From there Lisa and I headed our own ways. I went on to spend the next 10 days in the last inhabited village, Khati, enroute Pindari glacier as a volunteer for an art project. The task was to paint the village with life lessons and stories from the villagers. As I spent those days without network, I made a more genuine connection with people around me. Nothing else that I've done in my life has given me more satisfaction. I built some lifelong friendships and memories.
The route for the trek to Pindari glacier in the upper Kumaon region starts from Khati Village now. The road has finally reached nearby Kharkiya Village which is 5 km away from Khati. For the 75 people who live in Khati, problem of road accessibility has been improved not resolved. The old trek route has now been altered and Khati serves as a base point for the trek making this village a more noticeable destination than before.Recently the village just got quite a face-lift by a group of artists who arrived here on a project initiated by Project FUEL and Hans Foundation. Now when the trekkers land up here on their way to Pindari or Kafni Glacier trek, the bright and dreamy walls of the village shine out bright at their first glimpse from the ridge of Dau, 2 km before Khati.
The next day we were up at 6 am. We soaked in what would be the final sight of the exquisite peaks & glacier. Packed & ready we said goodbye to Babaji & headed back down.Along the way my friend & I got into an argument about what our destination would be for the day. While I insisted that we camp at Phurkiya my mate wanted to push down to Dwali. We couldn't have chosen a worse time for this as we were trekking across a path that had been destroyed by the landslide & the only way across was to walk laterally with our chests to the rocks. The anger just made this bit worse.We reached Phurkiya by 11 am & I was ready to settle in but my friend insisted we trek down to Dwali. I got so mad that I started walking down & told him I would only stop at Khati now, bringing the total trekking distance to 23 km. As we neared Dwali my mate tried to cheer me up & wanted to stop at Dwali but my rage wouldn't have it. In my anger I had already twisted my ankle & then like an arrogant child I refused to have lunch.We walked & walked & my pain got worse & worse. Yet, my ego was too proud to show it. I went on with rage on my face. Finally, having started the day at 8 am, we reached Khati by 6 pm having trekked for 23 km & 10 hours.When we reached Khati I could barely take one more step. I threw my back-pack away & my back felt like someone had lit a fire on it. My poor friend took all my attitude without a fuss. I was in no position to camp & since everything else was booked, we managed to convince the cook of a restaurant next to the P.W.D guest house to offer us a room in his house for 700 bucks. The moment I stepped into the room I took off the wet clothes in a hurry as the cold & fatigue had gotten to me. After putting on the dry & warm clothes I layered myself with quilts & blankets. After 20 minutes or so when I was warm enough I asked my friend to inspect my back. He took a look & told me that there were major bruises on my back & the pain relief spray had made them worse. While I stayed in bed like a diva my mate arranged for dinner.The dinner calmed me down as did the fatigue. I was too tired to be angry so gave in & went to bed.
The next morning we were up by 6 am. We showered & washed & re-packed our bags & put on our trekking gear. Looking at one self in the mirror with all that trekking gear gets you so pumped. We were ready. True to his word, the jeep was at the door at 7 am.The route to Kharkiya is a 4 hr drive covering around 100 km. It started raining the moment we crossed Bageshwar. We took a pit stop at Kapkot which is on the way to Loharkhet, the actual base camp for this trek. There are two ways of going about the trek. The first is to start the trek from Loharkhet itself & reach Dhakuri which is an 11 km hike. Camp at Dhakuri & the following day trek down another 9 km to Khati village. The other alternative, which was the one we chose, is to drive till Kharkiya & then trek 5 km directly to Khati village, saving yourself a day. Though, I may add, my friends took the alternate route when they did the same trek a year back & vouch for the fact that the view from Dhakuri Top is the best one on the trail. So, chose accordingly.We spent an hour at Kapkot having breakfast while the taxi driver got more passengers. The road from Kapkot to Kharkiya is quite treacherous. Its not the most comfortable journey, but the eagerness of starting the trek gets you through the discomfort.We reached Kharkiya by 12 noon & started the 5 km trek to Khati (2210 mt). The route is a gradual decent for about 2 km followed by a straight path & an eventual climb of 2 odd km. Now, since this was the first time I was trekking & add to it the heavy weight of the bag, I have to say I was very slow & feelling exhausted with every step. It was quite a challenge to finish the 5 km trek. Eventually, we did reach Khati around 4:30 pm.Khati is probably the most beautiful village I have seen till date. You are welcomed into the village with step-farmlands, traditional kumaoni stone houses, laughing children & all this is framed with Mt. Nanda Kot in the background. It is quite literally a fairy tale village. Unfortunately for me, I was too damn tired to enjoy this scenic village & instead headed straight to the K.M.V.N guest house which is a little climb at the end of the main village. There, I happened to meet a family friend who runs a beautiful resort in the town of Binsar & is a frequent trekker himself. He was there with the employees of Hans foundation, a non profit organization working towards improving the quality of life & education in an around the village of Khati. He was helping set up a satellite linked office for them to work out off. Apart from offering us free dinner & countless cups of hot tea, he also helped us get a spot in the veranda of the guest house to pitch our tent as it had started raining by then & the guest house was already fully booked. I was thoroughly moved by the kindness shown to us, especially when I was nearly exhausted from the trek.Before dinner we chatted with the employees of the Hans foundation who were mostly men & women in the 20's. They were from the Bangalore & Delhi offices and had spent close to a month recceing places around the village. I was fascinated that their job gave them the opportunity to travel to such a quaint place & to be honest I was a little envious. Nevertheless, I was very thankful to them for having taken the initiative to improve the lives of the people of the village since being from the state, I have seen how tough life in the hills is.After a sumptuous dinner of dal, rice & veggies, we bid goodbye to our hosts. Post a night cap we dozed off, rather uncomfortably, since we had never ever slept in a tent or sleeping bag before.