I landed in Rishikesh to an extremely cold and rainy day. This was also the first time for me to be in Rishikesh during winter.
The skies were ominous with a drizzle as I settled myself into 60’s cafe waiting for my room to get ready. I remembered being here last with my friend Bhim post Chopta Chandrashila trek in April ‘21. We had vowed to come here again and stay in their hotel. Being die hard Beatles fans, we were impressed with the place. This was an ode to their life, music and the ambiance was completely in the era of the 1960s.
This time I had chosen a different trekking company, Trek the Himalayas. I wanted a change, a change from the preachy school going lectures that Indiahikes had become and the last trek Gidara Bugyal with them broke my back. And I felt I should try other organisations. To my pleasant surprise the pick up point the next day was their office which was just 200 metres away.
After checking in I decided to visit the old market side of Rishikesh, the weather was so moody and dark, this was a different Rishikesh, a new side of it for me. Fewer people on the road, it felt different.
After having a good lunch at Vishal Bhojanalay I made my way towards Triveni Ghat to have a glimpse of the Ganga in the afternoon. This was one place where I never missed Ganga Aarti in the evenings since 2017 but this time I wasn’t in that moment to witness it. It was really cold and all I wanted was to get back to the warmth of a room. How was I ever gonna withstand the cold in the Himalayas? I hated winters, but I signed up for it, so I might as well get through with it.
I walked all the way from Old Market to Tapovan taking in the sights and smells, in silence, I felt a blankness mixed with deep sorrow, it was just what I felt. And I was glad I was alone with my thoughts.
I had an early dinner and slept till I groaned and woke up around 5 am. Through the night I could hear the rain on and off and it only meant one thing, if it rained in the plains it meant snow up in the mountains, this was going to be fun alright!
To be honest I was down and out when I landed in Rishikesh. I had almost cancelled out on this trek. I had gone through a terrible loss, something very personal which if I still think about it hurts like hell. Death is so real, so on your face. And all I wanted to do was curl myself up and lie deep 8 feet under the earth in darkness. Was it me or was Rishikesh reminding me of that darkness? I don’t know but that’s how it felt inside me. I had this heaviness in my heart, my tears had dried up but the pain was hell fire inside.
I wasn’t looking for healing but I was looking for silence, complete silence and to not meet nor talk to anyone I know, yes, that’s exactly what I wanted. Sometimes the company of strangers might comfort you more than the ones you know, that’s the paradox of it.
As I was reaching the office I saw a guy sitting with someone. He was Avishek, a Bengali from Bombay. He had done Kedarkantha with trek the Himalayas in 2019, and after 2 years he finally got time to do this. An out and out Bombay guy, with the ease and coolness, he was really friendly and open, then walked in a couple, Garima and Nikshep who lived in Bangalore, followed by Yashvardhan, a giant of a man from Bombay again and later on would amuse us the most with his comments and opinions, an absolute entertainer.
One by one the trekkers walked in and it felt so different this time. No eyeing each other, no big crowd, in the end it was just the 9 of us and a big relief it was, I could be within myself and yet talk to this group not forcing myself.
And then came in a gal, absolutely with a fiery energy, she helped loading gas cylinders, supplies with the staff into the van! Like truly no nonsense not wasting time, carrying heavy duty stuff with ease and placing it in the van. Instantly I knew she was the trek leader and I was delighted. To see women being trek leaders while there are very few out there is amazing. Meenakshi! A beautiful name isn’t it? 😊
We got into the van and set our way out of Rishikesh, it was foggy, rainy and the driver, oh the driver! What can I tell you about him? he smoothly drove fast and strong over foggy weather! Like in darkness, in complete fog with no visibility. What bonded us all was Yashvardhan’s funny comments and him playing Mission Impossible theme music whenever this man glided through with speed over foggy roads! He was our very own Uttarakhand Tom Cruise with his smooth driving moves😁
There was also Dhairya who had come with his best friend Shivam, an easy going friendly Gujju with one of the most infectious laughter I have ever heard, he had the experience of Hampta pass along with his friend. While the rest had one experience of a easy trek or someone like Yash who had done Sahyadri treks but never a Himalayan one. Most of them were beginners.
There was also Harsh and Kshitij, a gujju and a UP guy who finished their studies at Benaras Hindu University, it was so charming to see Kshitij address his friend Harsh always as ‘Gujju’ 😊 Kshitij I realised later was equally passionate about mountains and nature as a whole. Articulate and soft are the words I think of when I remember Harsh. Here was a good group, unassuming, no fuss and small. God knows I was dying for this. A small one with no white noise.
We would be reaching our base camp Joshimath soon enough..
To be continued..