We woke up to a very muddy wet campsite in the morning and to a glorious sunrise too. Even before the wake up call was sounded by Atulbhai, most of us had woken up for the sunrise.
Making our way into the slushy mud with our flip flops/ shoes we stood gazing silently at the mountains and the clouds. It was very cloudy, damp and wet and what we feared was there in front of us. A complete ascent to the next campsite that no one knew how it would be. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the first batch couldn’t get through the route and had to go back to Bhangeli base camp. And whatever dry conditions we hoped for was a goner, the terrain would be really slippery.
We were waiting for our usual Chais/ herbal teas whatever. Here is where I make a small point where experience comes in. And I am telling it with all honesty and candidness. I don’t take sugar of any kind and it’s a lifestyle I follow, it’s a choice. And in the previous treks in the base camp itself I requested for tea without it. I will give you an example. In Pin bhabha at the base camp, I simply asked the kitchen team if it had sugar when they replied yes and I turned back, Akshay Upreti the trek leader noticed it and signalled the kitchen team to stop putting sugar in the chai henceforth. From that day onwards, every time the tea was served, there would be a separate bowl for sugar kept aside for everyone and I remember my trek mates saying they could chose how many teaspoons to put in, it was better that way. Same with Kashmir Great Lakes, where Krupa did the same.
Here, I could see poor Atulbhai running back and forth for my one chai which made me feel so guilty that I started going to the kitchen tent to request for it. Gayatri also mentioned that the chai was so sweet every time she could have preferred adding her own tsp of it. This seems trivial but really it isn’t. It’s about being aware and knowing what to do.
When a sincere effort was put ahead to ensure people following a vegan lifestyle were taken care of every time, this could have also been implemented. Much later we came to know Mohit also didn’t take sugar but the poor chap kept quiet and kept drinking sugar filled chai until he came to know it was possible to ask for it.
Let me tell you that’s what also is required of a team lead, to know, to listen to be aware of it. Why am I singling this out? Because when one talks of experience and a certain maturity, this matters. For my previous trek leads like Akshay and Krupa who had to manage more number of people, they really knew what each one wanted and made it accommodating for everyone. And they ensured that. It might rankle some folks but it must be said, truth must be told, and the lack of anything must be put forward isn’t it?
Moving forward, we got set to trek to Dokrani, it was sheer ascent, and I mean sheer. As long as we moved from the meadows towards the trail, it was gradual but it was only so little until we took a water break. The people with Pradeepbhai was Ram, Vrinda of course, Devraj, Deep, me and Korak with Kavya closely behind us. When we were waiting for the others, the kitchen team was moving ahead and then we saw! Goddamn it! It was just a sheer steep ascent all the way to the top and the ascent continued after that! God!! Just looking at it demotivated us. Then I remember saying let’s not look all the way up,just look ahead and keep walking, baby steps that’s it.
I still don’t know to describe it, but imagine this infinite greenery around you and this wide steep ascent filled with wild trees and bushes surrounding you. Along with it being a steep ascent, was the wetness, the mud and slush and the thorny bushes in your way! It was tough, damn tough. Breathless, and with no sunshine with the clouds above threatening to rain, we could only pray that it didn’t rain and we didn’t have to use our rain ponchos! Rains in the Himalayas is something you shouldn’t encounter guys, definitely not in the wild. The trail becomes treacherous and as we sloshed our shoes in every step on a super narrow trail with thorny bushes on both sides, all you can do is gingerly pray that nothing untoward happens.
That was the first time I interacted a bit with Ram who was constantly looking up at the skies and repeating, I hope it doesn’t rain! Deep too whom I was getting to know had quite a sense of humour with his comments and was also very giving. Out would come his snack packets which he would share. Korak sweetly gave me his entire dry fruit packet, it was big and since he couldn’t keep pulling it out, he told me to keep it so I could share it with everyone whenever there was a break. It was truly lovely slowly seeing people coming together and sharing. Korak is one chap whom I feel is the coolest guy of the trek, plus we shared a commonality that no one knew. Him being a bong, and me being a Malayali meant a shared bond and love for food- particularly Fish, football, music and as he put it what both our communities had – Communist ideology! 😁 I told him, your folks have mustard oil and my folks had coconut oil but everything else was the same! I shared my love for Calcutta with him talking about the various places I visited when I was there as he suggested me so many more.
With such precarious trails, it was happening bit by bit, a cut here, a bruise there, these were thorny bushes almost to the chest level with a very narrow trail ascending in puddles, and I mean puddles of water with soft mud and very slippery. I can tell you for sure that most of us had cuts and bruises by the end of the trek, just that there were far more serious injuries happening to people.
We stopped at the lunch spot, a tiny cosy one and we had some sunshine, like that little bit of it on and off and after eating our packed lunch, a few of us dozed off. I went off like a light. To sleep like that, on the earth with mud, leaves, even horse shit surrounding you is a blessing I tell you. After quite some time, and a good break Pradeepbhai gave us some comfort saying there would be no ascents till we reached the campsite.
It was not an ascent yet the trail was pretty slippery and the famous so called ridge we crossed. For the uninitiated a ridge means a narrow hill top in a mountain range, where you get to walk on, the other side were the massive mountains, with a sheer drop and with clouds enveloping around it, it seemed like we were in another world! And at that time when I saw the other side filled with blooming yellow grass and flowers and this side was the enigmatic Himalayas, I took a deep breath enjoying the silence of it.. until.. Khush went on talking,’OMG! Guys stop and look at this’, and he went on about describing the landscape. Sigh.. the guy was enthusiastic for sure, and must have been truly going ga ga over it yet I felt the silence would have been good.. Each one has their own way of enjoying and taking it in.
I didn’t want to wait and I truly didn’t want to talk, so I moved ahead trying to get away from it all. Korak was behind me and that guy was trooping on like a force, with no grip on his shoes how was this guy doing it? And being so nonchalant about it?? He would even take all the praises heaped on him and shrug it aside. But I ciearly remember what he said when we were at the ridge. He said, I don’t care much about the views, it’s my mind, it’s blank, it’s nothing and that’s what I like! My admiration went up a notch with such an honest statement. Each one comes with what they are looking for and this guy was straightforward enough to say, crap the views, and scenery and wows, am here for what I believe in. I later told Gayatri, he is one heck of a dude, a no nonsense one at that.
When we finally reached the ‘campsite’ and I quote this because this could have been the smallest campsite I have been in. Considering the wild terrain and it was drizzling with dark clouds it’s a wonder the team could actually put up tents! Literally the tiniest campsite and since no one had been here, the guys did a commendable job of cutting the 4 feet high bushes and thorns and making a space!
All our tents were at an angle, and getting out meant that the other side was the valley side with a slope. Yup! Was it fun then? No! Getting out was a challenge as the terrain was so slippery that one could have a bad fall. The amazing part? Of course the views! As Gayatri and I opened up the tent flap, was the view of the range. But every single time, as our tent was the first one, we could hear our trek mates slipping, shouting as they crossed us. And oh the toilet tents, to get there meant another task. Wading through wet mud and reaching there meant walking in a weird way and praying hard we don’t injure anything. This was getting fun by the minute 😂
It was raining and by this time Gayatri and I were groaning. Don’t get me wrong but after doing a certain number of treks with the same organisation, it was monotonous for both of us. The same games, the same orientation, the same chit chat, we both had outgrown it. She was here because of a voucher she had to use and ditto for me. Was it time to move on from this? Definitely it was as we discussed it in length about it. Plus it also meant we needed a break to do something different.
We also had a deep conversation about our families, about our fathers we lost and I remember fondly even now how connected we felt mourning our loss as both of us were extremely close to our fathers. Whether it’s 2 years or 13 years, the pain will always be there for the loss of a parent/parents. The void is huge, like a big gaping hole, as I told her, it doesn’t get better, ever, but we can only handle the pain better, bit by bit and I remember us having tears in our eyes reminiscing the loved ones we lost..
And this one thing I always cherish during my sojourn of treks, to connect with those one or two in every trek and I know it is for a lifetime. That’s how I feel with Gayatri, a bond and friendship that will last long ♥️ This is how we motivated each other from that day, just 2 more days to go! Little steps, one day after the other, thinking about the hot tasty food we would get to eat one day, sleep on a bed with some warmth is how we made it through it all. It’s not fun and games people when you are out there.
Moving on, it was tea time, then dinner time then Khush asked us to say something about the good moments we remembered about today. I remembered only one thing, sleeping on whatever was available and dozing off with not a care if the sun was hot or weather was cold.
Don’t you realise then that our problems back in cities are so bloody trivial? What do we fight for then really? Whether it’s with our families, spouses, partners, friends, colleagues? Why? We are so insignificant in this universe and completely replaceable.
If human kind could realise this even a bit, that we don’t really matter so much, that our self importance comes from a super inflated ego and illusion, we wouldn’t be so fucked up nor fuck up the world.
To be continued ♥️