When you go for a trek for the first time with an organisation like Indihikes or Trek the Himalayas you have no idea what you are doing. You show up at the base camp all flustered, looking around for someone to help you out with your highly overpacked rucksacks and the first person you see gives you a weird look and you realise that that’s actually your job. So you drag your stuff to your room come out surrounded by complete strangers who are also arriving and who you will be spending time with for the next week. That’s how it was for my family and me and coming in our own car with the number plate of Gurgaon didn’t help at all because of the reputation Gurgaon and Delhites have. After spending time with the same people for 500km drive from Gurgaon to Lohajung (the base camp) you really want to talk to someone else. So things get better when you start socialising and breaking the judgements other people have already made about you. It is best to do that because you will be stuck with these people so might as well have fun with them! After the briefing and introductions people either get petrified by High Altitude Sickness or start freaking out because they’ve got too much stuff in their rucksacks. So the start isn’t that fun especially when you’re leaving for the village called Wan from where you start trekking and they don’t let you sit on top of the jeep !!!
The first day is the hardest you go up and down and up and down your legs hate you for it. You walk through 8km of forests for 4 hours with the tiniest fraction of sunlight reaching the ground, you can hear the sweet sound of Neelganga, the stream flowing through the midst of the small valley you’re about to cross. You can hear the birds and insects, arguing or singing – we will never know. The sky was a wonderful shade of blue with patches of pale blue mixing with darker brighter hues, covered with patches of white.The sun made all the colours look deep and bright and it was a beautiful day to start the journey with. One of my favourite things is the way the sun shines through the leaves of trees -really calming for some reason.
We stopped at Neelganga and replenished our water sources. The water is so sweet and cool – it’s better than any RO.
Because of different walking speeds you’re walking with different people the whole time and so you end up talking about a lot of things. The first camp site is Ghaeroli Patal (10200ft) which is in a small clearing in the forest. And everyone is so happy just to get there because everyone’s tired and everyone just wants to lie down in the sun and sleep but you aren’t allowed to do that because you need to acclimatise. Either way people find other ways to entertain themselves by playing cards and talking or just taking pictures of the surroundings. In the evening our trek leader checked our oxygen levels and that turned into a major competition. I am proud to say that I never got below 90 which is more than what I can say about my marks! This one guy took it so seriously he was always seen with a bottle of water right before the oximetry readings were supposed to be taken. After that we all sat down and just chatted and everyone had gelled well by then.
The first night of sleep is nonexistent. All night you toss and turn because your legs are going “whaaaaaaaaat?” Because of the amount of walking which is something they’re not accustomed to but it’s ok because it’s only for the first night.
Excretion is probably something you’re worried about and I’m going to tell you to chill it’s a forest you’ll manage with a hole in the ground I mean that’s what we started off with right ?
The second day we had to wake up at 5:30AM and the only reason I got out of that warm toasty sleeping bag was the ginger-lemon tea. We walked over meadows that day and by that day everyone got their identies, Hemant the selfie addict, Ishan the photographer, Gaurika aka ghodika (don’t ask) and so on. We took a pit stop at Ali top and it was cloudy so our trek leader was a little upset but I thought it was amazing because you could see nothing but clouds and it seemed like we were flying through the sky on one small chunk of land. There is one massive piece of rock there and it is said that the person who can lift it is pure of heart and everyone tried but only one person succeeded which was one of the guides named Kundun. We saw a horse and a joey there and the joey had a itch on his back and was rolling all over the place trying to get the right spot!
It took us around three hours to cover 5kms.
People went around telling jokes and puns. Some people posed a bunch of riddles.
People tried taking those photographs in which everyone jumps and is in the air and failed miserably !
After that we proceeded towards our second camp site Bedni Bugyal (11700 ft) which is kind of at a precarious spot, it’s on this small shelf on the side of a mountain. This was when my mom got titled the ‘wise one’ and our food stash was revealed, with achars, chutneys, banana chips and god knows what not. Everyone fell in love with our red rucksack of food. Kundun Ji graced us by singing In his frankly legendary voice and amazingly sweet voice and we all just sat there listening to him. He would sing while we were walking also which is an amazing feta considering none of us could even breathe!
The third day it started becoming cold and foggy and my signature cat cap came out.
The terrain was very different now – thin paths at the edge of the mountain and big rocks started coming our way Some of the paths are basically mud and rock which really hurt to walk on but it’s totally worth it. We walked for around four hours.
We reached our third campsite, Pathar Nachauni , which was quite similar to Bedni Bugyal except instead of a sheer drop we had another mountain and a small stream flowing in between which was where they got their water. There is an interesting story to how Pathar Nachauni got its name. Apparently a king was getting dreams to go on a pilgrimage for Lord Shivji and finally he gave in and decided to climb Roopkund. Being a King he travelled with an entire army of people, which included his pregnant wife and dancers for entertainment, however there came a point after which women were not permitted to go but the king’s wife was adamant and so was he and the proceeded even after a warning. After this blatantly disrespectful action Shivji was enraged so when the King asked his dancers to entertain him Shivji turned them into stone and they fell into the ground in deep holes. Most of the holes have been stuffed with mud so that no one falls but a few are still left. There’s more to the story but what’s the point in telling you now ? Go and find out yourself !!
There was quite a lot of garbage and trash next to this one area which was the only place where you could get a connection on your mobiles and tell people that you’re not dead yet. We went around collecting the garbage so that we can take it down the mountain and make it a little more changedfor the others.
Day four was the day we saw snow it became so cold that you barely wanted to take your hands out of your gloves or drink water (keep drinking water irrespective -it helps you acclimatise and avoid AMS) or anything. We climbed upwards from our camp and on the way we met these kids who were looking for a plant called ‘kida booty’ which is apparently has a high demand in China. After that some people got very excited and every time they saw something of the sort they’d scream and realise that it’s just a root.
Then we went downwards and walked through snow. This is where you need amazingly great waterproof shoes because at noon when you walk through snow the path has quite a lot of melted snow which will get into your shoes and having wet shoes in the end leads to cold feet (literally and figuratively).
Finally after 5 hours of walking we reached our fourth camp site ,Bhagwabhasa. The tents were on snow. Our trek leader showed us some climbing techniques to follow while walking in snow. There was a sh
op there and they had boiled eggs so everyone was really happy and they all sat down in the food tent and had boiled eggs. It started to rain and olofy (small hailstorm) in the evening so there was a fresh coat of white over the camp.
Now you’ve to bring your own plates and cutlery to eat in and so you’ve to wash it every time you eat something but when you’re surrounded by snow you do no want to do that at all as you won’t be able to feel your hands for the next ten minutes.
The next day we had to wake up pretty because its difficult to walk in melted snow as the day progresses. The night sky was breathtaking, It was so magnificent like the kind of experience you want to share with someone who has a beautiful mind, it’s something you can look at forever and get lost in for a while. The thought of those tiny dots being brilliantly bright gas masses is awe inspiring and a few of those being entire galaxies, it can’t be put into perspective for an ordinary brain. So the first kilometre was trekked in the dark. Then started the steep uphill climb and everyone started turning red and breathing really heavily. By the first rest stop everyone was so tried but sitting meant melting the snow below your butt and feeling colder. It was a risk I was willing to take. After a lot of heaving and wheezing for 5km (3 hours) we reached Roopkund (16616 ft).
Unfortunately the weather turned bad so we couldn’t go to the actual kund (pond) or up to Junargali from where the view is beautiful (so I am told). So everyone quickly grabbed a parantha with achar and started walking back to Bhagwabhasa. Everyone was a little gloomy about the weather so what better way to make things better than start a snowball fight? Considering I was the one who started it I got hit quite often, I can aim as well as a dolphin can do a headstand.
We had tea and lunch, and we moved onwards. There were no clouds so you could see for miles ahead and the view was beautiful. We came back to Pathar Nachauni,3 hours from Bhagwabhasa, and there we stayed the night. We also got gajar ka halwa so everyone was really happy.
For breakfast we did this really weird thing. We all stood in a circle with a little bit of jaljeera powder in one hand and a bottle of tang was passed around the circle. So what you had to do was out the jaljeera powder in your mouth and instantly drink tang. It tasted so random explosive and calm at the same time. And that’s how we started our day by looking like drug addicts.
Funnily enough today was the day that everyone started putting in sunblock as if you never needed it on the other sunny days
When we came back to the first camp -WE GOT MAGGI! Everyone ate sooooo much !
While walking through the forest it started to rain so we wore our ponchos for the first tirme. They are so weird to wear! They’re awkward and the hood covers your head so much you can barely see. The last stretch really hurts your knees especially without a walking stick because it’s all downhill but when you get back to the village after 7 hours of walking all you need is a chair
And that’s it you’re done, you climbed and you’re back and these amazing people you fell in love with on the way are gonna leave the next morning probably never to be seen again.
Day 2: Gheroli Patal to Bedni Bugyal via Ali Bugyal
Distance : 5 km Time :4. 5 hrs Altitude: 3400 M
Day 3: Bedni Bugyal to Patar Nachauni
Distance :4.5 km Time :4 hrs Altitude: 3900 M
Day 4: Patar Nachauni to Bhagwabasa
Distance :4. km Time :5 hrs Altitude: 4200M
Day 5: Bhagwabasa to Roopkund
Distance :5. km Time :3-4hrs Altitude: 4800M
Day 6: Roopkund to Patar Nachauni
Distance :9. km Time :6hrs Altitude: 3900M
Day 7: Patar Nachauni to Lohajung
Distance : 15km Time: 7 hrs Altitude: 2300 M