Friday, July 24, 2015

Har-ki-Dun -- My Introduction to Himalayan Wilderness (Part 2)

Preparation, Journey and Day 1: Sankri to Seema Village
Day 2: Seema Village to Har-Ki-Dun (You are currently reading this.)
Day 3: A day in Har-Ki-Dun
Day 4: Har-ki-Dun to Seema Village and Visit to Osla
Day 5: Seema Village to Sankri and Return Journey

Part 2 Begins

" Michael Jordan was once rejected to participate in the varsity basketball team as he wasn't good enough. So what did he do? He used this rejection as a motivation; practised harder, played with a great purpose and phenomenal intent and became one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game. Therefore there is a lot to be learnt from your failures. So please don't get disheartened for missing this trek. You can still be wonderful trekkers if you take this setback to improve your fitness and stamina". These were my parting words to few of the group members who were utterly exhausted and sick to continue with the remaining trek.

There was a rule set for the trek. Local leaders were supposed to guide the way and Yuvashakti's leader, Tejas was supposed to walk behind the group and clear instructions were given that no member would trek ahead of the local trek leaders and nobody would remain behind Yuvashati's Trek Leader.

Overhanging bridge across the river caught our attention as soon as we crossed Seema village. 

After crossing the bridge, there was a steep slope and we had to gain some altitude right at the start. 

As I was doing the photography, I was lagging behind with Tejas - Yuvashakti's Trek Leader and Partha, one of our group members. As the slope was steep and Partha was hiking very slowly, I decided to part their company and hike further. 

Soon, I came across a small bridge where other trek mates had already reached and were resting. As I came to a small bridge, I saw Partha returning back as he was feeling pain in the chest. As it was just start of the hike, he decided not to take any risk and decided to join back group members staying back. So eventually count of members staying back was increased to 7.

Seema village started looking tiny as we gained the altitude. Tiny houses on the backdrop of towering mountains provided picturesque setting. During our trail, there was a valley on our right side and mountains on the right side.  We crossed few bridges and suddenly, we were right in front of the spectacular view of a really huge waterfall cascading down the mountain in front of us. Look of this giant waterfall made us glued to the scene for a long time.

Gradually, groups were dispersed; few members went ahead and few lagged behind. I was somewhere in the middle.

Along the trail, I spotted a huge rock with the backdrop of the mountains and shouted to group members ahead of me to climb on the rock and pose for a photo.They readily obliged as they were also keen to get themselves photographed.

I made them stand on the rock and clicked other photo with a different background.

As we had formed many dispersed groups because of different styles of pace, I trekked with different groups at different times. During one stretch I was trekking with Vijay, our local guide. Vijay was a very lively fellow. A bond of friendship was already formed between us. He was keen to share his knowledge with me and he made me stop at one juncture to show a peak named "Black Peak" (or Kalanag peak). I got curious and started conversation with him:

I: "Vijay, have you conquered this peak?"
Vijay: "Sir, I have conquered it many times. I have led few expeditions of this peak".
I: "Is it difficult for trekkers like me without knowledge of technical climb?"
Vijay: "No, it is not difficult and I can make you conquer the peak. You don't need technical knowledge. You just need to trust me and I will take you to top of the peak."
I: " Vijay, in future I will come here for a month. Can you take me to all trekking destinations in your  area"
Vijay: "Sure sir. You surely come and I will take you to all places."

I don't know when I would be spending a month in this area but this conversation will linger in my mind and hopefully I would take out a month of my life to wander in this part of region.

Black Peak (Kalanag):

Blue sky with dispersed crowds and snow peaks provided the wonderful combination for the photography.

A good thing about the trail is that there are few snacks joint along the way. Maggi is the item most sold on these snacks joints. Not fond of noodles, I did not try it out and was happy to consume dry fruits, groundnut chikki and chocolate bars. Nevertheless, these snack joints were good to take some rest, sip some water and interact with other trekkers from other groups.

Can you ask for a better place to rest where you see only the mountains and breathe a fresh and invigorating mountain air? These are the places which are etched in your memory forever; these are the moments which you live life for.

Team negotiating one of the climbs:

Nature has really a way to connect with your soul and your soul grows when you encounter such natural splendour. You don't need to force your way of living in the moment and you just get automatically surrendered yourself to the moment, moment of absolute bliss, moment of spiritual awakening, moment of feeling one with nature!

Alpine Meadows:

At one juncture, we changed the direction completely as trail moved to the left direction and we had first glimpses of har-ki-dun. I thought that covering the remaining distance would not take much time but alas! I was wrong. Even after walking for many kilometres, the location still seemed far away. This is the peculiar things of the mountains; they look closer to the eyes because of their gigantic sizes but in reality, distance wise they are far away.

There came a stage when I was hiking alone for about 45 minutes as members ahead were far too ahead and members behind were too behind. As the trail was distinct, I started marching ahead. I had consumed all the water and there was no water stream in sight. I was feeling thirsty and was desperate to find the water source and I was delighted to see a local guy coming from the opposite direction. I enquired him about the water availability ahead and he offered me water from his bottle.  Feeling refreshed, I thanked the guy and marched ahead.

Roaring waterfall greeted me as I reached to our lunch point. Waterfall was just few meters from the trail. Before heading to the lunch point, I joined few of the trek mates who already had submerged their feet in the water coming from the waterfall. Water was extremely cold numbing our feet instantly; so we had to often take our feet out of the water. It was fun and equally rejuvenating to spend time near the waterfall. 

I got introduced to few Pune Trekker who were trekking with Youth Hostels of India group. I even met a guy who stays 100 mtrs from my home. It was weird to meet a person in your close vicinity at a place thousand kms away from your home.

Famous Irish Poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature William Butler Yeats has rightly said " There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met."

Bonding with members of another group:

After resting for a while after lunch, we resumed our hike.

Weather remained predictable; sunny till afternoon and turning overcast after 2 PM. Around 3.30PM, it started raining. As there was no shelter along the way, we had to keep walking with raincoats on.

It was almost close to 5PM and still campsite for the base camp was nowhere visible. As we reached nearer to the site, suddenly temperature dropped considerably.

As it was raining intermittently and I already had wrapped my camera bag with the plastic cover, I did not do any photography for last hour. So, I am pasting photos which I took at the time of return.

A small wooden bridge crossing the stream:

Finally, we were elated to see some snow on the trail. For the snow deprived people in Maharashtra, sight of snow in any form (even snow blackened by trampling) create a lot of excitement and we were no exceptions.

Most of the time, there was a ground trail along with the snow trail and we were able to avoid walking on the snow. But while reaching to the camp, we had to negotiate two to three trails of slushy and slippery snow. At one point, a cook from our group helped me to cross one of the trails as it was too slippery.

I heaved a sigh of relief on finally reaching to the camp-site nestled amongst the snow-clad mountains. It was a moment of rejoice and moment to cherish!

Few members had already reached to the camp-site and resting inside. As there was no electricity and therefore no heaters inside the camp, it was already cold when we arrived. We felt warm only when hot tea was served to us. As it was drizzling outside and our legs were tired, we just perched on the beds waiting for others to arrive. Once all the members were in, rooms were allocated. A large dormitory was allocated to boys and a small dormitory was allocated to girls.

As it became darker, temperature plummeted further and we had to wear warmer clothes to remain warm. As we had nothing better to do, we just chatted to kill the time. Soon, it was dinner time and we were served hot dinner. By this time, most of the members had developed nausea about the food and even when they were hungry, they hardly consumed any food. As temperature was hovering around zero and no hot water was available, we were relieved of dish washing ritual which made everyone happier.

Hot Chocolate was served after dinner and everyone retired for the day. As it was getting colder, we tucked inside the sleeping bag, took the heavy, woolen pullover over the sleeping bag as a double protection from the cold. Gradually, it became warmer inside and without realizing, tiring bodies went into the slumber. Only comforting factor while going to the sleep was that next day was the rest day and there was no restriction on the waking up time.

Click here to read Part 3