Thursday, August 18, 2016

Roopkund - My second sojourn in Himalaya (Part 3)

Part 1: Preparation and Journey
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village
Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal (You are currently reading this.)
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa
Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan

After a peaceful night, we woke up to a crisp morning. All fears of rain were put to rest as blue sky greeted us as we came outside. After a modest breakfast, we started our hike towards our second camp - Bedni Bugiyal.

There was an immediate ascent as we left Didna village. Yesterday's rain had made the trail muddy and slippery. Soon, we came on a small plateau where we stopped for a small group photo. 

Mules were grazing joyfully in the bright sunshine and wisps of white clouds in the blue sky uplifted our mood and we cheerfully marched ahead in such a pleasant weather.

Our trek leader had asked us to carry one litre of water and asked us to fill the same at the water source on the trail. I and Amol were hiking together and we both missed to locate this water source and we were left with only half a litre of water each. We were slightly worried but group members asked us not to mind it too much and said that within the group, we could manage with the collective water stock.

Gigantic trees along the way:

Coming out of the thicket, warm weather welcomed us once again.

After resting on a small plateau, we resumed our ascent. Still the legs were fresh and we did not face any troubles in overcoming the steep ascent and came to top of the next mountain. 

One of the trekkers from Delhi was really exhausted yesterday and he was keen to quit the trek but with good rest at night, he decided to continue. Seeing his performance yesterday, our main trek leader Chandar Bhai decided to hike along with him to encourage him but he was painstakingly slow and walking at the last.

Chandar Bhai who was walking behind with the slow members had asked us to wait on this mountaintop till all the members joined us. After waiting for 15 minutes, there was no sign of these slow members. We persuaded our assistant guide not to wait any longer and he relented.

Now, it was the gradual ascent through the woods. A distinct trail was taking us to higher elevation. As the trail was narrow, we had to make some way to let mules coming from behind to pass.

As we came out of the woods, we were transfixed to see the mountain range on the North side with layers of white clouds adorning the whole sky. We rested a bit munching on some snacks.

Now, we were walking through the ridge of the mountains with deep valley on the left side. Valleys so deep that your eyes cannot reach to the bottom of it.

On reaching to top of the mountain range, vast plains of Ali Bugiyal greeted us. Ali Bugiyal is the largest meadow in the country located in the high altitude of Himalayas. We were elated to see carpet of lush green grass as far as our eyes could reach.  Definitely, this meadow is one of the main attractions of this trek!

Walking on this meadow was exhilarating. This kind of large meadow was something I had never experienced before. We spotted herd of sheep and few mules grazing on this large meadow without the care of the world.

After walking for minutes, we needed to climb another hill and we spotted few of our groups perching on the grass munching on the snacks. I was surprised to see them wearing jacket and monkey caps as I was sweating after climbing the hill. But within minutes, I realized why they were wearing the warm clothes. As my body temperature cooled down, I started shivering with the chilling wind and I too had to wear warm clothes.

We were supposed to get our packed lunch at this location but there was no sign of anyone bringing it to us. No one was really hungry and instead of shivering in the cold, we decided to march ahead on the trail.

We spotted campsite of other trekking group and felt envious about it as our campsite was nowhere in sight. 

We stopped at a small snacks joint specifically meant to feed the tired and hungry trekkers. Instead of waiting for the cold lunch, we ordered for hot noodles and omelette. By the time our order was getting prepared, our packed lunch also arrived. But it seemed tasteless as compared to noodles and omelette.

After feeding ourselves, we again resumed our hike. Now, we had to ascend a really steep trail. Weather was becoming cooler and cooler as we were gaining the height. It had become overcast and gloomy and we were enveloped with the fog for some time. As we were gaining the height, looking at the surroundings, realization dawned upon me that there were really no trees around and it was clear indication that there was less and less Oxygen to breathe. I anxiously welcomed myself into thin air and with fear and excitement alike, marched ahead towards the next camp.

Tents were already laid as we reached to the camp site of Bedni Bugiyal. We were not very amused with the lax services provided by our trekking organization and we made our displeasure known to Neeraj whom we met at this campsite. Though Neeraj was leading other camp, as Owner of Himalaya Climber, he agreed to provide better services for rest of the trek.

Hot tea was served along with hot rice. I was not feeling hungry; so just decided to sip hot tea. It was late afternoon and there was nothing better to do. So some of our group members assembled inside the tent and had a round of Rummy and Uno. It was advised not to sleep inside the tent which can adversely affect the acclimatisation process of the body.

I decided to have a stroll around the campsite during the evening. To remain true to its quintessential nature, weather remained predictably unpredictable. At one moment, all the mountains were in clouds and other moment some magical force lifted all the clouds providing us the spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. Sometimes shafts of sun rays found their way through the clouds illuminating some part of the earth. I forgot the world while witnessing this spectacular manifestation of mother Nature. I was joined by Nana; we both wanted some privacy and both lost in our own worlds; soaking in the great vistas; freezing the precious moments inside the camera. Truly one of the most memorable evenings of my life!

Nana lost in his own world:

Cold weather and high altitude had really lessened our appetites and nothing appealed to the taste buds. Still to get some energy, we ate reluctantly during dinner time and retired inside our respective tents.

We were now totally in the wilderness and only protection from the unfavorable weather were our tiny tents. Amol and Vipin were my tent mates and we helped each other to arrange the tent neatly and decided to lie down as night was approaching. 

As we were about to sleep, rain started lashing us. Intensity of rain was quite severe. To add to our woes, wind also increased its force. It was quite frightening to be at the mercy of such a weather and we were sure that our tents would not survive onslaught of heavy rain combined with forceful wind. This fury of rain lasted for more than 30 minutes and suddenly it stopped. We came outside the tent to check whether tent was still intact. Few members from supporting staff also came to check the stability of the tents.

As I was about to get back to the tent, I just looked up in the sky and to my amazement, sky really had opened up with millions of stars twinkling gleefully. Nobody could have imagined that it was raining severely just few moments back. I was wonder-struck to see such a quick transformation of the sky and just revelled in this glorious display of terrestrial manifestations. 

Once inside the tent, we chatted for a while. Second day was gone and wondering how third day would unfold, we retired for the day. 

Part 1: Preparation and Journey
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village
Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal (You are currently reading this.)
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa
Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Roopkund - My second sojourn in Himalaya (Part 2)

Part 1: Preparation and Journey
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village (You are currently reading this.)
Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa
Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan

We arose before the crack of dawn, had a much needed bath considering next six days would be in the wild without any luxury of hot water and bath would be the last thing on our minds.

Venturing into the unknown territory of Himalaya made me little nervous. I was going to experience the moments which would be cherished for my lifetime and would be probably remembered on my deathbed.

Mahindra Bolero was arranged for us to take us to Loha Jung village, our starting point for the trek.We gained some more altitude as we drove through the scenic routes of Himalaya. Breathtaking sights welcomed us as we reached the base village of Loha Jung. 

We were escorted to a big lodging house as soon as we reached the base village. In the backyard of this lodging, we were served the breakfast of Aloo Paratha. Tea followed the breakfast and after putting our extra luggage at one of the rooms in this lodging, we had a small introduction round and in the crisp morning, we started our hike towards Didna village - our first camp en route to Roopkund.

Introduction in progress for other trekking group:

Our group of Himalayan Climbers:

Initially there was a gradual descent which reminded me of similar starting trail of my last Himalayan trek Har-Ki-Dun. White rocks flanking the trail on the left side accompanied us for a while. Apparently road construction has just started on this trail.

Crossing the stream along the way

Few forest officials had come up to this point and were complaining about the particular trekking organisation who had not entered the trekkers’ information and had not paid the fees as well. On further investigation, to my dismay I came to know leader of our group Neeraj Joshi - founder of Himalayan Climber had not completed the required formalities. These forest officials were really mad about Neeraj Joshi. Neeraj was nowhere to be seen and they could not do anything but to curse him. As we hadn't heard Neeraj's side of story, we did not judge him immediately but definitely he did not seem popular within the forest officials. 

After talking with these officials who assured that they would not trouble trekkers from his group, we marched ahead. Now, the trail was within the forest with large trees on both sides of the trail. 

I was hiking alongside of Amol Chandurkar. Few of the members from our group had already gone far ahead while few of the ones were still behind us.

We waited at a large stream, got rejuvenated with the icy cold water of the stream, and crossed the small bridge to start our climb on a really steep mountain.

Climbing on this steep mountain was really exhausting and it did not seem to be ending. We came across many trekkers from other groups taking extended rest during the ascent. We did not want to cool our bodies and kept on pushing with very short breaks.

We were elated to see a small village tucked in the laps of mighty Himalaya. After seeing few of our group members, I thought that this was our lunch spot before resuming hike again but during discussion I realized that this is our first camp. I was surprised to reach to the camp site so early. Surprised I put down my backpack, secured a bed in the dormitory and perched on the chair to relax and to observe the hustle and bustle outside of the camp site.

Group members from Trek the Himalayas were staying adjacent to our dormitory. Soon hot lunch was served to us.

A small kid was having a lot of fun outside running in the large front yard of the house. We all pleaded her to remain stationary for a while but she was indulging on her own world and was acting very mischievously. After showing her few photographs of hers, she giggled and remained with us to allow us to click few of her adorable pictures. All the fatigue of the day evaporated instantly after spending some quality time with this cute little princess.

After lunch as we were relaxing in the guest house, sunny weather gave way to cloudy weather and soon it started raining. Gradually intensity of the rain increased. Signs were ominous and we did not feel good about this thunderous rain as it was just first day of our trek and we had to spend another five days in the wilderness of Himalaya. As rain was definitely not in our control, instead of worrying too much, we just sat back and enjoyed the sights of our first rains duriing the trek.

After pelting the whole region for about an hour, rain finally receded. Just few minutes before we had thought that we would be confined in our dormitory for the remaining day, rain seemed to take pity on us and weather miraculously got clear much to our ecstasy.

Evening was bright and sunny and we took a relaxed stroll across the cobbled pathways in the village. Small beautiful houses scattered on the slanting slopes with the beautiful backdrops of layers of towering Himalayan Mountains made us wonder in awe. I was not carrying the camera and just soaking in in this spectacular vista. As the great nature's display was unleashing in front of us, I started missing my camera and rushed back to the house. Unfortunately, sunshine had vanished as I came out. As other group members had gone ahead, I slowly walked on the trail spending few moments of solitude, perched on one of the rocks on a small fencing and just kept on watching the wondrous nature. Some really indescribable moments that would remain with me for a long, long time!

As the evening wore on, whole region gradually got enveloped with the darkness. We chatted as hot soup was served to us. It was early dinner for us and after a while, we retired inside our rooms. There was nothing much to do and after chatting for a while, we fell asleep in anticipation of the next exciting day.

Part 1: Preparation and Journey
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village (You are currently reading this.)Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan

Monday, August 1, 2016

Roopkund - My second sojourn in Himalaya (Part 1)

Part 1: Preparation and Journey (You are currently reading this.)
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village
Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa
Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan

The amazing Himalaya! Land of pristine beauty, land of lofty mountains, land of virgin snow, land beholding many mysteries, land beckoning the trekkers all over the world! After my first sojourn in Himalaya, it got me completely hooked and I madly fell in love with it.

With all the professional and family duties, trekking in Himalaya once in a year is also an achievement. Considering I had trekked to Har-Ki-Dun in Uttarakhand last year, I was muling an option to change the region and zeroed on Great lakes in Kashmir in Aug 2016 with my other trek mates - Sandeepak and Ajay. But as luck would have it, I had to cancel that plan and I finalized Roopkund Trek in Uttarakhand only. I searched for probable dates in June, posted the message in my trekking groups to get some company. From our Pune-Nasik trekking Group, three group members from Pune and four members from Nasik were finalized.

Pune Members: Amol Chandurkar, Prashant Kothawade, Tushar Kothawade
Nasik Members: Sanjay Amrutkar, Kiran Awasarkar, Ashwin Alai, Vipinkumar Chaudhari

This was Tushar's and Amol's maiden Himalayan trek. Being a great trekker in Sahyadri, I was not worried about Tushar but somewhat worried about Amol. Amol was slightly irregular as part of my trekking group but being the meticulous and cautious in nature, Amol prepared really well before the trek. He accompanied us at Kalsubai trek via Udadavane route and also did 3-4 hikes on Sinhagad. I observed him keenly in few of these treks and considering his daily improving fitness, I thought we really had a group ready to tackle Himalayan challenge.

Next task was to finalize the trekking organization and we finalised trekking group of Neeraj Joshi founder of "Himalayan Climber". Neeraj was part of our facebook groups and we decided to provide him the opportunity in preference to already established trekking groups.Initially only 5 members had confirmed and I went ahead for Pune-Delhi flight bookings for all these members. Later Ashwin and Vipin confirmed and they booked Mumbai-Delhi flights around the same time of ours. 

Nana and Kiran travelled whole night from Nasik to Pune and came early morning to our home, got refreshed and we left for Pune airport. Indigo flight was on time and we reached Delhi around 1.15PM.

Trying my hands with the new wide angle lens that I purchased just before the trek:

Unbearable heat greeted us as we stepped out of Delhi airport. Airport taxis demanded some exorbitant prices and reluctantly we took a rickshaw ride to a nearby restaurant. After lunch, we kept waiting in the restaurant as we didn’t want to expose ourselves to the heat outside. Hotel owners also took pity on us seeing our heavy backpacks and allowed us to chill inside the restaurant. 

Mukesh Chaddha, Tushar Dada's friend came to the restaurant to greet us, loaded all of us inside his robust Mahindra XUV 500 and took us to some sightseeing. He also treated all of us dinner. We had our share of proteins in the form of Afghani Chicken at one of the joints of Sandoz Chicken. Making sure that we were fed heartily, Mukesh Bhai dropped us at a nearby Metro station so that we could avoid evening's chaotic traffic to reach to Delhi Railway Station. A very rare hospitality by Mukesh Bhai!

Though it was late evening, there was no respite from the heat. Delhi is really a nightmare in Summer and even evenings are not pleasant. Ranikhet express arrived on time and soon we grabbed our reserved seats. A fellow passenger hailing from Haldwani scared us telling us to be extra careful as heavy rains including cloud burst were expecting in Uttarakhand. Sensing the negativity in his tone, I immediately bid good night to this passenger and retired for the day.

After having a peaceful sleep for few hours, we reached to Kathgodam before daybreak. After getting refreshed, we came outside the station where a Tempo Traveler was waiting for us. Unfortunately few members had not yet arrived and we had more than an hour to pass. We chose to have a hearty breakfast during this period and once everyone arrived, we started towards Deval village, 1 hour drive prior to Loha Ganj base camp.

Kathgodam Railway Station:

Though very scenic, route from Kathgodam to Deval village was winding with lots of twists and turns. This caused our heads reel and few of us puked all the way. You can hardly avoid this kind of journey before and after Himalayan treks and I dread these journeys more than the actual climbing.

With lunch break in between, it was almost evening when we reached to Deval village, very picturesque with beautiful valley on one side and tapering hills on the other side. We were hosted in a comfortable hotel belonging to Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam. 

After getting refreshed, I ventured outside. Lush green plateau at the base of the valley caught my attention where villagers were busy working in their fields. I followed a trail with few steps and reached to the base within 10 minutes.

With few quick relations of Didi and Mauvsi formed, I clicked few of the pictures of the villagers. One Mausi even invited me for Tea at her home in the village. Soon, it started raining for a while and I ran for shelter inside a small temple on the plateau. It was just a passing shower. 

Our trek leader Chandar Negi was about to start instructions for next 6 days' of trekking when I returned to the hotel. We had a round of small introduction and we met few more trekkers who would be part of our group for next few days.

As the evening wore on, Chandar Bhai took us to dinner at a small joint. Hot dinner was served to us of Egg Curry and we feasted on it. We had a long walk back to our hotel.

Tonight's rest was absolute must to get ready for gruelling trek ahead. With this in mind, everyone turned silent and retired for the day on fluffy beds.