We woke up at 6 am the following morning & began what was to become a morning ritual. Starting with freshening up & brushing our teeth, we packed our sleeping bags, tent & re-packed our backpacks. This was followed by preparing 2 day packs for our essentials, namely, rain gear, food packets, utensils, medicine box, water bladders, compass, sunglasses, sunscreen, stove etc.
Post this we moved to the same tea shop from last evening & had a hot cup of tea along with our ready to eat breakfast. Meanwhile we met Raghu & loaded two backpacks on two different mules after long negotiations with the mule owner. We paid 300 per bag for the 12 km journey ahead. The mules left before us & we took sometime to warm ourselves in the sun. Now, Didna is at a height of 8,400 ft & today our destination was Bedni Bugyal which is a 12 km trek & lies at a height of 11,100 ft. The morning gave us a great opportunity to truly see how beautiful the village of Didna is. With its farmlands & cosy home stays, it offers trekkers one last opportunity of comfort before the wild starts. The locals are very friendly & more than willing to help. Interacting with locals I realized how tough life really gets in these places in the interiors, especially in the winters. Also, another realization that hit me looking at these people was that abundance is not a necessary condition for happiness. The blushing smile of an old cook I met here was so infectious that I couldn't help but kick myself for all the times I have complained about my life.
After bidding farewell to our local hosts we started from Didna at 9:15 am & trekked on a steep muddy path to Tolpani which is 2 km away. Once in Tolpani we realized we were almost above the tree line & got our first taste of the bugyals. We stopped at the only hut at Tolpani for tea & some sunshine. From Tolpani we were to make our way to Ali Bugyal which by our calculation was another 6 kms away. Once we left Tolpani the weather changed & the sky was covered with fog & the sunlight left us for good. This is the exact weather we experienced for the remainder of our days on the trail. Bright sunshine till 12 noon & foggy weather but no rain after that.
We must have reached Ali Bugyal by 3: 30 pm. The sight of the endless Bugyals is surreal. I had never seen meadows this vast ever before. There was just green all around us as far as the eye could see. Here we met another local guide who was the trek leader for Trek The Himalayas. The man was very encouraging towards us & appreciative of the fact that we had chosen to take the journey without a guide & were cooking our own food too. He helped us figure out the route ahead since his team was camping at Ali Bugyal itself.
This day was was one of the most enjoyable & easy parts of the trek. The terrain is exquisite, more or less straight & a treat to your senses. We kept walking, talking & laughing & didn't realize when we reached Bedni Bugyal our campsite for today. The time was 4:30 pm & we started looking for the mules that were carrying our bags. Both bags were safely parked in a tea shop where we sat and enjoyed tea and a plate of pakoras. Nothing beats the combination of tea & fritters in cold weather. Bedni turned out to be the most gorgeous campsite of the trek, though the fog prohibited us from seeing why. It was a fairly busy campsite with numerous commercial trek operators camping here. Nonetheless, we found a quiet spot & two of us started pitching our tent while the third made soup.
After unpacking & a brief rest we headed to the tea shop & prepared our dinner while curious passersby observed us with great interest. Menu for the night was chicken soup, sausages, shahi paneer & rice. After dinner we had our customary glass of Rum while sitting under the moonlight & reminiscing of the times we three has spent in a boarding school in Nainital. After a trip down memory lane we turned in for the night with smiles on our faces for having spent a beautiful day in nature's lap.