Besides the wilderness of Dokrani campsite were the incidents. A few of the mules wandered all the way up and the porters had to rush up to get them back. And all the way up is exactly where we would go and yes, another ascent which Khush assured wouldn’t be too high up nor taxing. As he mentioned clearly, this would be the only day where we would get a respite and probably a relaxed day and boy was he right! The next two days after this would be a thriller I assure you of that!
As we saw another beautiful sunrise in Dokrani sipping our chai, Darshan was unimpressed with the trek so far. His last trek being Sandakphu Phalut in January 2019 which is one of the most beautiful treks with views that could take your breath away, naturally his expectations were high. I kept telling him not to ‘compare’ no Himalayan trek was the same, actually even that trek which you did before, even if you did it in again in the same season wouldn’t be the same. And that was the most contradictory and beautiful thing about the Himalayas.
Darshan was understanding that too, that it would be unfair to compare and yet he couldn’t help himself feeling disappointed. A keen photographer with a penchant for outstanding portraits I liked how he looked at people through his camera lens, capturing something that was not outright visible with the naked eye. It was not just the inner beauty of a person he captured but also an unseen emotion we hide from the world. I vividly remember the pictures he clicked of the people in Sandakphu, unseen stories came out. And his landscapes was something else. In one instant, one could feel it and experience it. He had that quality in him.
Darshan too was getting fed up with the schooling and timings and lectures and interactions. And I again reiterate this. People and most of them get away from their cities to come to the mountains, to get some silence, reflections or even to be still. The team lead has to assess it, be a keen observer and not bundle up people all the time, but to know when to give space for others to be themselves and honestly most of us didn’t get that space until we were kind of forced into it. Like stop here, sit for 5 minutes by the stream and do nothing.
This was an orientation training coming straight from Indiahikes, and one could do it differently, see the moment, the mood, the energy and implement it. And Khush didn’t have that frankly. Call that his age or inexperience, his over enthusiasm or not observing it, this comes over time, not parroting Indiahikes training and do this and that at this time. Why I am saying this? It’s because I hope he learns and observes, takes this feedback positively because my intent is only one thing, that it helps him when he leads other teams. It is not about who is the fittest and could lead, nope, again it goes back to ‘Managerial skills’ and it is primarily that when it comes to handling a bunch of people coming from different corners of the country with different age groups.
There were also several faux pas, I understand the seriousness of AMS – Altitude Mountain sickness, and Indiahikes has drummed it into everyone to take a preventative medication like Diamox. But in the case of Gayatri it was not necessary. In fact utterly unnecessary.
The moment she reached the campsite, she had a full bladder and so did I, the toilet tents weren’t set up and it was challenging for the kitchen team because it was raining hard and the poor guys were cutting down the high grass and making a space for it. It took a good 1.5 hours and then she got a headache, not a severe one either. When he checked her oxygen readings it was not alarming either. This is where mistakes happen. Immediately diamox was recommended. She kept telling me, he should have waited for an hour or so and checked, because it was her system, the pressure of it, the waiting that was causing her digestive system to build up and that caused the headache. Totally unnecessary.
Here is where patience matters to observe again which didn’t happen. You can either choose to believe that you know everything or let go and say it’s ok, I don’t know it yet, let’s wait and see. And sadly for Khush it was mostly, I know it all. And that was a downer.
After we got ready, we ascended our way up and over towards the bugyal. And after a gradual ascent walk after the steep ascent we were suddenly surrounded by a massive bugyal. The weather being very cloudy, the entire place was surrounded by mist. It looked ethereal. It was so filled with mist that one couldn’t see any mountains in front of us. I kicked off my shoes and walked the whole bugyal barefoot. I just wanted SILENCE. This constant chattering was bugging me. And I did see a few who were exactly like me. Korak who went far away to be on his own. Jayesh who quietly moved away clicking beautiful pics, ditto with Darshan, Gayatri also walked on the bugyal being in her own world, Devraj taking out his diary and sitting away.
I moved as far away as possible from the remaining group where Khush’s voice was still being heard regaling stories of mountains, rescues and all. Well it was his job to do that but I felt that this was the time when he should have let the group do what they want. A few chatting with each other, some meandering around, some laughing loud but just let them be. He needn’t be with the group all the time other than checking if they were safe. He could have spent that time talking to the guides, being with them. And that truly helps the trek lead a lot.
Because honestly it’s the guides who know the trails, who keep us outmost safe. I saw the strong bond that develops then between the lead and the guides. I saw Akshay my previous trek lead and the technical team having such great respect and affection for each other. Ditto with Tirth, or Himanshu or Imroz. And it didn’t go unnoticed among several of us that we saw few times Khush arguing with the guides on our trek. We spoke about it among ourselves at the end of the trek. Too many differences happening there.. Not a great sign, it stems from either over confidence or inexperience again.
As I felt the moist grass and earth under my feet, I was blissed out in every way. Where does one ever get a chance like that in our lives? To feel the energy, the vibrations of the ground we are born and eventually die on? At times like these, I go back to the mortality of the puny humans that we are. From earth we come, and to earth we go. We come naked into the earth and we die naked.
No materials, homes, money you take with you, not even your loved ones, no way. You are alone, and it is not negative at all. You are alone and that is the beauty of it. Death is the only real thing and I tell it in the most positive way. And what we do in between is mostly noise, so can we do something that is memorable and has some quality in it? That’s the only question I ask and try to implement it every single day of my life.
After a good walk and dozing off to sleep looking at the mountains it was time to move towards Thalotya campsite.
And it was a pretty campsite right by the flowing stream. Khush told us to layer up as it was going to get cold and it did. We were finally going to get a hot lunch even if it was without salt or any taste it was ok. It was hot! Finally we got the chance to be by ourselves! Gayatri and I were dying to read our books, and finally we did!
She was sitting in the dining tent while I got down towards the stream, found a space in the rocks and slept for a bit, totally blissful sleep. I was reading Nimsdai Purja’s ‘ Beyond Possible’, this man climbed 14 tallest peaks in the world in 6 months while the guy before him took 7 years. But this book was not about conquering or setting records but absolute human stories and Nimsdai was an extraordinary man with the kindest of hearts and full of compassion. I truly thanked my friend Bhavik whom I connected with during Kashmir Great Lakes trek,for recommending this book. Kavya asked me if I read the Kanchenjunga chapter, I didn’t but when I did finally, I cried big. All I can say is it’s a must read.
I went looking for Gayatri and she was in the dining tent, it was getting cold so we decided to go back inside our tent. Darshan too was sleeping in the dining tent and we didn’t want to disturb him. He had claustrophobia when it came to small spaces and the small tent given was giving him sleepless nights. He really tried hard I must say this. After Sandakphu when he felt claustrophobic he thought it was a one off incident but this trek told him outright that camping in tents was not working for him.
As we came out Khush asked us if we wanted to listen to stories! sigh.. no boss only silence we need 😊 we politely nodded No and got a good reading done in our tent. Shourya, Abhishek were playing cards with the kitchen team and guides and were bonding big time.
Later in the day, Khush thought up some game so we could know about mapping. I am not going to give any importance to it so I am not writing about it either! It’s how it is. I could see rolling eyes and smiles between me, Gayatri, Darshan, Korak and a few more. It was school and preaching 😁
Later that evening as Khush told stories of AMS, Hape Haze, I could see Sarvotam getting worried, certainly not the moment to say it when we knew we had a long 13 hour trek starting at 5 am tomorrow. And SUMMIT DAY!
Summit day in a Bugyal?? Seriously? Plus we were told we had to cross the freaking freezing stream barefoot at 5 am! Fuck! Little did we know that would be the least of our problems that day and a roller coaster ride of thrills and injuries! And an injury that was unnecessary!
To be continued on Monday! Till then have a great weekend ♥️♥️
PHOTO CREDIT – MANISHA