“MY FIRST TREK OF LIFE- HKD- Meri Kahaani, meri jubaani”
In today’s busy and hectic life, we rarely get time for ourselves except in weekends and that too just for party. But if one aspires to “enjoy” life for real, one needs to step out of this comfort zone and enter into the arena of something adventurous and challenging; something that checks your limits and push you to strive something “extra” and “more”. Trekking is this “something”, I finally found and felt from 22nd to 28th October, 2016 while trekking “Har Ki Doon (HKD)” with Trek the Himalayas (TTH). Being the first trek of life, it was obviously fabulous, marvelous and exciting. A 77 km trek with 15 people (all strangers except Shriya who induced me the belief that I can trek) was one of the most memorable times of my life not because of the awesomeness of the place but the “people” (trekkers, trek team crew and most importantly kitchen staff) I met.
22nd October- Mission “Dehradun to Sankari”- Reached Dehradun from Nanda Devi Express at 5am and met Charan bhaiya, an awesome person (though a bit dangerous as he doesn’t usually blow horn while driving on the curvilinear roads). We (me, Shriya, Kadambari, Shaaz and Ridhi) left for Sankari after having Parle-G and tea at station around 7am. Thus, the road journey started with 3 Mahindra Max (the only strong vehicle that plies here in the mountains) carrying 15 of us. After having breakfast, lunch and other breaks, we, 5 trekkers, Charan bhiaya and Dev (trek leader with his English, Hindi, Punjabi songs and speaker) finally reached Sankari in the evening after enjoying 8-9 hours of cold & pleasant weather, winds and smell of pines and eucalyptus. It was the the only destination during the whole trek of 7 days where we could and took bath (Thanks to Hot water). In fact it symbolized the beginning of trek and “the end” to it. After having black tea, dinner and 1st trek briefing (Jai Ganga Maiyya), we settled down in our respective cozy rooms.
23rd October- Mission “Sankari to Taluka drive and then 14 km trek to Osla”– Left for Taluka with Mahindra Max with another awesome person Ajay bhaiya aka “Kancha”. He drove for an hour and we crossed a couple of tributaries, falling from the mountains to meet the river (3 rivers are found in this area- Supin (S), Tupin (T) and Tons-when S meets T) and playing fabulous Hindi and Garhwali (mountain songs). Now we were inching to the “beginning of real trek”- when our legs, feet, ankle, knee, fingers prepared to fight against the oncoming blisters, aches, sprains etc. to help us reach the zenith (Jaundhar glacier-12000 feet app.). We began our trek with our rack sacks (initially luggage bag but later on part of the back), poles (though I had none but got one from trek team) and other trekking stuff from Taluka for Osla, our next base camp destination. It was to be a 14km trek to Osla with Trek crew Biloo, Dev, Mukesh, Suraj aka Biber (his hairstyle resembles with the “baby singer”) and all those awesome people who not only helped us in trekking on those unpaved and unmetalled roads- paths made of stone and mud not brick or cement, but also served us hot, delicious and tasty food, soup and black & milk tea and coffee whenever we needed them the most in the whole trek. Passing through the lush green landscape of today’s mission, we had pack lunch at maggi point (in this part of the country maggi is staple food for trekkers with chai). Needless to say, we clicked numerous selfies and photographs of the awesome place and people-all of us
(Special Thanks to Jabin aka Bahubali- our Go Pro naval guy and Doc Purva aka selfie king). After several stoppages, halts and false promises, finally we reached Osla around 5pm (Never trust the time these trek crew personnel say when you ask how much time more to reach the lunch point or base camp as they always say “10 more minutes guys and we will be there”, though I understand the rationale behind this- pushing us to break our shackles and limits and focus enjoying the trek instead of time). Though it was a bit dark and cold, we could see the villagers and hear cute and handsome kids asking for “toffees” (a very common affair testing your kindness). Room was for girls and tents for boys (It’s a girl’s world!). My roommate (technically tent mate) was Anurag aka Chacha (as his surname was Chaudhary- the hero of the comic Chacha Chaudhary). After we settled our luggage, had black tea and maggi and sung many songs (Though I am the one who ruins the “mahoul” as I hardly remember first couple of lines and then start “Lalalalalala” in tune with the music). Early dinner by 8pm may be unusual for our daily normal lives but here it was indispensable to allow the kitchen crew to eat and sleep early for being on time on next day’s mission- morning tea, breakfast and pack lunch for us). After a heavy dinner, many more songs of Kishore Kumar, Arijit Singh (Aarshvi specialist in this apart from her specialization as dietician), Bryan etc. were sung by us (Shaaz deserves mention as he was the one who selected and sung next song even before the last got over). After a hard and tough 1st day trek of 14kms, it was sleeping time in the sleeping bags in the tent with Chacha.
24th October- Mission “13 km Trek to Har Ki Doon (HKD)”- After the routine affairs of freshening up, applying sunscreen (despite SPV 40 of Dhwani, I had sunburn on face and nose as hadn’t applied moisturizer before it-later advised by Shriya), breakfast and keeping our pack-lunch, I shed off few clothes (2-3kgs) to keep my rack-sack a bit light (as the last day it seemed around 10-12kgs) here itself and handed them to Biloo (not the barber but a fabulous and interesting veteran trek manager cum leader with lots of stories of so many treks- Roopkund, HKD etc.). Though today was a bit more challenging due to steep slopes and rocks (pole sticks don’t really work on rocks as compared to mud or grass), it was made awesome by the companionship of Biloo and Dhwani and experience of 10th time trekker Pallabh uncle and his friend Sharma uncle (Both these uncles as can be seen in the picture in hats were 50 and were always with us or ahead of us in the trek, showing the passion and energy they carried, motivating even the youngsters to achieve daily mission). Lunch was very late before we settled at a maggi, omelete, tea point and warmed ourselves around the fire of the stove. We always had complete and full stomach food in the trek. Firstly because Vinod, Suraj and other kitchen crew prepared fabulous food and secondly Gujju gang’s Phabra and all other delicious “–ra” supplied by Karan and Aarshvi (sweet couple already trekked Valley of Flowers) along with Keyur (silent yet humorous “nasheeli aankhein” Chadar guy), Doc and Dhwani (Dhoni)]. After a couple of hours, we reached the base camp, situated on the banks of “milky white” river. The location was apt for a bonfire but sadly it wasn’t possible because we were in a wildlife sanctuary which prohibits such an awesome thing. Usual snacks, tea followed in the dining tent (hottest of the tents) and had another delicious dinner (esp. Egg Fried Rice, Manchurian). Before settling in our tents to relieve ourselves after another hard day and preparing for a tougher day to follow, another singing night similar to yesterday (Shaaz, the leading
playback singer with Chacha singing Kishore Kumar, me the “Lalalala” guy and all soulful melody singers). Finally, it was “Good Night and sweet dreams” time. Few adventures made the day more memorable and painful including thorns piercing my hands (picture of the thorn) and right shoe & shocks getting wet while crossing river. In addition to this, I had hurt my knee badly and was in terrible pain the whole day, but thanks to Doc’s painkiller and spray, I not only completed today’s mission but was determined to do the next day’s trek to glacier.
25th October- Mission “Juandhar Glacier”- Today as we had to trek to and forth from HKD to glacier which was about 16kms, we were told yesterday night itself by Dev to be ready by 8am (an hour before other days). Two days of 27km trek had exhausted us a bit and thus only 10 out of 15 left for Juandhar Glacier and rest decided to roam around and chill. Today’s trek was the most exciting and adventurous as there was no predesigned path and we were supposed to make our own roads to the glacier. Boulders and narrow grassy trail were as common here as street lights on Delhi roads and India gate in particular. 8 of us (except Shaaz and Doc who decided to return to HKD base camp mid way) and Dosti (one of the two faithful dogs who escorted us in the difficult terrain throughout the trek-“Wherever you go we follow”), witnessed beautiful view points of the glacier; some of them were official and many were made by us wherever we stopped and took rest. As we were a bit too exhausted, we stopped 15 minutes before the best view point of Juandhar glacier to have lunch and after taking half an hour rest started the trek to the best view point all alone (as others were too tired to give me company). As soon as I reached the zenith of the trek (11900 feet), dark clouds arrived above the mountains and me hinting at chances of rainfall and snowfall (something I would have loved to despite knowing that it would make the trek difficult). The moment I reached this view point, others hooted before they were asked to start the trek to return to the base camp. I found Suraj (Biber) while returning in the lake of sand (the below picture; filled with snow in December). The condition in which I did above was awful- both knees paining like anything and being all alone without trek member or leader, motivated me enough to meet my other fellow trekkers very soon while descending from the glacier with Jabin. We reached the base camp around 4pm after just two halts (today’s trek was unique as there was neither any pre defined path nor any maggi point). We were welcomed by our 7 fellow members (who had chosen to stay HKD and roam & chill around) like war heroes and were given special things to eat and drink (Gujrati special chikki and soda). Hot soup, lots of snacks, tea and yet another delicious dinner seemed to end the day but a fabulous surprise awaited for us from TTH- a CAKE. Biloo and other trek crew prepared this yummy and delicious orange suji cake without oven and other normal requirements for making a cake, proving “Where there is a will, there is a way”, though the same applied to us, trekkers, who had reached the highest point of the trek, and were to
return downwards from tomorrow. Tiredness restricted the eight of us to sing tonight though the others sung many songs including “Sutta” outside their tents, gazing at the night sky with countless stars.
26th October- Mission “HKD to Osla”- The usual proceedings of the day after we were woken up with black tea, followed with breakfast and giving our lunch boxes for pack lunch, were repeated before we left for today’s mission. Descending downwards is easier than ascending, was felt the previous day when we returned from the glacier. The same was reiterated today and the day after in the descent journey to Sankari. But in such a case the last ascent before the destination is the toughest and asks for that “extra push” needed to reach the same. I have a bad habit of running while coming downwards as its adventurous and exciting but it takes a toll on you especially the knees (So never do this whoever and whatever tempts you for the sake of your knees and feet). After pack lunch (perhaps the only time we didn’t like food as the poha was too dry due to cold weather though I still ate it completely to avoid food wastage and respect the hardwork the kitchen crew did early in the morning when it was almost impossible for any normal human being to even open their eyes), maggi and black tea, we left to complete the remaining journey of the day. As we reached Osla early around 4pm, we planned to roam around the village and know something about them and their daily life. Cute kids asking for toffees, dominant & active women, wooden houses and temple, piped water supply, solar lights (no electricity), no mobile connectivity (forget internet), importance of vote etc. could be observed. We were 16 now after inclusion of Joy, an experienced and fit New Zealand trekker. Aashique taught him some good words (majorly slang) and he became a part and parcel of the family very soon. After we returned from the village after sight-seeing, had a heavy snack and dinner before we started the day’s (in fact night’s) singing ceremony before we entered our cozy sleeping bags in the tents for a tight sleep after closing all the zips.
27th October- Mission “Osla to Sankari via Taluka”- This was the last day of the trek and penultimate day of our awesome times with TTH family comprising of TTH team including their skilled and hardworking kitchen crew, trek leaders and trekkers including our pardeshi friend Joy. We left around 9am to complete the 77km HKD by trekking the remaining 14kms to Taluka. Today I chose to walk slow, so slow that I was among the last as compared to first the other days. Perhaps this was because today was the last day I was going to be around these lush green mountains. Lunch point never arrived though Mukesh and Vinod reiterated their old “10minutes more” formula till we reached the maggi point beside the bridge around 3pm. After having pack lunch, tea and Parle-G (Shaaz’s favourite), we left for the final destination. Finally we reached Taluka around 5pm before the two couples Karan & Aarshvi; Shaaz & Ridhi were to follow in some time. Others who had reached earlier left to the hotel and we too after the complete team had reached Taluka safely left with Ajay Kancha. Shower was something we all needed- hot water shower, which we had taken here a week ago. After having it, the next plan was to chill out and enjoy the pleasant cool weather of the night with TTH family, the last night of the trek. Sleep was hard to come today on beds and comfortable mattresses after enjoying and habituated to the sleeping bags and tents.
28th October- Mission “Sankari to Dehradun”- Today marked the end of the journey, even when it was inevitable, one wanted to extend this awesome week for few more hours or days. The companionship and rapport one had built with all of them made the separation not an easy one. Neither we had breakfast nor any calls for lunch box, had already started making the day distinct from other days. We left in 3 different Mahindra very similar to the way (except Joy, who was with us in our vehicle, supplying chewing gums and toffees to us) we had come here a week back. Had brunch (breakfast + lunch) in a restaurant unlike maggi and chai points the other days, signifying the return of the old life, where we emphasize on hygiene and cleanliness (Yesterday night hot water shower and sleep on cozy mattress and bed and now food in a restaurant had rejuvenated and revitalized the “civilized urban elite” in us leaving behind the “trek life” of using toilet tent and wet wipes, no bath/face wash etc. for a week, maggi and chai street points which made our lives so easier, drinking hyper-cold river water directly instead of Bisleri). After crossing Mussorie, we took a tea stop and then finally reached Dehradun to witness the usual traffic jam and chaos of city life (Though I am a bit lucky in this respect as I live in rural Bihar, where one gets rare chances of city traffic and chaos unlike daily scenes in metros). I had my train at 8pm to Haridwar to board another train to Patna from there, to board a bus to Sitamarhi (4 hours journey), before I could settle in my home to cherish the week and moments one lived with so many of you, TTH HKD family. The week 22nd-28th October would always be remembered for times to come, as we witnessed something awesome, life-changing, lesson-giving and memorable experiences and incidents. I hope to trek very soon to Roopkund (advised by a close friend and trekker) and others like Chadar, Pin Parvati, Hampta etc. in coming years of my adventurous life. Thanks TTH for all the hospitality and guidance needed to complete the trek safely and enjoyably. A special thanks to trek crew members and most importantly to the kitchen crew who ensured our stomach is never empty and our tongue is never deficient with delicious taste. Last but not the least; I thank all the trekkers who made this week a memorable one for all my life ahead as first trek would never be forgotten. Today we have an active WhatsApp group where every morning Keyur shares “Thought of the day” and “Khane Pe Gaana” in the afternoon, keeping us still well-connected not on those stones and tough terrain but social media.