As we started making our way up through the hamlet, through rough concrete steps that made way to the trail, all I said to myself was, ‘Here it goes again!’ It had been 2 months of back to back treks for me and here I was doing one more, shaking my head to the craziness I had in me.
Wishing that these concrete steps end and the forest trails start, we took a tiny break at the temple, where the ‘Kul devta’ the community’s local god resided. Beautiful, indigenous we looked at this massive tree covering the entire temple. Atulbhai in reverence said this tree must have been here thousands of years ago.
His forefathers and prior to that have seen this tree standing like this. God knows what all it has witnessed, the follies, flaws, battles, challenges of the humans. And maybe even laughing at how stupid and regressed we had become. From being in tune with the nature and connected centuries ago, we are as far away from nature than we have ever been and that was the tragedy of it all. Neither Covid nor wars had changed human kind one bit..
From the temple, as we ascended our way from the steps and stepped into the forest trail, my heart felt good, of course the initial breathlessness and heaving and panting also came in. It was the usual. First day of the trek and the body gets into a shock, the high altitude plus trails that keep ascending, it is addictive I tell you! Every single time comes the why? Then you know why! 😊
We made our way trekking ascending and it was only ascent through and through. Khush had mentioned the previous evening that the previous batch that started the season after two years break couldn’t go beyond the first campsite because of heavy lashing rains. It was late monsoon in Uttarakhand this time and the weather played havoc just like it did all over the world. The question was, would we be able to break the jinx and hope for good weather? Crossing my fingers I could only pray that nothing untoward should happen, but yes in Himalayas one thing I have learnt is to ‘surrender’, a complete surrender of yourself to it, then amazing things happen.
I also noticed a pattern in my trek mates. Barring a few, most of them were ‘walking fast’ or moving fast. Why I still don’t understand even after having done so many treks.. What was the hurry? To either be in the front or be ahead of everyone else? Let me tell you Trekking is an endurance sport, just like a marathon. It requires patience, a complete letting go of the ego, of not competing yourself to the ones around you. Yes sometimes, you feel disappointed by your pace, that you can’t keep up with the others but it’s ok to be at the ‘last’, but our conditioning keeps telling us that last is bad, that ‘following’ someone means you are behind.
I saw Devraj rushing ahead, Deep moving ahead, Mohit, most of the young guns crossing ahead and smiled to myself, they had a long way to go to understand the spirit of trekking, to not compete, this was not about who gets first. According to me, the good pacers were Gayatri, Ram who was fit and was ahead but kept a good pace, Korak, Kavya who paced well and who cared enough for others to go ahead if she was slowing down. And that truly matters. Shourya would be in his own zone moving behind to ahead.
And Abhishek was something else. He was the fittest of all to be frank. Being the boy of the hills, this was his place and having done 16-17 treks on his own, it’s easy to show off. He was aspiring to be a trek leader with Indiahikes and applied for it and for the first time he was trekking with them to Experience it, to learn, so he was always at the back, or in the middle, talking to the guides, to the people helping around. I never saw him ahead except to check on others during the trek. And that’s commendable people. You can either be a Mr.Know it all or be a caring person, and he always chose the latter.
Gayatri and I would smile and look at each other throughout the trek when we would see the younger lot rushing forward, it was their youth right now spurring them to be first, but did they have the discipline ,consistency, commitment towards fitness, to be aware, to do it for the next twenty years like we did or were trying to do? Only time would tell and it was their own journey. The couple Jayesh and Manisha, whom I would briefly interact with later,were pacing, slow and Sarvotam who was in no hurry enjoying everything that nature offered around him. Dhruva was another chap I truly enjoyed talking to later that day. That guy had stuff in him, silent observing and helpful which we would know much later.
The terrain was breathtaking and the trail was very steep, wet, muddy, full of slush, slippery and I mean real slippery but we wouldn’t know it would get worse as days went by. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall stream with a wooden log as a bridge as the group stopped to take pics. With the usual ‘push ups’ challenge and drinking water from the stream which is the norm for Indiahikes we made our way up and above. The weather was going berserk with ominous clouds to a little bit of sunshine and maybe, just maybe it could rain. We hoped there would be no rainy days, the terrain was damn slippery. And the Himalayas loomed large with the mountain Srikant standing out bigger and closer with better views.
The birds, the whoosh of the wind, the terrain is something that can fill up your heart, here is where we belong in every way, no wonder the heart wanted to visit again and again. The lushness of the scenery just takes you in. It was all worth it.
And then the first slip happened. I noticed Vrinda giving it her all to be in the front trying to keep pace with Ram and the other fellas and she was walking fast, big steps, really big forward steps, and because sometimes I was behind her I gently kept reminding her to take small steps, look forward, set a pace, but the more difficult the terrain became, the bigger steps she was taking losing her energy. and slip it was, she fell on her butt in the mud and slosh, the team helped her get up, the pain would be bad, although it could have been worse, but it took her 3 days to actually slow down because of circumstances and not rush to be in the front all the time.
One thing trekking taught me is to be more tolerant and understand why people do what they do.. The Mountains gets you inside, brings all that is hidden inside you, everything that was locked up out in the open, and it is difficult to confront it, for anyone. Darshan was walking fast trying to keep up and suddenly stop breathless. Many a times Gayatri told me that she kept telling him, not to do it, to go at a rhythm and pace, slow or fast it truly doesn’t matter. I tried telling too. What it does and I tell it for all trekkers in general, the people behind you get interrupted. Everyone has a pace and rhythm and one has to respect one’s body, their fitness levels and never ever try to keep up with anyone.
I know I have been stressing on this so much and if you get offended, truly I don’t care because it is what it is. A little less selfishness and more self awareness goes a long way in enjoying the journey you signed up for. For in the end, it is a team effort, people need people, that’s one lesson we got to learn.
Korak had a collateral damage altogether on the first day, the rubber padding that’s under the shoes that gives the only strong grip that is a must while trekking in the mountains gave up! Oh man, how was he ever going to trek for the next 6 days?? That too in slushy, slippery, super wet trails?? But trek he did and how!!
The steep ascents notwithstanding, the lush openness took your breath away, with the mountains as a backdrop and omnipresent giving us glimpses whenever we felt tired. As we reached the campsite finally, we were glad to kick off our shoes and relax. It was a beautiful campsite with small streams, mules grazing and Khush congratulated us all for reaching the campsite on time.
Gayatri and I camped in together and I was surprised that Indiahikes was again back to keeping 3 people in a tent, why? Considering the COVID thing it was always better right now with 2 in a tent. When I asked Khush he mumbled something about 14,000+ feet altitude treks had 3 in a tent 😁 Well well, what was KGL – Kashmir Great Lakes trek then which I did last month? We had 2 people in a tent. But I let it go. The girls could get two in each tent luckily.
Later that evening Khush had some random question chits which we had to pick and sit with someone whom we never talked to. I instinctively picked Dhruva because he was unassuming, quiet and I wanted to know him, not these question games. I was impressed knowing he was into Earth Science and was now applying for masters and his field of research meant one day aspiring to work with NASA OR ISRO. When he described his love for the earth and wanting to study further of the surface of Neptune, it blew me away! Intelligent, a very intelligent guy with a keen sense of understanding. I I truly enjoyed talking to him.
That night as we retired, Khush had prepared us saying tomorrow was another day of ascent, all ascent and no respite. And right at night, it started raining and I mean nice big rains with thunder and lightening somewhere at midnight! Oh man this was gonna be something tomorrow right?
To be continued ♥️