By the time we were back at the Entry Gate, it was 5 o'clock and the patrolling party was leaving for their daily scouting to round up all the people who entered the valley. Activities like these have kept the sanctity of the valley intact over the years.
In a normal situation, I should have rested at the Gurudwara after traversing 41 km in one and a half-day but it was essential for me to be at the Joshimath Bus Station the next which particularly meant another 13 km for that day. Since this was not the case with the friend, he decided to rest and start for Govindghat the next day. After charging up my phone for half an hour I bid farewell to him, exchanged numbers and wished him luck for life.
I had no idea what fate had decided for me, little did I know I would remember it forever my life. The sun had already set and I had just started my 13 km trek through the dense jungle. The first leg of the trek was just downhill which I ran, a decision which turns out I would regret the next 2 months while walking with a cane.
It was during the second leg of the trek things started to get scary and magical at the same time. I was hiking between thick jungle on both sides of the trail with the night sky above, visible sometimes through the crevices of the canopy. I believe it was the clearest night sky I have ever seen in my lifetime and the closest I have been to the stars. As soon as I reached midway, I started hearing voices of grown men. Although scared, my gut feeling made me pace up. I reached four men clad in all white with makeshift natural pole navigating themselves through the trail without the help of any light source. All this time I never realized the savior that my phone's flashlight had been. They were relieved to have received my assistance and I was happy to have found their company. A perfect symbiotic relationship.
'You only start a trip solo, you never finish one' would become mine go to advise for people asking anything about trekking. The entire distance back to Gurudwara was spent in conversation and them getting to know me and my solo trip. They were Hemkund pilgrims from Punjab who were inherently farmers but high officials of the village Panchayat. I had almost damaged my left knee and was barely able to walk the last 3 km. Since it had been raining at all times in the last two days and I had been walking the most of them, my shoes were completely done with. I was almost crying when I reached my bed at 10 in the might and let it all out when I did.