Friday, July 11, 2014

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 8 : Adios to the Mountains and trek to Naggar via Rumsu village

Day 9: Adios to the Mountains and trek to Naggar via Rumsu village and back to base camp at Seobagh.

I woke up not at 5 am like all these days though but it was 6 am today. Temptation to capture the mountains one last time lured me out of my sleeping bag. Our camp was empty with only our cooks doing their work. No  one was yet out of their sleeping bag.  

By 6.30 am. The first rays of sun had started to cover the snowy mountain peaks. It was sight to fall in love with !!!  It was really amazing to see the changing colors of mountains as sun rays tried to cover the whole snow capped mountain. I was looking at surreal beauty of mountains for one last time. The realization sipping  in my heart that soon the trek would be over in few hours. It will be time to hug and say good bye’s. Only thing that will remain is memories.

Slowly it was good morning for everyone. All had slept well and looked fresh. Our morning tea was a lazy affair for everyone was looking relaxed. No one was in hurry. People indulged in "chai pe charcha", On chatting with our camp leader, got to know that he was also a Mumbaikar and worked for Indian Navy. His love for mountains lure him every year to become a camp leader for 21 days with YHAI at some campsite. I wish and aim to do the same some day. 

Today it seemed none wanted to leave, everyone was clicking pictures with various backgrounds, group pictures were being clicked... these would make its away in Facebook's and Instagrams of the world !!! Lot many profile pictures were to change and tons of sharing will take place once all reach home ..... And why not !!! These were not just mere pictures getting clicked, It was memories getting framed forever.

Finally with heavy heart we were all ready with our backpacks by 8 am, We thanked our guide, cooks and camp leaders for their support and with chanting of Ganapati bappa moraya we started our descend for base camp.I looked at the mountains we had left behind. Those majestic mountains that we had crossed. I bowed to them for our safe journey and hoped that call of these mountains never stop and I keep coming back to wander among them for years to come. 

We started our descending trek with everyone in jolly good mood. We hopped skipped and jumped on the way. We were back in the woods and among those tall conifers. We also
came across few apple orchards on the way.

The sight of small villages built on slopes of the mountains was back. We were nearing the end of our journey.

We reached Rumsu village around 12 pm. The unique thing about this village is that it's the only vegetarian village in India. We sat in the village square under the shade of a tree for our lunch. It was our last packed lunch.Few of our group members parted from here as they decided to catch taxi to base camp. Our guide also was only till Rumsu and we bid him goodbye. Our journey was simple trek down the hilly road and guide was not needed. After lunch we started our onward journey through the village. Passed by narrow lanes lined with traditional houses. Came across a small school for kids. They were overjoyed on seeing us and lined together to wave goodbye. Some of us who had chocolates distributed it among them. The village was home to many small unique wood temples dedicated to different deities. I checked with some villagers sitting near by if I could take pictures just to make sure it was not restricted, Malana fear was still fresh !!!

It took another hour or more for us to reach Roerich art gallery which is again a must see and tourist attraction in Naggar. Dedicated to a Nicholas Roerich - Russian painter, writer and public figure who settled here with his family. The art gallery showcases his painting of Himalayas and is run by a trust. While Ajay,Shreya and few others visited the gallery and Naggar palace and had whole new adventure along with relishing Trout – a local fish. Shreya’s blog describes their wonderful adventure

Six of us were too tired and decided to skip gallery visit and head back to base camp. We walked down the narrow lanes of Naggar, passed through a small village fair where jalebis and local sweet delicacies were being made. Not getting tempted we stuck to our aim to reach base camp as soon as we could. 

From Naggar junction we luckily got a empty cab and didn't had to wait for long. On reaching Seobagh we proudly entered base camp like we were victorious and had won a war !!!! Seobagh camp was still the same, Buzzing with activities with people from new batches getting ready for their journey while we had just completed ours. Few of our group members who reached early had already left and we also had planned to skip staying for one more night at the camp. After 10 days of wandering in the mountains, All we wanted was to do was to take a bath !! a HOT WATER bath. Parvesh, me and 2 others collected our luggage as planned and bid goodbye to Seobagh and YHAI for one last time and were off to Kullu bus stand. Kullu being a small town so hotels are not expensive and it was easy for us to find one close to bus stand which provided us with HOT WATER bath facility. Thanks to Vodafone connectivity on the trek, I had forgotten the sound of phone ring and that I also used to carry a Blackberry phone, which unfortunately was now buzzing non stop since I reached Kullu with tons of messages and emails getting downloaded !!! We spend our evening wandering in narrow lanes of Kullu market and I was awake late in night checking on the emails !!!

Next day Parvesh and 2 of them decided to visit Manikaran for they had one more day in hand while I stayed at the hotel and in the evening met Shreya who was now my sole companion till Mumbai. Ajay, Nanabhai, Shiv and others had further plans for Manali and were on their way. Maya gave us company till Delhi from where she was off to her home in Hyderabad while Shreya and I spent half day exploring Qutub complex in Delhi and then returned back home. Our journey had thus concluded happily. 

My First Himalayan journey was more than just a trek – it was an epic journey where I made so many new friends, anxious and joyous moments that we all shared, We would all walk on different paths in our life and may not come together but our journey will go down the memory lane and will be remembered for years to come. A big hug and Thank you to all till we meet once again some place somewhere.

HAPPY READING…….. I will be back with my journey to a new place soon

Here is one more interesting blogged memories of our journey captured by avid trekker and friend Dr Ajay Pradhan who sowed the idea for this trek.

Yet another interesting blog describing our journey penned down by fellow trekker, companion Dr Shreya Bala who also encouraged me to write my blog.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 7 : Crossing of Chanderkhani pass and last camp of Naya Tapru

Day 8: Epic journey of crossing Chanderkhani pass and last camp of Naya Tapru (9000 feet, 14kms)

The whistle blew at 2.30 am, Time to get up and get ready for the epic journey. I didn't feel like getting up, I felt lazy and wished I could spend one more day but that was not an option …. I peeped out of the tent, Our camp was lit by moonlight and it was cold and there was chillness in the air. Slowly everyone started to trickle out of their camps.

Time for 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 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 starting the march. It was already 4.30 am. There was worried look on camp leader’s face. We had to cross Chanderkhani pass by noon before sun starts melting the snow. But before we could say goodbye to Nagroni, there was one more important thing we had to do. Celebrate Maya’s birthday !!!  

Maya had traveled from Hyderabad all alone and had planned to celebrate her birthday her way by crossing Chanderkhani pass. But she was not alone anymore and we all had become close friends. She stood in the queue among us ready for next journey unaware of what was happening. Manjusha madam had planned it all. Plate and match box borrowed from kitchen tent, borrowed candle, someone had crumbled mawa cake which acted as her birthday cake. Candle was lit and madam performed aarti for her long life and cake was cut while I clicked pictures and captured the moment. We all sang and wished her happy birthday !!!!  

Bidding adios to Nagroni camp around 5.15 am,We started our journey towards the pass. Today we had 3 Sherpa guides. Initial journey was through last remaining forest but soon we were walking on the mountain slopes. By 7 am the sun was so bright that it felt like it was already noon.  No wonder its important to carry sun screen cream to protect from harsh sun. 

We walked in one line on the mountain slopes covered with snow, following the footsteps of person ahead, thrusting our heals in snow to get a grip. Walking poles coming in handy. There was no ropes or harness to boost our confidence.  Sometimes I avoided looking to my left and looked straight ahead, one slip on the left would have me go down the icy ravine but our guides were closely following us in case we needed any help. They effortlessly did snow slides which we just watched in awe !!!

Everywhere we looked we could only see mountain tops, the tall trees were looking minuscule now. Our first halt was on a snow slope. It was fun time with snow which eventually became a war with snow balls getting thrown on each other. It was refreshing break, Some even had the experience of snow slides and falling on snow.  

As we did our ascend towards the peak the path became narrower at places, had to climb a rock patch, snow whiteness increased while the brown ground reduced. One of our Sherpa guide leading the group with ice axe, making notches which helped us walk on the path. We climbed one peak from left and crossed over to the right side which was entirely covered with snow. I walked slowly, taking baby steps, sometimes my legs going knee deep where snow was not hard enough, Sometimes I desperately digged  fingers of my left hand into the wall of snow to somehow keep my balance.

After laboring for what seemed like eternity, finally little after noon we reached Chanderkhani pass at 12600 feet in Pin Parbat valley of Himalayas. I had summitted Chanderkhani we all had !!!  It was mesmerizing … 

The 360 degree commanding view of Himalayan snow peaks such as Manali peak, Deo Tibba, Peaks of Sar pass, Sarkundi pass, Manali peak, Friendship peak and so many unnamed peaks was all in front of us. Not that I am an expert at identifying the peaks, which one was which but it really didn't matter. Beauty of the mountains was all but lost in me. For a moment I felt as if I had sumitted Mt Everest !!!!!

At Chanderkhani pass there were stones lined and kept one above the other. Seemed like some sort of worship place also I read somewhere that locals also come here to sacrifice animals to please the mountain gods. I bowed to those deities for our safe journey.

Our handover took place to another group of guides here. We were now with new set of guides. We thanked our Nagroni guides for their support, They will go back to Nagroni and will be back again next day with another batch. They would keep doing this work for next 15 days till all the batches had successfully completed the pass.They truly were Gods for us, aptly called snow leopards.

The sun was harsh on the top but nobody cared Everyone was enjoying the moment, It was fun time again with snow ball war erupting more vigorously. We spend time here enjoying every bit of the moment for which we had trekked for last 5 days.

We had a long halt but longed to have a proper lunch. Peanut chikki (Peanut brittle) was our energy dose. Soon we resumed our walk in the snow without any fear, The fear of falling or slipping was overcome. We soon reached a point from where he had to slide down the snow. We now had to descend. Our guides gave us instructions on how to slide on the snow. Experienced among us went first while some had anxious moments. 

Sobia was one of the most scared ones, For she would start yelling the moment she sat on the snow and continue till she had completed her slide. Her yells broke the silence of the mountains, Pretty sure even mountains had a good laugh !! Our guides gave all kinds of assurance which failed to convince her !!! She did all the slides nicely though..Hari had the most horrific first slide, In fact he didn't slide but tumbled down. Luckily no one was hurt during the slides but our hands and bottoms went numb in the snow. 

We did 2 more slides before we reached our lunch point or maggi point. It was around 3.30 pm. The gap between us had increased with me and few others reaching lunch point much ahead of others. This gave us some more time to rest. My hunger had reached a zenith by the time I reached this place, I was so hungry that within no time I had hogged on 3 double omlets and 2 maggi’s. Poor guy was only servicing my order for almost 20 minutes !!! I am sure he was relieved when I said I am done eating, for there were orders for maggi's and omlets flowing in from others in equal quantity. Few of our group members were Jain's and they carried their own maggi masala which they used for special Jain maggi !! Nice idea for treks.

Our journey continued from here. 2 more snow slides followed. Our walk in the snow seemed like a never ending story. Our craving for snow was long gone and now we longed for brown ground. Our clothes were wet due to snow slides and snow walk and they added to our weight now. 

We had been walking since 5 am in the morning and it was well past 12 hrs of walk. Looking back at the mountains we had left behind made me wonder how the batches which encountered snow storm would have  managed in harsh conditions. We surely were lucky enough.

We reached our camp of Nauya Tapru at exactly 6.44 pm and that was an astounding trek of almost 14 hrs !!!!!! Our camp leader was waiting for us. Our camp was welcome sight that we so longed for.  It was good that we reached before sun was completely down. Our love for the snow had vanished after seeing so much of snow. Ajay went to extent of saying that he is not going to capture snow pictures anymore.

I quickly changed my clothes to one solo pair which I had carried all these days. Removing the wet trekking shoes was again a task with my legs giving up. I had no strength left. I soon realized that I could barely walk even a few meters and I was limping in the camp. It was the case with almost everyone with few of us shivering to the core. I don't know what I ate in dinner for all that I wanted was to get in my sleeping bag. Someone suggested that we do campfire for it was our last night in the woods but no one had any strength left. I don't know if camp fire ever happened. 

I was off to sleep in no time taking a pledge not to wake up early next day for sure. I just wanted to enjoy sleep one last time in the mountains.

(Contd :8)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chanderkhani Pass - The call of the Mountains Part 6 : Trek to highest camp of Nagroni at 10000 feet

Day 7: Trek to highest camp of Nagroni (10000 feet, 5 kms)

It goes without saying that as usual my day started around 5 am. Felt proud of myself !!!. lol Now imagine first thing in the morning you do is to trek down the valley for nature's call because the toilet tent is only 420 steps away !!!! Hilarious ……... and not only that, The tent was pitched right next a ice glacier and its freezing cold, also with wind blowing, our tent was barely able to hold on. What nonsense this was !!! Men were taken for granted for sure in this camp.

Remember this camp was on slope and with overnight drop in temperature, or may be due to rain the ground was wet, I didn't want to take any chances so today I did "some" warm up exercises only by standing. No breaking bones on the trek !!! or Let's be honest I didn't do any exercises because due to intense cold temperature, I was barely able to stand. 

How to exercise !!!

One advantage of waking up first among all on such treks are many and one of them is that you can see all half asleep, funny faces struggling to come / squeeze out of the tents and then trying to wear shoes / floaters etc in half closed eyes ... lol...... It's nice to have a early morning laugh

Morning breakfast was something that I always looked forward to in these camps, Hot and tasty breakfast every day and today again it didn't disappoint me. Hot Chole puri for breakfast !!! Life seems to be so good here in YHAI camps.

Today our journey was to begin for the snow clad mountains and what I had heard from camp leader was that next camp - Nagroni was in snow and Chanderkhani pass with some couple of feet !! I was super excited.  We were just one day away from Chanderkhani pass.  I had goose bumps thinking about it. Our guides arrived on time. We had two guides to lead us. With packed lunch and our guides leading we set off for our next camp around 8.50 am. I sat foot on ice for first time and walked on the glacier with our guides standing by for any helping hand.  Among us Hari was leading the pack with slow walkers in front, I was a back bencher in schools due to my height and here also I was among the people at the back …Sigh. 

Crossing the glacier we moved into the woods. Huge coniferous trees welcomed us with some fallen and some standing tall.  These trees are locally called “Harash”.

We were walking on the slopes of the mountains with bark of trees fallen here and there. We also had to jump many of them. Lot of deforestation has happened with forest land being cleared for farming. These forest of Parvati valley are famous for growing charas. I doubt any government or forest official would ever trek to such heights to keep check on such illegal business and my question to our guide on what was grown here got a cold response. He moved on and so did I. Our walk today included walking down the valley and climbing up, passed by waterfall which was falling from incredible height with mighty force.  On our way we could see the 2nd Malana dam so we were now top of Behali camp.  It seemed today’s walk was more of a trek and first three days was mere practice!!! 

Today Shreya and Maya had become pink sisters or pinkies!!! Don't know if they were wearing the same color T-shirt / sweatshirt all these days but I noticed it today. They would walk in front along with girls gang when Nanabhai Sir yelled at girls to move in front but then eventually fall back to walk with us. The Pinkies !!! :-) .....

Pinkies !!
Oh, sorry if that was a distraction, Back on the trek now. We had been walking continuously since we started in the morning with just one or two small halts. 

It was around 11.30 am that we reached Maggi point. This was our lunch break – first major halt since morning. It was a relief to get the bags off our shoulders. Today’s maggi cost was Rs 50, maggi’s cost was increasing as we reached higher altitudes. Rs 50 for small 10 Rs packet. At base camp it was Rs 15 and then it increased to Rs 40 between Behali and Waching, Rs 50 for today !!!

Thanks to Shreya for keeping this price list check. She was the one who couldn't resist maggi at all such maggi points. Her argument was "locals take efforts to carry them at such remote places where nothing is available and also our guides run these shops in partnership with them. They not only lead us safely in the mountains but cook for us as well". ok .. Can't argue.. She is noble at heart !! But yes Maggi does taste more wonderful in mountains especially after a trek so any excuse is good excuse .... lol

While sitting at lunch point, Maya spotted “seven dotted lady bug” …. She took all effort to count those dots on that already minute creature and was all excited to point to everyone interested.  

After a rest of one hour we started our trek again. It had began to drizzle after a while. It was rain mixed with snow / ice.  Pearls melted as soon as it dropped on the ground.  Wish we could walk in snow rain but fear of it turning into a snow storm stopped us from making such wish !!! The whole affair didn't even last for more than 5 minutes.

The walk on the slopes in the morning had now turned into ascending walk on the mountains. We walked up while the water from melting ice was gushing down. We reached a spot on the mountains from where the view of deep valleys combined with majestic tall mountain peaks was mesmerizing but before I could remove my camera, it started to drizzle again and I had to remove my poncho instead. I couldn't capture the view but hoped I would get better opportunity ahead.  Our ascending walk became more and more steep as we moved among the last patch of tall coniferous trees. Mountain peaks which seemed so illusive and far away all these days seemed to be at a touching distance.

We walked on ice a few times but it was almost melted making the ground slippery and puddle had formed at some places. Many of us were too tired with the climb and were walking at snail pace. Hari who had been leading the girls pack from the front was suddenly among the back benchers group. On asking he said he got suspended as he failed to keep the girls motivated and in one group. He was happy to be among us. Hari lost his fiefdom to Yatrik who eventually assisted Nanabhai Sir in managing girls gang till the end of the trek.

Hari later got "suspended"
It was around 3.30 pm after a real real trek for first time in last 4 days we got to see the first sight of the camp. We had reached Nagroni camp. My happiness knew no bounds not from the fact that we had reached the camp but we had reached the height of 10000 ft !!

One sore point was the entry point for the camp was littered with tissues which made it very nauseatic otherwise the camp commanded the most beautiful view of snow peaked mountains, located on the plateau which had a huge flat surfaced rock, The rock saw all the action of people jumping for the photo shoot later.

Falling in love with the mountains
Two of the tents in the camp opened to a fantastic view of mountains, just open the tent flap and all you can see is snow capped mountains. Enough for someone to fall in love. Unfortunately it was given to girls gang. We guys taken for granted again !!! Lol

Flat rock which saw most of the action

We were welcomed by our camp leader who informed us that few days back this camp site was entirely covered with snow and it was freezing cold but we were lucky that weather had cleared and that as soon as we reached here the sun started to shine brightly. The scene of the mountain peaks peeping out of the clouds, every changing color of snow mountains with sun and clouds trying to overpower each other had such a mystical appearance, it was like we were in heaven. 

Nobody wanted to go inside the tent, photo shoots were happening everywhere. The photographers waited for the right moment to capture everything that was on offer.

My Lost and found nieces !!!
I had a one surprise in store here. Two sisters Arshia and Masira who had never spoken a word with me in entire trek came up to me and said I resembled their uncle in face looks and voice. Tears of joy flowed !!! I had two lost nieces which I found at 10000 feet !!!!  Uncle and niece reunion !!! waah waah, waah waah …… I later found that Masira was youngest of us all. proud of my niece’s achievement !!!!

leisurely Tea time
Our evening tea was served with handful of fried peanuts, I had never eaten such combination and it tasted so awesome that each one had multiple peanut rounds. It had become our daily ritual of drinking tea after reaching higher camps and then topping it up with hot tomato soup after sometime. Today was no exception. And I longed for such hot drinks because of one nasty experience of drinking ice cold water at Yosgo was enough eye opener. Our dinner was served at 6.30 pm, I cannot recollect dinner menu and I cannot forget the dessert. It was "Gulab Jamuns" for dessert !! Imagine hot gulab jamuns at 10000 ft !!! Unfortunately it was rationed and everyone got only 2 pieces and none wanted to share it with anyone, Else there would have been queue for it than for dinner. Everyday after dinner one task I really hated was cleaning of tiffin box, Not that I have some royal blood flowing in my veins and I haven't done it at home but water was so cold that after cleaning it took almost 15 minutes to bring fingers out of numb state, I used to wash it everyday in the morning after sun rises but today I couldn't avoid, I had to do .......We had to get up at 2.30 am next morning to start our journey.  What a torturing task that was !!

Washing tiffin in icy water
We had gala time today after reaching Nagroni with beautiful location of the camp, amazing view of the mountains, clear sky, loads of pictures, tasty gulab jamuns !! 

Photoshoot at Nagroni

We sat and talked

Some even did this !!!!! Seriously
Couldn't ask for more. It was getting dark and cold as sun had set. Today's day had a happy ending. By 8 pm I was back in the tents though some stayed out to enjoy and do star gazing, I packed my bags properly and ensured I was ready for the tomorrow’s epic journey, crossing Chanderkhani pass !!!  We also had to wake up at 2.30 am and only had just couple of hours to catch up on sleep. I was asleep the moment I sneaked in my sleeping bag ……….

Tomorrow we cross Chanderkhani pass (contd 7)