Monday, August 24, 2015

Har-ki-Dun -- My Introduction to Himalayan Wilderness (Part 3)

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

Part 3 (A Day in Har-Ki-Dun) Begins

Body clock had really set in and despite not having compulsion to wake up early in the morning, my eyes opened around 5 in the morning. Excited of probability of watching early morning sunrise and golden peaks, I rushed outside.

It had already dawned outside. I waited outside for few minutes in the freezing cold watching distant peaks and after a while I was rewarded with spectacular view of morning rays falling onto the Swargarohini Peak. Swargarohini peak was covered with absolute white snow and shimmering rays on it made me forget the world. I just imagined myself on top of the peak basking in the morning rays. How happy I was just to imagine it!

According to legends, the Swargarohini peak leads up to Heaven. The Pandavas, Draupadi and  their dog took this path to go to heaven. There have been many attempts to scale the mountain, but it is said that only those who have not sinned can conquer its peaks. The snow-clad peaks are the source of the Tons river. I considered myself lucky to silently witness this astounding peak having so much of significance in ancient history.

I was soon joined by Onkar Salvekar along with Naidu Uncle, the eldest member of our group and Sahil and Atharva, the youngest members of the group. Onkar had handy cam with him and he filmed documentary on our experiences. It was fun answering his questions as he was shooting. After I was done, Onkar made Naidu uncle to answer few questions on the trek. It was Naidu Uncle’s only second trek in Himalaya; his first trek was 8 years ago when he was 57 Yrs old. Considering his age now, he seemed absolutely fit; fitter than most of the young trekkers. Sahil and Atharva followed Naidu Uncle and Onkar wrapped up the interviews only when he was truly satisfied with the results.

After a while, after getting freshened up, I decided to do some more photography by climbing at a higher elevation. Some group members also joined me for a while. Malhar Gaikwad was wearing red jacket and I requested him to pose for few photos which came out nicely because of his red jacket. 

After a while, I and Atharva climbed higher and higher and suddenly snow was around us and we were very close to Odhari peak.

Looking back, our camp-site was looking very tiny.

I was keen to get higher as I spotted some temple like structure that was still few meters ahead. As we already had climbed higher and it was breakfast time, we descended quickly curbing our temptation to climb higher.

By the time I arrived for breakfast, some group members were perching on the rock. Trek leader was not amused with our adventure and requested me not to leave group. I apologized but elated with few of the pictures I captured.

Few of the group members perching on the rock:

Sharda and VishnuPriya both studying medicines were keen to get themselves photographed in my camera and I didn't disappoint them. They didn't allow me to leave until they were happy with the photo shoot.

We earlier had decided to have a fun in the snow in the afternoon but seeing the pattern of weather becoming overcast in the afternoon with some rain, we decided to use much of the sunlight of the morning and shifted the plan to morning after breakfast. Everyone started moving towards a glacier.

Sliding on the snow with Ponchu was thrilling and so much of a fun. Only drawback was after going down, one had to again climb upwards on the snow; slipping, half-slipping and balancing. Shoes not made for snow hiking made it difficult but at the same time, it just made us forget all the worries. Throwing snow on each other’s body was hilarious and we had a ball of time.

Some group members had really gone berserk; not in mood to calm down and continuously throwing snow on each other. As it was getting late, trek leaders urged everyone to calm down and asked to pose for the group photo.

Hot lunch was served in the open when we came back.

While we were resting in the afternoon, few forest officers appointed to maintain the sanctity of the region came to visit us. They informed us that our group members' health particularly one of the girls staying at Seema village had worsened and they had provided few medicines to the group. Hearing this, we got worried and it was decided that Onkar with other local trek leader would leave very early in the morning to join the group at Seema village. 

Gradually cold enveloped the whole region as the light faded. Light drizzle made it irritating to venture outside. The same splendid mountains looked ominous and frightening as the evening unfolded. I don't know why but mind is filled with some unknown fear, some dark mystery; melancholy tries to set in whenever darkness embraces the mountains. It is at this time you want to run away from the mountains in the confines of your home to eradicate the negative feelings.

With so many cheerful and energetic trek mates around, the feeling of melancholy only lasted for a while. Few chuckles, few laughs followed as all the group members started talking. Being the young crowd, topic of discussion was centred on opposite sexes and everyone was interrogated about their respective boyfriend(s) and girlfriend(s). It was a hilarious discussion and some of the interrogation even embarrassed many people. Nevertheless, it was fun and evening passed without any stress.

While the meal preparation was on, I spotted few local caretakers around the fire place. They had formed the semicircle around the fire to keep themselves warm. I too joined them to get some energy from the fire.Warmth of the fire dissipated the coldness inside the body. I kept on sitting there for a while, 

Vijay, our local trek leader also joined us and I began asking locals a lot of questions; questions about their lifestyles; ways of earning money; how they spend their time in the cold months when no tourists visit this part of region. What I heard made me feel sad. 

Life for mountain people is really tough; especially for the people who just rely on tourists to make both ends meet. They earn for only 2-3 months in an year and rest of the period, they just sit idle; almost doing nothing and wait for next year's tourist season to start. Being uneducated, very less venture outside to find more employment opportunities. Year and year, the story continues. Listening to their stories filled my eyes with tears. I was speechless for a while and later changed the subject with few jokes with Vijay. One laudable thing that despite their hardships, these people remain cheerful, exude a lot of kindness and love mountains immensely.

I was so engrossed in the conversation that I never realized when the dinner time arrived.However variety the organizers of the food tried to provide, it failed to impress most of the group members who had lost most of their appetite due to nausea. Fortunately, I was not among those members and made sure that to consume whatever was required to keep me fit and energetic.

After dinner, we chatted for a while. As there was no electricity, a small tent lamp was installed in each room which provided some kind of dim light just enough to see each other. Some members kept on chatting while I preferred to retire for the day.

As it was not so much of a tiring day, sleep evaded me for some time. Images of stunning sights of the peak witnessed in the morning and few amazing landscapes witnessed during the day danced in front of my eyes. Discussion with the indigenous inhabitants in the evening lingered in the mind for a while. Gradually, peaks started fading from the eyes, mind became still and I fell asleep with the realization that next day, we would start our return hike back to the base.