So here we were, finally at the base camp. It seemed familiar yet new. The crisp air, the mountains surrounding the village. When I was here 4 years ago, it was a small hamlet, but now I could see the village had expanded and mobile network was strong, I kind of groaned because one of the best parts of a trek is the disconnect from every medium, be that electronic, social media, family, everything.
The guesthouse was not to be seen, then we were told we had to descend all the way down to the base camp. As we walked downhill with our backpacks, Bhim lamented, ‘Dude, tomorrow we have to go back up all the way again’ and it was true from our little experience, anywhere a descent, an ascent was waiting in the corner! We saw the Gujju boys carrying suitcases along with a backpack. Yeh Kya hai I asked, Tarang smiled and said, we have more trips after this trek!
We came down and there we saw our trek leader, Tirth Dhami, with a big smile welcoming us. He was tall, super fit and skinny and I envy that in all the trek leads. They all looked the same when it came to fitness! He told us to put aside our backpacks, welcomed us all and we saw a group of 5 standing aside, they had come to the base camp on their own. Later on, I would call them ‘THE FAMILY’, for which you will know the reasons soon.
He told us to come into a circle and from now onwards whenever we would assemble, it would be in a circle and he would keep repeating this throughout the trek, he said he had major FOMO(Fear of missing out for the non millennials or any generation that was before Z, you do the math!) so always a CIRCLE. Then he read out names and we became a group of four standing near each tented accommodation and he had a Treasure hunt! We had to find our clues based on each dig!
It was a competition! We jumped, we ran, we made mistakes and whoever got it had to come back to their designated tent and wait for the others. It was super fun and when we all finally cracked it, what each one of us got was priceless. First of all, each group learnt about the designated areas of the entire camp site which they could share it with others and it completed the circle.
A very ingenious way of knowing each and everything about the camp and most importantly washing areas- a way of reducing water consumption which I felt was outright brilliant and recycled items areas with washrooms and designated areas. The best part was the individual messages written to each one of us welcoming us and a beautiful quote behind it. The shape of a mountain made from cardboard and when I looked at my quote, I didn’t realise then that’s exactly what I would face during this trek. Each and everyone got something to hold onto during the trek. And now I know for sure this was completely Tirth’s idea. What can I say about him? Slowly, you will know more about him.
After our welcome drink, Tirth told us to assign ourselves a tent. He said it with a lot of pride that the Sari base camp site was exclusively Indiahikes. No more guesthouses, there were spacious tents, enough to hold 8 people, comfortable bunk beds with blankets and a fully running toilet. If you think why am I spoiling this by talking about a toilet, let me tell you that once you start trekking you will realise the value of a fully functioning toilet ,water and so much more!
Tirth assembled us all for taking the mandatory papers, Covid negative tests proof, oxymeter readings and asking us quietly some questions based on what we wrote. He was so calm and smiling all the time. I remember writing mine, too many to write in the line of previous treks done, it was true but there is also a kind of ego that props up knowing there has been a history of it, yet now when I think of it, I will and I maintain this, I will always remain a newcomer when it comes to Himalayas, she exactly knows to handle each one of us like a mother handles irritating naughty kids!
Tirth then came up with a unique icebreaker. He told us to introduce ourselves with our name, the city and one strange thing about us! Wow! This was new! and kinda tough, because we have an elevated sense of ourselves, at the same time, we truly don’t want to reveal stuff like this to anyone and I am sure our closest ones wouldn’t know about it. Thirth started first, although I don’t remember most of them, a few stood out. Deepak from Haryana said, I am Haryanvi but I am soft and very polite! Everyone burst out laughing! His friend Laxman said, I am from Uttarakhand but I am anything but soft unlike people from the hills! Tarang, the gujju boy from Nagpur said, I am a gujarati but I don’t like Gujarati food and I eat non veg! It went on and on until everyone was done and I could see an ease among each other. Now each one of them felt comfortable knowing they knew something about the other person. We got introduced to Pankajji – our guide, and I must say a very handsome man! Satish – the other guide would meet us later.
We got our snacks, Bhim and I sat on a rock and looked at the sunset and mountains, Riddhi joined us and in silence we sat taking it all in. We were here, we were actually here! Away from it all. Yes tomorrow like any first day of trekking would be back breaking and exhausting yet it was all worth it. What we didn’t know was that every day would be that and nothing else teaching us lessons.
My tent mates were Bhim, Navadeep,Showmik, Riddhi and a 60 year old young man from Ghaziabad- Rajesh. With his impeccable white shirt tucked into his trek pants like he was going to an office, he was a bit of a mystery. He loved dogs, played and ran with them, did skipping taking the rope of a Indiahikes team member, he was energetic and yet I felt there was some sadness inside him, I don’t know how but I felt it. There was an extremity about him, he would be laughing and greeting people loudly and there would be moments of complete silence and a loneliness in him. He had trekked with Tirth before so they knew each other quite well.
After our dinner and briefing by Tirth, about the trail which of course would be an ascent and ascent to Deorital. We went back to our spacious luxurious tents and it was pure luxury! Great beds, warm blankets and we were given our liners which we would have to carry throughout the trek as a protection simply because the sleeping bags were not washed. Yup before you make a face, remember, hygiene is the least we think about when trekking 🙂
We had a long day as we packed up for tomorrow and got into our beds. Rajesh was already in his bed and snoring loudly. Well I had a snorer above my bunk bed a.k.a Bhim which I was used to anyways. I went into a deep sleep until later past midnight I heard shouting and screaming. I woke up with a jolt and noticed others did too, who was it? It was Rajesh, loud, really loud screaming Nikhil Nikhil and the voice almost felt feral. Showmik was right below him in the bunker bed and the bed was shaking. At one point I felt I was dreaming, but then I saw Showmik getting up and gently trying to wake Rajesh, the moment he touched him, he got an aggressive reaction from Rajesh, a scream so harsh that I saw Showmik jump back with fear!
Too lazy to get out and too groggy to make any sense of it, I went back to bed. What an end to a day!