Thursday, 29 September 2011

Miles to go before I sleep - Part 6 - Reaching for the clouds

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine :)
Part 4:

Next Destination: Nagaru - Ht. 12500 ft. (09 kms)
Day 7:

I used to usually wake up early and so I did again. There was a small stone from which I could enjoy the beauty of nature. I sat there mesmerized in the beauty for a while :). I turned around and saw some other early risers, a couple of them sitting and chatting and there was Keerthi photographing with his camera mounted on his tripod. He and Ashwyn did night outs and captured some photographs of the stars.  There was Naveen peeping out of his tent, lying down and capturing photos from his lazy point :D. Soon some more people came there we talked about for a while and then it was time to go again. We formed the lines, took the counts and started off climbing again.
And so it begins

One of the guides carrying the luggage was a very pretty lady and her outfit was very cute :). She carried atleast 4 times the load we carried yet walked faster than us. As I chatted with her, she said it was her 1st time through this route too. I asked her how does she manage to walk so fast with all this load. I asked her “Aap thakte nahi hai kya?”. She gave me a very sweet answer, she said “Aap bhi toh padhai karne se nahi thakte”. But I feel people in these mountains really enjoy life more. Today’s climb though short was steep and the degree of the mountain was 70o to 80o. The climb was mostly zig-zag and we soon reached the lunch point. Here Nikhi caught some signal on her mobile. We had heard that at Nagaru we would get network (after all its at 12500feet) and so we did. After some maggi (oh yeah those people were there here too :) ), we set off again.

At lunch point
After lunch, we set off again

We climbed and climbed getting small dirty patches of snow here and there. Finally reached the camp site. We reached early by 3 or 4. Sunset is early at Nagaru and the scheduled sleeping time there is 6PM. We had heard some alarming stories about this camp site that due to high winds, sometimes the tents fly away and people are left holding on to tent poles :O. Someone had advised not to sleep near the end of the tent towards the mountain as the wind is more there (There were some other jokes regarding this but let me not mention it :P). You had to be careful when you went to do any activities since there was more chances of slipping and falling on the slopes and the snow. We had our usual roll call and one of the guys came a bit late as he was attending a call (you know which :P). The camp leader here was a little strict(which was necessary in those conditions) and he almost told this late comer to return back to base camp :O :D :P. Things got normal after that(i.e., if you call shivering in the cold normal :P) and he gave us the usual instructions. Here the water was available only as long as sunlight was available since it was melted snow(under sunlight). So he told us to stay away from the snow for certain activities. We were now covered in clouds (Oh yeah you can touch the clouds :P ) as we had expected ever since seeing this from Padri camp.

Nagaru camp

Still Nagaru camp(The white stuff you see above the ground is clouds)

We wanted to play in the snow and wanted to make a snowman. So Sandeep, Keerthi, Kalpit and I went to make a snowman while Pranav watched from a side. As I was making it, I remembered all the awesome snowmen Calvin makes :D. We had hardly done anything when the camp leader called us off for something. Then Chatur got stuck in snow because he went in with slippers :D :D :D and Kalpit and Pranav pulled him out :D.

This is how Pranav describes it:

"are woh gaya tha ghumne (aisa usne bola) aur kahi bich me jaake atak gaya, due to his CHAPPAL..
and so he called for (little) help...
somehow, we managed tht.. becoz we were all working on our SNOW-MAN
 hum (as obvio.) shooe pehan ke gaye. :D extra lakdiyaan lekar.. all was complete in clouds.. and giving him sticks, he finally came out. :D"
At Nagaru camp
We came back and chatted with the camp leader. He told us that when SP1 and SP2 batches came, the Nagaru camp site was covered in snow completely and they had to turn back to base camp without going to Sarpass. Some other batch experienced snowfall (we didn’t :( :’( *Boohoo* ). He also told that the next day a guide and 2 Nepali Sherpas would be accompanying us through Sarpass. The sherpas we learned were a very strong breed of Nepalis who could carry even 2 humans on their shoulders :O :O. Our Sherpa, Shyam was very eager to meet the real sherpas :D. We went to bed early that night(shivering ofcourse) because we were scheduled to wake at 2 the next day, have breakfast at 3a.m(or 3.30am) and set off at 4am on the snow in torchlights!!!

So we got zipped up inside our sleeping bags(the temperature that night was 1o or 0o celsius) awaiting the day we would cross Sarpass(as this trek was called) looking forward to the big adventure. Little did we know that there would be a mis-adventure waiting someone too!!

P.S: Yay I finally managed to write a small post but the post on Sarpass is probably gonna be the longest…

Thats all folks ;)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Miles to go before I sleep - Part 5 - Camping at 10700ft

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine :)
Part 4:

Next destination: Ratapani – Ht. 10700 ft.(12 km)

After promising to keep the post on Padri short and failing miserably I am making no such promises now, so you have to bear with my blabbering.

Though the YHAI website mentions this trek to be 7km, the information is wrong. The field director at base camp had informed us that it is 12(or 13 km).  So after the usual morning activities of handing in the sleeping bags and forming a line, we set off to see what that day had to offer :). Off we went knowing that today’s climb was the longest and the most strenuous and hopes of catching some snow (it would be dirty of course but I got excited all the same, which later got me in trouble that day). The day started as usual - walking, slipping, talking, joking, teasing each other, we went up and down, taking breaks and starting again. We had our usual accompanying scenery, pine trees(I guess), the roaring Parvati river, glimpses of snow capped mountains. Sometimes, I felt that, after a while all mountains start looking the same but that’s not true. Each view is amazing:). 
Photo by Keerthi

After the long and treacherous walk, we finally reached the lunch point which had 2 yellow tents propped up. It had just started to rain by the time we reached there and got into one of the over-crowded tents for cover none too soon. We got in and it started raining hard, hitting hailstones all the while. Not having had lunch yet we gulped down hot maggi which those amazing people staying at that point provided. It’s a wonder how they manage to live there in those conditions. It rained our usual hailstones, hard for almost an hour or so. We sat there barely able to move and finally when it stopped raining we came out. It was cold. We were after all nearing 10000ft. At a particular position in the other tent, Naveen had got a single line of network on his mobile. When Nikhi told me about it, I went to give a call to my mom and dad. The last mobile signal I had got was at Kasol base camp. Poor Naveen was sitting in a particular position and he couldn’t move an inch, else he would have lost network. So using his headphones, all of us made the calls :) while he didn’t move a muscle. A hot glass of tea later all of us set off again towards Ratapani.
At lunch point after the rain(Photo by Keerthi)

En route, we finally found our 1st small patch of snow at a side. It was dirty and those before us had struck their wooden sticks in it as they passed. I couldn’t help but do the same :). We had been warned about the birds that fly at this height. And we saw eagles(I think) flying at our level or below us. The climb was mostly uphill today and we moved on until we came to a stretch of land. We had to cross this land, climb up on the rocks and climb down to reach the campsite. I am not an animal lover nor do I hate them. By today I too had started liking our dog Pintya :). She was our guide. As we walked across the stretch of land, another shepherd dog came towards us. The guys already loved Pintya(Weird name for a dog I know :P ) and they petted this new comer too. As soon as I saw him I petted him too, he was so rich, so beautiful, a shining black dog.
The sheep chase (Pic by Shyam)

To our right about half a km away was a huge triangular patch of snow at the foot of the mountain. This was probably the patch of snow we had seen from Padri camp. I wanted to touch it even though I knew next day we would hit a lot more snow.  Nikhi had developed a cough that day due to the cold and it was irritating her like hell. So she waited with Shyam while I ran towards the snow. Near the snow were around 20 sheep grazing the grass. I passed them and reached the snow and trod on it. I touched the snow(it was cold, what else did you expect :P) but it made me happier to touch it :). I took a fistful of snow and threw it up in the air and turned back reluctantly to continue on (I was excited at the prospect of snow, remember my childhood wish?). When I had reached the snow I had seen about 10 sheep grazing above in the mountains. I turned back and started walking towards towards Nikhi and Shyam (who was photographing as always). As I was walking, I heard the “meih meih” of sheep. The sounds increased in volume and I turned and saw more sheep coming out of the mountain and from the plane land and all of them started running towards me. I too started running, as more sheep joined in(I don’t know where they were hidden before this :O) and they were all running towards me :S. I didn’t know what to do, I panicked a bit (what if they all come and surround me and knock me over???) and at the same time I was feeling very funny and so I was laughing as I ran away from them.
Some of my trekking friends who had started climbing had stopped to see me being chased by sheep (I learnt later that they were cheering me on though I didn’t hear it) and Nikhi and Shyam were howling with laughter when I reached them. I was relieved but I was laughing hard too :D. By then a shepherd lady had come and she was taking the sheep back towards the mountains but she did give me dragger looks and gave me a lot of galis in her native tongue which I luckily didn’t understand. From then on, along with being nicknamed Hit List , I also got named as The Sheep Girl. I was probably the 1st person in history to be chased by a 100 sheep :S. I was the villain who had disturbed their snow.  Amid laughter and talks we went again and joined Vikas who was climbing up. From here on we had to climb up the steep rocky surface and then get down on other side to reach the camp. Finally on reaching the top we met the camp leader who greeted us(He was super cool and the best camp leader ever :) ).He directed us to go down towards the camp site and by this time, 2 more of our batch mates who were behind us were surrounded by the sheep I had brought :D.

Ratapani campsite (Pic by Naveen)
I captured this pic the next morning

We reached the campsite and after throwing our rucksacks in our tents came out to have tea and some snacks. Sandeep had come earlier to have oxygen from the oxygen cylinder :D.  As opposed to the customry forming of lines after reaching the campsite to take the count of members, the cool camp leader told us we could sit and relax and have the count there itself. He also gave us the usual tips and told us that that after the long trek that day, next day’s trek to Nagaru would be the shortest one. He warned us to be careful at night because sometimes bears or snow leapords would come. We saw none of these though :( (I was secretly hoping to see one). He also told us that we were supposed to receive paneer pakodas that day but didn’t because the supply had not come (Told you they give too much food to eat). We all sat and saw the awesome sunset. It was ‘possessing beauty; aesthetically pleasing’ (I used a thesaurus to stop using the word beautiful :D ). As I said before, any words used to describe it, any pic used to capture it will not do it full justice. You have to be there to see and experience it. We sat there, lost in the beauty of nature and we all did a jump on the mountains (I didn’t reach high as the others :( ).
Soon we had dinner after with the usual talks and jokes and teasing. By now, we recognized people not only by names but also clothes(c’mon what do you expect when people are wearing the same clothes for 3 days :P ). And off we went to get zipped in our sleeping bags, at a height of 10700 feet. Wearing thermals was a must in addition to the usual woolen socks, gloves and caps.

Next day was one of the most awaited days (each day was awaited) as we would be reaching the famed Nagaru camp which had snow and about which we had heard some funny yet somewhat alarming stories.

Thats all folks ;)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Miles to go before I sleep - Part 4 - Padri at 8900ft

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine :)

The preceding parts:
Part 1:
Miles to go before I sleep - Part 1
Part 2:
Miles to go before I sleep - Part 2

Part 3:
Miles to go before I sleep - Part 3

Next Destination : Padri - Ht. 8900 ft. (10 kms)
Day 5:
When I completed writing about Grahan(I forgot to mention - Ht. 7700 ft. (09 kms)), I thought the post on Padri would be small, that nothing extraordinary had happened that day. But I had forgotten the most unexpected event that happened that evening. I will come to that when time comes.
By now we were accustomed to sleeping in the tents and woke up the next day feeling fresh. After doing the default activities of the day, we had tea and handed over the sleeping bags and the rugs, then had breakfast (Forced to eat, c’mon you can’t feel hungry so early but have to eat to have the energy). One of the Bhabhis of our tent was suffering from fever the previous day and as she was unwell, she and her husband decided to go back to Kasol with a guide and withdrew from the trek. So we were reduced from 52 to 50. The two [Sardar] uncles (guess I haven’t mentioned them before) and another guy decided to hire guides to carry their rucksacks for them. We formed the usual lines (rest of us carrying our own rucksacks) when counts are taken and off we set again.

The guide(I think his name was Ramlal) was a nice uncle and we chatted with him as we started. The distance to Padri is scheduled to be covered in 5 hours though we always exceed it. I asked the guide how much time would he take and he said climbing up would be 2 hours and coming back down 1 hour :O :O . Now the distance to Padri was 10 kms but it involved going downwards a Km and a half before we start rising up again. It had rained heavily the previous day and the muddy ground was just too slippery. Walking became pretty slow as the people in front moved over the more slippery places more cautiously. As we waited for the line to move, Keerthi and Naveen called to me and asked “Do you want a red bull?”. I knew it was some joke and when I turned, they pointed to a bull that was coming running. :P

I slipped a lot of times as we went downwards due to the muddy path and was unsure of my footing. Finally Shyam came to the rescue (He is a Sherpa and the slippery mud doesn’t work on him) and saved me from falling numerous times. By the next day he had helped me so many times that I had to take him off my hit list :) :(. Finally we reached the river below and had a refreshing drink and filled our bottles. The water of Parvati river is delicious. It is so sweet (not the sugary sweet, you know what I mean) and pure and unadulterated. It tastes just awesome. That water is life. Off we went again following the guide’s path, talking, joking, discussing random things, photographing, taking short breaks, having glucose (Its very important to carry glucose). Finally reached the lunch point.
Top half snow, bottom half water(Pic by Shyam)

The trees struck by lightning

At lunch point, we could see a distant mountain partially covered in snow. The amazing thing was half the mountain was snow and from that point downwards the snow melted and flew down as water :). There were a few trees struck by lightning. There was 1 tree which was hollowed on 1 side because it was struck by lightning but it was still alive and had his branches green filled with leaves :). Amar, Nikhi and I set off again but after covering a distance I realized that I had forgotten my wooden stick(A stick is a life line here ). So I told Amar and Nikhi to carry on and I went back for my stick. After getting the stick, I set off again with Sandeep, Vikas and Shyam. As the campsite was only a little distance away, we hoped to reach it before it started raining again. Alas that didn’t happen but the rain we were caught in was not as much as yesterday when we were trekking and soon reached the campsite. We got into our respective tents and soon heavy rains started pouring.
Padri campsite with the mighty mountains in the background (Pic by Shyam)
The mules grazing (Pic by Keerthi)

The rains in the mountains are fast and hard and accompanied at that height and above by hailstones. From my tent door flap I saw the rains and the hailstone, caught a few hailstones. It looks so nice :). When it soon stopped raining, Nikhi and Amar along with the some other girls chose to remain inside the tent due to the cold(They would come out soon though ;) ) and I felt just the opposite. I wanted to be outside as much as possible enjoying the mesmerizing beauty of the mighty Himalayas :). If it was beautiful before, after the rains it looked even more beautiful. There were some mules grazing away and the view of the mountains looked majestic. It was larger than life :). Any words I use to describe it would do it injustice. The image is still stuck in my mind :) so beautiful (I know I am using this word a lot), so mighty, partially covered in cloud, oh yeah the clouds are at the same level as peak of mountains or below. The simplest comparison I can give is this: I had only seen snow capped mountains in movies before so imagine sitting in a theater and the movie screen multiplied by 10 in height and by 10 in width and imagine the mountains on it. But more real and more beautiful and you are there smelling it, seeing it for real :) :) :).

I turned and I saw Pranav sitting on a rock, writing something in a notebook (Probably a love letter to Pintya :P ), there was Shyam clicking some snaps and further were Naveen, Keerthi and Manju. Keerthi with his 2 kg tripod was capturing the mountains(I still didn’t know then about his craze and talent for photography :) ).  As we stood there watching and talking, soon we saw a white bull coming in our camp site and a black bull which belonged to the camp site started fighting with it(or was it the other way around?). It caught all our attention. By now Nikhi and Amar had come out too and we witnessed this awesome bull fight. It was incredible, it went on for a while, watched by us and other bulls some of which were kid bulls. Manju went dangerously close to a rock near where the bulls were fighting, clicking away and Keerthi was lost in photography too. Meanwhile, Pranav who had Keerthi’s mobile bet the mobile(without Keerthi’s knowledge :D ) saying that the black bull will win. The camp leader told us that whenever the white bull came the black bull would drive it away, it was possessive of the camp site. Finally the incredible fight was over and the black bull won :D. BTW we also saw some skulls of bulls there :S.
The incredible bull fight (Pic by Keerthi)

Sunset there is quite late usually 7.30pm and it becomes bright early morning by 4.30am or so. We had a debate on that whether this was due to altitude or longitude and from there the topic turned to camp fire that day. Pranav and I had a bet and it finally turned out that I had to give 50 Parle G wrappers to these guys :S. Weird I know :P

The camp leader had told us not to cross a certain point beyond which were the natives who didn’t like interference and they didn’t want us to step on their stones as they considered the stones to be God. He also pointed out the Nagaru campsite which was atop the vast mountains we could see to the left. He showed us how to locate it with reference to the lunch point which was prominently visible. With the help of camera lens we could locate it and saw most of the campsite was covered in clouds! We were awestruck to learn that this huge distance, scaling to the top of that mountain would be covered in just 2 days!!

The SP20 batch which was in Nagaru that day flashed green laser lights at us and we responded in same :D. The camp leader warned us that if anyone wanted to answer any calls at night we should go towards our respective wooded area with a companion to lookout for wild animals and also whistle or sing. After this it was time to get in the sleeping bags. That day I slept at the end of the tent near the door flap. At around 4 in the morning I awoke with a start feeling something against the tent pole. I was scared (what if it was a wild bear, what was I supposed to do? Everyone was zipped in sleeping bags aslee!) but later realized it was a mule grazing the grass nearby :D.

Calvin says, ‘if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-
examine your life’, these were the days of my life where my knees were literally green and need not re-examine my life one bit :).
Soon we would be starting towards Ratapani, the most strenuous climb of the trek :). 

Thats all folks ;)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Miles to go before I sleep - Part 3 - Grahan, here we come

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine :)

The preceding parts:
Part 1:
Miles to go before I sleep - Part 1
Part 2:
Miles to go before I sleep - Part 2

Next Destination: Grahan
Day 4:
Our rucksack consisted of just a pair of extra clothes (I was shocked when I was told that that was all the extra clothes one needs to carry for 6 days :O), the inner sheet to be put in sleeping bags which we would get in each of the camp sites, poncho, loads of sweaters and woolens, water bottle, torch, lunch box... ah now I dont remember the list.The field director called this a Five star trek as all we have to carry are our rucksacks. We need not carry tents, sleeping bags, utensils etc.The experienced trekkers called it a trek of level way above medium and a little below difficult. I am taking their word for it. 
So here we were all set to go to the higher camp. The 1st destination being Grahan which is at a height of 7700feet. The Field director had told us a fun fact of Grahan(which means eclipse) that the residents of Grahan have never seen an eclipse(grahan). With hopes of what we would see next we set off in a single file while SP23 and SP24 batches cheered us. There was no guide available and all we had to do was follow the single path on reaching the outskirts of Kasol village which passed through the rock climbing and rapelling venue. If there were any forks in the path, YHAI had made sure to mark the right path with a red arrow and in many cases a YHAI was also painted :). We set about getting to know our new friends and chit chatting with them. YHAI always assigned some strong trekker of the group to come at last. The idea was that the weaker ones would not be left behind. Sometimes it was Kirti who had earlier done the Sarpass trek other times it was Shyam or Sudhakar or Manjunath. (If I have missed out mentioning anyone's name, then I apologize for it :) ). 
We had a view of the Parvati river many times. The taste of the water of the river is simply delicious :) All those people who claim that water is something that is tasteless ought to have a sip of this water!

As this was a first big major trek for Nikhi and me, we were initially at the start of the group along with Amar. We were soon joined by Kakpit, Pranav, Chatur, Sandeep and others while Shyam who had skills of a Sherpa in trekking joined us and leisurely walked at our pace, helping us in the difficult parts and did some super cool photography in the meantime. I had just one rechargable battery for my camera (Dont make this mistake, carry some extra batteries.The cold drains the batteries super fast.) The earlier returned trekkers of the earlier batches had given us advice at the recharge-chit-chat joint in the base camp to wrap the batteries in a woolen sock and to put it in the sleeping bag at night. Since Shyam was doing such a superb job at photography, I decided to use my camera on the day we threaded Sar Pass(Cmon I had not experienced snow before) and put my camera away and wrapped the battery in a NEW sock :D. We had had a early breakfast at 6.30 that day and had set off with a packed lunch of parathas and aloo or chana gravy.  
We saw these peacefully sitting on the way(I kept thinking these are peaceful but I would be proved wrong in a couple of days)

We stopped for lunch before the lunch point and even though I was not hungry I had half my lunch. We had been warned that we may not feel hungry due to the climatic changes but had to eat nonetheless(Listen to the advice of the field director). We set off again and at times were struck by rain. The rain lasted just 5 minutes or so that day and after a break would come again. This involved wearing and taking off the ponchos. Never wear a raincoat while trekking beause it is suffocating. When we reached the lunch point, some people had maggi and I had a tea. Its amazing that the people who served maggi and tea came there and stayed there in those conditions. As someone said that day, paying 40 rupees for a maggi was truely worth it for the conditions in which it was served. We would be meeting these people every day now. After the short break we set off again and finally came to the beautiful village of Grahan. I remember there was a Krishna temple there with intricately carved wooden work. 

Grahan village - told you it is beautiful didnt I?

As we passed through the village we met many some locals as our camp site was on the other end of the village. They were nice, friendly people who gave us directions. I was surprised to see a tata sky dish here and there :D. As we moved through the narrow way we met a lady whom we asked how far it was. She said 10 minutes and I asked her "Aapke liye ya hamare liye?" She gave me a very sweet smile and said "Bas 10 minute" :). After that whenever we met the locals and asked how far it was, I always asked whether it was with respect to them or us :D, after all the distance we covered in 5 minutes they covered in a minute or 2. As we passed through the village I realised that this was the only way to reach it(on foot). There were no roads for transportation by vehicles. I wondered why do people live here and almost instantly (probably) I realised the reason- they are happy here :) free from the hustle of the city. And they get snowfall in winter(Last year the snowfall there was 4 feet which I learnt next day). I have always wished since I was a kid that it would snow in my hometown. Alas that wont happen ever!
Finally we could see out camp site with the tents waiting for us :)

Finally after climbing down, crossing the river and climbing up we reached the campsite! Phew!!! Then I think it rained again heavily. After the rains stopped we came out to see the beautiful(told you, you would be hearing this word a lot :) ) climate. It was soooooo good, so refreshing, so fresh, so nice and again so beautiful :). This was the last campsite where we had concrete toilets. If you ask me what did we do for nature's calls from next day on, the answer is nature's calls have to be answered in nature :P. 
I remember having tea and some snacks on arriving there and soon by 7.30 or so it was dinner time. Vikas and some others had gone to the village after tea to recharge their mobiles and camera batteries for a charge (I missed out coz I reached late :( ) and he told us later that the people are really nice :). At dinner time we sat on a rock and had food in torch light. Now I got to know Naveen and Keerthi better. Both of them were from Bangalore too and infact Naveen worked in the same MNC as me. Before dinner, I wanted to put my remaining lunch to the mules. I had forgotten that, someone had eaten it and only a bit was left. So when I opened my box to put it away, everyone saw the quantity and cracked one too many jokes on it. This was where Nikhi told her famous curd rice story :D and got nicknamed as Curd Rice :D :D while I put all of them on my hit list and threatened to push them off the highest point on SarPass. The list included everyone : Shyam, Pranav, Keerthi, Naveen, Sandeep, Kalpit, Sumit, Vikas, Jai, Nirav (Hope I havent missed anyone ;) ).
Our camp site with Grahan village in the background.

We probably had bournvita after that. Throughout the trek we were given a lot of food to eat. I was actually tired of eating :S. There was 1 small pipe that gave water from the river and we used it for cleaning the dabbas, shivering throughout while using the chilled water. It was time to snuggle in the sleep bags each of us had got earlier. Nikhi hated the bags  but I liked them coz they were comfortable though it restrains movement. By now I had become an expert in securing the tent door flap tightly and it became my job for doing it to the girls' tent. And off we went to sleep thinking about the destination next day - Padri :)

P.S: All photos in this post were stolen from the photos clicked by Shyam :)

P.P.S: I didnt realise that writing about trek to Grahan would become such a long one, I promise to keep the next one short :S

Thats all folks ;)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Miles to go before I sleep - Part 2 - Kasol

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine :)

Part 1 preceeding this:
Miles to go before I sleep - Part 1


At the entrance of YHAI hase camp

All the girls were assigned to tent 11 but we were the 1st to arrive. We were soon joined by next character in this trekking tale: Amardeep. Nikhi and I had planned to go river rafting or para-gliding that day as we had the day off. But since river rafting involved dipping in water and as we were prohibited from doing that that day, it had to be cancelled. Since we had crossed breakfast time, we had some weird parathas in a small inn next door and Amardeep set off to Manikaren. Nikhi and I were still deciding what to do and finally set off to Manikaren too. We went in a govt tourist bus and the conductor didn’t take any money from us. One thing I regret is missing out sitting on the roof of the buses :(. Hopefully will do that on the future. The roads of Kasol are very narrow as it is at a height of 6500feet in Himalayas. Most of the times only one HTV can pass through it. The people driving through there do a superb job with a untold mutual understanding of stopping and letting others pass :). Only once did I see a traffic blockage there but more on that later. Anyways, we reached Manikaren and saw the Gurudwara. It was pretty crowded. We clicked some pictures of the surroundings, of each other and a dog :D.

As we waited to board a bus it started raining. I don’t remember how heavy it was but as we saw on reaching the base camp that the snow on the Pin Parvati mountain peak had considerably increased in the evening (I forgot to mention we could see a snow capped mountain from our Base camp :) whose name we learnt the next day). In the bus we met Amardeep and we got down at Kasol market where we went to a bookstall ‘coz the shop name was in Hebrew. Kasol has a lot of Hebrew written all over for the loads of Isrealis who come there. I think after we reached base camp it rained heavily and in the evening, we saw the increased snow on the Pin Parvati mountain top. The temperature dropped and  I wore a sweater after years( I hate sweaters). That evening we participated in the electronic camp fire of the SP 21 batch by chanting “Fire fire camp fire”. This was the only thing that was a bit lame. After having hot cups of bournvita, we went to bed. Oh I forgot we had earlier collected rugs,inner sheet and a rucksack.Tried to sleep on the bumpy ground covered in socks and gloves(I don’t remember :S) and we were joined at night by some more tent mates from Mumbai. BTW they follow army like timing and the bulb in the tent goes off at 10.  So you can imagine what  a mess it was for everyone to settle sown in torch lights. The other members of the girls’ tent was a [Bengali] aunty (I still don’t know her name ) who always occupied the corner and 3 [Gujrati] Bhabhis who were cute to talk to.
At base camp with Pin Parvati mountain in the back ground

Day 2:
Woke up early, maybe 5.30 with sounds of a trumpet probably(I really don’t remember those details now :(). We ran (mostly walked) maybe half a kilometer to the exercise ground. Here we did some exercises with the SP 21 group. Among the guys who taught exercises was Laxman Sir whom we saw directing the blocked traffic once. We learnt that he was in the traffic police there :) . I don’t remember the other Sir’s name :(. After that we had breakfast and we bid farewell to the SP 20 batch. I took the video of the group leaving for a uncle who had asked me to do so. He had spoken to me at the mobile charging point. The charging point was where people told stories and rumours they had heard about the trek :D. I heard of a story where 1 guy  of SP14 batch fell in Nagaru after reaching the top due to his stupidity and they wasted 6 hours searching him in the snow. The returning batches gave tips too :D. So back to what we did. We went for the acclimatization walk in a single file with the girls leading the way. Two dogs accompanied us of which 1(whom we later named Pintya- charater 4) was to accompany us throughout the trek. The dogs knew the way and guided the ones at a loss for direction.
The acclimatization walk

Enter two more characters who introduced themselves as Sandeep and Sumit.(I had a hard time recalling these names :D as they later became Pradeep and Chatur). :D :D :D Don’t ask me why. In the end all had nicknames! After we reached the resting point, Amardeep took a nice nap on a stone while Nikhi and I went to the river. Now when I remember it, it makes me laugh. En route we got confused with the way as we saw some mules grazing. So we turned back then were joined by some other people from our batch and taking a long route reached the river. While coming back took the shorter route where the mules were and by then one of the sirs came to see where we were lost. Hehehe.

Reaching back to base camp we had lunch (The food there was so much more delicious than what we get in our cafeteria in office). The water there was ice cold and taking a shower felt like the water was taken out of the freezer. It leaves you numb! Later that day, we had the orientation where the Field director told us all we needed to know. He said we would not be taking a bath now from the time we went to higher camp to the time we came back to Kasol i.e., 6 days :O :O :O :O :O. Our jaws dropped too to the ground and due to the non-concrete ground went an inch or so deep in the earth! He also told some interesting tales of Malana and the history of Manikaren and about Pin Parvati mountain, its 2 peaks being Paap and Punya. We all introduced ourselves and I remembered very few names in the end. But atleast now the faces of our batchmates were known. We had a Keerthi and Kirti in our batch. Funny thing I remember about that was at the end Nikhi said to me “Both Keerthi’s look so similar” and I said “Which 2 Keerthis? There is only 1 Keerthi”.  This was the 1st time I met a guy named Keerthi(I knew many girls of that name before), and on 1 single day I met not just 1 but 2 :D. Neither did we know then what a superb photographer he is nor did I have any idea how difficult it would be to get photos from him later :S
(Note: Keerthi finally mentioned you :P)

At tea time, Kalpit(who was obviously gonna become Culprit) the cultural leader along with Ashwyn came along asking if we knew to sing. I told Nikhi was a good singer and these guys asked me to sing as well. I told them if I sing people are gonna jump in the Parvati river next to the base camp, I after all have such superb singing talents :D.
Evening we went out to Kasol village to buy some stuff. I had no idea then how much I was gonna love that place. It’s a beautiful village :). We met some more batch mates then and after dinner it was our turn to perform the cultural event(fire fire camp fire). Along with Nikhi’s solo we sang a group song in which I did lip sync. Keerthi began the event with a nice classical song (will check with him regarding the song and update it) and Chatur told some PJs one of which was on the field director(Hau) :D :D :D.
Menu outside a restaurant on the way to the rock climbing venue

Day 3:
After the exercise with SP23 batch, we had rock climbing at which I was terrible but it gave us time to know our batch mates better who were now our friends. By now we knew Shyam(another awesome photographer) who would later become Sherpa :D, Naveen who we later saw was as good as a mountain goat while climbing :), Nirav who became Ghajini :D , Jai Kanth,  Rajnikanth uncle, Pranav, Manju, Sudhakar, Yugi, the Mumbai gang, the group from Gujrat etc. Now we had lunch in groups with the new friends we made and one of us kept watch whenever we got hold of a charging point. In the afternoon we had Rapelling which I loved. Evening again was spent in Kasol buying poncho and stuff after we handed extra luggage. I struggled to reduce my rucksack weight (I had taken too much stuff :().
After dinner was camp fire organized by SP 23 batch.

We went to bed that night thinking that tomorrow we are leaving for higher camp :).

Thats all folks ;)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Miles to go before I sleep - Part 1 - The journey begins

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine :)

I had written this little bit (flashback) on 26th July and posted it on 24th Sept so hoping I will complete this in a year's time. I am not making excuses for the delay... I am just proudly lazy :P

Flashback: I guess it was a year and a half back when Orkut was still used in India, one day when I logged in to my account, the updates showed photos uploaded by a friend. They seemed pretty interesting and before I knew it I was seeing each of them. They looked simply superb. The name of the album was Sarpass. That was when I first learnt of this word(I did not know what it was then).
A quick talk with my friend told me all about it and I was excited. In the next 15 minutes I made a decision that I will go there soon. Did the bookings for last year but due to some reason could not go(Viral conjuctivities and change of Job being the prominent ones). I was disappointed.
Then came December and I learnt of Dalhousie trek. Due to some other reasons, I had to cancel going there too. :( *Boohoo*

End of flashback

So here I was uncertain whether I will finally be able to go for the famed Sar Pass trek this year. Had a lot of issues(with which I am not going to bore you :P) and when my flight took off for Delhi only then did I feel that yes I am finally going to do this :).

Now enters the 1st character in this awesome time I had – Nikhi… needless to say I’m the protagonist :P What did you expect this is my blog after all :P. (I could finally go because she agreed to come with me :) ).Nikhi had just finished her exams a couple of days back and I was supposed to meet her in Delhi from where we had a bus booked for Bhunter. As I was waiting to board the flight, Nikhi called me and asked “Is your flight delayed? The weather here is really bad”. I checked the schedule. So far my flight was in time and I hoped it didn’t get delayed for obvious reasons. Everything was going as planned so far until I was 100 nautical miles from Delhi. Due to bad weather a landing terminal was not available. And we circled for an hour in the air. The person sitting next to me was an interesting conversationalist. I forgot his name though :S. He told me about a place called Auli which is supposed to be really beautiful. This conversation has got nothing to do with the rest of what I am about to write but I wanted to make a note of it so that I would not forget the name of this place ;). Okay okay I am not going to divert from the topic now. Anyways, we landed in Delhi with a delay. I do not remember the delayed time(Damn this is what happens when you do things late!) but finally landed in Terminal 3(Aah I remember this :D ). the Delhi airport is beautiful and finally met Nikhi who had come to recieve me with her friend Mallika. We then boarded the Delhi metro (Which is a must ride BTW) and went to her hostel. Chit chatted ate maggi (the 1st of this trip though I didn't know it then :D) and finally went to Cougnaught (err please bear with my spellings) place to catch our bus. After a lot of searching found it and saw that our fellow travellers were mostly honeymoon couples!!! 

Nikhi had trouble sleeping throughout the journey. I initially could not either due to the super crap movie being played. It was such a crappy movie that I think its IMDB rating would be -1. LuckilyI don’t remember the movie name so I cant verify this fact. But I did sleep through and the bus drivers to Kullu drive the bus too rashly that at times I was scared that this is the end. It wasn’t though and I absolutely loved the drive. I also remember the super cool long tunnel through which we went in the morning( I woke up the finally asleep Nikhi to show her the tunnel :D )

There was a slight rain in the morning and as we neared Bhunter I caught glimpse of my 1st Snow-peaked mountain :) :) :).

The trek hasn’t even started yet and already this is sooooo long…. I should probably learn to talk less but this one is gonna be a loooooonnnnng one *sigh*.

Top view of YHAI base camp in Kasol

Day 1:

After reaching Bhunter we got into a white coloured Jeep type vehicle in which was one of our fellow batchmates – Vikas. We behaved like total strangers throughout the journey but got talking after reaching the base camp. The scenic beauty throughout was mesmerizing. Most of the times, next to us was the roaring Parvati river.  Finally reaching the base camp we saw it was located at a beautiful location(You are gonna hear this a lot now on :) )and completed the formalities and went to our tents. We were dirty from the ride and it was bright and sunny but we were told we cant take a bath that day as we had come up 6000 feet in a day and our body is not acclimatized to it :O. Little did we know that this is just the trailer. Picture abhi baki hai mere dost!! 

Thats all folks ;)