As we relaxed under the super hot sun in Mangrutse there was that dreaded feeling of this journey ending.. Already? As I looked around and saw my trek mates meandering around, laughing, relaxing. The tiredness got to me big time and the tent was too hot to sleep in there so I decided to sleep in the dining tent but it was so damn windy the mats on the floor were literally flying. I did try to get a nap but after some time this blow hot, blow cold wasn’t working for me.
I sat on a rock and meditated for some time, thanking everything that I have been given so far in my life. There were no regrets, none. I saw few groups laughing and talking under the sun. All of us were exhausted yet we knew that after tomorrow we would go our separate ways. It was a bitter sweet feeling.
Later in the evening, we sat together, gossiped, chatted, reminiscing the slides, the pass, and many mundane things. We also had an extensive discussion on doing our bit for the environment which turned out to be very refreshing as everyone was doing their bit and we all learnt from the others.
Later quite a few of them got sleeping bags in the dining tent so they could chat up till late in the night. For me, I somehow wanted solitude, the urge and the need to be alone was strong yet seeing everyone I wanted to enjoy being there. And of course came the horror stories. A couple of days before at another campsite, Mayur, Ronak and me had shared our experiences of the other worldly beings. Akshay said he would talk about it only once we reached Mudh.
But now at Mangrutse, Deepanshu accounted his experiences of the campsites of Brahmatal, a very good narrator, he used the red light of the headlamp for further affect! It was something else! I had developed a sore throat at the pass which was common for me, so I excused myself and crashed to sleep. Prerana didn’t walk in until early morning. She hung out with Ronak, Bhuvan, Akshay star gazing and while they slept out, she slept in the dining tent alone.
It was the last day of the trek and a truly long one. A 17 km trek from Mangrutse to a tiny village of Spiti, Mudh. We started off but not before a final war cry this time by Shantanu. His voice boomed with energy and it reverberated in us as we cried loud, Har Har Mahadev! It was awesome.
This was a long one and a dusty one to boot, Rocky, dusty on and on and on. The summit was done, the euphoria was over, now our bodies were showing us how much we pushed it to the limit. Akshay told us that though this could be done at a slightly leisure pace, it was still 17 kms and to not let our guard down. We still had to be careful, there were lots of ascents and descents and to not treat it lightly. He was right because once the Spiti sun showed up with its breathtaking landscapes, it was unbearable. Dry heat and I mean super dry heat beating down on us causing extreme fatigue and exhaustion. There was no shelter, none, not even a thorny bush.
And the trail, rocks, rocks and rocks. It could have been one of the harshest regions. And slowly smaller groups were forming talking intermittently. I had a nice long talk with Kadakbhai – the head of the kitchen team. It was his first time at Pin Bhabha too. He was from Uttarakhand and I was asking about the guides I previously trekked with. Since he was from a place away from Lohajung, base camp for many treks in Uttarakhand, we had lots to chat about.
Then he told me about the death of a Himachali local just a few days ago… this guide was only 39 and has been taking people for treks for years. He had even come to the kitchen tent to eat something. He was taking a group of doctors for the Pin Bhaba pass. Near to the pass, he said he was not feeling well and sat down and that’s it, he dropped dead! His body was brought down and it was kept in one of our campsites with the kitchen staff guarding his body till his folks came to pick his remains.. They concealed it so none of us could see it. They decided not to talk to us until we did the summit, it would crush our morale plus the psychological fear of even doing the summit. His folks from the village picked up the remains.. I was shocked.. This was one important lesson. Everything was so temporary.
And I remember Kadakbhai telling me, ‘Madam, agar pulse kamzor hai, oxygen bhi kam hai to manage kar sakte hain, lekin Blood pressure high hai to bahut hi khatarnak hai pahadon mein, isiliye agar kisi ko High BP to high risk jai’. ( if the pulse is weak or oxygen is less, it can be manageable but not high blood pressure in the mountains, it’s highly risky). He also told me of several cases where people dropped dead because of it. Then I understood why Akshay at Mulling wanted to send Rajeevji and Rajiv senior back down. One could not take any chances.
Here is where I stop and share something. You can judge me, you can say anything but it must be said. And I write this with empathy. Rajiv senior is 61 years old, and when in the WhatsApp group he messaged that he had experience of 50 odd treks and he did Pin Parvati valley which is highly dangerous in 2019, I was impressed. One could learn so much from him. Yet he was a very reserved person, not quiet but aloof and keeping a distance and there is nothing wrong with that. But on the first day one look at him and I thought, he is unfit. Nothing to do with age again but you know to an extent when you see who was capable and who was not. I instantly thought would he be able to? But remembering he did Pin Parvati meant a different tenacity so who knows? Why should I judge someone’s capability at first look?
Akshay was taking regular BP readings of Rajeevji and Rajiv senior every day and with valid reason. Rajeevji with even with high BP was extremely fit, anyone could see that on the first day itself. Rajiv senior was slow, I could see he was struggling every day. And the night before summit day Akshay took his BP saw it was high and told him to take pills and then they would decide early morning. Radhey was his tent mate and Rajiv senior didn’t sleep a wink, he didn’t feel good, so he made the call he won’t do the summit. It was good sense. BUT and I say a big BUT blaming the trek leader saying because you took BP readings, I felt the pressure, you stressed me and that’s why I didn’t feel good is unfair. Truly. And this I knew from Kadakbhai, they were used to behaviour like that, but one had to remember that the entire onus falls on the trek leader, imagine if someone fell ill or died because of one area that he missed checking, can you imagine the consequences? Can you imagine what happens to that trekkers family? And not knowing the situation, the blame goes to the trekking staff and team. If one takes a call, it is for the right reasons. And it is in bad taste. And here am calling a spade, a spade.
Now I know that a true Trekker has nothing to do with how many treks one has done, or how many years of experience one has notched under their belt, it is the attitude that matters most.
Moving further now, we kept going and going with the sun hitting us harsh. During most of the trek I was with Deepanshu, and it was such a pleasure trekking with him. A pleasant demeanour, focusing on the positive, he was a gentle soul and also sensitive. We spoke from movies to books with sometimes Ronak and Bhuvan pitching in. We would complain about the rocks, talk about our upcoming treks, almost everything under the sun. And even if the sun was killing us and the fatigue was getting on to full on power mode it was thanks to Deepanshu I kept on going so thank you mate for being my trekking companion that day 😊
Even with Ravi, I remember one spot where we all took a long break and we kept chatting randomly lying on the grass, right from why sugar is so bad, I am sure reading this my team mates are rolling their eyes 😂 His fitness, and the trek of Tarsar Marsar, a perfect trek mate he is, so thank you man! Let me tell you again, your pace is what kept me going 🤗
It was 17 kms too long and now we were in groups of 2 or 3. Most of us skipped lunch as the technical team stopped to eat. With absolutely no shelter on the searing hot rocks, the idea of putting a morsel in our mouth was getting to us. Rajeevji decided enough is enough and he paced ahead to reach Mudh asap! He was like I want to eat something else now, and he surged ahead. While Deepanshu, Aritra and me walked slowly, pacing ahead clicking pictures steering away from the cows and bulls giving us looks with Aritra warning us and steering us away from them saying, I had unpleasant incidents with them, let’s move ahead!
We knew we were outskirts of Mudh the moment we saw signs of ‘civilisation’ and behind we were leaving silence and solitude , even a part of ourselves was left behind. I don’t know why I just wanted to sit, like sit and do nothing. Deepanshu understood and he went ahead with Aritra, I told them I will catch up with them. And I sat on the small road, legs spread out just looking around. Santoshbhai was running ahead knowing Rajeevji was way ahead, there were two roads to reach Mudh and if one took a wrong one, it would be a pain. Ask me! I and my friend got lost in Spiti two years ago and what a nightmare it was!
After sometime I got up and caught up with the buoys Deepanshu and Aritra. They say the last few steps are the hardest?? It was! So every Himalayan village is on a slope, higher up, and now again we had to ascend! But first came the shaking bridge! As we crossed it was shaking so much I firmly held onto Deepanshu’s shoulders for dear life 😁
Santoshbhai and Kadakbhai sat near a dry bush so they could lead us towards the right road. We sat down with them on the hot ground under hotter sun, we didn’t know what was worse! Ronak and Bhuvan came by and Santoshbhai coerced us to move and get going, the village was nearby.
Nearby like hell it was! There were steps there was civilisation and with it garbage, as I was picking it up I was getting caught between anger at seeing rubbish to why am I stopping to pick it up?? I am dead tired! Aritra, Deepanshu sweetly shoved all the dirty garbage I was giving them into their eco bags as mine was full. Bhuvan said it’s ok, there is only so much we can do right now.
We saw Santoshbhai and Kadakbhai go up a steep slope, but our man Aritra immediately said no no, let’s go this way the trail is better and not steep and it was not, thank god! We kept ascending our way up grudgingly but also with a sense of achievement, as we reached the guest house! We all high fived and hugged! 17 kms today after yesterday’s 12 hour back breaking summit day!
The buoys took out coke bottles and started gulping and I groaned in my heart OH NO! In this heat?? It’s dehydrating it’s full of sugar! But I kept my worries aside, I didn’t want to kill their buzz But yeah I cried about it to Prerana later 😁
We were shown our rooms, Prerana came in later, down and out she looked. This girl I tell ya, she had so many blisters, Akshay couldn’t tape it for it would worsen but the shoes were killing her so she walked in Mayur’s flip flops! She gets one painful adventure after the other!
Later after we showered in cold chill water which was a blessing and looking at our tethered blackened faces we had food and were called in for a debriefing session. This time I am not going to write about the session because some things have to be kept deep in your heart. What each one shared will always be a wonderful memory for me to cherish. All I will say is that ‘Love is all around’ One needs to just see it. ♥️
That night as we winded down, I consoled myself that most of us would still be together tomorrow for the long drive from Mudh to Manali and we had already made up our mind to stay together the last night come what may.
To be continued ♥️♥️
Pics courtesy – Ravi Patel, Deepanshu and Rajeevji