Published: May 12th 2005May 12th 2005
Gori Ganga River
Kerala is called Gods Own Country but Uttaranchal is called the place where Gods abode. It is so beautiful that after visiting this State you realize that you are in heaven. This I realised two years back when I made my first trip to this home of Gods. I was so over awed by the sheer beauty of this place that I decided to return here again not knowing when. The moment arrived when Vijay and I decided to go on the tough Milam glacier trek. The moment, which I had been dreaming about for the last two years, had finally arrived.
I had been surfing the net researching about the place we could go when I chanced upon “Camp in India” website. These guys were taking two treks this season, first to Sundardunga Glacier and the other to Milam Glacier. A fortnight ago I had read about the Milam Glacier Trek in Outlook Traveler. After reading the articles I had decided that Milam would be the place where we would be heading this summer. I sent a mail to Yogesh of Camp in India for an initial inquiry about their program. Yogesh was quite prompt in his response
and sent me all the details about both the trek. We spoke on the telephone a couple of times where he suggested that we go for the Milam Glacier trek. The reason being as we were already into trekking a tougher trek would be just the right challenge for us. Also the group for this trek was of an average age of 25 years, so it would be more fun. So it was decided that Milam would be the place where we would be heading this summer.
10th May was the date when we would be leaving for Delhi. But because of unavailability of train reservations we had to postpone the trip by 2 days. The tickets for the 12th also were not confirmed but we decided to give it a shot. In the meantime we got our Innerline Permit from the Mumbai Police. This permit was required because of security issues and as the China border was quite close by, to the place we were going. Getting the permit is a tedious time consuming process but if you grease the officials you can get it in a day.
Vijay Subramani was the third person from Bombay who
would be joining us. So we were a crowd of 8 people who would be going on the Milam Glacier Trek. We three from Mumbai, 3 girls from Pune and One girl was going to join us at Munsiyari. Just a day before we were supposed to leave for Delhi, Yogesh called to say that due to landslides in Milam we would have to postpone or cancel our trek. Both Vijay and me were utterly disappointed that we might have to cancel the trek. We decided to go solo incase the trek was cancelled as my leave was already approved. I didn’t want to miss on a much needed break. The same night Yogesh called to say that we would be going for the trek. Everybody heaved a sigh of relief. It was only later that Yogesh revealed to us that the real reason for the cancellation of the trek was that our reservations to Delhi were not getting confirmed. He was somehow able to get those done but only from Daund and not Pune.
We Bombay junta decided to leave on the 11th night for Pune. We boarded the bus for Pune at 12:00 am to reach there
at 3:30 pm. We got to know each other over the journey and hit it off quite well. Vijay Subramani was an Ad agency guy who does a lot of TV serial scripting. He’s quite a chilled out guy. Yogesh had booked us at Prabhat Lodge in Pune for the night. After an hours sleep Yogesh arrived at the Hotel at 4:45 am. After freshening up we four headed for Pune station from where we would get a train for Daund. The 3 girls would be joining us at Pune station. On the way, we got to know Yogesh who came across as a pretty straight forward guy. There was no deceit in his talk. We boarded the Daund passenger at 7:00 pm from Pune. It would take us 1 Â½ hours to reach Daund. Till this time we had not introduced ourselves to the girls who joined us in Pune. After boarding the train Yogesh introduced us to the girls. All the 3 girls had just appeared for their 12th HSC exams and were having a 2 month vacation.
12th May 2004
Reached Daund at 9:30 pm. Our train (Karnataka Express) was at 11:15am.
The train was running an hour late, but finally arrived at 12:45 pm. After boarding the train we came to know that our reservation was only after Kopargaon and we would have to stand for that part of the journey. It was an hour’s journey from Daund and was not a problem. Over the journey we got to know the group members. We played cards, antakshari and generally chatted for most part of the journey. Reached Delhi at 12:30 pm on the 13th. We alighted at Hazrat Nizzamuddin station from where we would catch a bus for Anand Vihar. We were to catch a bus for Almora from Anand Vihar. After coming out of the station we headed for the bus station. As we were finding which bus would go to Anand Vihar, Vijay D squeaked in for a puff. In the mean time we located the bus and boarded it. The bus was about to leave and there was no sign of Vijay. We requested the driver to wait but it was fruitless. I got down to search Vijay. The bus left the moment I got down. After a few frantic searches at the busstand I located Vijay. I
On the way to Pachhu
On the way to Pachhu
gave him a piece of my mind for being so careless and that too for a cigarette. Anyways we boarded the next bus for Anand Vihar and united with our gang. Our adventure had begun in the right fashion, I guess!! Yogesh booked our tickets for Almora. The bus was at 7:00 in the evening and we didn’t know what to do for 5 hours. Yogesh suggested that we go for a movie as the theatre was close by. Also the Delhi heat was getting to us so a movie in an air-conditioned theatre was just what the doctor ordered. In the meantime we had lunch at a nearby restaurant. 13th was the day when the Lok Sabha election results were being announced. From whatever results were declared, it seemed that the Congress party was heading to form the government at the Centre. After a sumptuous meal we headed for Wave Multiplex. “Main Ho Na” and “Murder” were the movies from which we had to decide which one to watch. Vijay Desai was pressing for Murder but then better sense prevailed and we watched MHN. After watching the movie we moved to our bus booking station where we freshened up
On top of the world
On top of the world
and boarded the bus for Almora.
13th May 2004
Delhi - Almora is a 12 hours journey, which takes you from the plains and heat of Delhi to the chill of the mountains in Almora. As the night progresses you gain height and you start feeling tizzy because of the height gain. We had our diner at the outskirts of Delhi at a place called Gajraula. This place is quite popular on this route and is open for the entire part of the night. The food was OK.
14th May 2004
Swarali and Kachan had started feeling dizzy as we gained height. Reached Almora at 8:30 am in the morning. Ashok, who had made all our arrangements from Munsiyari, joined us at Almora. We left from Almora immediately to Munsiyari by a Sumo. The distance between Almora and Munsiyari is just 200 kms but takes almost 8 hours because of the hilly terrain and twist and turns on the mountainous route. But the route is quite scenic and you pass through a number of small villages. Most of us started feeling dizzy
On the way to Pachhu
On the way to Pachhu
as we covered distance. In the hills because of the height and the twisting and turning roads that is bound to happen. We popped in a tablet to regain normalcy. All was well and we reached our base camp, Munsiyari after an arduous and tiring journey at 6:30 pm. We headed to Hanslink Lodge, which was owned by Verru who had organized out trek from Munsiyari onwards. It was quite a neat place. It had no frills but was self-sufficient. Here we met Ghazal our 7th group member. She was basically from Pithoragarh but settled in Delhi. She had just appeared for her HSC exams. After settling in our rooms we headed to Veeru’s restaurant for some much needed breakfast. After some last minute shopping for the trek we headed to the lodge. Started packing for the trek. We decided to take only those things that would be necessary. It was no point carrying things which were of no use and would only add to the weight. Also since the weight was to be borne by individual members themselves it was prudent to carry minimum luggage. Had bath and shaved since we won’t be doing both the things for the next 10 days. After packing our rucksacks we had our dinner. Tomorrow we would start as early as possible for our trek. After dinner we were off to bed. Needed some sufficient amount of sound sleep after having slept very little in the train and bus journey.
15th May 2004
Route: Sela Pani - Jimmy Ghat - Lilam
Distance: 8 kms
Today we will start for Milam village, our first camp location. Got up at 6:00 am. Got ready and had breakfast. Went to the market after breakfast for some last minute shopping. We had to purchase barsaati (a thing transparent body length plastic sheet which is folded in the center and stitched from one side so that it can be put over the head and protects from rain). We were introduced to our guide who would be accompanying us for the entire trek. His name was Balwant Singh a.k.a Ballu. He was quite a character and a fun person to be with. At around 9:15 pm we proceeded to Sela Pani by Sumo. Reached Sela Pani at 10:00 am. We were now a team of 11 people, 8 trekkers, 1 guide, 1 cook (Vinod Kumar) and 1 Khachharwala (Lal Singh) apart from 3 khachhars. The khachhars would carry our camping equipments for the entire trek. We would be carrying our rucksacks on our backs. We had tea at Sela Pani before we embarked on our expedition.
Sela Pani was the point from where our trek to Milam glacier would begin. Everybody was upbeat as well as a little nervous at the start of the trek, primarily because nobody knew what lay ahead. It is human that every time he goes to do something new there is an air of nervousness. Started the trek at 10:10 am for Lilam. The road to Lilam was well laid out from Sela Pani. Since it was morning it was quite pleasant. Everybody ambled along appreciating the beauty around. After sometime we all unknowingly formed small informal groups so that we could know more about each other. I guess it is human tendency to behave in this way. This way the person become more assured of him and adjusts to the group as a whole in a better manner. The entire route to Lilam village is along the Gori Ganga river, which has its origin at Milam Glacier. On the right side you have the muddy Gori Ganga and on the right you have the mountains for company. The entire route had hardly any trekkers. It felt like your own private mountain range. We passed through a couple of villages. The villages here are 3-4 hamlets at the most. Along the way we took snaps of the local villagers and the scenery around. The girls were getting a little bit tired by now, today being 1st day it was understandable. On the way to Lilam we saw the Harsling Peak. People in this part of the country worship this peak. On the way we saw a number of landslides, which had happened over the past few weeks and had managed to soil the Gori Ganga but were unable to change its course. Believe me at some places the landslides were quite massive. We had to cross a couple of them on our way to Jimmy Ghat our 1st stop for the day. We reached Jimmy Ghat at 12:00 pm. All of us were exhausted and needed a break. Also it was lunchtime. We ordered lunch at a nearby makeshift hotel. Jimmy Ghat had a sizeable population. The locals were quite curious to see us. The people here are quite friendly and generally lend a helping hand when in need. Here we also saw the local women weaving exquisite woolen carpets. As lunch was being prepared we decided to go and have a dip in the Gori Ganga. The water here was so cold that none amongst us had the balls to have a dip in it. We satisfied our urge by dipping our feet in the water. We returned just when the lunch was ready. Lunch was Jhankar (wild palak) and Dal rice. Though the preparation was not upto the mark but then we were hungry lions/lionesses. We started for Lilam village at 2:30 pm after a sumptuous meal. The road after Jimmy Ghat is full of twist and turns but fairly on a plain level. The heat was getting to us and we were getting thirsty and tired at short intervals. After about one hour of walking there was a steep climb, which continued till we reached Lilam village. Now everybody was walking at his own pace and the girls were far behind. Vijay and I reached Lilam first at 4:30 pm after a tiring day of trek. But before us Vinod and Lal Singh had already arrived. Ballu followed, after which the entire gang poured in. Everybody was zonked out by the days effort. Imagine doing this for 10 full days. People started having doubts in their mind. Ghazal was the worst affected and we were doubtful about her fitness. After resting for some time we started pitching the tents. This was my first experience at pitching tents. Ballu explained us the correct way to pitch a tent. In the meantime Vinod prepared steaming hot tea. The location of our camp was simply amazing. On all sides we were surrounded by hills and we nestled on a small flat plateau. We were the only humans in this area and that added to the beauty of the whole experience. A brooke passed besides our camping location which served as a wash basin to us. It was getting a little cold as the evening approached. Ballu and I decided to try our hand at cricket. He had very thoughtfully brought a plastic cricket ball from Munsiyari. We managed to find a stick, which was long and broad enough to hit the ball. Pooja and Kanchan joined us after sometime. After an exhaustive game of cricket we freshened up. Dinner was served at a very unbombay hour of 7:30 pm. Dinner was Dal, Rice, Aloo and Roti. After dinner there was the usual antakshari round. Initially the girls were a little bit hesitant but after a few songs they were taking the lead. Vijay Desai and Ballu were the chief facilitator for the event. Vijay Subramani provided comic relief by cracking his ‘udtte’ jokes. Vinod pitched in with the song of the evening, “Tak Taka Tak Kamla”. This song became such a hit with us that we would sing this song all through our 10-day trek. It became an anthem for us for our entire trek I was as usual quietly listening and contributing nothing to the group. But then that’s the way I am. All around there was nobody but us. Our singing and playful banter resonated all across the valley. There was no electricity, the only source of light being the torch. All these elements added to the experience of the magical first night!
It was bedtime at 9:30 pm. We had pitched 2 tents. One tent would house the four girls and the other would house Yogesh, Vijay Subramani and me. Vijay Desai, Ballu, Lal Singh and Vinod would sleep in the open with only the overhead plastic sheet as protection. It was the first time that I was sleeping in a sleeping bag. To be frank, though warm it was quite uncomfortable. After sometime I started feeling hot and uncomfortable. I got out of my sleeping bag and removed my T-shirt and used the sleeping bag as a mattress. Good night!!!
16th May 2004
Route: Milam Village - Bugdiyar
Distance: 13 kms
Got up at 5:00am in the morning. Had a broken sleep all night but still felt fresh. It was quite refreshing with the early morning breeze and birds chirping all around you. This is what we city folks long for, peaceful, serene and calm surroundings in the lap of nature. After freshening up and nature calls in the wild we had our breakfast. Today was our first day where we didn’t have bath. Breakfast was bread chiwda. Actually we wanted to have bread jam and toast but the bread had become too brittle to apply any jam or butter on it. So Yogesh suggested that bread chiwda would be an ideal menu for breakfast. In the meantime Vinod prepared tea. I helped Yogesh in preparing the breakfast while the others started getting ready for a hard days trek ahead. Everybody had to pack his or her own stuff and move after the breakfast. As the girls were a little bit slow on their walking Yogesh, Vijay Subramani and the girls moved ahead towards Bugdiyar at 7:00 am,. This way we assumed that we all would reach our destination at the same time assuming we were faster than the girls. In the meantime we (Ballu, Vijay D, me, Vinod and Lal Singh) removed the tents and packed all the other equipments on the khachhars. We started at 8:45 am for Bugdiyar, our destination for the day. Lilam village and Bugdiyar is a 13 km stretch. It was a pleasant day with the sun hovering over us. It was hot, but then we didn’t have an option. The initial route was at a slight angle after which the route was a fairly flat one. We (Ballu, Vijay D and Me) were trekking at a brisk space and were sure to catch the other group soon. Our first halt was at a place called Roopsi bagar at around 11:00 am. It was a picture postcard place; with only one hut which overlooked the Gori Ganga. It served as a hotel cum lodging place for trekkers. We had boiled channa, egg and tea here. Two young enterprising boys owned the hotel and this was their first year of operation. After exchanging a few pleasantries with them we began our onward journey at around 11:30 am. Roopsi bagar would be the place where we would be camping on our return journey. Over the entire route the Gori Ganga guides you to your destination. The entire route is blessed with breath taking beauty. We caught up with the first group at 12:15 pm. Ballu, Vijay D and me overtook these guys and moved ahead. We stopped for lunch at a place called Rargadi. This was the most beautiful location that I have ever come across. This place was right on the banks of the Gori Ganga nestled between majestic mountains. Here there is only one hotel, which serves the needs of trekkers like us. On one side there is this mountain on whose foothills the hotel was located. The mountain had a dead straight face and I guess would be a climbers delight. Beyond the hotel there is the Gori Ganga and beyond it the mountains which has a lot of wildlife.
Here we met a firang called Tim. As lunch was being prepared I generally started chatting with Tim. He was a 56 year old Australia who had been staying in India for the past 10 years. He had been a regular to this part of the country and probably knew more than us about the topography and history of this place. He also had managed to buy some property in Himachal Pradesh. I don’t know how he managed to do that. He was at Rargadi for the past 3 days because he had run out of his ration. He had sent a local person to get some ration from Musiyari. So unless and until he turned up he would camp at Rargadi. He spoke and understood Hindi very well. He was on his way to Martoli, which he said was one of India’s most beautiful village. What surprised me most was that he followed Indian politics quite closely and he was shocked that the BJP inspite of a good performance at the center, had been voted out of power in the recent elections. He was of the opinion that if transportation infrastructure was improved in India it could become a major tourist attraction for foreign tourists. He usually spends 6-7 months in India and the remaining in Australia. He was so enamored with the beauty of this place that he keeps coming back to it again and again. Well, enough of Tim. Feasted on Maggie, Dal and Rice, our menu for lunch. The gushing sound of the Gori Ganga keeps your company all along. Apart from Tim we were the only group, which was there at this place. I’ll tell you that this place is your private heaven. Apart from the locals there is absolutely nobody in this peaceful serene location.
We started for Bugdiyar at 2:00 pm. This would be our destination for the day. As we were leaving Tim was making a charas filled cigarette. I was surprised but not shocked. Charas it quite freely available in this par of the country and almost everybody has it. The route from Rargadi to Bugdiyar is well laid out and straightforward. At this point Vijay D was assigned the task of being the team leader for the girls. It was his responsibility to help the girls reach the destination, safe and timely. Vijay S and I moved ahead and continued at our brisk pace. Vijay D employed a very interesting ploy with the girls. He asked them to move forward while he was behind them. He promised them a break after every hour. This way the girls were also mentally prepared atleast for an hour. Vijay S and I reached Bugdiyar at 3:30 pm. Ballu and his team had already reached and pitched the tents.
Here at Bugdiyar there is a small post of the Indo Tibetean Border Police(ITBP). The place where Ballu had pitched the tents had a lot of stones and wild plants and was not an ideal place to pitch the tents. Vinod was already ready with his kitchen preparing tea. The girls, Vijay D and Yogesh reached after sometime. After having our tea, we started pestering Ballu to change the location of our camp from the current location to the one on the banks of the Gori Ganga. Just a kilometer from where our camp was pitched, there was a small beach formed by the Gori Ganga. We all thought that this would be an ideal setting for our tents, but Ballu had different opinion. After a lot of coaxing, Ballu agreed to shift the tents. We decided to move the tents as they were. This way we would save some time by not having to pitch them again. We also shifted our kitchen. In the meantime Ballu saw the villages cutting a goat and enquired with us if we would be interested in eating mutton. Everybody was in unison except for the vegetarian girl, Swarali. After settling in and having one more round of tea, we set to search for dry wood, for the bonfire at night. It was getting colder as the evening progressed and the bonfire became a necessity. Everybody was in his or her woolens in a flash. We lighted the bonfire at 8:00 pm, as it was difficult to bear the cold anymore. Actually we had planned this activity after the diner but then as they say “jaan bachi lako paye”. All this while Vinod was busy preparing the mutton curry. Every now and then somebody would peep in and chat with him, and see the status of the mutton curry. Dinner was served at 8:30 pm and everybody was eager to taste the mutton curry. Everybody liked the preparation. The mutton curry was an unexpected menu for the day, but a welcome one.
I had pulled a leg muscle during the day and it was troubling me. Nothing serious but then however small an injury it still keeps you bothering. 9:30 pm was bedtime, tired and exhausted everybody hit their sleeping bags. Tomorrow our destination would be Railkot, which is 16 kms from Bugdiyar. Shub ratri.
17th May 2004
Route: Bugdiyar - Railkot
Height: 3200 mtrs
Distance: 16 kms
For a change had a sound sleep last night. Woke up at 5:00 am. It was so hot in the night that for the second consecutive night I had to strip down to my vest. In the morning when I came out of my tent everybody was shocked to see me in this attire. They were shivering all night due to the cold and here I was in my vest.
After the daily routine of morning tea, going behind the huge stones for nature call and the optional toothbrush we had our breakfast. Vinod had got up a 4:00 am and had already finished preparing the breakfast. Today breakfast was aloo Sabzi and parathas. It was really cold in the morning and a hot cup of tea was the right solution to provide warmth to the body.
We started for Railkot at 7:00 am. Before starting we said our daily prayers and embarked upon this section of the trek. Today it was my responsibility to lead the girls to the final destination of the day. We guys had mutually agreed to share this responsibility to motivate the girls and lead them through the journey. Yogesh, Vijay S, all the girls and me started ahead while Ballu, Vijay D and Vinod would pack the tents and then join us. Every now and then we would encounter villagers with huge flock of sheep’s, whom they take to graze in the mountains. This is their yearly routine and every summer the sheep’s are taken to graze in the hills locally called as bugiyal. At some point we encountered an approximately 2 km line of sheep on the way to Railkot. On the way we passed the Nahar Devi temple. It holds a lot of religious significance for the local people. The location of the temple is breathtaking. It is located on the edge of the Gori Ganga and the way the river twists and turns at this location is to be seen to be believed (see photo). After an initial climb we took our first halt at 8:15 am. After resting for sometime we again started our arduous trek. Today’s trek was the toughest so far and had a lot of steep climbs. Pooja, Kanchan and I broke away from the gang and moved ahead. We had gained sufficient momentum and were moving in a rhythm which we didn’t want to break. We took our second break at 11:15 am at a place called Mapang. This place had only one hut, which served as a hotel. It served us tea, channa and boiled eggs. We were about to begin when the other group members came in. We ended up waiting here a further Â½ an hour. Since we were not racing against time it was no issue waiting for some more time. We all started again at 12:15 pm. Till this time Vijay D, Ballu and Vinod had not caught up with us. After this, the entire route was a steep climb and a gentle drop. After some time we three again broke away and moved ahead. On the way we met a fellow lady trekker with her children. She was on her way back, after trekking some pass. On enquiring I came to know that she was from Bandra. No matter how far you run away from Bombay, you are always close to it!!!
The rise and fall of the route was taking its toll on everybody and this was reflected in the speed and stamina of all the team members. There were frequent breaks at short durations. But still everybody hung on. Inspite of all the hardships the beauty around was able to excite and mesmerize us. At one point we saw a landslide, which was so huge that it had managed to alter the course of the Gori Ganga, not fully but to a certain extent (see photo). It is at such places that you come to know that there is no one as powerful as nature. It was 2:45 pm and we had not had our lunch. In the meantime Vijay D and his team had caught up with us, while Vinod had already overtaken us and reached Railkot. After a really hard trek of 16 kms we reached Railkot at 3:15 pm. It took us 8 hours to cover this distance. As we were approaching Railkot the chill in the wind grew stronger.
Railkot is a small village with 10-12 huts nestled between mountains on one side and the Gori Ganga on the other. We camped away from this huts at a picturesque plateau overlooking the Gori Ganga. We had our tea, after which we pitched the tents. The girls were really sapped. Lunch was served and lapped up in double speed.
After resting for some time Ballu and I decided to free our arms and play cricket. Inspite of such a tiring trek we still had the energy to play. Can you imagine playing cricket at a height of 3200 meters? That’s the power of the game for you. No wonder the entire country is hooked to it. After the game we just roamed around the place to get a feel of it. Meanwhile Ballu went on the banks of the river and arranged small stones to resemble his name. Before the dinner we had vegetarian soup. At this place Vijay D anointed Vijay I as Ramu because he was eveready to help anybody anytime. The name stuck with him so much that all through our trek we called him Ramu. Vijay D also named me as Doctor for my quiet demeanor. Kanchan was Mallika Sherawat because of her near perfect imitation of a radio advertisement by the actress on Radio Mirchi. Pooja was given too many names during the trek to remember. We had our dinner at 9:00pm and were ready to sleep immediately. All of us were extremely tired and were in no mood to while away time, playing antakshari or useless chitchat. It was very cold and even the woollens were proving inadequate in this hostile environment. Good Night, hopefully!!!!
18th May 2004
Route: Railkot - Burfu - Martoli
Distance: 5 kms
Getting up at 5:00 am has become a habit for me, atleast in this part of the world. Had an unsound sleep last night, may be because of the cold. I was lucky that so far I have had no stomach problems whatsoever. Otherwise it becomes very difficult if you have an upset stomach. After having bed tea and the daily routine we ventured to play cricket, just to warm our bodies. So it was cricket at 6:30 am in the morning at a height of 3200 mtrs. The plastic ball was hitting you like a bullet, but after some time we got used to it. Today we will be going to Burfu village. Yesterday we had come to know from some local people that the Thekedar had removed the bridge to Burfu village, as the PWD department did not pay his monies. So we will have to make a detour to reach Burfu, because of this the distance to be covered was increased by 4 kms. Now we will have to go via the Tola village.
For breakfast, Yogesh prepared fried rice from the leftover rice of last night. Yogesh, Vijay S a.k.a Ramu and the girls left for Tola at 7:30 am. This change of route was unexpected for us, but we have to be prepared for all eventualities. Vijay D and I would leave after packing the tents. We left at 8:00 am for Tola. Ballu, Vinod and Lal Singh would leave once they had loaded the entire stuff on the khachhars. In the night Lal Singh had left the khachhars open so that they can graze in the open. In the morning when he got up to see the khachhars, they were missing. He had to trek 4km to retrieve them and even after that he looked absolutely fresh showing no hints of his morning trek. I’ll tell these local people are so adept to these surroundings that they can trek even in their sleep.
While leaving Railkot we had decided that we would stop after one hour of trekking. Since this was a new route we wanted everybody to be together. Here we met some people who added a new twist to the Burfu bridge saga. They informed us that the bridge at Tola was in a bad shape. Actually it was not a bridge but just a small plank of wood where only a human could cross. He narrated that one khachhar wala had tried to cross his animal and it fell in the river. The khachhar was swept away by the water currents. This put us in a tight spot. We had 3 khachhars and we didn’t want to take that kind of risk. Also, going without the khachhars was out of question because carrying the tents with us was next to impossible. We had to do some serious decision-making. Yogesh and Ballu decided that we go to Nanda Devi base camp instead of Milam. So our next stop would be Martoli and not Burfu village which we had envisioned in the morning. Nobody complained as long as we were going to some place. Martoli is at a distance of 4 km from Railkot. The route to Martoli is well laid out and is a flat walk. This was a welcome break for all of us after yesterdays rigorous trek. The entire route to Martoli is littered with numerous brookes and greenery all around. Trekking over these mountains was so refreshing. We all had now started enjoying our daily trekking routine. Martoli is at a height of 11400 fts.
We reached Martoli at 11:30 am. This was the earliest that we reached our destination during the entire trek. We had an entire day at this picturesque village. The moment I saw Martoli, I remembered Tim’s words, that it is the most beautiful village in the whole country. I could see why he said that. The village has such an overpowering effect on you, that it almost hypnotizes you (see photo). The entire village is deserted but the house structure is in place. This was once a bustling trade town when the route to Tibet was open for business. After the China war this trade route was sealed and the people of the villages deserted their homes to seek livelihood in towns like Pithoragarh, Almora etc. The houses here are very typical double storied ones with the ground floor for the cattle’s and the first one for the family. It has an entrance in the center, where a staircase leads you to the first floor. We camped at one of the houses, which was in better shape.
We had Maggie at around 12:30 pm. After this Vijay and I set to see this hallowed village. It was an extremely well planed village with a lot of narrow lanes. One could imagine how bustling this place would have been in its glory days. After circling the entire village we returned to have lunch. We saw a lot of foreigners at this place. Yogesh had prepared Dal and Aloo sabzi for lunch. Finding Yogesh in the kitchen had become a regular feature and he was doing a good job at that. After lunch Ballu, Vijay D and me went to see the Nanda Devi temple, which was over a hillock facing our camping spot. This temple is revered by people all across Kumaon. Every year in September a fair is held at this place where the entire Kumaon congregates to join in the festivities. The temple has an idol of Maa Nanda Devi, which faces the Nanda Devi Peak. Its face is covered with cloth and is only removed during the annual fair. After returning from the temple I went to freshen up at a nearby water source. Though it was cold I decided to dry clean myself, as it had been 4 days that I had cleaned myself thoroughly. Personal hygiene is of utmost importance and should be adhered to as far as possible. After returning Swarali, Pooja, Vijay D and I played cards. By the time we finished it was getting dark. After a steaming cup of tea we all started cozying up in the house, as it was getting cold.
In the evening Veeru’s (the person who had organized our trek) father Nathu Singh joined us for dinner. He was a 60 year old man with an aura about him. He spends 6 months of the year at Martoli and the rest at Munsiyari. He cultivates medicinal herbs here and is an authority on it. He gave us a small talk on the medicinal herbs in this region and told us what kind of ailments it can cure. He had very simple thoughts about life in general but were very true. The kind of thought process this man had left me in awe of him. We discussed a variety of topic right from ayurveda, politics to the future of Uttaranchal. He promised to show his herb farms in the morning. We had our dinner at 9:30 pm. Dinner was Cauliflower, a locally grown saag and jam roti. Today would be the first day where we won’t be sleeping in the tents Everybody would make themselves comfortable in the house. We said good night to Nathuram and moved into our sleeping bags. The temperature had dropped drastically in the night. I guess it would be between 10-12 degrees. Also the wind was blowing at a good speed, which was adding to our discomfort. Though the house had a door and window there were enough places from where the wind could enter.
Just besides our house a Swiss national was staying. Didn’t interact with him much. Apart from us there was a group of 8 Americans who had come for mountaineering training.
19th May 2004
Route: Martoli - Ghangar
Distance: 7 kms
Woke up at 5:30 am, had a broken sleep all night. We had decided to start a little late today as we were going to Nathu Singh’s farms. It was chilly at this hour and everybody avoided venturing out of our their cosy confines. Ballu had a made a habit that every day he would wake up the girls in his own special way, the moment he got up he used to pull the sleeping bags of the girls. No matter how hard the girls tried he was able to annoy and wake them up. After the regular freshening up, we went out to warm ourselves in the sun.
In the meantime Ballu was chatting with the Swiss national, I joined them. He was explaining Ballu the map of this region. He had a very detailed map of this region. He suggested that we go to Pachhu Glacier rather than Nanda Devi base camp. He said it was quite a beautiful place and it would be all the effort. We bought into his suggestion and decided to go to Pachhu. Both for Nanda Devi base camp and Pachhu Glacier, Martoli is the base village. Our only problem was that Ballu also had not been to this place and was a little bit skeptical. But he said that he will manage the show. The Swiss national showed us the route to Pachhu Glacier on his map. We will have to climb upto a height of 14000 feets to reach Pachhu Glacier.
The Swiss national’s name was Bhim. He was 56 years old and had been residing in India for the past 12 years. He knew Tim, whom we met at Rargadi, very well. He said, that the map which he had was a 50 year old one. A Swiss cartographer drew it and that’s the reason he was able to get hold of it, otherwise according to him, getting such a detailed map in India is absolutely impossible. He said he will be staying here till September climbing nearby peaks and generally getting to know this place. He was based in Bangalore and was associated with Amul “operation Flood” as an expert on cheese. Currently he was associated with a dozen schools in Bangalore coordinating for their students outdoor activity program. In his opinion all effort should be made to stop local people from leaving this beautiful village. He thought that, if a sustainable means of livelihood is provided to them, they would stay back. Eco Tourism was a solution according to him. Also he thought deforestation was disturbing the ecological balance in this region. As the no. of trees decrease, because of rain and snowfall the soil becomes lose and causes landslides. Bhim seemed to a man with a lot of understanding about this palace and of life in general. I thanked him and said good-bye.
We headed to Nathu Sings farm, where he showed us a number of medicinal herbs which he was farming this season. He also showed us samples of rare herbs which he had gathered over a period. One such herb was called “chippi” which helped breathing in the high altitudes. He gave us some samples of the herbs to us. We were back to our camp at 9:30 am for breakfast. Breakfast for Dalia (porridge).
Started for Ghangar at around 10:00 am. All of us had “chippi” in our mouth but I must agree that is was quiet bitter. Bhim was kind enough to show us the way. The initial patch was a steep slide after which there was a steep rise. After this see-saw patch it was flat walk fr almost an hour. The nest section of the route was a steep rise. The entire route was like a sinusoidal curve. There was no end to this sinusoidal nonsense. Everybody was tired and just prayed that our destination for the day arrives soon. Scampered to Ghangar at 1:45 pm, tired and battred.
Not as beautiful as Martoli, Ghangar is still an attractive place. It is on the edge of the Gori Ganga. Pachhu village is on the otherside of the Gori Ganga. We can see the route to Milam Glacier from this place. We decided to camp at a local destered home, which was very similar to the one in Martoli. Only thing the Martoli house was in a better condition than this one. All the junta got rid of their sacks as soon as they reached this place. Vinod served tea and namkeen. Vijay had not been feeling well right through the day. I guess the height was getting to him. Also he had a very bad cough, which was making his climbing painful. He was quite throughout the day and hit the bed the moment we reached Ghangar.
While lunch was being prepared we all rested, while the girls played what else antakshari. It wsa 5:30 pm and still the lunch was not ready. The dal was taking to much time to cook delaying the lunch and converting it to our dinner. Had our dinner at 6:30 pm. It was the earliest dinner I have ever had. After dinner we kept a small introduction session where everybody described about him in few words. After this the topic veered to “what qualities would you in your life partner”. The girls were more forthright in their views, where as we guys were a bit skeptical. The reason being the girls being young had a lot of learn and experience about life. We guys being mature adults, knew the perils of marriage and what goes into making a relation successful. Slept at 8:30 pm. Decided to start early tommorow so that we can get a view of the Nanda Devi peak and if time permits reach Pachhu glacier.
20th May 2004
Route: Ghangar - Pachhu Nala
Height: 4000 mtrs
Distance: 6 kms
We woke up at 4:30 am to get an early morning glimpse of the Nanda Devi peak. As the sun rises, the visibility to the peak diminishes because of the strong sunlight. But to our luck it was cloudy and the the peak was not visible the way we had imagined. But this is acommon penomemon in this part of the world. You have to have patience and time to really get what you want. We trcked back to our camp to get ready for the day ahead. Today we would be going to Pachu Nala which is at a height of approx. 4000 mtrs. We would be camping at Pachu Nala today and will be going to Pachhu Glacier tomorrow. But then ypu always plan things and they don’t end up as per your expectations. That the way life is! After freshening up and having breakfast we left camp Ghangar at 6:45 am for Pachhu Nala. Pachhu Nal and beyond is the only place from where you can see the majestic twin peak of Nanda Devi with the East side on the left and the main Nanda Devi peak to the right. It’s a photographers delight.
Though the distance between Ghangar and Pachhu Nala is only 6 kms but the height difference is almost 800 mtrs. So at some points the climb is pretty steep. The forst patch towards Pachhu Nala is pretty steep, almost at an angle of 45 degrees. Everybody maneuvered it at their own pace to reach the top of the mountain. The entire mountain was carpeted with white Brunash flowers. Brunash is the national flower of Nepal and Uttaranchal. The squash of these flowers is quite famous in this part of India. The path ahead after this climb was a gentle walk ater which we encountered our first serious hurdle on the entire trek. the patch which lay ahead of us left everybody thinking. Meanwhile Ballu, Vijay D and Vinod since they were ahead of us, had already maneuvered this difficult patch. When we others saw the patch everybody was at loss of words. The patch was a climb at an angle of almost 55 degrees across a face of the mountain. Also the way was very narrow, one wrong step and you were in the deep valley never to return. Also because of fresh landslides the soil on the mountain had become very loose, so getting a firm grip on it was doubly difficult. We waited and contemplated for a good 45 minutes to decide whether to go or return back to Ghangar. Yogesh was very spectical about this patch and left the decision to the individuals whether they want to move forward or return back. In the end Yogesh and Swarali would return back while the rest of us would move ahead. In the meantime Vijay and Ballu returned midway o the route to escort the girls over the patch. We gus, Vijay I and me maneuvered the patch pretty comfortably while the girls needed a helping hand but everything was fine when all overcame this piece of adrenalin rush. Yogesh and Swarali where still there watching us climb this patch. Once we had safely overcome this patch they went back to Ghangar. We would miss them till our return back to Ghangar. After walking for some time we encountered two more patches which were difficult to manouver. Though there was doubt in the girls mind with some team work we overcame these patches. Because of fresh landslides the old routes were washed with the force of nature and we had to make our ways through this rough miuntain. Reached Pachhu Nala at 10:00 am after this heart stopping trek. The girls were relaxed after such a adventorus morning. The scounted for a place to camp our tents while vinod prepared tea. Vijay had not been feeling well right through the morning so he hit the floor immeadiately after reaching Pachhu Nala. The entire Pachhu Nala is a bugiyal( a green strip on land which is used for grazing sheep etc.) and we pichted our tents on it. There was absolutely nobofy at this place expect for us. On one side was the open valley and on the other sides were beautiful snow clad mountains. We were nestled in this picturesque surrounding. If it there was heaven, this would be it, I said to myself. Since this place was not accessible by Khachhars we had tp carry our tents as well as our rations for the entire day.
We relaxed for sometime and had tea. It was extremely cold and windy at this place. Probably, the coldest in our entire trek. after our tea we pitched our tents. It was extremely windly and pitching the tents was very difficult. On top of that we had forgotten to bring the pegs, with which we would pitch the tents. Ballu’s ingenuity came into play when he suggested that we make wooden pegs to anchor the tents. So we all set out in search of wooden sticks which could be used as pegs. After much difficulty we were able o pitch the tents.
After pitching the tents we decided to go to the nearby mountains which seemed to be quite close by. Also there was some small glaciers which could be seen(see photo). We started for this mountain at around 11:30 am. The mountain appeared close by and we thought we could cover in an hour. But the more we moved towards it the farther it seemed to us. Also the route to this mountain was a steep one and the girls were taking breaks after few steps. The steep rise was taking its toll on everybody. The reason being the height of approximately 400 mtrs, which was making breathing difficult. Finally we reached the mountain at 1:30 pm and the distance trekked was 5 kms, but it was worth all the effort. The glacier on the mountain which looked small from a distance was not so. Also because of fresh snowfall it was glowing in all its glory. Ballu taught us how to walk on glacier. Slipped a couple of times. After that Ballu taught us glaciding.i.e sliding on glacier. He made a track of almost 30 mtrs on the glacier for glaciding. He taught us how to glacide. After an initial hestitation everybody was game for the ride of a lifetime. An believe me everybody had a blast of a time glaciding. The high everybody got glaciding was contagious to say the least. After sometime we were making human trains on the glcier and glaciding. It was pure thrill. During one of the rides Pooja started with head up and toe down and came down the opossite way. everybody had a hearty laugh at Pooja’s expense. After 45 minutes of galciding we decided to return. The way down was a straight downhill and getting down was tricky. I reached down the fastet at around 3:00 pm while the other guys and gals trickled down slowly. On the way we gattered wood which would be used for cooking the food. Because of the galciding activity evrybody’d clothers were wet and nobody was carrying an extra pair of garment. We allowed to clothes to dry on the body itself with the flames of the fire on which our food was being cooked. When we reached down we saw that the tents had been dismantled. While we were at the glacier, the wild wind had blown our tents and Vijay and Vinod had dismantled them to prevent them from flying off. Vinod had prepared Maggi which we all relished. We had our lunch at 3:45 pm. It was extremely cold and we had to warm ourselves near the fire. The temperature would have been 5 degrees. After lunch we started pitching the tents again. This time we made sure that we had more pegs and also placed heavy stones on the edges of tent to prevent it from flying off again. At around 6:00 pm we went to see the Nanda Devi twin peaks. Though the weather was not that clear, the sight of the twin peaks basking in the evening twilight was shear magic.
At 6:30 pm we were ready to sleep. Can ypu believe it, 6:30 pm in the evening!!! After a steaming cup of soup we were ready to sleep. Since we were 8( 3 girls and 5 guys) people and had only two tents, somebody will have to sleep in the girls tents. Seeing his harmless nature, Vijay Iyer was the unanimous choice. Tomorrow we would go to Pachhu glacier our final frontier.
21st May 2004
Route: Pachhu Nala - Pachhu Glacier and back to Ghangar
Height: 4200 mtrs
Distance: (5+6 = 11 kms)
As usual woke up 5:00 am in the morning. Not brushing teeth’s and having bed tea had become a routine with al of us now. After bed tea went to see the twin Nanda Devi peaks from a platform, which was near our camping site. It was ice cold outside and everybody was reluctant to move out of the tents. But the site of the Nanda Devi peaks glowing in all its glory was a sight to behold. Returned to have breakfast and set for Pachhu Glacier at about 7:00 am.
The route to Pachhu Glacier is over a number of small hillocks. Practically all the hills are lined with Bhoj trees with Snowclad Mountains in the background. It looks like a typical Japanese picture postcard. From the bark of the Bhoj trees you can remove thin layers of paper like sheets, which have been used for writing in ancient India. The revered Bhagwad Gita has been written on such bhoj patri’s. Carried some samples of the Bhoj Patri back home as a remembrance of my wonderful time in this part of the world. The walk towards the glacier is strenuous to say the least. Moving up and down in a sinusoidal wave and the height takes a toll on you. Every now and then we had to take short breaks to regain our breathing. The girls were finding difficult to carry on and decided to return to our camp at Pachhu Nala. Vijay D also decided to opt out and return to the camp. We found it hard to convince them to bear the last ordeal. Finally it was Ballu, Vijay I and me who decided to move forward to our final destination of the trek. Just behind the Pachhu Glacier you can see the majestic twin towers of the Nanda Devi peak. The more you move closer to it the farther it seems to be. There was not a soul at this place apart from us. The entire route is littered with rocks and maneuvering them becomes quite difficult. People who had earlier been to this place have stacked small stones in piramydical shape one over the other to define the route. So you know that you are on the right track if you see these types of structures on the route. Each of us made a structure each on our way to Pachhu Glacier. After a long and taxing journey we arrived at Pachhu Glacier at 10:00am. What we saw was not what we had expected, the entire glacier was covered in moron and very little of it was visible. But we were satisfied that atleast we had achieved what we had set for. Pachhu Glacier was the farthest I have been in the Himalayas so far. So there was some sense of achievement for me. The water from this glacier forms one of the tributaries of the Gori Ganga and joins the main river at Ghangar. All around the glacier there were gigantic imposing snow covered mountains and the glacier lied at their base. There was not human trace at this place and it was like our private estate. After spending some peaceful moments we started back to our camp with a heavy heart. We were sad that our return journey has already started. All these days we were moving towards a target and once that was achieved we had to move back to the concrete jungles in the city. But then all good things have to come to an end.
We returned to our camp at Pachhu Nala in break neck speed reaching there in flat 55 minutes. We had covered a distance of approx 4 km in no time. By 11:15 we were at the camp. Everybody was happy to see us back and enquired about our reaching the destination. They were happy for us but had a slight ting of sadness as they were not able to accompany us. By the time we reached, the others guys had already dismantled the tents and packed them. We packed our belongings and were ready to move to Ghangar. After resting for some time and having tea we set for our return to Ghangar where Yogesh and Swarali were waiting for us we set for Ghangar at 11:45 am. At the start of the return to Ghangar the girls were a little nervous because of the 3 tricky patches that would have to maneuvered to reach Ghangar. We gave them confidence and tried to instill in them a fearlessness of the mountains. The return journey was quite peaceful. We maneuvered the 3 tricky patches quite easily. At some places there were fresh landslides and we had to take a detour. I was moving ahead alone and reached Ghangar at 1:45 pm first. The rest of the junta trickled down by2:15 pm. Yogesh was relieved to see us all together in one piece. Since he was the team leader, he had the responsibility of everybody and naturally was worried for all of us. It was really sporting of him to let us decide about going to Pachhu Glacier when he himself had decided against going. Had lunch at 3:00 pm and took a light nap after the tiring journey. While coming down Ballu had promised that he would ask Vinod to make pakodas, but to our luck we had ran out of cooking oil and would have to postpone our plan. Evening was generally spent chitchatting and playing cards. By now the entire group was like a family and everybody had developed a bond towards each other. We camped at the same house in Ghangar. We deicided to start early tomorrow early so that we could cover maximum distance. After dinner it was straight to the sleeping bags.
22nd May 2004
Route: Ghangar - Nahar Devi
Distance: 16 kms
Today we had planned to cover as much distance as possible. Started at 6:45 am for Nahar Devi, which is approximately at a distance of 16 kms from Ghangar. For the return journey we had decided to load our sacks on the Khachhars since they had already exhausted most of the rations. This way without the sacks on our back we would be able to cover more distance. Also we reckoned that the entire journey being mostly downhill, reaching Nahar Devi would not be a problem.
Our first stop would be at Burfu bridge. The climate was pleasant and the freshness of the air was intoxicating us. All these days we had stayed in mother nature’s lap and we had got addicted to its freshness. Reached Burfu bridge in flat 2 hours at 8:45 am. The distance, which we had taken 4 hours to cover during our first leg, was covered in barely 2 hours. After a 15 mintue rest we set for our next mini destination of the day, the foothills of Martoli village. On the retun journey we won’t be going to Martoli but would be taking a bypass route. 9:15 am we were at the foothills of Martoli. After a 10 minutes break we moved forward for our next destination, Railkot. Everybody was going great guns. The entire jounery to Railkot was downhill. I was covering this part of the trek alone at break neck speed. It was almost leading everybody else by a good 15-20 mintues. I generally can’t trek slowly and just lug around. I reached Bugdiyar at 10:30 am, Yogesh followed me after 15 mintues. We ordered for tea and biscuit while waiting for the other guys and girls. These guys arrived by 11:00 am. After their tea we moved ahead to our next desintaition of Mapang. We ended up spending an hour here and finally started for Mapang at 12:00 p. All the destination were been consumed with consummate ease, which was not the case on our first leg. The route which we took on the return journey was the same which we had taken earlier. The weather was getting a little overcast and we sensed rain later in the day. When we were halfway towards Mapang a drizzle caught with us. We covered the rest of the journey till Mapang in the drizzle. Actually the drizzle it felt good because as we were getting down it was getting warmer and it helped cool our bodies. Reached Mapang at 2:30 pm. Once we reached this place there was a heavy downpour. We had already made ourselves comfortable at a hotel and orderd for lunch. This was the same hotel where we had breakfast on our onward journey. The hotel had a couple of local people who had a radio set with them. While lunch was being prepared we tuned the radio to get in touch with the world, which we had let 10 days ago. In the news on the radio we came to know that Dr. Manmohan Singh would be sworn as the Prime Minister of India later that week. While leaving from Delhi for our trek, I had told Vijay D that Dr. Manmohan Singh would be the Prime Minister. My gut feeling was proved right. Lunch was ready and everybody feasted on the Egg Curry except for Swarali since see does not eat non-vegeterain food.
It was still raining and we had to take a call on whether we stay here at Mapang for the night or move to Nahar Devi. This place already had 6 people and accommodating 11 of us would be next to impossible, so we decided to move ahead to Nahar Devi. We started at 4:30 pm whne it had stopped raining. Mapang to Nahar Devi would take us approximately 2 hours to cover. On the way to Nahar Devi the rain caught with us. All of either had a wind cheater or the local barsati, so the rain was not much of a problem. After a brisk walk reached Nahar Devi in a semi wet state at 6:30 pm.
As promised by Ballu, Vinod had already reached and started preparing pakodas. Rain, pakoda and tea is a kamal combinatin. No sooner had we reached, he presented hot mouth watering pakodas which everybody feasted on. Though the place at Nahar Devi was crowded but it was quite big to accommodate all of us. We made ourselves comfortable in a corner of a big thatched hut, which would be our camp tonight. This place served as a hotel cum camping area for trekkers. They charge a nominal rent for the stay. A couple of firings had also capmed at this place. Today Ghazal was going to try her culinary skills by preparing Rajma rice. All along we had coaxed Ghazal to cook something for all of us and finaly she had relented to our pressure. I don’t know whether it was for the god or bad?? We’ll come to know only when we have the rajma. Vinod had erected a temporary shed where he would be preparing our dinner. This is a strange place, it allows trekkers to cook their own food, not making it manadatory to have food at their hotel. These small acts of the local people endear them so much to you. It is always people before business here. This place is so much away from commercialization that you hope that it stays this forever.
It was raining outside where vinod was preparing for our dinner. Ghazal joined him to prepare the Rajma. Nobody of us knew that while preparing the rajma, Ghazal has smokd a cigaratte filled with charas. She had insisted with Vinod to let her have of puff. One puff lead to another and in no time she had smoked the entire cigarette. She was so zonked that she left the rajma to cook and came back inside the hut. She came and lied in one corner. Nobody knew what had happened to her until the next day morning when she revelaed her antics. Because of the damp whether and extreme cold the rajma was not getting cooked. It was already 9:00 pm and most of us were feeling sleepy. Ballu and me slept without having food while the other guys had very little of the rajma, which finally cooked. We slept at 9:45pm.
23rd May 2004
Route: Nahar Devi - Roopsi Bhagar
Distance: 14 kms
Started at 7:45 am after our breakfast. Today Vinod had prepared kheer for breakfast. Our first stop of the day was to be budgiyar. The entire journey from Nahar Devi to Bugdiayr was downhill. It was quite pleasant and everybody was in their elements today. After sometime I broke away from the group and sprinted to our first stop, Budgiyar at 9:00 am. Met Tim here, the same guy whom we had met at Raragadi on our way to Milam. Because his ration had arrived late he was forced to stay at Raragadi for a couple of more days. After chatting with him for 15-20 mintues the rest of our gang arrived and I said good bye to him. I reached Rargadi at 10:15 am while Yogesh followed after 15 minutes. We had tea and biscuit and waited for the other guys to arrive. I the meantime I soaked around the eternal beauty of Rargadi for one last time. The other guys ambled along at 11:00 am. Just as they entered the hotel it started raining. After their tea we decided to move but it was still raining. We decided to stay here for sometime till the rains stops.
Started at 11:30 am fro Ropsi Bhagar once the rains had stopped. Touched base at this place at 1:30 pm. We camped at the same hotel where we had stopped on our way to Milam. Infact this was the only so called hotel at Roopsi Bhagar. Here also no sooner had we camped that it started raining. It was like we were playing a cat and mouse game. The other junta had to brave the rains since they reached only at 2:00 pm. But nobody was complaining, infact everybody was loving the last leg of the tour and was trying to get the maximum out of it. With the rains the entire Jhawar valley was blooming in all it glory, with river water gushing all along and the sweet sound of the birds chirping all around was almost heavenly.
Had egg curry for lunch and by 2:30 pm we were ready to move ahead. Though we had covered our distance for the day, since we had time I thought we should move ahead. Yogesh had different ideas and insisted that we camp at this place. So we removed our sleeping mats and bags and laid them so that we could rest. In the meanwhile Ballu, Ramu and Ghazal went to have bath in the river. They would be taking bath after a full ten days. they avoided the icy cold water and decided to wait for one more day to have a bath. We had befriended the two guys who owned the hotel. Since we were the only tekkers at their place they served us very nicely. Evening was generally spent playing cards and chit chatting. Yogesh encroached their kitched and prepared egg bhurji for us. Dinner was bhurji, rajma, dal, rice and roti. Slept at 9:00 pm. Tomorrow would be our last day of the trek and I am already feeling nostalgic.
24th May 2004
Route: Roopsi Bhagar - Sela Pani
Distance: 10 kms
Started at 6:45 am for Sela Pani. Our first stop would be at Lilam village. We reached there at 8:00 am. Here we met a group from Mumbai and Delhi going to Milam. While we were descending we saw a lot many groups going up to Milam and other places. When we were there, there was hardly anybody there. We happy that we had planned our trek at such a time when there was less crowd at the top otherwise the entire purpose to be away from the crowd would have been lost. Gave some tips to these guys as to where to camp and how much distance to cover in day etc. Had tea at this place. While the other guys moved ahead Vinod, Ramu and me stayed back because Vinod had to return some utensils which he had borrowed from a local general provision store on our way up. The owner of the shop was an old man who also brewed a local alcoholic beverage called Chakti. Vinod proposed and both Ramu and me nodded in the affirmative. So we had some sips of the local alcoholic beverage at 8:30 am in the morning that to on a Monday. This was an almost impossible scenario when we reached Bombay. By 8:45 am we were on our way to Jimmy Ghat literally on a high. None of our group guys knew about our escapade and we intended to keep it this way. Vinod and I overtook the other guys and we were all by ourselves. On the way he told me that he will introduce me to is old flame at Jimmy Ghat. She was from his school and both had wanted to marry each other but she was from a higher caste. She was married off to a guy from her caste while Vinod married a couple of years back. But then you’ll have to agree that a human never forgets his firsts love. By 9:30 am we were at Jimmy Ghat and we headed straight to her house. She was not at home and Vinod went out to search for her while he made he sit in her home all alone. He returned with her and introduced me to her. She was extremely pretty. She was a divorcee and had two kids. I felt sorry for her that at such a tender age she had to lead a solitary life. She served us namkeen chai which is made by mixing ghee, tea leaves and some namkeen. This was the weirdest tea I had ever had. It tasted more like soup. Somehow I managed to drink it. After she served us roti and a local stuff very similar to zunka. I thanked her for all the hospitality and left at 10:00 am. Our other groups members were unaware of our sojourn and were under the impression that we were ahead of them. As we were moving out of Jimmy Ghat, Vinod took me to a store where he purchased Charas. He had promised Ramu and Ghazal that he would feed them some stock of Charas. It surprises me that this stuff is so freely available in this part of the country. Vinod and I had some serious catching to do and immediately moved to fourth gear. We caught with the other group by 10:30 am and after that we all moved together. Vinod moved ahead and was the first to reach Sela Pani. We all trickeled one by one and reached Sela Pani at 11:30 am. This was the place from where our trek had begun. Everybody was happy that we had managed to complete our 11 day trek without any major problems. There was a tinge of sadness as we would again have to go back to our respective cities.
Vinod had already arranged for a Sumo for Munsiyari. After resting and having tea we boarded the Sumo. Reached Munsiayri at 12:30 pm all tired and disheveled. Had lunch at Veeru’s restaurant and went to Hanslink lodge. Offloaded our rucksacks and hit the bed instantly. After a soothing nap, woke up and decided to do the clean up act. Shaved after 10 days. Since our lodge didn’t have hot water facility, Yogesh suggested that we go to the nearby Travel Rest House (TRH) for a hot water bath. During his previous treks to Milam he had frequented this TRH and knew how to grease the people there. So Yogesh, Vijay and me went to the TRH. We tried to smooth talk the TRH manager to allow us to have a shower at the TRH for a nominal fee. He didn’t relent and we had to take a dormitory for 3 people at Rs.60/- per head. But the dormitory also didn’t have hot water facility. He was considerate to allocate a room to us only on the condition that we vacate it in the evening. So finally we would have a hot water bath. Yogesh went first and took a good Â½ hour to come out. But he complained that the water was only luke warm. Just when I was about to go for my bath, the power went off. Vijay and Yogesh went to Hanslink lodge while I stayed at the TRH. I slept in the room waiting for the power to come. It came after an hour. Had a really hot water bath. It felt really refreshing having a bath after 11 days. in the meanwhile Yogesh and Vijay came back. Vijay got into the bathroom and came out complaing that the water was not at all hot. Yogesh who was unhappy earlier because he had to have his bath in almost cold water, decided to try his luck again. But his luck ran out this time also, as the water was only luke warm this time around. I guess, the geyser was playing games with us. Left the TRH after having a good double omolette.
We had planned a small celebration in the evening for the guys only. Sikkim Rum and Pepsi was on the house. Veeru joined us for the celebration. I just tasted the stuff and didn’t like it. We had asked the girls to have their dinner before us, while we downed the Sikkim rum. After emptying the bottle we headed to Verru’s restaurant for dinner. Dinner was mutton curry prepared in the local style. Slept at 10:00 pm.
25th May 2004
Route: Munsiyari - Almora - Delhi
After saying good bye to everyone and promising to return back we left Munsiyari with a heavy heart. The bond which we had developed with Ballu, Vinod and Lal Singh is difficult to express I words. But as have said earlier, all good things have to come to an end. By 6:30 am we were on our way to Almora. Our first destination was Thal where we reached at 9:30 am. Ashok had come to Thal to take Ghazal to Pithoragarh. We had fish curry for breakfast. Ballu, Ghazal and Ashok moved towards Pithoragarh while we moved to Almora. There was sadness on everybody face.
Reached Almora at4:00 pm after a long and tiring journey. Our bus for Delhi was at 7:00 pm so we decided to explore Almora. Almora is a small hilly town and in two ours you can see all of it. After lunch we roamed the Lam road. Boarded the bus for Delhi and reached Delhi at 6:30 am.
26th May 2004
We went to the Indian Mountaineering Federation(IMF) were Yogesh had made arrangements for a days stay. Checked into a dormitory. Freshened up and went to see the museum at the IMF. Afternoon we went to Delhi Haat and Sarojini Nagar for shopping. These guys had made a plan to see the movie Murder which I had opted out. From Sarojini Nagar we came to Regal Cinema at Connaught Place. These guys and girls checked into the movie hall while I explored CP and checked my e-mails after 15 days. After dinner we headed back to IMF. Tomorrow our train for Pune at 5:50 am in the morining
Boarded the Nizamuddin Express. Reached Poona on the 28th. Said good bye to the girls and Yogesh and moved to Mumbai after a trek of a life time. The more I see of Uttaranchal the more I want of it. I’ll definitely be back in this land of Gods but not knowing when!!!!!
LIFE IS A DARING ADVENTURE OR NOTHING……..