Once we reached the campsite and set up our tents, Krupa was down and out, the punishing day took its toll on her and she decided to rest up that afternoon and evening, that was the only way she could make it through the next day.
I wanted to check on her but understood all she needed to do now was lie down and get some privacy so I would ask about her to our guides or the friendly Deepu who headed the kitchen team. After settling in, Bhim and I looked at the clouds, it was dark, drizzled a bit and we kept hoping the buffer day would not be used during this trek. Buffer day FYI is the usual norm on long treks like this. Himalayas were raw, wild and of course had unpredictable weather. Especially when the pass crossings were in the trek, as one gained a higher altitude anything was possible. If on that unfortunate day, pass crossing was difficult then it would mean that we have to try the next day and that meant an extra day just in case.
In Kashmir Great Lakes, the unpredictable pass crossing would be the last pass- Gadsar Pass on the second last day of the trek, because from the campsite there would be atleast 2 kms of huge boulders trek, not walking but climbing up and down on it and if it rained, it would be precarious. By the second day , Bhim and I were hoping the buffer day should not be used as we wanted to go the peace and quiet of the houseboat in Srinagar. The group had already got on to our nerves with their yak yakking. We were in a conflict, constant conflict within. Breathtaking views, in nature, in the mountains along with noisy groups, and I don’t mean just ours. Because of its popularity, the campsites were filled with other trekking groups.
But I must say this, experience is experience. Indiahikes team made sure they took a spot away from the rest of the herd as much as it was possible. We would be thankful later for a lot of things Indiahikes did and are doing compared to the rest of the lot.
It was almost 5 pm, and Shaukat and Anwar bhai told us all to follow them to Vishnusar lake, it was a climb up a little away from the campsite followed by a descent to the lake. The moment Bhim and I reached the top, we held our breath and gasped! Was this real? How do I describe this? The most beautiful lake I ever saw in my life surrounded by the mountains. Tranquil, still and deep. The colours were blinding! Unlike anything we saw in our treks so far.
Bhim was very fatigued, he was a little breathless and sat at the top saying no way was he gonna descend down to the lake because it meant coming back up! So I went down, took a space and sat in silence. Our loud mouthed group were scattered and the real loud ones were yet to come, so I could sit in quietness for some time.
Vishnusar is considered holy so everyone including the locals are forbidden to touch its waters. It felt good to know that people were following it. Some things should not be tainted especially by humankind.
From a hot sunny atmosphere, the weather did an about turn and became very cold, with bad wind chill and cloudy. I stayed as much as I could and when I saw the trigger happy selfie lot becoming louder I came back up and told Bhim that we can head back.
As Bhim came down, I could see his face pulled down, suddenly all energy was sapped away from him. He kept saying ‘headache’ that instant I knew it was AMS( Altitude Mountain sickness), a common syndrome that happens in high altitude. I could see him saying, It’s because I don’t have much water, the acceptance of him being hit with it was not registering with him. Hey I have gone through the same, not just with AMS but this tussle that keeps happening.
You would think that doing so many treks meant we are permanently adapted to the mountains, but no, nature works in the strangest ways to teach you a lesson, pulls your ego to sub zero level and watches you as you struggle. And that’s exactly what was happening with Bhim.. It was tough on him that he couldn’t believe he had AMS. He had done Goechala in the dead of winter without a tablet- Diamox- a preventative medicine that high altitude trekkers usually take. He did Rupin, Roopkund, how can it happen to him?? Yeah my friend, we have all been there.
I told him no matter what he had to inform someone, with Krupa resting, it would be the guides or Deepu. He played it down completely not telling about it to anyone till evening, it was his journey. He decided to sleep it off thinking that will help. Water and sleep was enough. What do I do? I felt helpless. I knew he had AMS yet he had to come out with it and the only way he would know was to take his Oxygen metre reading. He even had fever and it was not looking good. I informed Deepu and the guides, I had my dinner and was taking Bhim’s dinner to our tent. It was also not advisable at all to take any medication on his own. Krupa and other medically trained trek leaders knew how to address this. But now with her not being there, it was upto Deepu, honestly what could do the guides do?
They only said don’t worry let him eat food and sleep and he will be ok. But he was not ok! Luckily Deepu said he will come over to take his readings and he will pass the info to Krupa and see what medication he can take. This was turning out to be one stressful day after the other. I was really worried about my buddy because in all the treks we had done, I had never seen him go down like this. I only hoped he would recover.
He even said I don’t know if I have the energy to trek tomorrow. Oh shit! Would he be ok? The weather was bad, very windy and cold with rains on and off. It is not a night you look forward to when you are sick and in a tent, I know that feeling..
Deepu came, checked his readings, it was plummeting alright, he had fever. Bhim already took one Combiflam so it was not advisable to take Diamox immediately, we had to wait. All I was doing was checking his breathing, believe me, if one starts wheezing it means it is bad and he has to descend back. Luckily he was not, he had a pounding headache, extreme fatigue all sure signs of him being hit with AMS along with fever.
After a considerable gap I gave him diamox and watched over him until in the night Krupa came to the tent. I asked her if she was better, I was worried about her too. As it is the guides were talking as if she wouldn’t be able to lead the team and they would take care of us and we still had 5 days to go! His oxygen readings were not improving that much but Bhim was feeling better, but very tired. He had a taken a full strong dosage of Diamox and would have to be on the same medication like a course till the trek ended.
That night, with the huge thunderstorm, lightening and bad weather all I prayed for is my friend’s recovery. I would on and off check if he was breathing or wheezing. In the dinner tent, that was the first thing Deepu told me, to see if he is breathing normally in the night. At some point in the night, when he was in deep sleep I checked his forehead and he was sweating, the fever was gone Thank god! Now it was his fatigue, and headache. His breathing was normal and you have no idea how thankful I felt. I knew he would be alright.
Bhim too would get so many lessons the morning he woke up, about himself. And it would be because of the mighty Himalayas.
To be continued ♥️