Once we reached the campsite, we saw the tents were being put up by the trek mates. It was freezing. Priyanka just flopped on the ground and removed her shoes, her feet looked pretty bad. I left her there to relax and went to check if anyone needed help. The group had already set up most of the tents.
Priyanka and I got into the tent and we closed up the zipper trying to comprehend what to do next. Just moving around was making us shiver.The wind chill cut like a sharp knife. I remember most of us wore all the layers we possibly had.
The dining house was 300 metres down and a walk ahead. The whole body was aching, I didn’t know whether it was the aftermath of the long trek or the freezing temperature.
Tanmay sensibly told us to get coffee mugs,lunch boxes,water bottles and thermos, all of them and come down. We would sit there until it was time to retire for the night.
Oh man how we walked down to that place dreading the way back up at night. It was more the cold than anything else. But for me, Pathar Nachauni campsite of Roopkund still is the most treacherous one.
Luckily, the dining and kitchen areas were solid structures. One was a kitchen cum accommodation for the staff members and another one, a round structure where we all huddled together.
The small room and all 24 (counting Doofy of course!)of us in there made it cosy and warm. Amel, Manal’s sister took upon herself to open and close the door when people were walking in and getting out,the door was not bolting.People were huddling over the Hot coals stove and taking turns to come closer towards it. Even with the gloves on, our fingers went numb.
Amel was very reserved, being with her siblings, maybe she was talking to a few others in the group but at that time I got to observe her. A no nonsense person,she meant what she said. When she asked questions, she wanted answers with clarity, no beating around the bush with her.
Revathi was really witty, her quips and retorts were to die for. It was at that time that I felt I could have a a good conversation with her. She was a firecracker!
Doofy was comfortably snuggled up in Manal’s arms, she was truly the 24th trekker in our group and may I add a Trek Lead along with Tanmay? 😊
So that evening as we huddled, trying our best to unfreeze our butts Tanmay narrated stories. From showing us the Goechala video made by one of his trekkers to narrating a fictitious ghost story where he made us jump out of our seats in fright!
There were real ones too and Suvadeep finally spoke about his experience in Rajasthan. He felt the presence of a spirit in his room past midnight. He saw a shadow traveling across his room.
After hot tea, snacks, soup and dinner Tanmay gave us options for tomorrow. One, we could go to Phalut if we wanted more views of the mountain peaks, it was a 7 km ascent to Phalut followed by continuous 15 km steep descent all the way till Gorkhay. Second option, we could give a miss to Phalut and go to Gorkhay which was still 15 kms away and would take us through the dense beautiful Bamboo forest, also known as the Bear Zone. He mentioned that anyone who wanted to do the 22 km trek would be assigned a guide and we could all meet up at Gorkhay in the evening.
With our tired bodies and aching bones what do you think we would have chosen? But there was this question, would Phalut have better views? No came the answer from Tanmay, it was the same as Sandakphu. Almost everyone unanimously said 15 kms except Mr. Melbourne Sunil who said he will decide once he ‘checks’ the views at the campsite in the morning.
We all smirked and pulled his leg, He wants to be the Hero huh? Pravin said let’s take a vote, who wants to send Sunil to Phalut tomorrow and we all raised our hands! We all knew then and there he wouldn’t go to Phalut and yep he didn’t 😊
The room was nice and warm, so Revathi or maybe Sujitha I don’t remember, had an idea, should we ask Tanmay if we girls can sleep here? Just get our sleeping bags? It was very tempting and they tried but Tanmay shot down that request.
We made our way up to the campsite.My cold came back, my coughing started and I really hoped I didn’t have a relapse of my viral fever. I had another 10 days of backpacking to go after the trek and I didn’t want to ruin it.
But once we got into our tent, Tanmay jumped in. He started calling all the girls inside, the actual intent was to call the object of his affection on this trek- Reshma. She said she was tired and she went back to her tent. Smart girl. None of the other gals had an inkling.
It was Deja Vu all over again. Last time at Har ki Dun I remember how I slept on the edge of the tent feeling the cold draft thanks to him.I got sick. And even after mentioning this specifically, he continued it for 3 nights, yes 3 freaking nights. I should have put my foot down strongly then but I didn’t and this is something I got to learn. No way was I gonna let him get away this time.
What stopped me from yelling at him was seeing Doofy snuggling between Priyanka and me in the tent. He was telling the same old stuff. Sunil and Pravin too joined in innocently. This was a pattern.
Finally I had it, I told out loud I am going to the toilet. Revathi sensibly said Guys its time to sleep and she moved out and with her others did too. Thank God for her! I knew Tanmay was pissed off at me and I cared a rat’s ass.
I had to write this, it is important because it has to be consensual, boundaries have to be respected. When one says openly they are tired and sick, one can’t just barge in.The big question- Why not in his Tent? Priyanka completely understood.
We woke up early next morning and Priyanka was keen to click pictures. Her iPhone battery conked off so I gave her mine. I came out and gazed at the vista surrounding us. There was Kanchenjunga in full glory, and the other peaks Makalu,Lhotse were seen albeit hazy. There was Kinshuk, Darshan and a few others clicking pictures.
But Saikat showed us his ‘ Everest’ and stated seriously to me, Priyanka and Pravin, See that? That left side? that’s the dead zone of Everest! We thought really? We are not able to see Makalu and Lhotse properly and Everest was way behind it, we couldn’t even see it at that moment.Our man was describing it as if he was the incarnate of Sherpa Tenzing! 😁
The way he was made fun of later by Pravin was a sight to watch! It was hilarious! Saikat, our man took it sportingly 😊
Later Priyanka and I went down for Chai, not many came down.We saw Kinshuk, Darshan and Saikat. I started playing some songs on my phone. As Priyanka and I looked out at the mountains, arm in arm with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan singing Afreen Afreen, Kinshuk said, this moment.. this moment you two are having, this very moment, this song,it will hit you sometime, somewhere, at some point in your life, deep inside.
Darshan had a disturbed night. He felt claustrophobic maybe because of adding too many layers so he told Tanmay he was going down and sleeping in the staff room. He said even that didn’t help him. It was too cold.
Here we were, the 5 of us, trekkers who came in solo finally clicked a pic together and this is a pic I wanted to be in. Zen Darshan, Unique Kinshuk, Childlike Saikat and my all heart gal Priyanka.
By the time we got back to the campsite, everybody was up and about so I moved away and sat down closer to the view. I wanted to listen to music that resonated with me. I was playing The Beatles, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, John Denver and enjoying the moment.
Priyanka sat next to me and we watched in silence. And right at that time the song ‘Ekla Chalo re’ was playing on my phone. The Bengali song written by Rabindranath Tagore simply meant walk alone, move ahead.Tears kept flowing and I felt Priyanka’s arm around me, hugging me, her tears were flowing too and we kept looking ahead and this will be the most cherished memory I will take with me on this trek.
Saikat joined us and we stuck together until we were broken from our reverie by Pravin to turn for a pic. But we got our moments, our precious moments.
What I didn’t know then is that Pravin also clicked pics of us looking ahead, in that moment,in our zone and I truly thank him for that.When I see those pictures it brings a well of emotions inside me.
It was time to make the descent to Gorkhay.