That evening at Khara everyone were doing their own thing. Ronak along with Bhuvan and Prerana went for a long walk up and away with Pawan our guide. If I remember correctly, even Ravi went with them. We had plenty of time to do our own stuff. Akshay was meandering around making sure everything was ok. I had my solitude by sitting by myself for a bit. No games, no forced let’s play this and that. It was beautiful. Rajeevji was a little worried about his BP more so because he might be sent back. Akshay assured him he would check his BP only the next day when we would set off to Phutsirang our next campsite which was 4 kms away.
Phutsirang campsite would be where we would stay for 2 nights to acclimatise. Because right after that would be the brutal back breaking summit day. We didn’t know at that time how brutal and life changing it would be for us.
Radhey I must say was the couch potato of all once he reached the campsite. He would plonk himself in the dining tent throughout and sit with whoever stepped inside. His laugh was unique which was the first thing I noticed. A rebel at heart against the society and system and didn’t like what people were doing in the name of religion, he also accepted people who had completely contrast views. He was the funster, prankster, complete provoker and pushed my buttons quite a bit and I enjoyed retorting back thoroughly! It was super fun playing along with him, bantering with him 😁 None of us took offence for anything and we would try to better each other every time. I remember sitting with him one morning and sharing my hellish woes and nightmares of running a cafe for 8 years. I didn’t share this with anyone else. I do remember us laughing together as I told him a few examples of the ridiculous behaviour of the customers I faced. The government to the system and their atrocities. That was another life altogether..
I also remember Prerana and I talking about women’s rights and how marginalised we were as a whole. And I was mighty impressed that Radhey read the book ‘The invisible woman’, a heart breaking cut throat book showing with research and statistics that everything and I mean everything right from the time we wake up was completely designed for men. Every damn thing except the air we breathe. I remember reading it and being angry, low for days, the anger with tears of helplessness. My world changed after that, and life was never the same. To think he read it and understood it meant that there were a few men out there who could make a difference.
What was heartening were the men coming out in the group and talking about the women in their family. Some admitting they would give more attention to this after hearing us and some saying it was the reverse in their families. But all gave a listening in with empathy. Like Prerana told me, in her previous trek there was a man who kept boasting that he left his 6 months pregnant wife and came on this trek!! He kept on and on about it like an achievement. Can you imagine if a woman left her 6 month old kid with her husband and came? The judgement inside out! Because the woman is always the nurturer, the caregiver. Mayur tried to make his point saying it didn’t run like that in his family, but this feminism and all were labels. I didn’t get it that time. But much later when I had a deep conversation with him, I understood what he meant, it was beyond and above everything that I thought I knew.
The BP readings were going on and I was trying hard not to see what was happening in Rajeevji’s tent when Akshay walked in to check his readings. I was praying hard. Rajeevji called me inside the tent. I sat with them and Akshay said it had gone down a bit but not much but he can go ahead. We will see day to day. I could see that huge relief on Rajeevji’s face.
We were all set for Phutsirang and today Ronak would be our trek leader! He would keep leading throughout the day today. Akshay gave him the walkie talkies and it was his job to interact with the technical guide, with the entire group back and forth. And boy did this guy take it wholeheartedly. Akshay completely moved out being a TL that day and became a team mate.
What was unique about this trail to Phutsirang was that the moment we walked away from the campsite there were 7-8 river crossings and most of it had to be done barefoot! Someone checked the temperature reading of the water and it was in minus! This was going to be adventurous!!
We formed a chain every single time holding hands with shoes tied to our backpacks and walk through numbing freezing water! The fun of it I tell ya! Santoshbhai our technical guide would make us chant a war cry before we would start our trek every day. At one river crossing while a few of us were standing still in freezing water barefoot, we chanted loud the war cries! Oh the adrenaline rush of it, the team spirit and how it surged our energy up!
After umpteen river crossings and our numb toes with no sensation, we could finally put on our shoes and start our ascent. Now we would be going higher to 13,500 feet and the ascent was steep. Making our pace throughout we kept going, sometimes stopping for views, sometimes just looking to see how far we left behind the campsite. Rajeevji would stop and call me to show me something unique always. Something I would not notice. It was beautiful. We would take a break, share some snacks. I kept complaining to Ravi all the time, how could he not carry any snacks being a Gujju?? It is in their blood. He tried his best to convince me that he was travelling from elsewhere and he couldn’t carry any, yet I was so disappointed! Be with a gujju Trekker and you are assured of food throughout! But Ronak and Bhuvan more than made up for it with their goodie bags, from dry fruits to Khakras and a unique snack called ‘Chura’ which was a mix of stuff. God bless these guys!
We kept ascending that steep ascent with breathtaking views, we had to cross a few snow bridges, it kind of reminded me of Rupin Pass trek. At one point, we saw our kitchen team catching up with us, and Kadak bhai told me, ‘tum sab daud rahe ho!’ ( you are all running!) I smiled and honestly we weren’t racing nor going fast. It was just that the entire group was very fit, that’s it. Akshay forcefully made us stop saying, you guys are doing this every day, keeping pace after pace, so disappointing, no drama only! 😂 So we had to take a good break to let the kitchen team move ahead and give them some lead time.
And Akshay has a pretty dark humour, out of the blue, he would ask us riddles often violent and dark. So this one I remember him asking, ‘ What is worse than throwing a baby down a helicopter??’ I immediately said a Dog! His eyes went wide, what?! A dog? Yup I said, I prefer a dog over human babies. Prerana said I second that! Akshay rolled his eyes and said for all that yoga you practice and peace you espouse, what a violent mind! 😁 His answer was, What is worse than throwing a baby down a helicopter was to throw up a baby!! 🤦♀️ Dark!
Another one was how many babies does it take to paint a wall!! Prerana retorted maybe 10?? You bang babies on the wall, the blood splatters and yup painting on the wall! 😂 Yup we are a crazy wild group!
Ronak being the Trek Leader for the day kept moving about, kept reminding us to keep sipping water, encouraged us to keep pacing, he was so right for it and you know what, everyone saw him as a TL that day and respected it. Akshay told us later that when he told Ronak being a TL now, can he run in front of the group on the ascent and be at the beginning? And he did that, with his heavy backpack and another smaller backpack strapped to the front, he took it as a challenge and strode ahead without disturbing anyone’s pace. He had all the makings of being a fantastic Trek lead.
After all that ascent we finally reached Phutsirang, the landscape opened up far wider than the previous campsite. Ronak shouted excitedly dude, this is a delta! Look at the water! People were taking their time reaching the site, it was now totally time to relax. No rushing tomorrow, no 6 am, 7 am, 8 am schedule nothing at all. We had a good 1.5 days to acclimatise and chill.
Prerana from the beginning was having shoulder pain yet this gal decided she was going to carry her big backpack throughout the trek and nothing would deter her. She had a high threshold for pain and she was determined to push her limits on the trek. The hilarious thing was packing and unpacking her backpack! The moment she would open it, it boomed and I called it a Pandora’s box! Every day I would joke about it as we would stuff up her backpack and again reopen it. In Phutsirang, our tent was a sight to see, all our things were spread out like nobody’s business. Am truly glad I found a mate like her, she synced so well and we joked about everything. The moment she would open her bulged up backpack, I would glance and she would smile and say, ‘ I know that look’ and laugh 😁
Akshay was gracious enough to let me do cool down stretches yoga for the group every day and I am very thankful for it. The group didn’t complain a bit as I made them groan and moan during stretching, it was lovely. Then I had an idea, why not do a partner yoga with the whole group? This included even the technical guides. When I asked Akshay he immediately said yes, and I told the team they had a surprise! Radhey retorted I hope not some yoga contortion 😂
Akshay also floated the idea which he did for every team to cook once at the campsite for everyone. I was more than willing because whenever I had the chance I would persuade the trek leads to allow me to make something for everyone. And this time I had an equal partner in Rajeevji and we had Deepanshu and Bhuvan join us. So the four of us would cook lunch for the entire team tomorrow. Pronto Siddhant said, hey listen I will wash all the cooking vessels whatever that might be after your cooking. I was overwhelmed when he said that, because cooking is still inside the tent but washing vessels meant washing in freezing sub zero temperatures. Little did we realise how our action and implementation the next day would impact all tremendously.
So it was set, tomorrow cooking by our group. In the evening, Ronak, Bhuvan along with Prerana earmarked a flat area that was not filled with horse shit which was everywhere really and I facilitated a partner yoga session for the group. What can I say except that everyone was so open and receiving. There was laughter, unity, team work and it bonded us all stronger. I have facilitated so many workshops and classes, but after a long time, this was the most satisfying one in years. In the end we all laid down on the grass, open skies and holding hands. I could feel the energy of every one of them. It was pulsating, vibrating. The embryo was tight, there was so much of warmth in everyone’s hearts. I couldn’t express it then but at that moment I could feel each and everyone’s heart beating inside me. I can’t explain further than this, I have no words, I saw myself in each one of them. That’s the power of universal energy that permeates within us.
To be continued ♥️♥️
Pics credit – Ravi Patel