The route back or is it

The next morning was sunny and leisurely. We unpacked our tents and packed our gears and we had to take a group photo, granted it was not at the pass but I guess we did what we did and it was destined.

And then.. we could see Nanda Devi in clear visibility, the very reason why I came for this trek. It’s so ironical that she was shrouded in mystery for the days we were trekking being lodged in only one campsite. There were supposed to be ‘better views’ if we had gone onto other campsites, and yet here she was at the only campsite we stayed at, she was crystal clear. I bowed to her with a full smile. I knew I would get to see her again and again for the rest of my life.

Avishek finally got that sleep, that hard sleep he craved for 4 nights. He looked better and as he said he was pumped with painkillers to get through the last trek of this journey.

I decided to be with Avishek and Anshulbhai as they started off. The rest of the group were at leisure now that we had plenty of time, they were chatting nineteen to dozen. I wanted to give company to Avishek.

Avishek and I started moving with Anshulbhai. It was lovely, the walk back as we chatted about the his life and goals, Mumbai during lockdown times, his family. Behind that lightheartedness was a thoughtful and caring man. Very practical and sensible, he was committed to every aspect of his life. For me, this was the most enjoyable conversation I had on the trek.

Trekking back over melting snow to wet trails with full sunshine we were soon approaching the lush outskirts of the village, the whole scenery opened up, green pastures with the benevolent Himalayas with its arms open wide. How could I explain to anyone who doesn’t trek what it does within when you experience contrasts in just a few days..

We reached the point where the vehicle was waiting to take us to Joshimath. Avishek and me had a good one hour and more before the rest turned up.

I looked at the mountains ahead, there were no more thoughts like , ‘ I will miss this’. I knew then I carried the mountains within me, it would always be with me. Nanda Devi’s presence was felt throughout my journey.

The group finally came about and in no time we reached the guest house. Settled ourselves in the same rooms. After a hot lunch, most of them were going about their stuff. I wanted some quiet time and it was getting cold so I took a nap in the afternoon.

By evening all of us decided to visit Narasimha temple for the evening Arati( prayers), Meenakshi joined us along with another kitchen team member.

I remember the debriefing clearly, it was short, lovely and every team member clearly explained how it was for them. As for me until I shared in this blog about my state of mind before the trek, I didn’t say anything except that it is best to accept what Himalayas offers us.

I remember Meenakshi stressing on fitness and it was important. To reach magnificent raw landscapes meant you needed to work for it. Lots of hard work, and it was in your hands to decide whether you wanted to keep struggling and gasping or be determined enough to work on yourself so you can actually enjoy the treks.

Yash was constantly asking Meenakshi about which trek is ‘easier’ for the next one he planned to do. Brahmatal or Kedarkantha? And she wisely kept repeating, it was not about easy or hard, he had to make an effort to get fit, to get stamina and endurance. As I said before, no one can have it all. You can’t keep eating junk food with zero or low physical activity and say I am like this only, I won’t change and I also want to do Himalayan treks.

That evening we sat for evening Arati, all of us in front of the deity and it was different and beautiful. There was also a big family who had come from the Kumaon side to do a special puja, their ‘kul devta’ – main deity was Narasimha and they were asking for repentance. Our country had such lovely culture and customs individually and as a group. I reiterate again, we can keep our unique identity and be together too which by the way we have been doing for thousands of years.

As we were doing our Pradakshina( circles) around the temple which is the usual norm, we saw a tree where lots of red coloured scarves were tied. These were tied by those who had a wish to be fulfilled and once it was fulfilled , one had to come back and untie them, it could be any one of them. Promptly Meenakshi went to the temple and got a red cloth, prayed and tied it to the tree. This gal was not abandoning her identity or faith. She was herself. For me that is ‘cool’.

After that, we had a long walk back to the guest house and Meenakshi and I wanted to eat some momos! The rest were meandering and some left, while Yash just sat down. Kshitij and Harsh went in search of pani puris as they saw a vendor.

The whole group was gearing up to enjoy a late night with lots of scotch 😊 Avishek was like I need a drink man and promptly picked up a good bottle of scotch for the group. What I liked was that the TTH team was ok with it as long as it was in their rooms. The trek was done and so it was fine! Oh man if this was Indiahikes there would be no smoking or drinking till we reached back to Dehradun/ Rishikesh. Live a little folks!

Meenakshi was such a cool gal, she only said we had to get out at 5.15 am the next day to avoid traffic jams in the construction points en route to Rishikesh. Just be ready in the morning to move out. After 9 am it would be chaos, we had to cross that area before 9 am. That’s it.

Meenakshi and I had a lovely conversation, just the two of us over Chicken momos and soup. It always pleasantly surprises me, as to how much of our personal lives we shared in that one hour. Talking about everything under the sun. And she was a straightforward girl and pure at heart. She was fun to be with. Simplicity trumps over everything else I tell you.

I wondered how come she , a proper gal from Uttarakhand had a lovely name that is so South Indian until she told me her family’s kul devta was Lord Shiva, that explained it all. 😊

It was time to call it an early night, well I called it a night because opposite my room, the whole group congregated drinking, laughing, talking beyond midnight. I smiled myself to sleep.

Until much later I got woken up with Garima entering into the room and it was around 11.30 pm. Since I was awake now I asked her if the party was over. She said nope but she was tired and the boys were getting boisterous so Nikshep told her to turn in. And for the next 20 minutes she regaled me with what all they were talking. We laughed so much as she told me the kind of stories they were sharing. Yash doesn’t drink, he was just drinking Coke yet he seemed more drunk and loud than the others with his comments 😁By the time we finally slept, the boys were already getting into nice ‘desi gaalis’ ( how do I say this? swear words/ curses?) This was a good journey.

To be continued 😊

That morning – Photo credit – Nikshep and Shivam
One of many! Photo credit – Shivam
PHOTO CREDIT – KSHITIJ
Nanda Devi from Gulling top campsite
We make our way back
That first green open pasture as we reach outskirts of the village

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