Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 1

It’s Day 8 and chilly wind is blowing outside the tent. Its middle of the night and time on the watch shows 2.30 am. Just didn't want to leave the warmth provided by blanket and sleeping bag !!!!. The whistle blew and it was the morning call for the bed tea. I had to get up as it was not only most important day of our trek but was also very important day in my trekking journey so far. I had done trekking in Sahyadri Mountains in Western Ghats and this was my first journey in our great Himalayas. Today’s successful climb would be feather in my trekking cap. We would be reaching height of 12600 feet at Chanderkhani pass located in Malana region. Nestled in two beautiful and mighty ranges of Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar. Today we had to climb another 2800 feet, walk in the snow, reach the highest point and then climb down to last camp of Nauya Tapru with estimated walk of 14 kms.

Taking a deep breath, I moved out of my sleeping bag, peeped out of the tent, camp was lit by moonlight with all my group members busy with their morning chores. Hot tea, morning chores sans bath (it was 9th day without bath, not that I don't like to but didn't have the guts to take a bath in such climate, none of 43 members of the group had done it), followed by breakfast and packed lunch (Lunch was frooti, chikki, sakkarpare). Everyone then gathered outside the tent, stood in the line wearing multiple layers of clothes which were still not enough to protect us from cold and chilly breeze, listening to group leaders sermon’s (instructions) before moving ahead.

Also we had one more planned event to do before moving, Celebrate B'day. Yes, It was also her birthday today, She is Maya. She had come all the way from Hyderabad, all alone and standing at Nagroni camp (10000 feet above sea level) with her backpack at 5 am in bone chilling cold morning to cross Chanderkhani pass on her birthday. What a feat to accomplish!!!!  

Manjusha Madam arranged for a small piece of cake, Lit candle, everyone sang and wished Maya a very happy and delightful birthday!! …........ So much for now, She will come more often later in the blog…

Finally all set and ready, Like the Hitler army offering salute “Heil Hitler”, We saluted our camp leader, cooks, guides and finally chanting Ganpati Bappa Morya, We started our march to cross Chanderkhani Pass……. …It was 5 am in the morning and we were told we are late !!!

As I write my blog, everything is flashing in front of my eyes. It was “the moment” we all had come here for. What a day that was 19th May 2014. For this day the preparation had started 3 months back. BBM group created, list of essentials shared, trek essentials purchased, bus and train booking done and then that infinite wait for the day when we started our journey….. This was by far the most memorable trek and most memorable journey I have done in my life.

Getting Ready for the Himalayan adventure: 4 years back I was bitten with bug of trekking. I must have done number of treks in Sahyadris but Himalayas was distant dream. A year back I got my YHAI registration done but didn't enroll for any trek as I felt a company would be good rather than going alone. Then one day got a call from Ajay – Let’s do Himalayas this time !!!. And without even thinking twice registered on pre- decided date.  It was “Call of the Mountains”. I remember doing google on Chanderkhani much later after I had registered for it. Registration was followed by phones call and exchange of emails to office management to approve my leaves, I realized my convincing power than !!!

Our group included Ajay, Shreya, Nanabhai, Shiv and me. Shiv joining us from Delhi while rest would be starting from Mumbai. I was told by Ajay that our group was just a splinter group as there were larger group of all BHMS students of Nanabhai Sir joining us directly at base camp. All in all we were almost 35 out of 50 people for YHAI batch starting on 10th May !!

We even created a BBM group for daily discussions among us apart from preparing list of trek essentials. This was followed by number of visits to Decathlon and Nandu’s and Avi industries to purchase things, We had 73 items listed in our trek essentials and longest discussion and hunt happened for none other than kurmura, 

I and Ajay had developed liking for wheat puff (wheat kurmura) and wanted  it as our train companion on our 30 hrs journey but after lot of hunting settled for corn puff !!!!.Not to forget the railway booking on IRCTC website. The railway booking was major achievement among other things though we didn't get full confirmed booking even though we were hooked to the website on the day the two months window was open and at 8am on Sunday morning. Our tickets were confirmed much later credit of which should go to Shreya for praying daily to IRCTC god as she didn't want to go on RAC ticket !! . Bus tickets on HRTC was easily available, In fact the day I booked bus ticket, all seats were available for me to choose from !!!  HRTC must be happy to see the booking of bus two months in advance.

After all this, it was endless wait for one and half months, with each one reminding daily that it was one day less. I remember having lost complete interest in my office work in last week before our journey day. One of the days in between I and Shiv even purchased a DSLR with Ajay doing dual work of instigating us to buy DSLR with no personal benefit and also providing us with his expertise.Remembering all these events make me laugh but the adrenaline rush before the trek was so high. We didn't want to miss anything and our single minded focus was to make this trek a memorable one.

Start of our journey and trip to Chandigarh:  May 10th finally arrived. We were all backpacked and ready in the morning. Shreya and Nanabhai Sir reached Bandra station to board Paschim express an hour early. Ajay’s excitement was more than anyone else, He went all the way from Borivali to Bandra to board the train even though the train would have halted at Borivali station. His excuse was the train stops only for 2 minutes at Borivali.  Hell !!!!  Half of the train gets filled with people boarding from Borivali. I decided to board from Borivali which gave me another hour more for my last minute packing, thought would sleep for some more time but the excitement was such that I was awake at 5.30 am on that day. Our train was late by 30 minutes. This specially happens with me when I am super excited about something and that something never falls on time.

We were joined by Dr Shukla and his daughter Reem who even though had done booking at last minute had got the seats in the same compartment so now our group was bigger.  Reem was quietest of the lot, sitting in one corner, listening to songs, not interacting much with us. Dr Shukla kept assuring us that she will gel with us once she is comfortable. Now how do you make school girl comfy !!!!!!  We were bluntly refused every time we tried to involve her in some conversation or offered her something to eat. We were like aliens to her !!!

In the train Ajay developed an uncanny interest of taking note of all rivers and rivulets passing by and getting down at all stations where the train stopped to click pictures. He was doing live blogging and keeping his followers updated on his journey. Nanabhai Sir with his numerous years of trekking kept us engrossed in his stories. Our train journey was of 30 hours. I lost count of how many chai we had in our journey while Ajay lost his interest in noting the name of rivers and rivulets but he continued with clicking pictures of all stations. Not sure if he did that also in middle of night. I was off to sleep after Dr Shukla and me had sumptuous dinner meal which was ordered on TravelKhana and was delivered at Ratlam station. Morning again was not much to do in train, we just wiled away time. We reached Chandigarh around 3pm. Jeevan one of fellow trekker whom Ajay and Nanabhai Sir had met in previous trek with YHAI had travelled 200kms from his hometown just to receive us and be with us till we were in Chandigarh. I was truly amazed with his humbleness and hospitality. 

Our first stop was bus-stand luggage room in sector 17 where we dumped our luggage. One thing worth mentioning was fruit juice kiosk. Half glass of any milkshake is enough for any Mumbaite to get a loud burp and full glass is unthinkable from my standard. We settled for half glass of milkshake which was worth all the money.  

Moving on we did rickshaw ride passing through important landmarks in Chandigarh like Rose gardens, Leisure valley. I was in awe with the cleanliness and green cover. Chandigarh is regarded as one of the best cities in India with its planned urban development, wide and well maintained roads. With limited time that we had in our hand we only decided to see one of the main landmark – Rock garden and then if time permits get a sneak peek of Sukhna lake close by. The climate was very pleasant even in month of May partly because it had rained last night so we didn't feel the pinch of summer heat.

Rock garden was truly magnificent sculpture garden spread in area of 40 acres. Built completely with industrial and home waste and throw away items.  Truly amazed at scraps of bottle, bangles, titles, ceramics, electrical waste turned into sculptures and beautification objects. 

Equally amazed was story of how its founder Nek chand secretly started collecting waste and turned into a magnificent wonder.  

Also of interest is that Nek chand’s work has been recognized world wide and today USA owns largest collection of Chand’s work outside Chandigarh.

We didn't have much time but still decided to visit Sukhna lake. It’s again prominent tourist attraction. It seemed like half of Chandigarh had come with their families. Nevertheless we sat on the promenade on the banks of lake for sometime admiring the place. Now it was time to collect our luggage from sector 17 bus stand and move to sector 43 bus stand from where we were to move to Kullu. Rick shaw ride that we did in Chandigarh gave us glimpse of city life and its attractions. This short visit to the city was like a recce for us and would surely help us for more planned visit to the city in future.

Jeevan was still with us till the bus stand and only left after we had settled in our bus. Not budging to our request to go home as he had to travel back 200 kms and it was already 10 pm. Truly moved by his humble nature. We had dinner at the bus stand while Dr Manjusha and her friends and few of Nanabhai’s student also joined us. So our group was now a bigger lot with one more splinter group called Teja ka group joining us next day directly at base camp. Bidding adieu to Chandigarh and thanking Jeevan enough for all he had done for us we started our overnight bus journey to Kullu.  

Tomorrow will be our reporting at Seobagh base camp – Kullu.



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  2. which month u made this trip . We are in for May 3rd week this year so asked.