We sat around Khush for a bit as we were waiting for the others to turn up. Khush then made the announcement, he would have to leave soon to get his leg checked, it was bad, he had to go to Uttarakashi and do a thorough medical check up. This was such a downer. Poor guy! He also mentioned that he trekked down at a point because it was so steep and he was sure he would lose his balance being on the mule. How did he manage to walk down?? This kiddo had determination!
Before the others trickled in, he asked the five of us, as to what was most memorable, as in what did we discover in ourselves. I remembered my answer clearly as I said, I truly missed my friend Bhim, I was fighting that feeling of pretending not to miss him, but I was in every way and how good it have been if he experienced what we did, he was family to me. Khush wisely said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that you met him on a trek and how someone becomes family?’ It was true, the family you are born into is something you don’t have a choice, but the people you meet are the ones whom you chose to make your family and for me that is precious than a bloodline.
He also said another trek leader Purvi was going to come and take over from him for today evening. While I knew it meant a debriefing session what I and most of us didn’t realise was how out of joint the session would be. Especially because we didn’t know this girl from Adam, and there was no connection with her, we felt like we were in a ‘school’ with a teacher questioning us. When I still think about it, oh man we could have spent as a team being together one last time but after that session we splintered because we had enough of this.
Anyways coming back to present, Atulbhai was waving at us getting the rest of the group. And they sighted something else at the temple itself. Two viper snakes right in front of them!! But what was outmost sad was Atulbhai killing one of them.. Gayatri was broken by it and so was I, why.. this is their territory.. Atulbhai’s logic was no no better to do it.. that was something that pulled us down. When will people get sensitised towards such stuff.
After we all gathered, Khush rounded us up and spoke about each one of us applauding us and in my view this was a perfect session and a conclusion to the evening. He was our trek leader, he knew us, we knew him, we formed a bond and this was more than enough. He would be leaving soon, Aditya – the slope manager was on his way to pick him up. It was a bitter sweet goodbye.
Whatever it might be, Khush had a big heart and all he needed was the wisdom and the experiences to make it to his full potential as a trek lead. He had also sweetly given his trek pole to me at the beginning of the trek as mine wasn’t working, and his trek pole had changed hands and how, I ended up with someone else’s, only Khush could figure out which one was his as I frantically started searching for it! 😁
After eating some snacks and having chai, we were told we have to assemble again at 6 pm as Purvi would be here. All the girls got the same accommodation, the one when we arrived in Bhangeli and that was such a comfort. The beautiful smiling lady got us Chai as we asked for it. I remember the next hour went by with Gayatri, Kavya and me packing our backpack and keeping it ready for tomorrow’s long journey back to Dehradun. The entire team was ready to start off by 7 am the next day and it was a long drive.
Finally we got Hot water!! That half bucket of hot water for a bath after 7 days was like heaven! It didn’t matter if the clean Bathroom didn’t have lights, that sheer feeling of water soothing the aches and pains were enough.
Vrinda was getting worried that she would get late for the ‘session’ if she waited to take a Bath, we assured her that it’s ok, chill, we are not trekking anymore and this is not a school, everyone would take their time and sure enough by the time we were there by 6.30 pm, most of them hadn’t turned up yet.
Gayatri was all praises for Dhruva as he was there with her most of the day, watching out , going ahead and checking the trail, turning to see if she needed help, giving his hand as support as she descended, he was one caring guy, quietly doing his bit without a fuss. Some heroes are not upfront about it, they do it quietly unassumingly. She was also complimenting Jayesh saying he looks like such a tough guy but really very sweet, and such a gentleman and soft spoken. Many a times he would check on her to see if she was ok and needed help. The quiet ones are the ones that make the difference don’t they?
And then.. the session started.. Tell me, how could we ever connect to Purvi as she went about the session? I don’t blame her but she could have made the session ‘short’. The moment she said, ok let’s start with day 1, right from the beginning, what did you do? Seriously? Devraj rattled on each moment, like we did this, we did that. Gayatri and I were fed up and behind us I saw Korak with a frown and my friend Darshan was reaching his wit’s end.
This session could have been handled differently, if the girl knew it or had some maturity and experience. As Gayatri said, it felt like a corporate AGILE WORKSHOP! The time could have been spent with just us all as a team and hanging out atleast for some time if the session was kept short! But in the end this is my view and I stick to it. She said she led the first batch of Gidara Bugyal which of course they couldn’t go further than the first campsite so the last batch which was after us, she would lead it again.
And here is my two pence of experience I am going to share which will hurt people but I have to say it. If Indiahikes is assigning 20-21 year olds to ‘Moderate – Difficult’ treks like these, seriously they need to look beyond age and fitness. What these kind of treks need are managerial skills, handling a motley group of people from different age groups and experiences. And that comes with time. They can lead treks like Kedarkantha, Dayara bugyal, even family treks until they get that experience to form their own identity and use common sense and maturity to handle situations. It was again parroting Indiahikes orientation.
We groaned big, if the guys had the time to go out, get some local food from the village. We would have thoroughly enjoyed eating together that one meal! Guess what, it was 8.30 pm, yes freaking 8.30 pm! That last night when we could have been together, went for a waste! And the food! That same food, I barely ate, so did Gayatri and a few of them didn’t even eat.
The others hung out I guess but Gayatri and I pronto went back to our room roling our eyes at this. Like what the hell is this? It was truly time to give a break from Indiahikes, yes it had changed since when we first started trekking and yes the reality is that change is constant. Gayatri minced no words when she said, ‘ In the end it’s a corporate organisation’. And I agree and nothing wrong with that either. From the meals to everything was ‘standardised’ like a factory norm. And let me be blunt! The food is BAD! No one admitted to it but it had gone worse. A few of us spoke about it later on our journey back to Dehradun. A few of us had the guts to say it was bad!!
In the 4 treks I did with Indiahikes this year, only the food at Pin Bhaba was good but then KGL was so bad and it. continued with Gidara Bugyal. I don’t blame the kitchen team because they will cook what they are told to do and trained to do. But some serious issues happening here where they really need to employ a consultant/ head chef that can plan and execute meals that has some taste based on the region. If you think am being unreasonable so be it, but if you want to take this as a feedback and reflect genuinely it will help you in the long term.
Once we got into our room, I went into a laugh riot, with Gayatri giving her feedback with sarcasm and wittiness ! I remember rolling on the bed with laughter recollecting with her the events. Atleast we got an hour of laughter after that session. One thing was clear to both of us, it was time to move ahead from group schooling kind of orientation that Indiahikes was becoming known for. Also we had major issues with the number of people Indiahikes put in a batch. For me KGL was one big lesson, taking on 25 sometimes 33 people like a herd! We talk about sustainability and not polluting trails but what was happening here then..
I am talking this straight out simply because I have seen it over the years. Indiahikes is still the safest organisation to trek maybe, but instead of being in a conflict within me, it was best to take a nice break and chose them only if I had to do difficult treks. But then again I saw the numbers for Goechala batch this season and it was 20-25 per group so yeah a big break for sure. Maybe I need that time to explore other options.. And what I did was, the moment I reached Dehradun I cancelled ‘Kuari pass’ I had signed up with them, no voucher business or carrying forward anything.
And I had to write all the above because frankly it has been simmering inside for quite sometime and I had enough of being diplomatic, if certain experiences were not nice, I better say it and let it out.
As we retired for the night, we didn’t know till the next day of the journey that our guys actually got to visit a rad place, an air bnb in the small village and spend a late night there!
Plus we had the hot springs we would go to tomorrow enroute!! We were slowly inching back to reality tomorrow.. To be continued 💙