IT was like a dream, watching the sunrise at 5:30 am from behind the snow covered peaks. We sat there with warm mugs of freshly poured black tea from the dining tent. Sleep was patchy. The altitude and its effects were showing. Three people sleeping in a single tent was initially a bad idea. As the night grew colder we quickly realized it was a blessing in disguise. I do not remember jumping out of my bed with so much to look forward to at 05:30 am in the recent past. And there we were, all of us, not carrying our mountains any more but climbing them.
The fragrance of ajwain ( bishops weed or carom) from the black tea infused the fresh morning air as we took sip after sip doing nothing but staring at the suns rays painting the canvas of the sky, feeling surrendered to natures way of saying 'Good Morning'. These scenes from the little village of Khullara are fresh and deeply embedded in our hearts. The popular ever loving bellows of our trek guide "Chai tayaar hai ! Mug leke ajao" ( tea is ready, get your own mugs) distinctly ring in our ears and a smile makes it way to our lips. I have been caught smiling at myself more often after the trek than ever before.
I would be lying if I said I started conceptualizing this post after I returned from the trek. It all started with things not falling in place around February 2017. The claustrophobic feeling of life not moving in the intended direction led to a flurry of introspective questions. All answers had just one message - Soul Searching Required. Just about then a close friend returned from a week long trek in the Himalayas. Eyes twinkling, smile stuck on her face it triggered a thought train - "could this be it?" A trek in the Himalayas ? Just to put things in perspective I have serious vertigo and cannot look down standing on a chair. What was being considered was a trek to approximately 12500 -12600 feet and making summit.
"When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny." - Paulo Cohelo
Accept the challenge I did. It was decided. Quick browsing on the internet brought me to one of the most well designed and user friendly websites of INDIAHIKES (IH). A few quick clicks and I was done booking myself a seat on the 14th May to Kuari Pass in the Garwal ranges of the mighty Himalayas. I read enough about the trek and began preparing for it. Quick inputs from the IH team chalked out a strong plan to achieve the required strength and will to successfully complete the trek.
Our trek began as we huddled at Haridwar, an ancient Hindu city where the Holy river Ganga exits the Himalayas. Quickly hopped into our rented vehicles and were on our way to base camp - Joshimath.
On the way, we passed Devprayag a small religious town known for the rivers Alakhnanda and Bhagirathi meet to form the Holy Ganga. The confluence was truly a mesmerizing sight. Our vans continued to scurry through deceptive winding roads of the mountainous terrain. We reached Joshimath our base camp close to nightfall. Shivering like dry leaves as temperatures fell close to 10 deg C with rain adding to our woes. We relished hot Maggi and Chai at a roadside shack before the biting cold, and Joshimath threw open their doors. The evening was spent knowing each other, understanding trekking ground rules and recording body vitals like blood pressure, sat oxygen and pulse rates. "We have an early start tomorrow" said our trek leader as we sat eating dinner in a warm room at the foothill of our dorm.
Alarms were set for 6 am but we woke up at 5:30. Grabbing whatever warm clothing that was lying near the backpack we stepped out of our dorm. The view outside made us gasp in awe. One of the most amazing sights seen at that time of the day for a very long time. (click on the thumbnails to view larger images)
The snow capped peaks made us melt. These views marked an amazing start to our trek promising abundant views of mountains and peaks that would fill our hearts and stay etched for months to come.
We ate our breakfasts anxiously and hopped onto our cabs to a small village called 'Dhak'. At this point we set out to see, walk and summit the Kuari Top.