Today was going to be a short trek, yup short one of 6 kms, the ascents would keep happening and that was a foregone conclusion.
Chandra was feeling much better, so she decided to carry her backpack and Nishant encouraged her to do so. As he put it, this will be the only day to relax, rejuvenate and stay put. The other good news was that we would spend 3 nights here. Yup, which meant dumping our backpacks and taking small backpacks for the next two days.
Nishant told us to take it easy today, real easy, we needed to conserve energy for the madness that would happen after this for the next two days. None of us were thinking about it, or tried hard not to. Already he updated us the weather was expected to turn around with some rains and that was not good.
The path to Pangarchulla was filled with huge boulders and the big reason why this particular trek had such a short window was it had to be covered with snow for us to trek. Rains meant the snow would melt away and the rocks would be real slippery. This was a technical ascent through and through. Seriously we prayed every moment for rains to not hit us, but then who are we to ask for ‘good conditions’? Whatever she gave us, we had to take it and get through.
We started trekking into the forest, such a beautiful forest with Rhododendrons blooming everywhere, this was the season for it. The perfect season, as we took in everything around us, well we thought we did until..
Nishant brought us to a stop and told us we were going to spend quite a bit of time in the middle of the forest. Told us to keep our backpacks aside and relax. He asked us what all we observed as we were trekking through the forest. As most of them said birds, the clean air, silence, the mountains he said we were missing something very significant, the trees..
All our lives right since we were born, we are surrounded by them, we don’t even acknowledge their presence forget appreciation. We had done so many treks, went through so many forests but did we ever touch a tree? Feel it’s bark? It had its own world wide web and was so connected and intrinsic to everything. He told us to spot a tree any tree that we wanted, and touch it, sit near it, even give it a hug if you wanted to, thank them for their presence and what they have been doing for thousands of years.
For me, this would be the most important moments of the entire trek.. truly.. The summit and all was different, THIS MOMENT is something I hold onto the closest in my heart.
As I sat near the tree and held it, I thought of the moment when my mother passed away, within days of doing her ceremony I ran away to Bangalore, anything to get me away from people who knew me and my loss. I remembered walking with my friend Dinesh who silently took me to Lalbagh to a particular tree, the African Baobab tree, the upside down tree and revered as the Mother tree. It had a giant opening and I went in and curled myself and cried for hours with Dinesh holding my hand and let me be.
How dare I to forget my indebtedness to her? To them? To all the trees? To those that gave me shelter, gave me pleasure, made my heart full, be that in India, US, Europe or anywhere I travelled around the world, I would seek parks, nature and I remembered how the moment I landed in Stuttgart, I told my Aunt I wanted to sit where the trees are.. She found it funny and yet came along with me as I went around touching them. How could I forget all this..
You know, in our egos and illusions of having done so called treks or connecting with nature we forget how selfish we are, we are no better than the man in a rat race wanting to make more money. We think we are better or more aware, nope we are not. Something so significant in our lives we didn’t acknowledge.. This for me was the biggest take away from the trek.
And am very grateful for Nishant doing this, truly. He is one of a kind. 💕
I felt the lightness of being as I did that, it was tears of joy.
There was absolute silence in the group for sometime after that, something shifts inside, we don’t know yet. Stillness is the key. Instead of talking non stop, just silence let’s you know a lot more about yourself, who you are. And Shahji quietly said in the beginning as we sat down, ‘ Can we all just be silent for sometime’?
Slowly we made our way towards Khullara and the whole scenario was different for me this time. December last year we were struggling to reach Khullara with knee deep snow and strong winds and the whole place wrapped in snow seemed eerie and deadly. I saw the spot where we took a shelter to rest and eat a bit before we could make the push to Jhandi top. And now? It was warm, inviting and so pleasant. Lush green landscapes with flowers! Nature always shows you nothing is permanent but it’s us stupid humans who believe and keep hoping for permanence.
We reached Khullara for hot lunch and again Chandra said she threw up but it was just water, try as she might to convince herself it was ok, we knew it was not ok. The litmus test would be when we would do an ‘acclimatise trek’ by doing the entire Kuari pass and back the next day. Yup folks that was our acclimatisation walk! For Kuari pass itself was a whole another trek altogether, but we were dealing with Pangarchulla, we had to keep pushing ourselves.
Khullara campsite by this time was filled with other trekkers. There was a private group near us, nicely smoking away and maybe even drinking who knows. Then there were Trek The Himalayas groups – both for Kuari as well as Pangarchulla. I was eager to meet Anshulbhai, he was the guide for Kuari pass when I did it with TTH. I went and asked around too, but he was nowhere to be seen. Disappointed I came back. I felt really happy when Nishant told me Krupa would be here later with Kuari pass group.
I had the opportunity to trek with Krupa as Trek leader for Kashmir Great Lakes in August last year. In what was the worst batch I ever trekked with in all my treks, she was a shining beacon keeping it altogether, we had bonded very well and since then kept in touch catching up on each other’s lives.
Meanwhile momentum was building up among our group. There was nervousness, excitement about the next two days. I swear that we became a bundle of nerves by next day. Nishant, Suraj and Uttamji constantly looking up at the skies, weather watchers, plus getting info from base team. We only hoped Himalayas would bless us, whatever it might be, if it’s totally bad weather no problem, we would take it, she blesses and we bow to her.
And then came along NIMSDAI! For the ignorant folks Nimsdai – ‘Nirmal Purja’ or NIMSDAI or NIMS as he is popularly known as is a living legend. A Nepali and a Sherpa lineage, he joined the British special elite forces and only in 2012 he took up climbing the Himalayas. And then he went ahead and did it. He summited 8,000rs peaks – highest in the world – 14 peaks covering Nepal, Pakistan and China occupied Tibet. And all this in in 6 months + while the previous record was 7 years!
Now what does Nimsdai have to do with us puny ordinary folks?? Well most of us had heard of him, either by reading his book – Beyond Possible or watching his documentary on Netflix – 14 peaks. Well what can I say we worshipped him and with it came loads and galores of jokes by my trekmates 😁
John started off so many memes, then added on by Aussie boy and making it funnier by the minute by Mahesh as the days went by! Oh gosh there were so many since that evening, even Nishant could not control himself laughing seeing our craziness!
Most of us didn’t get into our tents and we would spend the whole afternoon in the dining tent, relaxing and chatting. There are so many that it’s tough to recollect. Here are a few, John’s classic ones- ‘Nimsdai descends to acclimatise‘, Nimsdai requires a Carbometer not an Oxygen meter’, ‘Nimsdai treks Pangarchulla in his slippers’, ‘ Nimsdai requires only one song in his playlist to trek Pangarchulla’, ‘ When Nimsdai trekked Pangarchulla, his wife issues a divorce notice’ 😂😂
They couldn’t stop and we couldn’t stop laughing either, our bellies ached with laughter and Nishant too, he couldn’t keep it in. It was also maybe our nervousness about the next day and the day after that, we had to somehow distract ourselves. And another element was added to it thanks to Aussie boy!
He was dating an Aussie born Tamilian girl and he was learning some words to charm her, and who were the culprits who were teaching him?? Bala, Shiva, Mahesh and Chandra! Chandra was still trying earnestly but the other three were unbelievable making him believe that using ‘Vijaykanth’ would actually help him score with the girl.
Vijaykanth for the uninitiated was a popular hero of Tamil Cinema in the 80s known mostly for his big belly, huge belt to cover up that belly and loads of make up as those were the days when all South Indian heroes, whether it was Tamil, Telugu or Kannada looked like that! Garish make up, double meaning dialogues and fight scenes and dance songs 😁
So the guys went around coaxing him to say all kinds of words while Chandra was sincerely telling him to learn a few sentences in Tamil. And our Aussie boy with his OZ accent with Tamil to boot sounded so cute trying to speak in Tamil! That whole afternoon and evening was amazing, letting our hair down, and having the time of our lives.
To be Continued 😊