We started our first day and we were a small crew. Our guide was Anshul Bhai, a tall pleasant quiet man who would be in the front and Meenakshi would be in the last. That’s it. As all of us were carrying our backpacks, the kitchen staff had a small team of carrying provisions and all.
We had to first drive to the point where the trekking would start at Tugasi village. I remember a hilarious scene when we were being driven to the trekking point. Meenakshi pointed to some peaks saying this was called ‘Sleeping beauty’ and it was, as quite a couple of them seemed like the face of a woman, all of us saw it except Nikshep who was drawing a blank. He was like, where where!? I can’t see it! Each one of us pointed it out to him but he was reaching a dead end! Until he said he was searching for the shape and body of a woman sleeping ! We all laughed out loud! Trust a guy to see it that way! 😂
It was going to be a short day alright. Our first camp was Gulling top. The vehicle was supposed to drop us to the upper side of the village but there was road construction happening so we got down at the lower side of the village and started off. The first 1 km was road followed by an ascent through the village. It was sunny and chilly at the same time.
I remember being mostly with Anshulbhai and Dhairya giving me company with his friend Shivam behind us. Of course there is always that first day, always, no matter how many treks you do.
I was lost in my thoughts as I walked, I looked back and saw my trek mates taking it easy and I must tell you this, none of them made an attempt to wanting to be in the front nor try to overtake each other which is very rare believe me. Through my treks, I have seen so many of them trying to be faster or ahead than the other, egos swell atleast in the first two days. What I liked about the group was that each one of them were somehow aware of their abilities, there was no showmanship here and that was a welcome relief.
The ascent kept happening until we crossed the village, there were some gradual trails but since we were trekking nearly 3000 feet high in one day there was breathless and gasping for air ascents. The clouds seemed clear but Anshul Bhai wisely said it will turn during the evening.
And on another important relevant note, I loved it when Meenakshi said she wouldn’t ever advise Diamox as a ‘precautionary’ measure for AMS until and unless it was truly required. The team discouraged it thoroughly preferring natural methods like hydration and layering up. For the uninitiated, diamox was a pill used to give to people suffering from altitude sickness. Indiahikes would scare us with stories and actually insist on starting on a course as a precaution. This was refreshing to me. And like Meenakshi said, listen I am there, I will take care of you guys, do not worry and diamox is definitely not required!
We were going at a good pace so Meenakshi told us to take it easy, there was no rush and to enjoy the views. Looking around me, I could only feel overwhelmed by it, the year 2021 was so transformative in every way. My buddy Bhim was the only one who knew about my struggles and making a resolve to transform myself. This was my 5th trek and the last one for 2021 and I felt very thankful for life giving me the chances I took to make it happen.
It was not easy getting to where I stood right now, like anybody else I made mistakes, took risks, most of them failures, some successful. It might look like I was ‘lucky’ to get into trekking or having a life I chose. Why am I saying this, it’s because I am often asked, how? How? I can only say one thing. You have to give up something to get something else. I won’t call it sacrifices, nothing lofty, I call it a choice.
If you think you want a big house, property, lots of money, stable job, family, social life, security AND ALSO want to do this, then it won’t happen. No one can have it all. But can you be content with it? Having the above mentioned might or might not matter, but what matters is living a life you chose and take accountability and be responsible for it, I took mine that’s it.
The weather was slowly turning now, not that sunny anymore as we were ascending, the clouds were not dark yet, but the chill increased. The team was enthused and kept asking Anshulbhai and Meenakshi if they could get to experience snow at the pass. Little did we know that there would be an overload of it! I, for one couldn’t stand snow. Living in New York amidst snowstorms and seeing how dirty the snow turns, I bore and groaned my way through it. But this time Nanda Devi ensured I saw a different side of it 😊
We were at the campsite by lunch time and it was a lovely campsite at that. We could see Nanda Devi, smaller yet she was around gracing us with her presence and above us were the forests which we would trek tomorrow.
Meenakshi let us be, she gave us ample time to be by ourselves, also the 9 of us were pretty comfortable and bonding with each other, so she didn’t feel the need to make us sit together all the time. And the food is just amazing at Trek the Himalayas! I was so happy when they served bread and omelette!! Every day we had 3 options for breakfast and that says a lot. Good, nutritious, delicious food without a fuss.
And most of you know by now, my take on ‘No sugar’ chai or no sugar on anything and from day one, the staff and Meenakshi made sure I got my chai and herbal water without sugar. It matters, it truly matters. What I was also impressed was that a week before the trek, the coordinator sent us a sheet asking if we wanted anything specific to be made and if we had any ‘allergies’ to food, later when I mentioned to Meenakshi that I couldn’t handle gluten food she said that if I had mentioned it, they would have made gluten free food for me! I mean what can I say?
Through the trek Dhairya pulled my leg left and right on the no sugar thing and guess what the kitchen team did for me. They made delicious desserts every day and every day they would make the same dessert for me without sugar, yes! Right from Kaddu ka kheer, to Rice and Semia Kheer to custard with only fruits! I swear I was emotional whenever they got me my dessert every single day. That’s truly caring guys.
The weather became ominous by evening, clouds darkened but we could still see glimpses of sunset and even hoped for a starlit sky, but it was turning and how. It was windy, the wind chill was cutting us hard. I had the privilege of being solo in the tent because I was the odd one out, not a good place to be especially when another person in the tent really helps raise the heat up and keeps it warm. Me with my sleeping bag and backpack would toss and turn and feel the biting cold!
Meenakshi appraised us about tomorrow’s trek but she also said we wouldn’t know anything until next morning. And was she right!!
Exactly around midnight I heard that sound.. something falling hard on the tents, first slow, then hard and fast.. this was not rain, was it snow?? Freaking hell it was!! And it went on and on and on!! Was I in a dream? I was somewhere in between a dream filled sleep and tossing and turning in my bag hoping for more heat. It went on and I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up with a start to some voices, what time was it? It was 3 am and Meenakshi and the staff were shaking our tents vigorously to remove the snow! Man! It was snowing hard and these guys were ensuring each and every tent didn’t clamp under heavy snow! And they were shovelling snow making paths in freezing temperature. They were at it the whole time.
After 5 am I couldn’t sleep anymore and I had to attend nature’s calls, but I was too nervous and excited at the same time to open the zipper of the tent to see what I was about to see.. Because it was freezing it took me some time to open the zipper and what was my first glimpse? A winter wonderland of snow!
To be continued ❄️ ❄️