had to sit and gingerly put a foot here and there.
We slowly reached Mihir on his way down, and then Kiran who was already going down slowly, crossing those slippery slopes with the help of Rabin who was pushing us saying Chalo Chalo! Jaldi Chalo! I saw Praveen repeatedly saying I am scared of heights. I told him I am scared too but the scary part is over, we are going down. We egged each other on and made our way down.
I looked back and saw the others slowly making their way down. And I can tell you one thing, As we looked back that’s when we realised, SHIT, we went so further up?? Fuck! How steep it is! Did we do it? Really? It’s true, bloody true isn’t it? All one has to do is stop, look back and see how further they have come. Just 3 years ago standing from a 2nd floor building would shake me with fear and now. I was feeling overwhelmed by all this.. Tears were flowing unabashedly..
And I remember as we were descending down the slopes and reaching the meadows, I put my arms out wide and started running say Wheeeeeeeeeee!! It was exhilarating! It was pure joy as I opened my arms out wide and ran down! I saw Pooja behind me and I yelled saying Pooja Pooja! Open your arms wide and run down, its so free! And she did, I could see the joy and big smile in her face when she ran all the way down to the meadows. We high fived and hugged! Such a feeling I tell you!
As I came down to the campsite, I saw Shravan having tears in his eyes saying Shit, I can’t believe I did that.. I gave him a hug, Mountains do that to you, every single time, rip your heart out open, vulnerable, soft and for you to see who you truly are.
Bhim told later that the views were breathtaking at the top and coming down was scary, very very scary. None of us wanted to be in our tents, instead we all stuck together in the dining tent. Always. And in the afternoon when we looked out, we saw Hailstones! Yup big ones at that. It reminded me of Roopkund trek, at Pathar Nachauni when Neha and I were the only ones in the dining tent and enjoying every moment of it!
Himanshu said this is good, if it rains today like this, we will have good weather next morning for our trek to the Upper Waterfall.
Kiran was slowly getting paranoid and fearful. The acclimatization walk and the last two days of tough treks was getting to him. He was more sober, joking around and yet I could notice his body language, it was like he was sinking. He was relying heavily on Bhim for moral support. We wouldn’t know how bad was his mental state until tomorrow.
Akash – the Sarala Birla boy had a massive headache because of the climb and he was advised to rest. Anand had not joined us for today’s climb as he was already suffering from altitude sickness. This is another thing I loved about Himanshu. He was against taking pills which Indiahikes insisted so much all the time. He would only tell one thing, Hydrate guys, just keep hydrating and believe me we did. Atleast 4-5 litres of water every day and only a few were taking Diamox, the rest of us didn’t require it.
It was now raining hard and we knew this would continue till the night. We played Mafia game again as usual and Himanshu narrated some of his trekking stories. It was time to have dinner and call it a night. It was pouring hard, really hard that night but a group of us stayed put after dinner standing and singing Old Hindi Songs.
Neel, Karna, Bhim, Mihir, Kashif, Shravan,Pooja and a few others. We were all just singing in gay abandon. One would start a song and we would all sing, then another would pitch in a song. Himanshu came back to the tent and smiled at us when he saw us yollering our guts out and he would pitch in his own bit. I think we were there for at least an hour.
Today was something else altogether.. It was not a ‘trek’, no longer a ‘walk’, it was a climb. Everyone’s faces were lit up and something had changed inside.. All of us..