This year, for my birthday, I decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of Mumbai city life and head for the mountains. A 5 day Hampta pass trek in Himachal, covering almost 26 kms of the Himalayas.
For a person, who plans all her trips down to the last detail and is very picky about who she travels with, this trip was out of her comfort zone. After I booked my trip with an adventure company, I did not think about it (or overthink it). I decided to keep an open mind. I didn’t even bother to find out the number or kind of people that I would spend the 5 days of the trek with.I found myself waiting by a mini-bus to meet the guide and this mysterious group. The first lady who came up and introduced herself was a mother of 2 teenagers. A very fit and talkative person, whom I shared the tent with, exchanged life stories with and most of all laughed with. The next person that entered the vehicle was an IT professional from Bangalore. Everyone else was from Delhi. This guy for some reason had come for the trek without a jacket, trekking boots or gloves but hadn’t forgotten his selfie stick. We never stopped laughing and pulling his leg about this. He did buy a jacket (actually 2) before we set out. The third person that joined the group was a complete chatterbox with a wanderlust heart, I thought. Throughout the trip, he told us stories of his significant Gangotri trek and kept comparing everything we did here to everything he did there. He was quite a chivalrous and helpful guy. The last to join us was this young couple who had planned to take this trip to avoid the pujos (complete blasphemy for a Bengali). They seemed quite aloof in the beginning but slowly started to become part of us, as a group. On such a challenging trip, you have no choice but to lean on each other, talk about body pain, motivate each other and enjoy simple, yet delicious meals (any and all foods are yummy in the mountains) in the dining tent together. This group and the guides were incredible.The experience of the trek as I have told many friends, on my return, was one of the most awesome and gruesome of my life. We got up every morning at 6am (if we managed to sleep at all, that is), washed only our mouths as the water was too cold to touch any other part of our body. Our bodies were covered with layers of clothing, cold cream and sunscreen. We set out every day around 8am after we packed our tents to climb and descend steep mountains, cross treacherous terrain filled with boulders, snow, sand, water and mud.
Never had I ever seen such views of breathtaking sunrises (okay, I’m lying…I did not get up that early), but sunsets, snow-clad mountains, landscapes, starry nights, skies that previewed approaching snowfalls, old and new glaciers, frozen snow paths, fresh snow trails, rivers, flat beds. The list could go on and on.
One of my lifelong wish had been to experience snowfall. Now, I have walked through frozen snow before but never have had snow fall on me. One evening as we were on our way to campsite, small hailstones started falling on us. It graduated to snowfall that continued throughout the night. Our guides visited our tents every hour to dust off the massive snow deposits, else we would have been submerged in the deluge. Yes, it’s freezing and most of your body goes numb but it is nature putting on one of its best shows. I woke up to what had been a brown, barren land the night before, and now a white blanket of soft powdered snow that amazed one at every level, every where you looked.
The trek challenged me physically and mentally and brought home the saying - what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger. You must experience a trek at least once in your lifetime!