A wise man once said “You can kill a man but you cannot kill an idea”.
Some 5 years back I and a close friend of mine were planning a road trip to Ladakh. But as luck would have it, the trip didn’t mature. And in the frustration, that we were of not been able to make it work because of a friend’s “leave issues”. My friend said it out loud “yaar mere ek dost ne sahi kiya, chaar jano se poocha for Ladakh, company nai mili toh he went alone, had the best time of his life and came back with a bucket full of memories.” Eventually we did go to Ladakh a year later, but that’s a different story.
His words about solo travelling got stuck in my head. The idea was so tempting that I just couldn’t let it go.. At times all one wants to do is break out of the shackles of your comfort zone and go out there to get away from the prejudices of people and discover oneself internally. Get detached from every person you know or emotion that one been living with in his whole life. This is the exact type of push and adrenaline rush you need to plan something like this.
After going through some blogs about solo travelling and trekking (on TTH website), WINTER KUARI PASS was circled upon. 29th to 3rd Jan Dates were chosen in a way so that New Year was celebrated amidst the mountains with a bonfire. Away from the society and over hyped New Years’ Eve bash in the cities.
Being a first-time trekker and that too solo I had no clue what was to be bought and could have done without. The essentials list provided by TTH (take it seriously) was the only helping hand. All items were bought first hand. Bags were packed. A night before the trek there were DRAGONS in the stomach (butterflies are an understatement)
A week before the trek I was added to the WhatsApp group I was supposed to go with; and almost instantly I hitted it off with a girl named “Wini”. She was a solo traveller too we had common interests and thoughts as well. Since we were in Rishikesh for Bungee a day just before the trek, we requested TTH to pick us from there. It was really kind of TTH to accept this request inspite of Haridwar being the pick-up point. TTH took care of everything from there on with utmost care. The dinner at Joshimath was the best food I had after leaving home. ☺
INTRODUCTION TO TREKKING
So the day had arrived. All my fitness chart, my thoughts, my gears were about to be put to test. I told my dragons to just sit back and relax and be in the moment and enjoy the walk. After a while we reached our first resting point, cameras were out, excitement was at its high, everyone already had their share of stories. Few minutes of rest and we started off again. On the way, we crossed small villages, hardworking people with the brightest smiles possible, so content in their world that there was no place for anything else. We chatted with some of them too and in nicks time the first day trek got over. We reached our first base camp “CHITRAKANTHA @9600ft”. The campsite was surreal. It was right on the edge of a mountain with the view of Nanda Devi and Dronagiri. We had our acclimatisation while playing volleyball, getting tired is something we had left on the plains. We proceeded for our acclimatisation walk, came back had our dinner then dozed off.
I was up at 5 in the morning, sunrise in mountains is something I can die for! Found my company in Arun sitting by the stove of hot water. The plan was to get done with loo before anyone else woke up :p We got freshened up and experienced the complete dawn to morning experience, with sun rays piercing through the mountains and falling on our faces. The sun had declared to us “I AM HERE MY SON”.
As we started off from our base camp we walked through the jungle, probably the most beautiful forest I had seen. A fellow trekker began to feel little unwell, the trek lead asked four people to voluntarily stay back with him, some 8-people agreed, as we all knew this would be the best time to know the jungle up-close and personal. I obviously decided to stay back and we were there. It was serene no one to answer to, just the nature and us. The sun playing hide & seek in the shades of tree leaves and providing us with its warmth secretively, just like a caring father. Each one of us suddenly felt the rush to go out on our own and have our personal DATE with the jungle. Time flew by some-one started to disturb the forest with my name, not once but many a times; it was time to head back! The trek leads were back. All of us secretively thanking our fellow trekker for feeling a little low.
We headed straight to the Tali forest base camp, we had our lunch and in no time, it was acclimatisation walk time. We were heading to Tali lake we were told upon. Reaching the lake, we realised it was the most beautiful location we witnessed on the entire trek. It was mesmerising being surrounded by these mighty golden brown pillars of God and there it was the cutest of lake. It looked more like a kangaroo’s pouch with some water in it 😉 We felt lost having been surrounded by so much of beauty of God, tried to capture all of it in our lenses but failed miserably! Some things are just for the eyes, I said to myself and was just there…………. It was time to head back as it was 31st December. We were told about a celebration of sorts with a cake post dinner and not forgetting to mention a Bonfire with prior official permission. We couldn’t have asked anything better than this. This is exactly the kind of celebration I had dreamt about my entire life. It was there and I had to just live it now. We had an awesome time at the bonfire, we sang, danced around it. We had some cake and headed back to our tents, no one came out of their tents at 12am. The temperature was touched minus and next day was a long one SUMMIT DAY.
MOTHER NATURE’S GIFT.
And then came D-day 1st Jan 2017 “summit day” we started early in the morning as it was a total 15km walk, ascend & descend. On the way, we saw some of the most enthralling views of the valleys and peaks. Some ridges were right on the middle of mountains with slopes on both sides. Climbing up and down the Broken Bridge was an experience.
The climb right before the summit was steep but as they say “at times all you need is a little push”, the leads pointed out the banner put up there by some fellow trekkers of other group and blood suddenly rushed into the veins.
We reached the summit point with our hearts pounding full of excitement. The feeling of reaching the summit cannot be expressed with mere words or pictures, that too of your first trek. It was surreal! As per instructions 10mins after clicking some pictures and admiring the view from the top, people took out their tiffin and started to have lunch. I went to a spot and sat with myself. The entire journey till now flashed in front of my eyes within seconds. A new sense of courage and confidence seeped it, and I knew it was there to stay (for longer).
After lunch, we headed back towards our campsite. When we were on the summit it had started to snow a little, but the guys from our previous batch had said they too found mild snow fall. Completely unaware of what we are getting into, wind was howling in our ears and DOWN-feathers started being zipped up to the T. And then mother nature gifted her children with the best possible New Year’s Eve gift; a perfect HEAVY SNOW FALL! 😀 Suddenly the entire landscape changed from golden brown to snow white. We started to question ourselves, is this the same way we came by. Suddenly our boots were in inches of snow. We were loving the entire makeover of the mountains. The trek lead himself said “this change in landscape can be witnessed only once in a season”. I felt God just winked at me when he said this. The 7.5km walk suddenly felt shorter it seemed a kilometre. We reached our campsite, and for the first time on this trip I felt sad reaching the base camp. The walk was over, but how would I know things had just started to shape up now. It was just the beginning… 😉
The moment we reached the campsite, the entire group was in the mood of celebration for completing the summit without any hiccups and suddenly everyone realised it was 1st of Jan. You do lose track of date & time in the mountains! A friend took my trekking pole and wrote on the kitchen tent in the boldest font possible “HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017”! We all knew in our hearts it will be the toughest to be beat this “1st day of the year” of our lives. How do you beat something like this? 😉
We clicked hell lot of pictures with our trekking poles and the tents; sometime later the energy fizzled out from the entire day’s activity, but I was not done yet. I screamed outside the tents “who wants to go for a walk?”, as It was still snowing heavily & resting is something “I can do at home” I said to myself. From everyone on the trek, again I only found an equal minded thought in Wini. We both went on a stroll fearing will we be able to find our way back? Leaving trails and keeping in mind our way back to the camp we kept going and found a nice tree trunk to sit on. We dusted out the snow and we sat. We spoke about things, life, the moment, everything that crossed our minds. This was the first time we were just sitting and talking after it snowed, grasping in the beauty weaved in our thoughts! Some words of that conversations still ring in my ears and then we decided to head back before it starts getting dark as none of us carried a torch. We found our trail back very easily. Strolls like these were like cake walk for us and we reminded ourselves this by going on this walk. Headed straight to our campsite, had our dinner and slept in our tents with mixed emotions of HAPPY & SAD. Happy because of the things accomplished and sad because we all knew tomorrow is going to the last day of this beautiful trek.
ACTION KA SCHOOL TIME.
After a well-deserved sleep we woke up to most beautiful morning of our lives and also a little late than usual on the trek 😛 With snow being everywhere your eyes can see; our tents were half buried in snow. The trees, the rocks were bathing in snow. White was the colour of the day. One really must pull oneself together to do the daily task of getting freshened up and get ready for the last day of trek. We somehow managed to do it by ignoring the beauty around, “toughest thing to do till now” :p. We started off towards Auli from the base kissing good bye to our tents. Reaching Tali lake we realized “god can’t be anymore kinder than this”. The same Tali lake we had seen some 30 hrs back had transformed literally, the water froze forming a beautiful ice layer, we played by sliding small pebbles on the ice sheet…
We kept walking, enjoying every bit of it playing all along the way, having a gala time eating the fresh snow; keeping yourself hydrated is of utmost importance in the mountains 😉 And then came THE RIDGE; I emphasise on it because never on the entire trek we had encountered such a trail. It was not more than 2 feet broad. A small mistake could land you in a lot of trouble. Like disciplined kids, for the first time on trek, we kept going though in single straight line.
Lunch time happened and then we stopped at the most surreal view point possible, the best lunch point ever till date! I will give upon any other place in exchange for this lunch, with the view of golden mountains as back drop and white mountains being on our side. We were running late our trek leads said, we ourselves knew we were delaying because we ourselves knew this was it. It’s now or never the 5-kms distance didn’t seem like walk it was the like the Chutti time we use to get in schools to play and have a gala time. Playing in the snow will be an under-statement we were living. Eating, dashing, and pouring each other with snow. No tricks that we had learnt in schools were left unused! We danced in snow, bathed in snow, rolled in it, ate it basically everything possible that we could think of was done.
We saw some tourists clicking pictures with snow and the view. Somewhere I said it to myself “Thank God I opted for exploring the mountains on a trek and not as sightseeing them as tourist” because this is exactly what we had been doing our entire lives. I thank my stars for letting me come in this direction and learning a new dimension towards life. Something in me had changed permanently.
And now when I look back at the pictures and tell stories to people I question this to myself WAS IT A DREAM? The answer is “Yes, it is and I will live this again and again in coming years” ☺
Thank you Trek The Himalayas for making my first ever trek an awesome one! Will see you soon on another trek with you guys! ☺
Photo Credits: Ashwini Wade
Written by: Gourav Sharma