The whole night we could hear rain thumping the campsite, it was hard, it was fast and it seemed like it didn’t stop. At some point I felt I was dreaming. And folks, rain in the Himalayas is something else. In the silence the sound is amplified and if there is a thunderstorm then the acoustics are something else!
We woke up to a damp campsite with the slope going towards the toilet tents even more slippery. No way was I going down there, already there was a waiting line in the two tents. So Bhim and I walked away from the campsite and what did we see? Clean bathrooms in the abandoned camp site and it was not locked. Needless to say with a fantastic view we did our business and relaxed a bit taking it all in.
It was drizzling. How were we gonna go? And just as we reached the campsite, poured rain with hailstones! Yes big stones and it’s such a joy to see it! Just yesterday Tirth and Pankaj were saying there were remote chances of snow and behold the entire landscape was covered with snow! We could see Chandrashila- the summit which we would do in a few days time, completely covered with snow! Oh no not again was our initial reaction yet now we were also ok with not doing the summit again this time. The journey was important. Always.
While the rest went inside their tents, Bhim and I couldn’t resist going a little up, not much but just above the site was a small covered area with a place to sit. Very windy, cold and raining, it was fun. We were so joyful being out there seeing the snow covered landscape and the mountains closer to us covered with clouds.
The whole valley was in mist, it didn’t seem like we were on earth. We were in heavens. Riddhi joined us and so did Navadeep. Riddhi tried playing music watching the mountains, but the mountains had a music of their own don’t they? She quickly said my music doesn’t seem to match the mountains so I will let it be. And that’s how it was. Tirth joined us and the five of us just kept looking around us. It was a moment. A beautiful moment to cherish. Silence speaks so much than words. What we were experiencing, each one of us is something that pales when you put it in words.
Tirth mentioned there are so many species of birds in this region, one didn’t require any music. We didn’t want to ask about today’s trek seeing the weather, will we or won’t we, it didn’t matter that moment, the present was beautiful.
Slowly one by one got down and left while Bhim and I sat for a little bit more. I remember playing a romantic song ‘Eto velli poyindi manasu’( The heart wandered somewhere) a Telugu one and I was playing it very low, then Bhim told me, why are you playing it so low? Increase it a bit and so I did. And it was perfect. It was a love song, an ode to what we were seeing in front of us, It was our love towards the Himalayas.
Ground realities. Tirth was checking with Syalmi base camp team, as well as the Sari base camp. It was dangerous to trek in these conditions, we would be going through a forest with steep descents and ascents, it would be treacherous. The trek team was looking at options. Maybe stay back here one more day? Maybe trek on another path? Maybe walk back to Sari and take another route? It was all dependant on the weather. It is a great leveller I tell you. Just when you think everything is going alright, just like life, it happens.
It was already decided Deepak wouldn’t trek with us now. He would stay back here and join us at another campsite in two days, his blood pressure was high and oxygen levels didn’t seem that great. Tirth was in continuous communication with the team and he called us all for an emergency meet up.
He laid it firmly. They had options. 1. If weather continues to be this bad, we have to stay back for one more day and maybe go back to Sari, there was another route from there which we could do tomorrow. 2. There was an alternate path to Syalmi if the weather became better, an equally tough one but we could do that. But right now it was just waiting. We were all set and hoping for something of a miracle.
Showmik was utterly disappointed saying he didn’t want to go back to Sari, it was back to square one. He was really worried about making it back to Rishikesh on time. How could we explain to him this is how it is here. And we have no choice but to adapt and adjust. If there is one thing the Himalayas taught us, it was to have complete faith in her, if she makes us go back, there is a reason. It’s only with her blessings were we allowed. There is an incredible faith in the locals about their gods and goddesses and over the years I have placed my whole faith in the local deities. It is what it is.
And just like that the weather cleared so Tirth started telling us to keep moving NOW! And so we did with excitement, it was clear, and we started pacing through and then it happened again, just 300 metres from the campsite! Suddenly it went dark, thunderstorms and lightning! Full on rain! We were on top of the mountain and there it was! Bhim and I were incredibly happy. I know it sounds crazy but never have we experienced these kind of rains in our treks except for my challenging fiasco when I trekked to Kedarnath solo(that was a whole new adventure!)and even that wish got fulfilled! Riddhi was joyous too clicking away saying it’s so beautiful! And it was!
Pouring rain with dark clouds, lightening was closer than we thought. Most of us wanted to continue so Pankaj asked who wants to go further and who wants to stay back at the campsite. We all said let’s go! It all seems fun then but honestly it is not, the terrain was treacherous in that weather. I think Pankaj communicated to Tirth on his walkie talkie and within minutes he sprinted towards us and announced firmly.
No way are we going forward, he said. I am the trek lead and I say so. There is a bugyal( meadow) ahead, a big open one and chances of people getting struck by lightening would be high. He made a decision, MOVE BACK! And so we did. Tirth truly showed his skills as a leader. He knew when to be firm and put his foot down. Imagine the responsibility of 15 people, it’s not easy! Even if one gets hurt or loses their life, it’s him and his team that will be responsible.
Rajesh the man with the white shirt was ahead and stubbornly standing still refusing to go back and saying he would go ahead. Bhim went to him and told him, ‘Look even I want to go, but let’s be with everyone, it’s ok, we will try again’ he finally convinced him and walked back with him. Once we came back, Tirth assembled us and gave a demo in case we hear lightening striking close to us. To throw everything away, bags, anything that is metal and electronic, as far away as possible and crouch down, completely crouch with hands behind the head and down. It was an important lesson that I don’t think I will ever forget. And there were high chances of lightening striking very close by.
There was another team-not from Indiahikes but a private group of five that still went ahead with their guide in bad weather and Tirth told us they missed the lightning by a few feet! That was enough for us. Now we had to wait again.
And here is where Himalayas tests us and then suddenly she opens her doors. In 20 minutes it was sunny, clear weather. We moved out as fast as we could but this time we would take an alternate route to Syalmi camp site, not through the open meadows to avoid any risk. And so we set off finally!
To be continued! 😊
PS: Check out the videos below too!