The path to Syalmi.. Part VII

Here we were pacing through thankful for the sunny clear weather. Sometimes dark clouds would gloom from the other side of the mountain but it would be temporary as if it was teasing us. After all that tension. we came towards an open space before we would get into the forest.

Tirth suggested some warm up exercises and nope it was not stretches, it was a game. Yup. Each one had a water bottle kept to their side. We were in a circle and another bottle was kept in the centre. So for example Tirth would ask a question, any question like who has done paragliding, the ones who did had to run forward, touch the bottle and go to any side that had a bottle! It was scrambling for a spot! And obviously one would be left out!

So the person left out would stand in the centre and ask a question, others would run and that person would take any space available! From common questions came really witty ones! Riddhi was awesome with her questions and she would maintain that throughout the trek! For instance she asked, Who has seen the Himalayan crow?? All of us because everywhere we went, we had crows! I asked a question, ‘Who takes a dump’? I was surprised a couple of them didn’t run saying I didn’t take a dump today 🤣🤣 We kept on running hither tither and almost on the verge of tumbling down because it was on a slope. So much fun! We wondered, was this a warm up or a workout?

After all the sweat and hungama we moved on, it was a complete descent now, just going down, there were ascents too, but this descent was kind of rough, rocky terrain surrounded by lush green forest. It was the rhododendron season, the official flower of Uttarakhand. They even made juice with it. But only the red one was edible, the pink ones were poisonous. We saw so many red ones, we directly ate the flowers and yup no one bothered to wash, clean nothing. Seriously who does when you are in the forest?? It was juicy giving a nice sour sweet after taste. We kept sharing and munching the flowers.

The descent was something else only. It was killing on my knees. Especially my left knee where I always had a problem. I was anyways a ‘back bencher’ being at the back and I remained like that. I would sometimes see Satish C walking with his trekking poles calmly, Riddhi was surging ahead, Bhim was gliding through,

The ‘family’ were always ahead but sometimes suddenly they would stop and take loads of pics and I mean loads so we would go ahead and then later they would run and make sure they were first 😊 I noticed particularly the yoga guy Satish K, the moment he realised he was behind because they were clicking pics, that’s it, he would steam through so fast that no one had an option but to let him go ahead, he was very competitive. There was absolutely no camaraderie with the rest of the group. Oh well, people are not the same.

The descent seemed to take forever, sometimes Dharmik and I would chat, sometimes Tarang would pass through and sometimes I would be with Showmik. Let me be brutally honest when it comes to myself. I overestimated my stamina and strength for this trek. Again an ego trip considering how many I had done before. I was fitter before the lockdown. Nothing sedentary, I was always on the move before March 2020, and yeah I thought I was working out well, but nope the last one year was an illusion and that illusion burst on to my face. I was struggling with my legs as I was descending trying hard not to think of the pain. It was best I walked alone.

Let me add something funny here, Tarang and his suncreen, the dude would slather so much on his face, it was all white, so we would keep teasing him, Aaj ek bottle katam ho gaya??(Today you have finished one bottle of sunscreen??) and he would smile sweetly. This guy would regularly apply suncreen every few hours religiously!

We were surrounded by the forest with rhododendrons of different colours and Oh the descent! It never seemed to end, and just when one had a respite it would start again and then came the ascent. But I must admit, it was one of the most beautiful regions to trek, the pain notwithstanding.

After the breaks and all, came the ascents, panting puffing and all, the more I climbed, the more it was getting intense inside me. I just wanted to be left alone. Sometimes I would watch out for others, but the moment I heard some noise or chatting, I would stay till everybody went ahead and then be at the back.

Bhim and I had recently finished an intense meditation workshop just before the trek and lots of stuff was happening inside me. The struggle to accept myself for years. Everywhere I was a misfit. Whether it was my age, my size, my thoughts, the life I lived. Crazy thoughts happening inside. And the last bit was my broken heart. I had walked into this trek with a heavy heart. A person so close to you tells you of everything you feared about yourself, tells you, you are a big nothing and points out every flaw to the point the wound is raw and open, that’s what I carried with me when I walked into this trek. Something had shifted inside so much that I knew I was not the same anymore and neither was the relationship. I might seem strong but inside was a fragile heart. All that was culminating into one big heavy stone inside.

All I wanted to do was isolate myself, that’s it. Nothing mattered anymore except that I didn’t want to show my emotions out in the front. I kept walking, I got a respite through Tirth who started talking, I don’t even know if he realized I was completely off. It was not even small talk. It was intense when he spoke of his dreams, we spoke about our dream travels. He asked me how I was feeling. I told him I feel heavy inside. He was the only person I told that day how I felt. And least when I expected, Rajesh came running up to me like a kid with eyes wide, placing his hand on my shoulder and told me ‘He hadn’t ever travelled out of India ‘ and now he wanted to and he was like, ‘Arre Yaar, next time when you go, can you take me with you’? I smiled big and ‘pop’ like that the heaviness subsided, some people come like angels not even knowing what they give to that person.

Tirth and I spoke about my dream trip, Camino De Santiago, a 500 km walk from France to Spain, a religious pilgrimage that started from the Pyrenees mountains and ended in this cathedral in central Spain. All one had to do was walk and walk and do nothing else. I have been planning for it for years and to take off for 2 months meant giving up a lot of stuff plus the attachments.. That day I finally felt I could do it, go ahead and not look back at what I was leaving behind. Tirth also listed his dream trips. I was astonished that a guy in his 20s had so much foresight and clarity. What was with this lad? A guy from Mumbai, a Gujarati jain no less goes with the flow, not wanting to be a part of the cloistered society and it’s rules but make his own as he goes.

We all kept on walking and where the hell was the campsite? It was on the other side of the mountain and it was all ascent only. It was closer towards a village but that didn’t make it better. We kept going up and up and Pankajji with his smiling face was saying, thoda aur( little bit more) and Tirth was frank about it. He would say, ‘Look, you see that house all the way up there? Well it’s way above that, our campsite! Gosh!

At one point, as we were nearing the camp, another half an hour to go or so, the group dispersed, as in, each one was in their own tune, going ahead, either talking to another trekker, or walking slow. I was with Tirth and where he went is where I followed until we stopped.. Pankaji had gone ahead and there were more than a couple of paths and Satish was way behind with Showmik, Navadeep and Laxman I think.

We were right in the middle, neither here nor there. What happened next was an adrenalin adventure at least for me. We followed the pipeline, then to fields , then to another wet path, then god knows where! At one point, Tirth had a bad fall, but he got right up and started moving! Then we went through a barbed wire! He only told me, watch out for toilet tents, that should be our focus! Now if I think of it, I wouldn’t have actually done it without this crazy guy! We went up through paths that didn’t exist and finally we saw the toilet tents! I felt a sense of euphoria, the remaining heaviness disappearing in my heart. Guys like Tirth don’t know how much of a difference they make in people’s lives. May their tribe increase!

We did some cool down exercises as it was a long trek and we had to massage each others shoulders and backs in a circle with our super sweaty backs and unchanged clothes! I told ya, hygiene is the least to think about on treks!

The Syalmi site was beautiful and Tirth mentioned there is always a competition between Syalmi campsite and Baniya Kund – the next campsite. Each campsite team said their location had the best sunsets. We unpacked and luckily Riddhi and I got a tent of our own. So much space we could splatter our luggage all around which we did 🙂

When we came out for snacks, Bhim and I were talking about how tough this Deorital trek was, Easy?? Easy?? My foot! This was categorized as an easy-moderate trek. Bhim said he would talk to the lady ‘Swati Chakravarthy’ the editor of Indiahikes about this. It started all over again as I ‘corrected Bhim’ saying No, it’s Chathrapathy. And a bet happened, Showmik going with me and Navadeep supporting Bhim, and even though mine was true, Bhim irritated the hell out of me by justifying some stupid stuff and it was all just to provoke me! He loved the fact that he could rile me up 🙂

Tirth told us to layer up with thermals, jackets as this would get windy and cold. Then he took us a little above the campsite to watch the sunset. We gathered and sat in a single line and saw. We became silent, because unlike in the cities, the sunsets are slow, truly beautiful, you could watch it minute by minute. Tarang, Dharmik, Anuj, Navadeep, Bhim, Riddhi, we all sat in silence. And just then Mr. Showmik, who got a network signal was continuously talking to his wife giving an update and minute by minute news of the sunset! AT one point, Bhim bluntly told him, Hey man, can you put down the phone a bit and enjoy the sunset?’ But no, our Bengali Rosogulla didn’t stop. Oh well, we took in each and every moment of what we were seeing. The mind was blank, no thoughts, no conflicts.

Slowly one by one we drifted off to different spaces and kept watching. Even the young lads, Tarang, Anuj and Dharmik didn’t say a word, we all sat in our own silences. And of course after sometime, I heard Showmik talking loudly to Tirth about fitness, his next trek etc., etc., and Tirth patiently answering. Bhim commented, ‘Man, this guy doesn’t seem to shut up’ 🙂 That’s how it is, because we only get so much of a window to experience this and that’s what it is.

I stop right here because what I am going to share tomorrow, am hoping it will give you a tinge of experience to what we experienced that night! A time of ghost stories, real incidents at the campsite, star gazing and of course Showmik’s narration.

Until tomorrow!

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