Monday, July 7, 2014

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 5 : Trek to 3rd camp – Waching

Day 6: Trek to 3rd camp – Waching (9300 feet, 7kms)

My day started again at 5 am. I have been waking up on daily basis at 5 am, wish I could replicate the feat back home !! It was freezing cold outside the tent but our cooks were up and busy preparing tea, breakfast and lunch. They have been doing this from last 20 days and would continue till our last batch for another 15 days more!! Had a chat with one of the cooks and came to know that they were exports from Delhi & not locals. They were on a contract for one month with YHAI. I appreciated their hard work of providing us with hot food in such harsh conditions.

Slowly it was good morning for everyone. Nanabhai Sir and few of us started the warms up for the day. It was important to stay fit. Two more of our group members had left at 4 am in the morning unable to withstand the cold climate. Our strength had been depleting on daily basis since we started. If anyone wanted to return back this was the last point as one could get some transport for going back from Malana dam site. 

Sky looked dull and over cast, Sun was playing hide and seek.We prayed and hoped it doesn't rain. We had our tea, breakfast and also our packed lunch was ready but no sign of our guide. It was 9.15 am. We could only wait. But guide did turn up around 9.30 am and immediately we started our march , bid adios to one more campsite. On our way we came across few empty houses. This part of the world is very scantly populated. I learned later from our camp leader at Waching that local villagers from Malana and nearby areas keep these houses and do farming during the summer months and move back to their villages in winters.  

We had walked for a short distance and came across maggi point where we had our first halt. The small tented shop was serving Maggie, omlet, tea and coffee.  These tented shops are only shops selling limited food stuffs on the way.Prices are directly proportional to remoteness and altitude of the area. Today cost of one cup of coffee was 30/-. 

We had barely walked today and we had our first break. For me it was my first coffee break since I left home. !!!! Kaapi aroma was as good i felt, May be I had forgotten what kaapi smelled but I just loved it. Had some rest at this point to get over the hangover created by kaapi !!! lol.....

From here we took a U-turn and started to climb up. The climb seemed tough and I was almost gasping for breath. Luckily it was not a long  climb and we reached a plateau which was almost parallel to Behali camp only that it was at higher altitude. Surprise of the day was this plateau which was size of cricket field with few houses and land ploughed in for farming. But the view of snow peaked mountains was nothing short of spectacular. They were at a kissing distance !!! Just opposite of the plateau. I really envied the villagers who had their houses here, You could sit whole day here and just watch spectacular views and never get bored….  We wanted a halt here to take few pictures and our guide informed that we would be halting here for an hour or more and move only after lunch. Wow this was the shortest trek in last 3 days.

Aamchi Madam's

Yatrik and most of our group found a small companion, a small kid who was playing cricket and they all joined in to play the game.  The kid was overjoyed to find so many new friends and was happy to play with them. I was more interested in capturing mesmerizing views in my camera. Some explored the plateau and indulged in photo shoot while some lay idly on the ground while major chunk was into playing cricket including the gang of girls.

Don't wanna trek today !!!

Our halt was longer than 3 hours on the plateau. Our guide informed that next camp was just a small climb away so was happy to provide us with the extended break.  Sky as usual was overcast since morning and it started to rain. Ponchos were out. Small drizzle was enough to scare the shit out of us for the experiences of our previous batches would roll in front of us. As soon as it started to rain all of us tried to squeeze into one solo tent which was yet another maggi point on the plateau. It reminded of Mumbai local train rush hour. 
Chal andar chal types !!!! 

Few of us decided to have tea here which turned out to be soooo sweet that it would bloody make some syrup look in shame !!!!! I am pretty sure it was idea of two Dr's, Ajay and Shreya who can digest whole sugar factory and still come out smiling ..... lol

Luckily for us it was just a drizzle and as soon as it stopped we started our journey to our camp and within a small climb of 30 minutes we reached our next camp of Waching. Fortunately the camp was not a ship without a captain like in Behali and our camp leader was there to welcome us.  We must have reached by 3 pm. Our welcome was with Lychee drink followed by Tea and biscuits and then hot tomato soup.

Waching camp was also on small plateau with company of only two houses of villagers and their farms. The camp was also built on a slope which makes life hazardous if it rains or if ground is wet. I remember 6 people from earlier batch returned from here after experiencing slips and falls during bad weather. Luck was with us as ground was neither slippery nor it rained  !!!!!

Behind the camp was forest area with trees reaching a height of 50-60 feets.  The snow capped mountains were now moving closer each day we moved to a higher camp. Rains had stopped but overcast sky looked threatening.  Aasifa was our hope as she would say she has made friendship with "sunny paji" and he would come back and as if her prayers were answered Sun was shining again after being in hiding for entire day.

Sky getting clear after Aasifa's prayer !!!

Our camp leader had informed us that male’s toilet tent was down the valley.  Nanabhai Sir on his call for nature went down the valley only to find that tent was deep down at exactly 420 steps from the camp !!!! It was warning call for all males not to wait till last moment and to start the trek for nature’s call at the start of pressure build up ……….. hahahaha

One incident that had few of us running to our tent was sudden shout by none other than Shreya Goshal I mean Bala that there was rats in the tent. God !!! I ran to confirm that my bag was sealed to the core. I am sure rats had a gala time at the camp for a month when everyday a new batch would come with everyone carrying some form of sweets like chocolates, dates and so on…. And they would just sniff and hole it out from their bags. Shreya narrated her story in morning as to how she and her tent members had saved their bags from getting drilled in the night by bundling it in a blanket. I remember someone in my tent waking up in middle of night only to find rats had feasted on his chocolates and some food packets tasted !!!!! I was too sleepy to see who had that experience but confirmed my bag was safe and was off to sleep. Lol

Our Dinner was served by 6.30 pm and we were free by 7 pm.  What a life !!!  Night saw everyone gathered for camp fire where people had fun narrating jokes, ghost stories. That was followed by game of truth and dare. Don't know till what time it went on but I was back in my tent first to ensure that my bag was safe from rats and then into my sleeping bag.  One thing that I had learned to enjoy and cherish after coming to this trek was my sleep. A proper sleep ensured that you were fit for trek next day. 

Tomorrow we trek to next camp which was at 10000 feet, A feat that I had not yet accomplished in my trekking journey and it would be my first time to reach such a height !!! 

(contd :6)

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)

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 3 : Trek begins: Our destination Yosgo camp.

Day 4 – Trek begins: Our destination Yosgo camp. (9000 feet – 5kms)

5 am in the morning and  it was call for bed tea followed by breakfast at 6 and packed lunch at 7 am. No sign of rains and our fingers were crossed for clear sky. 7.30 am and we got a call to assemble in the ground. Finally that moment had come. I looked with hope on snow peaked mountains… Here I come. 

Kissed my backpack, shouldered it and was ready in line for other groups to see us off. Bid adios to Seobagh base camp with chanting of Ganpati Bappa Morya. Will only come to collect my stuff after completing my trek I whispered. The flag was raised and count was done, Field director and everyone wished us success. We marched out of Seobagh amid cheer claps from newly arrived groups. Our bus and a mini van were ready to take us to Malana dam 1 from where we start our journey.

Malana dam – 1 is on the way to Manikaran. As we drove up the mountains road the tall Majestic mountains with deep gorgeous valleys became more and more stunning. The roads were zigzag and narrow. It was not surely for faint hearted to sit next to window.  Don't know if they drive on such roads in the night. We gained height every moment as we drove and every moment it started to increase the discomfort in me. I was in the minivan with 13 people. I started to feel the effects of mountain sickness, felt nauseatic. I shut my eyes and prayed. It must have taken around two hours for us to reach Malana dam. We waited for the bus to arrive. I strolled around to get some comfort from uneasy feeling and then I threw it out. Hell !!! But instantly it made me comfortable. What a relief that was. Ajay & Manjusha madam were on standby for any medical advise. It's always better to carry medicines for mountain sickness. I was also carrying it but didn't need at that moment.

The station engineer at Malana dam on seeing us had come to speak with us. He gave insight about how the dam works and also talked about another dam at higher altitude. Our rest of the group arrived in sometime and so did our guide – Sheru. He was in his teens. Soft spoken or I should say no spoken. We had been briefed about Malana so much and so many times that it had become one dreaded place on earth and to top it we had this guide, A non talking guide !!!!  

We started our trek from here. It was around 10 am.  This was the start of our core trek. We walked on zig zag road and as we climbed we could see and guage the Malana dam. The feeder stream flowed close to the road which brought water from the melting snow from the mountains into the dam. Ocassional cars and jeeps passed by carrying locals including foreigners, giving us suspicious or starry looks. May be we had become conscious after getting bombarded with Malana village stories !!!! They moved on and so did we.

Clicking pictures on the way we reached what was the tunnel road in the mountains. We stopped here for some rest. The sign board outside the tunnel indicated it was landslide prone area. Crossing the tunnel road and another uphill walk, We reached a proudly proclaiming sign board indicating way to Malana village. It was instant celebrity signboard with almost everyone gunning to click pictures with it. It was another resting point for us. 

From here we climbed steps which was leading us into the coniferous forest.  Someone initiated an argument that we would be crossing Malana village today while the map at base camp showed it would be on 2nd day of core trek. Everyone pitching in their own version.  We moved on with the argument. We came across a bridge over a stream of gushing water which was nothing but a huge log of wood.  Some girls in the group needed helping hand while crossing it though not difficult. As we climbed our bags seemed to be heavier suddenly, recollecting the words from camp leaders to avoid carrying things that was not required.

We had our packed lunch in middle of the forest but close to flowing stream. It was best place in entire trek for lunch. Under the shade of the tree as we sat and removed our bags, It was so much of a relief. Food tasted its best. I took a small power nap before our guide signaled to move on. We were constantly climbing up since we started our core trek. There was no sign of rain today and sun was out with its full might.  Walking in the forest shade didn't pinch us but the moment we climbed in certain patch under the sun it used to suck the energy out of us. On one of our resting point there was one lonely hut. Wandered how a person would even think of staying here !!! They even had some land clearings on certain places for farming. As we chatted at our resting place a lady carrying a small kid came out of the house. She pointed towards wood stick that she wanted to sell. These sticks serve well as walking stick in the trek and was instant hit. She sold almost all of them.  She spoke very softly and tid-bits of hindi. She was a Malana lady as she refused to take money from our hand and asked us to keep it down on the stone. I could capture her in my lens and today when I look at her portrait it is by far the best picture I have taken in entire trek. She had so much of a simplicity and innocence on her face with her cute little child hanging on her back in baby sling all the time.

We got the first glimpse of our tents around 4pm. We had reached Yosgo camp and shout of joy erupted on its first sight. The camp was surrounded by huge mountains on three sides. Our camp was in the valley and facing a snow peaked mountains in front at a far end. Our camp leader welcomed us. Our camp was just 2 tents for guys, 2 for girls, one for camp leader and our blankets and sleeping bags, one for cooking and one for storing. It was such a joyous feeling of making it to first camp. In no time everyone occupied their place dropped their bags in the tent. It was such a relief.  

Our welcome drink was really welcoming. It was followed by tea and biscuits. Shreya the Mafia leader had injected the virus of Mafia and big chunk of our group was hooked into playing it. Tea was followed by hot tomato soup which again was welcome with sun about to set the temperature had dropped suddenly. Drinking ice cold water was difficult but then hot tea and soup replenished our water requirement.

From our camp we could see mobile tower on left side of the mountain top which was Malana village which we will be crossing tomorrow. It was quite a climb from the base but saw few ladies carrying logs of wood on their back heading to the top. We city dwellers enjoy the luxury and comfort but still crib about everything while these locals in such areas endure hardship in their daily life and struggle each day to keep their life going.

Our dinner was served around 6.30pm which included piping hot sheera. It was feast for Ajay as he doesn't eat dinner but only eats desserts in the evening. Here as well he was serving everyone and himself with sheera !!!! As it turned dark it started to rain but luckily we had finished our dinner so everyone rushed in the tent. Once inside the tent I can only think of getting in sleeping bag and blanket. Another day was coming to an end. Tomorrow would be a new day, new terrain, new experience these mountains have to offer

Trek to camp Behali (contd: page 4)

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part - 2 : Getting acclimatize at base camp.

Day 1 – Seobagh base camp reporting

I was awake by 6 am after catching some sleep in our bus. We were yet to reach Kullu. The view of gorgeous valleys with Beas river flowing through it and magnificent mountains was enough to take the breath away. I had seen these breathtaking views in pictures, movies and TV but was my first real life experience. The narrow roads cut through the mountains and deep valleys were also scary enough. One slip or mistake by the bus driver and we would be easily down few hundred feet with really no chance of survival.

We reached Kullu bus stand around 7 am. It was summer month but still felt the shiver from cold breeze. Our base camp was around 4 kms from Kullu and had to go by another local bus. Luckily the bus was standing and empty for us to dump our luggage and ourselves. It was joy ride of around 15-20 minutes giving us glimpse of kullu villages and life in the mountains. Beas river flowing majestically parallel to the road. Bus dropped us just outside our camp.

Seobagh camp site was in midst of flurry of activities. Tents put up on a huge ground on both sides. One side for ladies and other side for gents. Reporting camp was just inside the compound where we completed our formalities of registration. We were allotted our tents with 12 people in each tent. Instructions of do’s and don’t started flowing in moment we stepped in base camp. Some of our group members wanted to do river rafting on first day which is a no activities day but it turned out to be dampener for them as one of lady camp leader informed once you are registered, you will need to follow the rules of the book and first among them was no river rafting !!!! hahaha

We were to strictly follow the rules till we were in the base camp and also when we leave for higher camps and on trek. First taste of military discipline. We participated a see off for one of the batch who had completed 3 days of acclimatization. Wished them luck for successful trek.  Excited that 4th day we would be the ones to walk through such see off.  

Breakfast was ready, tea with bread butter, bread jam, idli sambhar and only “one egg”.  First day was rest day where in we were told of what essentials are required on trek and if we didn't have that. We could do some last minute purchase and come back to base camp by 6.30pm.  Hints of unprecedented snow on higher camps this year and that its been raining since last one week with Kullu climate cold enough that we Mumbaikers experience in prime winter months was enough to dampen the spirit. 

Shiv joined us at base camp while we also met few other group members notable among them were Hari, Mayur, Partho, Dharmesh, Parvesh, Laksh.  Our Group was called CP -17 (Chanderkhani Pass – 17). Introducing and making new friends from different parts of India was unique experience and trekking is perfect place for it. Nanabhai Sir advised that we start getting acclimatize from today itself and suggested we walk to nearby town of Naggar. Everyone happily agreed not knowing that the town was 15kms away. Walking on the road we got the first glimpse of snow peaked mountains. 

My first raw look at snow peaked mountains was enough to make me spellbound.  Narrow ascending road with small village huts with locals in their traditional attire passing by was all mesmerizing.  Everything for me was like love at first sight !!!

As we walked on the road, we came across a small patch of land with sort of poppy stems standing tall. What is this !! First thought was it’s marijuana but then Ajay and Nanabhai Sir were quick to correct that its Onion seeds pod. But Ajay also pointed to small plants on the side of the road which was Marijuana. No wonder Himachal is so famous for it. It grows on roadside without much efforts !! 

We got glimpse of some exotic bird species on the way as well. One of them was Yellow billed blue Magpie, I wanted to say "that's a pretty big name baby" only if could !!!

yellow billed blue Magpie

Parakeet's flight
It must have been a walk of around 3 hours or more when we checked with a local as to how far was Naggar and reply was enough to surprise all. It was around 12kms away that means we had just walked 3kms in 3 hrs … that's it ! We decided to take a bus to Naggar and enough of walking. Standing at corner of a road of what seems to be a bus stand with few locals giving us company. Noticed a glow in the warm smiles of these gentle (Pahadi) people. Simplicity flowed in abundance here like flowing water of Beas river. 

We reached Naggar junction by bus which took around 45 minutes. From  junction it’s a steep up hill climb on tar road to Naggar castle. Naggar is an ancient town on left bank of Beas river and provides amazing view of the mountains with small houses on its slope on right side of the river. It was former capital of Kullu. Famous for its wooden castle, Nicholas Roerich art gallery and few temples which has unique architecture and carvings. On the way to the castle there is this temple called Gauri Shankar temple dedicated to lord Shiva. The architecture and carvings of the temple are charming and quite unique. The temple is protected monument.

As we moved towards the castle, we came across two more temples which had intricate and delicate carvings on the wood.  The temples depicted the Himalayan architecture. The first glance of the Naggar castle is feast to the eye and enough to make one fall in love. The intricate wooden carved walls, windows, doors were truly magnificent. The castle has been converted into heritage hotel with restaurants serving unique Himachali cuisine. The restaurant over looks Kullu valley and provides spectacular view. 

From here Nanabhai Sir and his gang decided to go to Manali for some shopping while Shiv, Ajay, Shreya and me decided to walk back to base camp. But not before we had awesome lunch of Himachali Pulao and Khiru (type of kadhi).It had started to drizzle while we walked towards Kullu.  The pleasure of getting wet in rains is enjoyable only in Mumbai whereas the rains in Kullu was cold enough to make one shiver in no time. I didn't want to take chances with 10 days more to go and was quickly wore my new poncho. We got the bus for Kullu but it took a different route and not the one for our base camp. The route was longer than we expected and bus dropped us near a bridge over Beas river from where it was 3 kms walk to base camp.  It seems that we were getting trained for worst. Walking amidst drizzle and cold wind, we were the only four souls on most part of the road. Reaching base camp I moved in to get some warmth inside the tent. Nothing much to do we waited for others to come back.  Flurry of activities continued outside the tent. Evening tea was followed by dinner. It was now time for camp fire and introductions. Some earlier group members performed and group which successfully completed the trek were handed out certificates. They provided insights of life in higher camps which was more discouraging then encouraging given the rough climatic conditions and fresh snow fall in higher regions. Teja ka gang had also reached in the evening.  Teja was a surprise of the day as she turned out to be sweet, slim girl calling everyone Sir than a muscular guy with his gang !!!!!. 

The camp lights went off at sharp 10pm and no one was in mood to stay awake and sneaked in their respective blankets. It seemed like I was only one given sleeping bag while the rest were not so lucky.

Day 2 – Acclimatize walk day

Rains had continued in the night. Morning call was at 5.30am with one of the camp assistant carrying tea kettle. First instance that I remember in long time when I had tea without brushing. After morning chores it was time for morning exercise but due to overnight rains and wet ground it was shifted to dining area tent. With more people and space constraint people were standing rather than participating in stretching exercise. It was time for see off for another batch who were moving out to higher camp amidst wet day. Not a ideal way but nevertheless we were there to cheer them off with YHAI style clapping of hands and wishing them luck.

It was time for breakfast now. My 2nd day with YHAI breakfast and I was in love with it. They make a complete wholesome meal full of proteins and carbs required for the trek. Also something hot to eat in the morning in the cold climate of Kullu was always welcome. Not to forget the hot chai !!  Only thing I dreaded the most was to wash the tiffin and mug in the cold waters. Water seemed more like piercing needle. I decided I will not take bath again today.

It was day of acclimatize walk where we pack our bags with as much things as possible and walk up the mountain path with our guide. Announcement came as a surprise for many as there were rumors of walk being cancelled, earlier batch had rock climbing and rappelling session which was cancelled.  Not many were prepared and with instructions flowing in from all sides somehow everyone managed to come in line. Hilarious part was that we did counting of the group couple of times because of some one reaching after the count or someone missing the count. With Nanabhai Sir getting possessed with his professor spirit, His energy and pitch of his voice reaching a zenith to make everyone fall in line and follow discipline. This continued till we had completed the trek… Hahahaha

The walk was uphill walk on the nearby mountains. Rains had stopped but sun failed to shine which was casting doubt on minds of everyone on how would the climate be when we reach higher camps. Hoping for good and prayers in mind we continued with our march. We were all huffing and puffing as we climbed to the top. Our destination was at school compound. We could barely manage to climb while these villagers staying on higher level, for them it must be daily routine or may be more in a day. Lychee juice was distributed to us to get re-energized. 

On the way down we moved to a waterfall site. We were told to only enjoy from far and not enter in it but none wanted to in such cold falling water. After lunch we had our orientation round with field director who instructed us on things to come in higher camp and the dreaded climatic conditions. It was more like we were going for a war and not a trek !!!!

Sun god came out brightly in 2nd half of that day. Back in the tent whole round of drying session started with clothes, socks, shoes, ponchos jostling to occupy space under sunlight. Some of the group members decided to go to Kullu market to do some more last minute shopping after hearing experiences of previous batches and Chinese whispers floating in the base camp about difficulties that one may face in the snow. I stayed in the camp and mustered courage to take a quick bath in the cold water. This was first time I had taken bath after I left my house and trust me it was wonderful feeling though I had to gather all my courage to pour cold water on my body.

Base camp continued with flurry of activities with people from later batch kept reporting and batch leaving next day depositing their luggage and other stuffs. One area of the camp worth mentioning was the charging point area which had people connecting numerous extension cable and adaptors to charge their mobiles. I also pitched in to charge my camera battery for one last time though I had one extra charged ones for any eventualities. I also got my mobile charged as this is only place where you get the opportunity, Higher camps have no electricity.
Evening dinners was followed by camp fire where some people performed by singing songs or making a dance moves. Cheered by their respective groups which had become one big family.  The batch who completed their trek recounted their horror and valour stories with teary eyes. Ajay and me looked at each other with no hopes, Boy !!! Our turn to leave for higher camp is just a day away. News of few more people coming back without completing the trek was also talk of the town in the evening. Shiv was least tensed lot as he wanted to experience snow storm saying when will we get chance to see one !!! Thoughts rolled in my mind, Experience we may but we can only narrate that incident if we come out alive !!!!!!  

Day 3 – Rappelling and rock climbing day.

Our day again started with bed tea at 5.30am. Sun god continued its good run of shining brightly from yesterday. Our guide also wanted us to make most of clear morning and made us run few kms on the road and back.  It was followed by bending and stretching exercise which would help us in higher camps. It was turning out to be a tough day. Reaching the camp we did a see off for one more batch who left for higher camp and came closer to that day when it would be our turn. It was going to be tomorrow.

A quick breakfast and we were off to rappelling session. Again it was climb up the nearby hill. Instructions were given of how it works and how it will help us. This session is important for us to overcome the fear of heights. It was a fun session with everyone wanted to get a picture clicked while coming down and for few there were moments of anxiety when legs slipped, ropes got twisted but our guides were doing great job as our mentors. With pounding hearts and claps of cheers we all competed our turn. It was now back to base camp for lunch and then it would be rock climbing session. But come afternoon and Sun god decided to take rest of the day off. It started to drizzle and our rock climbing session was called off.

waiting for rappelling to complete
Afternoon was spend in doing balancing act of what essentials to carry and what not to carry. Clear instruction was given to us to only carry 5kg which was to include inner layer given to us. Now this itself weighed 1kg. I had newly purchased camera which I was to carry and it weighed another 2kg so where is the space for jackets,  clothes, woolens ……. Finally I decided I will manage with my woolens and pair of clothes but will skip carrying inner layer. It was time to deposit our extra luggage and my bag was just not willing to shed weight !!! What do I remove

With some tips and tricks somehow managed to convince camp leader to accept the weight of my bag even though he kept asking me to remove something which was in excess. All set and done my bag was finally ready with my camera. With free mind, We wiled away our time for one last time in Seobagh camp that evening. After dinner we had camp fire but  we didn't have any certificate distribution that evening as CP -11 batch couldn't complete the trek and were send back due to bad weather from Nagroni camp. Another gloomy news was three of our group members had decided not to continue further due to various reasons so our group strength was down by 3.  

Before any negative thoughts sneak into my mind I decided to sneak into the sleeping bag and was off to sleep in no time.  

(contd : Part 3 )