The weather had changed by now, no longer was it sunshine post lunch time and whatever hopes we had to reach the campsite by 3.30-4 pm was dashed.
It must have rained heavily when we were up and away because by the time we started descending and ascending, the entire terrain was sloshed wet and way more slippery than when we came here first. One challenge after the other, and you must understand that by this time we were all pretty down and out with only one goal in mind, to reach the campsite before the rain pounded on us.
Kavya was in front of me along with Pradeepbhai, Deep, Devraj would come and go, Mohit would keep up and of course Korak. For the next two days it would be us in the front, pacing ourselves. And I truly enjoyed pacing with Kavya, she was a true Trekker. Watching out, pacing at a good rhythm, we would chat on and off, with each other and with the others. It was just lovely. The silver lining was that everyone paced well, moving towards the campsite.
Ram had decided he would be at the back while descending, and it was justified, because the descents are where maximum injuries happen, the entire weight on the body is on the knees, one small negligence and you would fall/slip hurting pretty badly. It didn’t help that the terrain was so wet and muddy. All I remember of that day was how tiring it was.. 9 hours of non stop trekking and we had atleast 4 more hours to go, the end wasn’t anywhere in sight and that’s when it happens, your senses are dim, your reflex actions are not that strong, the exhaustion is taking over, all kinds of shit going on in the mind and body.
I remember entering the dense wet forest with the foliage and the muddy slippery trails, it was very challenging. Still somewhere hope prevails, even a tiny bit that the big thing was done with, now it was time to head to the campsite and relax with some hot chai!
But fate had other things in mind.. The first injury happened to Khush right at the now empty Dokrani campsite. And honestly I don’t know how to describe this, it was an injury that shouldn’t have happened. We were ahead and reached Dokrani which seemed so different now. We couldn’t believe the space was so tiny! How did the kitchen team make it into this wonderful campsite. And Indiahikes was right, the place was as clean and pristine as it should be. Other than the high grass getting cut, there was no evidence of a campsite, nothing. And that part Indiahikes should be applauded for. All toilet holes closed up, peg holes for tents closed up, zero waste, a patch of land was left as it is. Commendable!
Gayatri and a couple of others came in and we were waiting for the rest. Now remember the way from Dokrani to Thalotya was a steep ascent so naturally there was a steep descent back right? And what we see? Our man Khush comes running, and I mean running down with his 25 kg backpack, we see in shock as he slips and falls right in front of us, and his ankle twists!! It happened in a matter of seconds and there it was, a bad fall where I literally saw his ankle twisted to a side! This was bad!! Why was he running in the first place? There was no emergency, it was a freak accident and a bad one at that! He tried to play it completely down saying it’s ok, he is fine, he didn’t want us to panic maybe, but I feel if he had expressed how much it really hurt, it wouldn’t have worsened his injury further.
Trek leaders are not invincible, accidents happen and that’s fine. But I wonder what he was thinking, he just started trekking with a limp saying am ok it’s just a sprain! Oh gosh! In hindsight when I think about it, I feel like shaking him and saying, ‘Dude, what’s this you are doing??’ You are bloody injured, you don’t need to act strong!! If he had acknowledged that he was badly hurt, something could have been done. Using the walkie talkie to get the porters to get a mule to take him down. He completely played it down that guy. But I give him benefit of doubt because he must have thought it was a sprain, yet his enthusiasm took over him, thinking being the trek lead he shouldn’t show it. And I don’t blame him for that.
As if that wasn’t enough, the terrain became even more slippery, freaking awful slippery with those thorny bushes, low lying trees the works. Kavya almost slipped even though she was pacing and safely keeping every step, there was no guarantee really what could suddenly make you fall.
And Korak was trooping on! While almost all of us slipped and regained our balance, this man was still managing so far without a grip on his shoes on this terrain. He was strong and I truly believe he had luck on his side too. Thankfully nothing untoward happened to him.
As we were trekking up and down, descents and ascents, Deep kept on joking, chatting with us. It was a good distraction not thinking of the terrain in front of us. It was a welcome relief really. The body was out of sight by now, pure adrenaline and only the mind was making us robotically move forward. And this is what it is. a sadomasochistic way we put ourselves through pain, there is something to it when we push our physical limits to the maximum thinking ok, can we push it a little more?? And I feel that’s what I love most, even though I hate to admit it. To push that limit where it’s really excruciating to a little bit more.
The weather had turned for the worse with full mist around us, every footstep became precarious, we were sloshing in wet mud with our shoes sinking down, but we kept pacing on and after sometime the entire team splintered into groups. With Khush walking slow there was no way he could have gone back and forth checking. Pradeepbhai was in the front with us and now with Khush’s injury he had to navigate and wait for the middle group too.
At one point at a very wet descent and mind you the valley side was a steep one with thorny bushes, Gayatri, Korak and Devraj were not too far behind us. Kavya, myself and Deep were descending down when we heard a scream! And what we saw got our hearts racing! Korak, Devraj, Pradeepbhai were looking down! Where the hell was Gayatri?? Then Korak shouted she fell hard towards the valley side!! OMG!! How far did she go down?? And we saw Pradeepbhai going down and Korak kept shouting, Khush!! Khush!!!! And he started saying It’s a fracture!! FUCK!! All kinds of scenarios were going in my head as Kavya, me and Deep rushed back up. How are we going to evacuate her? How bad is it? Omg! How do we inform her mother, husband and children??
As we reached towards her side, we were relieved to see her sitting, she was in complete shock and shaken. I mean who wouldn’t be? She fell towards the valley side damn it! Being the strong woman she is, she said don’t worry, I had a bad fall but am ok now, I am in shock hence the nausea. She wanted some chocolate, something to bite into to get back into her senses. It was a really bad fall. For all her pain, she kept assuring us not to make a big deal of it and she would be fine, just that she needed time.
After some time she got up and she was in such pain I tell you, she was limping bad, really bad and Pradeepbhai carried her backpack even though she was protesting she could carry it! This woman I tell ya, I admire how she grit and bore the pain. Pradeepbhai told us to keep moving and to not wait for her, because right now with the darkness yes darkness would slowly set in, we were pretty much off the mark of reaching the campsite in bright light. The terrain and the weather slowed us all down and with the injury and casualties happening, it was important that we keep moving. No one wants to be in the forest trail once it gets dark.
The exhaustion reached it’s peak. We were dead tired, added to that injuries and slips and falls, we couldn’t move faster either thinking if anyone of us had an injury this would be a big burden on the team, no not now. It’s ok if we reach late, we don’t stop, we keep moving and moving we did.
Deep was ahead making sure he could see the trail and warning us if it got slippery, he was very caring. Always shouting out, Hey guys be careful, this rock is slippery, watch out for the branches. Only one goal in our mind, to reach the campsite and to see those yellow tents from Indiahikes that would give us some relief.
After what looked like eternity, Deep saw the yellow tents through the mist and yelled Guys we are almost there! It was a very steep descent down but we could see the campsite and that was heartening. Finally Kavya, Deep, me, Devraj reached the site and just flopped on the ground removing our shoes. Now the next task was to keep watching up for the others, especially Gayatri, how was she doing? And we had one more excruciating descent day back to base camp tomorrow. Gosh how was Darshan and Khush managing this? This was harrowing!
As we kept waiting, finally we saw Gayatri taking support from the trek pole and slowly descending. Once she came down and relaxed she told me how guilty she felt for Pradeepbhai to carry her backpack. I told her to shut up! It’s ok, she was injured and she could have worsened it by carrying that load and who knows another slip would have happened!
She told me that the moment she fell to the valley side, she thought THIS IS IT, AM DEAD! Life flashed in front of her. It gave me shivers when she said it. And knowing her, she kept making fun of it saying, Can you imagine? At that moment I was thinking about the fall I had during Har Ki Dun trek and then I fell!! And later we made fun of Korak so much for being so dramatic 😊 But really we made jokes and let off steam just to get over what happened! Pradeepbhai was like Khushbhai will shout at me for not watching out for you people, I was ahead, I should have waited. We kept assuring him this happens, how could anyone avoid an accident? With the trek lead himself down, it was ridiculous to think Pradeepbhai could be everywhere.
Atulbhai came down and when one of the guys told him about Gayatri, he let out another shock, Jayesh slid and fell down the valley side where his shoulder and back of the neck hit a rock! FUCK!! What was this? I hadn’t seen so many injuries in one trek so far! I was like Wah Gidara Bugyal no wonder you are so secluded!
Gayatri was limping but feeling slightly better now that she could rest up and we gathered in the dining tent waiting for the others. The last group came in around 6.30 pm, yup in Himalayan time that’s pretty late. Everybody was tired but also a big relief knowing we were all safe albeit injuries.
Gayatri and I kept saying one last night in the tent ya, tomorrow that warm bed and blanket in Bhangeli guest house! 😊
Atulbhai was regaling us with the events and Abhishek was cracking up loud 😁 His comments were priceless! Jayesh kept laughing inspite of the injury saying the way Atulbhai ran when he heard a sound of him falling and sliding all the way down! As he was in front of Jayesh he thought it was a big rock tumbling down and kept running for dear life 😂
The way the entire team joked about the spate of injuries was a solid factor uniting us all, there was so much optimism around, so much laughter now that the Gidara Bugyal part was done with! Gayatri and me were laughing loud about random stuff we experienced these past few days. Khush set up a first aid box, literally what we called a ‘Clinic space’ where my mates were waiting for their turn to get treated 😊
I must tell you that no matter what the entire mood was upbeat and filled with laughter. Every person who was sitting in front of Khush getting treated was getting some funny comment or the other. Khush himself wound a tight bandage around his ankle. The group became mini groups with Gayatri, Atulbhai, Korak playing cards while I was chatting away with Dhruva, Deep and Dheeraj. Sarvotam was having a big smile and relaxing totally while the others were chatting about. It felt so wonderful looking around.
Khush joined us for sometime and I asked him about his life, his calling and all. I still remember him saying, “From my first moment of consciousness all I wanted to do was make a difference in peoples lives, help them”. Big words for a 20 year old kiddo yet it was earnest and he meant it in every way.
I know that one day Khush will become The Trek Leader to look upto in a few years. He had it in him but he would have to learn lessons the hard way. He had to create his own identity, he would have to reach that point where he would be able to balance representing Indiahikes to being this amazing unique trek lead which comes from his own learnings. From experiences, from mistakes, from admitting to making mistakes and learning from it, and that applies to all of us too. The day we admit to our mistakes, learn from it and grow from it is when we move ahead and age has nothing to do with. Young, middle aged, old doesn’t matter. We got to let go.
We decided not to go back to our respective tents and to finish dinner and crash to sleep altogether. Suddenly there was a commotion! It was pretty dark and Sarvotam, Devraj came panting saying we saw shiny eyes, it’s a leopard I think! Though we tried to rationalise saying no it’s a fox man! They clearly said no no there was too much gap between the shining eyes, it is not a fox and it was hovering right behind the tents!
The porters, kitchen team immediately went into action searching for the animal. It was not good news because the mules would be it’s target. And the porters were scared, the mules were their livelihood, one gone meant 3.5 lakhs rupees gone. Yup that’s the cost of a mule. Abhishek went along with them and recorded whatever he could when they scouted. The kitchen team confirmed it was a leopard so the porters decided to sleep in the dining tent and tie the mules there for safety. Poor guys would be watchful the whole night.
Everybody got shit scared I tell ya! It was raining again and the toilet tents were at the edge where the forest started and that’s where the animal was sighted! No one was going towards the toilet tent and looked for spaces outside to finish their business!
I asked Kavya if she would join me as I just couldn’t go in the open space in the dark, she said she managed to finish her business when no one was around nearby. So I went to the toilet tent in the rain all the while with my heart thumping like crazy! No one was outside, with all of them in their respective tents. I was joking to myself in my head, if I were to be mauled by this freaking animal what an embarrassing news line it would make! Woman mauled/ eaten alive in a toilet tent no less 😂😂
I remember coming out gingerly trying very hard not to make a run for it, no sudden movements and literally once I came towards my tent, I opened the zipper and dashed face down inside 😂 The things that fear makes you do!
What a day and what a night! To be continued ♥️