At base camp before we started, now that I remember clearly, the introductions happened. The so called mountaineer brother who boasted that Kashmir Great Lakes trek was a ‘small prep’ before his bigger expeditions, his sister talking in the most irritating way saying she did some trek years ago. There were 4 lawyer uncles, na kinda grandpas from Bihar who were full of energy but in two days I came to realise always wanted to have the ‘last word’ in anything, except Rajesh in that group who was very unassuming , each one of them had big egos. They had a bike ‘gang’ with their harleys as they said, then a trek gang. Always the last word 😊
Then there was this guy Saurabh who at the end of it, we still didn’t know what he did. First he said aloud he was in defence forces, then merchant navy or something. Different answers to different people every day and here is the thing, he would speak only in Hindi not that I minded, but saying he will only answer in Hindi even in games and telling people I will teach you Hindi to Rajendran even though he kept insisting he doesn’t understand the language, buddy how about learning some Tamil from Rajendran also then?? This guy took every chance to show off, pure ego trip.
By the time everybody introduced themselves, Bhim and I groaned. When I said, I don’t do anything, it was pin drop silence 😂 There were a lot of Chartered accountants in the group. Bhavik from Bombay whom I must say was one of the three I enjoyed interacting with. A young lad Sanskar – yup the kiddo with his two cousins in gym clothes and sneakers, whom I became very close to later. Yup it happens and how! Only with Sanskar not his two cousins- the two girls who always looked perplexed as if a bomb dropped nearby!
Mayank, a smooth talking sales guy through and though yet had his good moments when he stopped the pretence, Jitesh with the fat belly of a 50 year old trapped in the body of a 27 year old budding lawyer, that ‘never will I stop talking loud couple’ from Pune with their student/ assistant girl who remained mum and stuck with them throughout. A lanky man Vikram who would lunge at every food and snack offered before anyone else.
Ayush, the cool young doctor in making with a martial arts background, whom I truly liked later. Very much collected and sportive. And then a specimen called Zubin! I mean he was a really pampered fella as he would get scared to get tanned, scared about his hair, scared about getting his feet wet, scared about his clothes getting dirty! 😂😂 The amount of pics he took of himself and I mean every 10 mins meant he would be all set posting them on tinder/bumble/Bharat matrimony or god knows what other app!
If I forgot anyone else just remember they were not worth remembering. The next day we were all set to Vishnusar camp via Nichnai pass. In KGL, we would trek through three passes and this was the first one. This was 13.5 kms and just like all passes will be, it would be taxing once we were closing in. And before we started itself, interesting stuff already happened.
One of the cousins of Sanskar decided on day 1 evening at Nichnai campsite to go back. Atleast she was realistic and didn’t ask for a horse to go further, citing some reason she decided to go down on horseback (which she would pay), Bhim and I wondered about the other cousin, shouldn’t she go back too?? She was equally hopeless! But Sanskar was something else. The kiddo was fit and romping his way ahead and was only getting derailed because his cousins would yell at him to wait for them as they struggled. On the first day itself we noticed he had a lovely attitude, loved outdoors and was in step with the pace.
In the evening in Nichnai it was announced that she would go back. Bhim and I looked at each other and smiled 😊 And of course the horrible brother sister duo, two more wickets down! We wondered if the other cousin could take the 2nd day trek, as it is she looked like she would bawl any minute.
But in the morning when we were getting ready on day 2, a whole new drama was happening with that fucking brother sister duo, that girl continuing to blame ‘the shoes’ actually tells Krupa and I mean it, I was there when I heard it, She will walk the entire trail in her chappals/slippers!!! And she keeps going around to all and sundry saying I have to decided to stay and continue the trek!
When Krupa said No, I already informed the base camp, no slippers, her brother rushes to the other campsite run by Youth hostels, gets an old pair of shoes from there and asks her, if she can get it repaired so his sister can wear it!! I mean!! No words! This back and forth drama was happening until Krupa firmly said No, you have to go back!
Guys I am still sharing what you call a censored version of what was happening. Their behaviour was so despicable that they could have been banned from every trek company.
Krupa looked under the weather so I went and asked if she was ok. She was on her monthly cycle but the worst part was, she was one of those unfortunate women who experienced extreme and worst effects of periods. FYI especially for the men who are reading it, let me tell you 5 out of 10 women have these symptoms. Which means one can’t even get out of bed, cramps that feels like your stomach is getting crushed like a road roller is on you and really bad back pain where you can’t even pick up anything. So now you get it? Krupa had to carry her 30 kg backpack and take us through the whole day with more days to go.
She told the guides to take the lead and she would be in the middle and back. Gosh but my anger justified or not went up, because if one man understood even 10% of what a woman goes through this time, the world will be a better place.
Once we started trekking I noticed a pattern in Rajendran, he would be in the front no doubt, but the moment we stopped and if anyone was next to the guide in the front, he would break all rules and run to be there! Every day, every time, even on narrow trails where something like this could lead to accidents! What was with him? This quiet guy? As we started trekking, so did the cacophony start. On and on and on. From greener pastures, we were going towards a rocky landscape of boulders and boy was the sun beating us down! The worst part though was the trek groups!!
It didn’t feel like we were in a remote place in the Himalayas but in an exhibition! Highly irritating but hats off to Shaukat bhai who would push us to move forward through trails and dodging herds by making us taking breaks far and away. He would just start walking! No Chalo nothing, a whistle and off we went!
It was ascent and ascent and more ascent with the sun beating down on us punishingly but what views…. As we came to one of the smaller lakes, we took a breath and saw.. Turquoise aqua marine colours with the bare mountains.. Aaaah…. for a moment And then the clink and clank of people sitting on horses, taking pictures!! Errrrrr were they trekking or were they on a tour?? Big fat tourists on horses climbing up and then stopping by the lake, clicking pics and back on the horse! Man!! And Krupa told me this crowd is nothing, there were hundreds of them like that two years before Covid!! 😬😬
Gave a reminder to myself, I WILL NOT REPEAT KASHMIR GREAT LAKES EVER!!
Bhim and I were aching to move forward, to move away from every group. Shaukat bhai was like let’s wait. Then Krupa came forward and said you guys wanna join me? All the way to Nichnai pass? Hell yeah!! So a few of us including Rajendran, Mayank and a couple more I don’t remember went ahead. I was right behind Krupa and what a terrific Trekker she is!
Maintaining a fantastic pace and reminding us to take deep breaths led us like a true leader would. I mean of all the trek leads I paced with, she was the best. No nonsense, very calm and collected, she paced and how! And that is when Bhim and I finally got that silence, oh that forgotten silence of just you, your pace and in tune with the mountains ♥️ In absolute silence led by Krupa, 5-6 of us trekked through and through, this would be one of the most enjoyable moments for me on this trek. Krupa showed what nerves of steel is. Let me tell you none of them knew what she was going through. Only I knew about it in the morning. Man she did pace and she lead!
At one point when I saw Rajendran doing the same pattern rushing up on that narrow trail trying to be next to Krupa I told him off. I said bluntly, ‘hey man be in a single line will you?? It’s dangerous! This is a narrow pass, get behind! And he did. Bhim told me later that he slipped because Rajendran was rushing and pushing forward leaving no space for Bhim.
As we took a short standing break, there it was the pass, all ascent and the sun blazing, she asked shall we team? Just not stop till we reach? Get there? Yes!! I was so full of energy, all that tiredness got wiped away and I owe it to this amazing gal. We went about like a force and we didn’t stop till we reached Nichnai pass.
And that is when Krupa finally sat down with a thump resting her back. I was with her and so was Bhim. Then she told us that made me grit my teeth. She asked the guides if they can carry the oxygen tank, not her backpack but only the tank as her whole body was in pain. They fucking refused!! So she even said ok, let’s do this, I will carry your backpack while you carry mine, NO! they said. Even the kitchen team which is from Uttarakhand shouted at them saying, how can you refuse a trek leader? What kind of manners you have? The kitchen team had no space to carry anymore stuff otherwise they would have done it.
I was so angry, I could have hit anyone who pissed me off at that time! I told her, there is no asking!! They have to do it! Would they ever dare to refuse a trek leader if he was a man?? It boiled down to that people, because Bhim and I noticed how the local team was refusing to listen to her in the campsite, she was always alone. My admiration went up a notch because a woman, a trek leader, in outdoors was going against the norm and doing it all. Let me tell you, she kept it all in, not giving in to them, I could see her face pulling down with that excruciating pain but she kept going on. Oh man, at that moment I was angry at every guy I looked! Na don’t tell me that’s unfair, it is how I feel.
When Rajendran mumbled it’s all in the mind, I told him on his face, Just keep quiet! Ok?? It’s not the fucking mind!! It is real, it is physical!! GOD!! Bhim told her she should have asked around, he would have carried it, others would have carried it. But I understood when Krupa said, No that’s not what you are here for, they should have done it. But the moment they said No, I was determined to carry this through.
As the rest of the group reached the pass, we got some other news! The other cousin, yep the same one whom we felt also should go back was crying!! She wanted to go back NOW!! Oh man!! Now?? In fact when her sister was leaving in the morning, Krupa did ask her if she wanted to join her knowing how it was for her the previous day. And now with her backpack already on the horses reaching the campsite, she now wanted to go back.
I really admire Krupa’s patience people! In Kashmir, walkie talkies are prohibited and luckily this pass had some mobile network, so Krupa somehow managed to contact the team telling them to get her backpack to Nichnai pass. Then they hired a tent and made this girl sit so she could wait for her backpack and go back in the horse. She was also giving an update about the brother sister duo to the ground team. Later we came to know that every trek group of every trekking company, 4-5 of them were being sent back like this on this particular trek. Mela guys Mela! 😁
We spent a considerable time in the pass and it was now all descent to Vishnusar. Krupa gave her oxygen tank to one of the guys who was taking some essentials on horseback, he had space and she did pay him. Later I could see the guilt on Anwar and Shaukat’s faces as they came and asked her if she needed anything. She quietly said no need it’s ok, the tank was already on it’s way down. Deepu heading the kitchen team gave them a good sounding off, that’s why they came to Krupa with a sheepish look. Krupa later told me that they were not used to taking instructions from a woman, it was not in their culture. Uttarakhand, Himachal teams were pretty much open, but Kashmir, that was a different story.
Saying goodbye to his cousin, Sanskar came to the front. Face completely fallen down, he must have cried too for his eyes were red. This was his family and now he was alone. I held him and so did Bhim. We told him not to worry, there were so many here who would take care of him. The kiddo was so emotional, and later I would know was a kind and caring lad. A heart full of love and naïveté that is rare nowadays.
It was a descent alright all the way down. From the rocky barren boulders we were descending to absolute green meadows to a stream, we still couldn’t see Vishnusar lake which was not visible from this campsite, we would have to climb a little higher up from the campsite to see it which we would later in the evening..
To be continued on Monday! Have a happy weekend ♥️