It was a glorious day in the Kullu valley. It was the first day and the first phase of the trek. The chirping of the birds, the streams flowing by, the canopy of the pine and maple trees were making it a heavenly setting. Despite the fears of torrential rains,the rain gods had sought a mercy.
This was my first Himalayan trek, so initially when I had started the journey for the trek, a barrage of thoughts and emotions had gathered in my head. I had to fight it out at my home to get permission. So, I always had the fear of what would happen if it doesn't go well, as i had hardly done any preparations for the trek. The journey had also started on a not so positive note at the Mumbai airport. I had to sleep at the airport overnight to catch the early morning flight to Chandigarh, due to the traffic block outside caused by a bridge collapse. As I waited at the Mumbai airport, some negative thoughts did start to trickle in my head, as the things hadn't quite happened as per plan, which I wiped right away with the age old therapy of having a big fat pizza at the airport. By god's grace the journey that followed till Manali was very smooth. I reached Manali at around 21:00-21:30 and booked the first hotel that I saw on the mall road. The next day I got up at around 08:30. I had a stroll around the Mall road. I bought some items that were required for the trek. However, it was more of a rest day. The foodie in me though could not resist the temptation of all the street food around in Manali and had a few bites of kachori and jalebi (the number of bites remains a secret), even though the trek was starting the next day.
The next morning I got up at around 07:00 am and got myself ready. I met the trek leader and the rest of group at around 9.30 a.m as per the Scheduled time. A car was waiting for us near the bus stand to take us to our base camp, Jobra. I was going to spend the rest of the 5 days with these people, who were at that point strangers, but had to gel with them as soon as possible, which was quite a difficult task for me, considering I am an introvert big time. After reaching Jobra, we left for the first phase of the trek, once the group of 6 people who were going to take care of our food for the 5 days, arrived.
The beautiful green meadows, where some horses and cows were grazing, took my mind into a separate world, full of joy and happiness, a far cry from the town and city life. Beautiful pine and maple trees were giving way for some breathtaking scenes. It was a relatively short trek for the day of around 4 kms. Our first camping was at Chika. This was my first camping right in the lapse of the Himalayas, so my excitement had no bounds. The snow clad peaks of the Pir Panjal range were basking in glorious sunshine. It was a sight to be devoured. In this Pir Panjal range, one can see a fort like structure, named Shankar ka killa(fort). The place got its name from the Chika temple, which is on the other side of the valley. Just starring at the sky full of stars at night from the tent, makes you feel your life was worthwhile.
The next two days were going to be a lot tougher though, as the journey was long ,the valley was steep and the oxygen levels depleting. The next day, we got up at 06:00 a.m. Today we needed longer breaks than the first day, as the journey was really energy sapping. The most thrilling and bone chilling part was the river crossing at Jwara. The glacial stream was freezing and the flow was tremendous. Holding each others' hands tightly, we managed to cross the stream. During the trek, due to the energy released from the body never felt cold. However, when we stopped at the our next campsite, Balu ka Ghera, the chill really made its presence felt. The good food that was provided kept us in good stead and was very fulfilling. The garama garam chai gave us the warmth. The beautiful flowers growing by the stream bed gave the valley a look resembling the valley of flowers.
The next phase was the toughest, as it was the day when we had to cross the kullu valley and reach the Spiti valley. The gradient was steep and the trek was lengthy. The greenery of the Kullu valley was slowly disappearing and giving way for the unforgiving cold dessert in Spiti. As we had started ascending towards the Hampta pass, more and more cotton like clouds had started to make their abodes in the mountains. The cold winds were blowing all guns blazing. Due to all the heat and energy released during the tiring yet fulfilling trek, the cold wasn't really affecting us. When we reached at the highest altitude at Hampta, we were literally on cloud nine. After crossing the Hampta pass, we descended down a bit into the Spiti valley. Descending wasn't an easy task either, with the sand making life really difficult. We pitted our tents at Sheagoru. That evening was the coldest of the whole lot. It was too bitter to even go outside the tent. The hot pakoras and tea made all this heavenly and worthwhile and an an unforgettable experience. The decreasing oxygen levels, the steepness of the valley, the big boulders and the patchy snow had made this the toughest phase of the trek and we had managed to conquer it.
The last day trek of our amazing journey was relatively short one and it was a descend to our last camping spot Chatru. The Chandra river was flowing full throttle.We reached Chatru, from we were driven to the heavenly Chandrataal lake. The journey though was shaky to say the least. It was literally like driving through the glacial rivers and streams. It took us around four to five hours to finally reach Chandrataal. Even though we did not trek much, the topsy turvy journey had shaken me up. The mesmerizing sights of the lake, the stacked Buddhist stones and flags, sheep grazing around the lake took away all the fatigue though. After spending some time and clicking pictures at the lake we returned back to Chatru. It was our last camping night. I was going to miss this eternal beauty and the memories I had made for lifetime. The horses, sheep and the mountain dogs that were surrounding us all the time had become a part of life too. It was going to get over. I was going to miss this new family that I had made.
The next day was the return journey back to Manali from Chatru. We did not have mobile range for all these days, so when we finally got it at the Rohtang Pass, I was too excited to contact my parents and share my mindboggling experience.
This experience made me realise my potential, strengths. The memories and the experiences will be cherished and always preserved for the rest of my life.