Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 4 : Trek to Behali camp via mystical Malana

Day 5: Trek to Behali camp via mystical Malana. (8900 feet, 8kms)

I don't know why but I woke up at 5 am !!! I really wanted to sleep a little longer but capturing rays of sun falling on the snow peaked mountains lured me to come out of tent with my camera. It was still time and rest of the gang were still in their sleeping bag burrows. I was in for a nasty surprise early in the morning, I went for a gargle after brushing and moment I filled my mouth with water I just froze !!!! The water was crazy cold. Chill went down my spine, Hair stood on their end …… It was nasty nasty surprise early in the morning.

By 6am everyone were out of their bed. By that time I had done my warm up exercise and was waiting for morning tea. Morning tea deserves a mention as it had the unique smell of burnt wood. You like or don't, This was best substitute for icy cold drinking water. Morning tea in camps is like a small gathering with everyone getting their cups and standing in queue

And here it comes, The first rays of sun on snow peaked mountains !! what a splendid sight. The shutter buttons on everyone’s camera went click click. 

Tea was followed by breakfast, another feast in the offing !!! Aloo sabji with hot puri in breakfast … what else can you ask for . We were waiting our guide to show up but more than him we were waiting for sun to cover our campsite with some warm sunlight for us to bask in it. Our guide turned up and the instructions flowed on how to proceed while in Malana village. No touching any one, no touching temples or houses, Fine of Rs 2500 and they have ATM in case you were not carrying cash. Malana was like a mysterious land of aliens !!! 

Our packed lunch was ready and so were we at 9.30am. Today again our strength decreased by three people as due to health issues they decided to return back. Falling in line for counting, bets flowed on how many times we are going to do the counting. It was our daily ritual. We followed our guide walking on the ascending slopes of the mountain. On the way up our guide showed us snow peaked mountain peak doing a peek a boo. That was Chanderkhani mountains !!! It was first sighting of the mountains that we will be crossing. The peak was not noticed from camp but while ascending to Malana it was clearly visible.

Mafioso look with Chanderkhani in background

Our climb on the slopes must have taken us an hour and we were standing right under the Airtel tower. We were about to enter Malana so again we halted and instructions followed. I think during this time everyone must have called home because we had mobile network on the phone and also to check on our election results. Breaking news at Malana – Narendra Modi had won with thumping majority !!!! Modi supporters were overjoyed that included me but Maya !!!! She sat with sad face, she was from opposite camp, fascinated by Rahul Gandhi’s charm !!!! 

As we started entering Malana village we walked in one line following our guide like an obedient students following their teacher. We were like a terrified lot. Camera’s were packed in the bags. Outskirts of Malana village from Yosgo side was littered with garbage, plastic wrappers, bottles everywhere. It was disappointing feeling. Our eyes rolled everywhere to see the mystical village and locals starring at us while going about doing their routine work. There were 2 kids schools in the village packed with them. BJP and Congress flags flew on some the houses !!! Election 2014 fever had reached here as well. In the middle of village square lies a wood carved temple of Jamadagni – One of the seven great rishis and father of lord Parshuram. Signboard on the temple indicating a fine of Rs 2500 for anyone entering the temple. Local men were gathered in village square, only seems to be puffing away their time while ladies in the village carried with their work. We passed few village folks who moved past us as if we were untouchables. As the story goes the people of Malana consider every non Malani as inferior and untouchable. Malanis are considered direct descendants of soldiers of Alexander The great. Some of his soldiers stayed back while on their way home. The villagers speak a unique dialect called “Kanashi” which seems to be mixture of Sanskrit and several Tibetan dialects. The language is unique to this village and only they can understand it. Another unique thing about this village is that its oldest democratic republic with village administration controlled by village council which has its novel way of electing members. There is one small shop outside the village selling grocery items which was only one shop that I could see. There is guest house outside the village which had welcome sign written in English and Hebrew indicating foreigners are welcome especially Israelis.  The village name is also associated with Malana cream – a costly variety of Charas drug which comes from this part only. They could have developed this village into a unique cultural tourist spot, showcasing their unique culture and in a way preserving it also !!!! Still they can do.... Hope !!!!!

We passed through the village without any eventuality and once out of the village, Out came our camera’s and we captured the village in our frames. From the slopes we could see yet another village entrance similar to one we crossed while coming to Yosgo. Our route was walking on narrow path on slopes of the mountain which was quite boring and it continued till 1.30pm. We had just traversed few mountains by walking on the slopes today which we later climbed after Behali camp.

By the time we reached our lunch point which was also Maggie point we all were dead hungry.  Our lunch point was close to a stream but few of us opted for  empty tent on elevation for having our lunch, it was more comfy and we could stretch our legs. After lunch our walk continued, walking up or down the slopes of the mountain. Could see lot of deforestation with loads of trees fallen, some which seemed to be deliberately cut or burned. We moved past the 2nd Malana dam which was fed with stream of water flowing from the melting of snow on far off mountains.

On our way we came across glacier with thick sheet of ice, first look and someone commented it was limestone !! It was first sighting of a glacier for most of us. Though thick, it had caved from beneath with water gushing through it. It was by far the most scenic location. 

At a distance and close to flowing stream, We saw two story building which looked tempting and I wished it was YHAI hostel for our stay !!! But no .... our guide took us past that building. It was maybe a dam engineers rest house.

The view of snow mountains in the background, a meadow plain with flowing stream. It all looked so beautiful and I was hoping if we had our camp in such a place and Voila !!! I got the first glance of our tent far away. 

We reached Behali camp at 4.00 pm. Behali camp was beautifully located on a meadow surrounded by mountains with tall coniferous trees and snow caped mountains behind. We were welcomed by our cooks with lime juice and followed by tea with biscuits. Our camp didn't have any camp leader and we were at mercy of our captain Nanabhai Sir !!!! lol

Mafia bugs followed our group here also and most of them were hooked to it as sky was clear today also. Maya and Shreya tried hard convincing me to play but i was not interested. I along with Parvesh and few others sat together narrating each others life experiences. I also had a chance to interact with Aasifa who was lawyer by profession and again solo trekker with Sarpass trek in her pocket. Manjusha madam also joined our talks and I got to know that she had done two yhai treks back to back. It was like...hats off to them. As we moved into evening hours the cold wind started to blow and everyone was seen in multiple layer of clothes. By the time our dinner was served the temperature had dropped drastically. Our cooks were more than helpful in providing us with boiled water for drinking. Though water has retained the aroma of burned wood it was welcomed by most.  Mafia game continued till late outside the tent while I and few of us shifted inside the tent away from the increasingly dropping temperature outside.  I must have dozed off for some time when suddenly woke up to the singing of “Chuma Chuma” cult song. Peeping outside it was Payal, Manisha and her group. Game of mafia was replaced by songs now….. Not daring to go outside in the cold I enjoyed the songs from within the tent. 

Our tent had two members who decided that they couldn't take the cold climate any more and were planning to return back. We tried convincing them that most of the girls were doing this trek for first time and were going strong but they seemed to have given up !! Asked them to think over in the night !!! Bid them goodbye if they decide to leave and went off to sleep.

Tomorrow we will be off to Waching ….. Our destination was getting closer. (Contd part 5)

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