I have to write isn't it? As a siesta who smells for the slightest glimpse of hope to put words into paper this Himalayan trek was like a juicy bone given to a hungry dog. No bitch please, please.
This is going to be detailed, as usual, hugely perspective, as usual and quite fun, not as usual. Generally it's the aftermath of a brilliant moment which brings out the best in one. If I had started this post a bit earlier may be it'd have been even more energetic but writing something just before sleeping when the brain doesn't want to work brings out the most candid moments.
It all started almost half a year ago when I was on bench. After a trek to Nagala, quite overwhelming at that time, the urge to do something better provoked me in gathering information for this trek. Balaji, who was the sole accompaniment for my Nagala trek kept on saying that after Himalayas no trek is substantially satisfying. I was pondering over his words for some time. Thanks to his advice I made up my mind for this trek. Oh what all I had to do to convince my parents.
December in Himalayas would make a great status message, but how feasible (sorry I'm an IT professional, you have to bear with my IT jargons, for the ones on my side, your mind would have automatically processed the word, carry on...) it was. I wasn't sure. As a frustrated, hopeless soul I prepared my mind to go for the trek anyhow. Then began the search to find people who would fit in this devious act of a dispassionate sole. The search started with my best friends, then office mates, then school mates and finally ended with my Primary school buddies Balaji, Prasanna, Seena and Karthik (quite unknown to me before the trek) joined. The next four months with rounds and rounds of discussions online, offline was pure fun. I still maintain the mail thread that we used, guys. Our purchase for the trek didn't stop till the last day. Thanks to Balaji.
Then started our trek. Decemeber 24th to be precise. But that date is just for the papers. We were mentally offline long before. The first night in train was joyous, a bit nostalgic, remembering the past or mostly these people updating me what's what. It all started from the second night when the chill started to climb our spine. The blankets, gloves, mufflers, balaclava, everything was out and how! On 26th when we got up at 9'o clock, much late than our aforesaid destination time we could see nothing but mist. Enna orae pani mootama iruku! (People who don't know Tamil don't mind translating, literal translation won't get you anywhere, it's an inside joke) was our general feeling.
We stepped down in Delhi, guys did rounds of shopping and we started off to Old Delhi to catch our train to Pathankot. Old Delhi and New Delhi were quite contrasting in style. Loved those chickens hanging in stores. Our stomachs were craving to try them out but resisted our temptation as we didn't want to be bed ridden before even reaching base camp. The train from Old Delhi to Pathankot was, hmm, well.... Cold is an understatement. But that chill paved the way for from Kangal irandal romance between Seena and some silly looking girl. If you are waiting for a climax, well nothing happened. We got down and got into the bus to Banikhet, our base camp.
There was a lady voice calling out. Are you guys too going to youth hostel? Every one of us shifted a row in front to hear the voice and welcome some estrogen compounds in an otherwise testosterone filled surrounding. For starters the lady was none other than Pooja. The Aloo paratha at the break point was amazing. We reached Banikhet in no time. That's how excited we were. We got our room, she got hers. And as a usual self boasting, effy pround individual I started narrating my awesome 4,5 Km one day treks to Nagala and Tada to Pooja and said about difficulties. Only to be nose cut by her. She seemed to have done treks in Rajasthan, Goa and Sar Pass. I felt very small before her and escaped from there. Thanks to her we went to a useless Tibetian market where we could neither see Tibets nor the markets. The only respite was breezer which too was nothing but our two and a half rupee rasna.
Day One: Banikhet Base Camp
Enough said, we assembled for our camp fire on Day one. There was couple of guys who didn't seem to understand the meaning of applause. They kept on singing and singing and the applause grew but they never ceased to stop. As someone who has decent Hindi knowledge I couldn't even get one single song they sang. Thank you fellas. We retired in our sleeping bags after a cup of bournivta.
Day Two: Banikhet to Dalhousie
It was a 3 ½ to 4 km trek from Banikhet to Dalhousie. At least that's what was said by the Camp leader. It wasn't much difficult. The surface was plain but somewhat steep. We got enough time to rest and rejuvenate. Got to know Karthik, Arun, Priyanka, Aunty and Mahesh during the course. We got to Dalhousie by noon. The place was paradise. Nice soothing beds, great camp leader, mild trek, good noon's nap. Add to it Indo-Pak match with Yuvraj going great guns. It was heaven. I thought I didn't deserve this much royalty. The camp fire was slightly sad affair with a group claiming that that day will be their last day. Priyanka and co were the ones. We bid adieu to them in the evening and got prepared to trek what is going to be coldest place in the whole trek.
Day Three: Dalhousie to Kalatop
I was trekking with our group after a comfortable sleep in our dorm. After pacing a few yards I could see someone in red flashy pants. She looked familiar. It was dues ex machina. The group that claimed to leave the previous day didn't actually leave. All natak. They all were there trekking before us much more enthusiastically than before. I trekked with them almost the whole day. It was a nice trek with ice covered roads. Both scenic and serene. The night was horrid in Kalatop. That was the first time I skipped dinner, thanks to the freezing temperate outside my legs got numb, and fingers were burning. But still we managed to play cards with two more new people, Ankush and Ganesh. I had a terrible night. I would give it to Seena who braved the chill and went for his morning duties in an open field. *A huge round of applause* You are the man, man!
Day Four: Kalatop to Khajjiar
There was no respite even in the morning. Camp leader jokes were doing rounds in our room with the background whistle score by camp leader himself. I skipped breakfast too. I had to skip much more but due to the Censor board cutting those down. That days trek was the real one. Half way downwards and half way upwards was as arduous as it could get. We could feel every joint in our legs writhing with pain. All to see that one shabby piece of grassland which was claimed as Mini Switzerland. The hanuman statue from our balcony was much better sight than that sloppy grass field. The camp fire was cut that day but we had a good round of discussion with woman of the day Aunty Ji. Every time we faced a hurdle we could never stop thinking about Aunty. "If she could do it why can't we" was our mantra. She was a true inspiration for the whole group or at least for us five. While we were getting loose and started with Dumb C the camp leader announced for dinner and the group disintegrated. It was a great evening though.
Day Five: Khajjiar to Mangla
The shabby mass of grassland the previous day was wholly covered by ice. It was great site. We started our day by clicking lots of pictures. The whole route from Khajjiar to Mangla was lensman's paradise. We clicked lots and lots of picture. The majestic Shiva statue on top of the peak looked terrific. I couldn't stop admiring the beauty. It was the second most difficult day in the course of six days but being the last days trek and last day of the year we were quite enthusiastic about completing it. The sense of satisfaction we got after reaching Mangla base camp couldn't be said in words. We were a happy lot. That being New Year's night many retired for partying. Thanks to the stringent rules of YHAI the group got dissolved. We couldn't get in touch with much of them as they themselves were a huge group. The sightseeing in Mangla wasn't a grand affair but street foods were amazing for our taste buds which grew stale after rounds and rounds of chapatti.
Day Six: Mangla to Banikhet
After customary group pictures in front of the base camp we settled in bus. The scenery was again great but after the break point I was much more involved in all time favorite anthakshari than once in a life time opportunity to admire the beauty of Chamba River. I was glad of my stronghold in lyrics. Both in Tamil and Hindi (Yea that's a usual self boasting me if you haven't yet found out.) To be honest I was sad as the trek got over. I'm mostly a loner who keeps to myself, being with a lot of people, listening out to new perspectives was lot of fun. It took me a whole 10 minutes to understand what Professional Artist meant. Then the two strangers whom I shared my room with too were quite different. Al together it's a trek to remember.
Though our trip extended for 3 more days I don't want to include it here and burden you more. Hoping to keep in touch with everyone of you.
Yours sincere soul,
Vikram M N