After that meditative reflection, it was time to move on. I remember lying down comfortably on a rock under the sun, Bhim in a meditative pose, he made a prayer stones formation on one of the big rocks, the gujju boys were in their own world, Riddhi was in her own space. Gently Tirth motioned us it was time to move towards our destination.
I wondered how it would be to stay here for the night, see a camping spot nearby and just sit here at night with the waters, silence and being aware of the creatures of the night. The forest is very different at night and everything nocturnal comes alive. It becomes very instinctive. It’s more than just a thrill, it is being very aware knowing there are so many creatures out there. I thought about the Amazonian jungle and how beautiful and dangerous it would be at night. Ha well another wish list written down and the list only gets longer 😊
We ascended groaning up into the forest again. This seemed like never ending! In between was chatting, sometimes silences. Bhim and I got some time together to discuss about our individual lives, how priorities change, how shifts happen as we trekked. He had gone through something significant recently and his trajectory was shifting.
After a year and more of staying in last year with it’s challenges, losses we had jumped into this trek. It didn’t matter we did it before. The ‘ego’ of doing tougher longer treks was gone. The present mattered the most.
As we were walking and I was as usual at the back, I was chatting with Satish, our guide. He was talking about his dream trip, wandering around Ladakh on a bullet bike for a couple of months, in his own bullet in his words. He said his Uncle had a bike and he could take it from him but no, he wanted to earn it on his own. Then out of the blue I saw Naveen, the hyper badminton coach of the family coming up to me and talking! I was like eh? These past few days he didn’t really interact with anyone except to show off but why now? Then he started showing pics of himself. Satish the guide had become his photographer last evening at Syalmi campsite and as we were busy watching the sunset, he was clicked in different poses in the background of the beautiful sky. That’s why! He really wanted to show someone, anyone his pics. I think he got disappointed with my answer because all I said was ‘Nice’.
And I was wondering why was he all the way at the back when he would be usually pushing ‘the family’ to be in the front? Especially the kid Akhil who he would bully and shout at all the time? It was Satish, the guide! Now that he knew Satish was clicking pics very well, the poor guy became his official photographer! At every point he would stop and tell Satish to take his pics in different poses. I am sure he regretted taking this coach’s pictures left, right and centre.
Finally what looked like a respite happened as Tirth said it was time for lunch. Bhim said dude we have to eat the pickle! Yup I got a spicy ‘Avakai’ mango pickle from my city and the Indiahikes team already had their taste of it when we placed it in one of the campsites for dinner. This time Bhim took it out and lo ‘the South Indian spiceness’ burst on his hands! Completely smeared with oil and the pickle because it was leaking, it was a sight. Riddhi clicked a pic of it. She asked for a little bit of pickle and enjoyed it.
Bhim got tamarind ‘tokku’ from home. We decided not to give it then to everyone as it was highly digestive and it could lead to people running to answer nature’s calls. 😊 We would open it tomorrow evening after the summit at the campsite.
The meadows were beautiful. It was a huge clearing that suddenly opens up in the dense forest. I removed my shoes and walked on the grass. Ah such a feeling it was! To feel the earth, the grass under my feet, it was healing my poor feet worn out by the trek.
Bhim already got a couple of blisters on the first day of the trek and he was managing it with band aid and toilet paper until Tirth wrapped a tight tape on it, that was the only way his blistered toes would not keep hitting the shoes. Yup we are crazy, it didn’t matter how many blisters and loss of toe nails happened we would continue to trek till our body functioned. And as I am writing this my right toe nail is ready to come out, all blackened because of the trek 😊
We even got some snooze time. Tirth was totally relaxed. Post lunch most of us lied down with our caps or scarves on our faces not caring a damn about the blistering hot sun on us. Making our backpacks as pillows we went off to snoozeville. Imagine, would we do that in the city? We would be in such discomfort even with Air conditioning and all the comforts, we would still be complaining about the ‘hot weather’! Yup nature does that to you, stripping you away from your privileged trappings, you don’t need much to be happy.
After our short blissful naps with Bhim already snoring in the 10 seconds he went off to dreamland, Tirth got up and told us to get moving. We were like, Arre, is this day going to end?! Where is the campsite?? What we didn’t know was, even though this felt like it was the longest day, the summit day would be something else.
We were discussing already the summit schedule. Usually when there is a summit day, our day would start as early as 3.30- 4 am. But we started hearing that this time we would start as early as 1.30 am. That was midnight! So much discussion on it baba!
Showmik was assuring us, nahin nahin I saw in the schedule, I took a printout na! They would drive us to Chopta from Baniya kund and then we trek to Tungnath and Chandrashila. He was so sure of it. Tirth was not letting a word out naturally. We would know the entire schedule only in the evening at the campsite.
Bhim and I looked at each other, 1.30? 1.30 seriously?? How can one sleep? As it is on summit days they make us get inside the tent by 6.30 pm which is usually how it is so we barely get 5-6 hours of sleep, also the excitement is palpable, there is fear, there are the if’s and but’s and then there is the weather. No matter how many times you go to the Himalayas, you wait it out for the unpredictable weather.
With these thoughts we trudged our way again. And after what looked like forever, we came towards a motorable road. After being in the dense forest, the road seemed an aberration, why were we back in this uncivilised civilisation?? But our apprehension went away when we didn’t see a single soul except some random vehicles speeding away.
Tirth led us to the campsite and this was no less! An ascent into the open meadows right in the forest. And believe me when I say this, what a campsite it was! Rolling open meadows with the grand mountains as a backdrop. It was easily one of the best campsites of all my treks. I was glad we we were going to spend two nights here.
As we were walking towards the site, Satish the guide came rushing in towards Tirth and told him, ‘Bacha lo Sirji,'(Save me!) Tirth burst out laughing saying Nahin Nahin, abhi aap to phas gaye! (no no you are done!) It was towards Naveen! Satish would walk fast ahead and Naveen would run towards him with his phone camera, there was no escape for the poor chap. Well in the morning they even exchanged t shirts and they looked like twins and now he had to pay the price for his photography skills.
Rolling meadows, shepherds with their sheep, cattle and mules grazing with a stunning white mule among them standing out in the vista! See? This is what makes it worth it! 😊
PS: Check out Tarang’s video too 😊