Real freedom lies in wilderness…. Not in civilization. That’s exactly what I believe in. She always waves at me… with all her glory, mesmerizing me, almost seductively asking me to go to her… and I just can’t curb my desire to head out there and trek in the wilderness… I just can’t!
Thanks to a chance conversation with one of my close friends, I had this thought of heading to this mystery lake in Himalayas, roopkund, way back in November… the plan was to hit the trail by april and so we did! Nine of us!! Isn’t that awesome?!
And how can I not write about it on my blog?! To put it in simple words, how can I not write about the trek of my life?!
Day 1: Rise up!
With about 3 months of proper preparation, off we flew from Bangalore, on 6th of april, to the capital of India, Delhi! And yea… that was the first ever flight of my life! It took me 22 long years to hit the skies… that’s a long time indeed.. but never mind… 9 of us were off to delhi! Landed there by noon, crashed at one of our friend’s place till the eve before we boarded a train to haridwar at 09:10pm along with our guide. The train took its own sweet time in each and every station, sometimes making way to even goods trains, as the mosquitoes feasted on our blood.
Day 2: Here I am… On the road again!
After an eternity (I guess two!), we reached haridwar at 5:00 in the morning. By then, Mr. Vinod was ready with his sumo, to take us to our base camp, Lohajung, located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. We had our breakfast, aloo paratha n dal, near dev prayag. Little did we know that we would have to survive on potatoes all through our trek! These garhwalis, they only eat potatoes, potatoes n potatoes! That’s their all time menu… be it the morning, noon or night. And that was irritating! With a few pit stops in the middle, we finally reached lohajung by 5 in the eve. The road cut through never ending trails of picturesque forests nestled on the mountains. As we got down, the cold started to get to us. It was only a glimpse of what was in store for the rest of this eventful trek!
We checked into a lodge there, had an amazing dose of maggi at a small hut hotel, before we finished our dinner and went to sleep in the cosiest of rooms for a cold night’s sleep! Discussions were ON, in full swing, as to how the weather would be for the trek as we slept.
Day 3: And the road becomes my bride… I have stripped of all but pride!
After a soothing sleep, we got up at 6, got ready to start our trek. Excitement filled every corner of the room! We packed our rucksacks, put the sleeping bags n mats inside and we were good to go by 9 in the morning, with a local guide, Mr. Dev Singh. We could have left earlier, but it was not required as the next camping site was didana, another small village, some 8 kms away from lohajung. We bought those “grandpa sticks!” to support us through the course of the trek, as we were expecting snow in the coming days. It was mostly descent in the beginning, as we loitered along in the forest. The sun was out and it was comforting after a cold night. I tried to keep a steady pace, hogging on 5 stars on the way. Each one of us had 5 of them, n I ate 4 on the very first day of the trek! I was least surprised… cos there’s a 5 star demon inside me.
After a while, just as we crossed a bridge, the ascent to didana started. We all started panting like dogs! Dev singh, along with our guide from Bangalore, Vishwanath, both of them are pro trekkers, started off with their trek stories as we chugged along, gaining pace. We reached didana by 1 in the noon, and it was still sunny.
We had food, pitched the tents and got inside. People played cards as I got busy writing my journal. It got cold by 3.30. Had rajma,chaval and roti for dinner. Again, a cold night!
Day 4: And the earth becomes my throne… I adapt to the unknown!
The trek started at 7:30 in the morning as we had to get to bedini bugyal( vedini bugyal), a place where vedavyasa started to write the vedas. It was mostly ascent and so the early start. We filled the water bottles from a small stream nearby on our way. Water was amazing! I mean, the taste, you would never get it, anywhere! Felt heavenly, with the right amount of coldness, as if it was made to sooth us.
We unknowingly split ourselves into two groups. Vineet, Vinay and Shikhar were cruising ahead as me, mallya,karan, kulkarni, daya n kuppa tried to keep up, stopping every 5 minutes to click photographs. After all, whats the use of owning a DSLR!
After a lot of climbing, “a lot” of it, we reached the alpine meadows of Himalayas. This place was called ali bugyal…at 12pm. Bugyal means grassland in Garhwali dialect. We were completely drained of energy. We sat there, had food(again potato subji), and relaxed. I had to change my pant as it was torn! At the wrong place! And the hyper active dude of our gang,Vineet, never wasted time before he clicked me in my torn pant!
We marched ahead, as we were treated with the very first views of the snow clad peaks of Himalayas. We were trekking on kind of dried out grass, with patches of snow at a distance. That was a surprise! We never expected to see snow there! Not so soon! But who cares, we played around as we hit the first patch of snow!
We went ahead, and reached bedini by 230 pm. We could see vishwanath pitching the tents from a distance. Once we reached, our porters treated us with a delightful cup of tea, popcorn and later, hot soup! As the weather started getting really cold, soup fit the bill perfectly! A divine match, Hot soup n cold weather!
Dinner time! Thank god… it was my favorite today..bhendi! I was gulping in as much as I could, as kulkarni pointed out it was lightning outside. I never paid attention. We finished food, discussed the agenda for next day n got back to our tents. Me and Shikhar were in one tent as daya opted to stay inside the hut which porters use as kitchen. It was damn cold, and the wind did not help the cause at all!
Desperate times, Desperate measures!
We were discussing about roopkund, inside the tent, placing ourselves inside the warm sleeping bags. Lightning and thunder increased every minute. Suddenly we started to hear what we thought was rain, hitting the tent surface. “Holy shit! It is raining man!!” I shouted.. And from nowhere, winds at crazy speeds threatened to blow our tents away! Shikhar got really scared as he thought one of the lightnings had entered the tent!! We contemplated on running inside the hut…and I was in for a surprise as I opened the zip of our tent!
It wasn’t rain!! It was snowing!!!! Big time!! The surroundings were filled with snow! N I could touch it! It felt awesome! Fresh snow… It was like thermocoal! So light… interspersed with ice cubes… And the fear worsened for shikhar! “What did you get me into?!” he asked me! I had no answer… Himalayas…n snow… It can get deadly anytime!
Temperature plummeted. It was negative for sure as I could see the water in the bottle freezing.
I somehow convinced him to stay put, hold the tent from inside and promised him that we would get through the night… Alive! And the funny part was that we discussed our last wishes inside the tent… just in case we don’t make it to see the sunlight ever again!
Day 5: Good day to be alive, sir… Good day to be alive he said….
I got up at 5:45 in the morning. It was still biting cold outside. I was wearing a banian, thermals, over that a t-shirt, a fleece jacket, a windcheater and the sleeping bag the previous night and was still shivering! Later we got to know from our guide that the temperature was between -15 to –20 degrees! I was taken aback!
“Did I just experience -20?! Holy crap! Seriously?!” I could never stop wondering! We couldnt be sure! We went by what the local guide told us! I was happy! Cos I always wanted to experience how it would feel to be in the negative temperature. And almost all of us wanted to.Didnt matter how much below zero! Shikhar had made his wish for snowfall on the trek an d he got exactly what he asked for!
All of us danced around, played cricket in snow balls n grandpa sticks, golf, throwing snow balls at each other like jackasses, putting snow inside one’s pants(that was karan and mallya’s idea..and kuppa..the sufferer!), and what not! We were out of our freaking minds…we had completely walked out of it! We were acting like kids! N it felt so good…
But after all this..we were in for a shocker… The roads were clogged with snow and the guides said the mules cant go any further carrying our supplies. That was a major jolt. It hit us in the morning. And he also told us we cant start till the sun is up as it would be too slippery.
“Sadness” I thought as we started to discuss what can be done. Finally decided we will go take a look ourselves till whatever point we can and see if we can do something for the mules to get there.
We started at 9. The next camping site was bhagubasa( lion’s hide out!). There was snow all over the place n we were trekking completely on snow! The bedini kund, a small lake nearby, was almost dry and whatever water that was left, needless to say, was frozen!
Initial part of the trek was ascent, and after a while it was more o less flat. But there was snow on the trail… blocking the way. Dev singh had to dig footsteps in the snow as we followed the same! Place our legs anywhere else and we roll down! It was fun… trekking on the snow.. with our legs buried in it! It looked like those pics I had seen.. of Switzerland! But it was not… it was Himalayas…n it was India!
We trekked for a long time, stopping at a place called pathar nachunia( rock on which females used to dance!). That was also a potential camping site. We decided to move ahead. Towards bhagubasa. From here its only ascent and nothing else, till Kaluvinayak( lack ganesha!) and about a kilometer of descent to bhagubasa.
As it was filled with snow, the going got tougher. At three points, very close to kaluvinayak… there was enough snow to bury a person! Yea! Close to 7 feet at places! So we had to climb around them… and it was so so scary! My legs started to shiver the moment I looked down! I had almost given up! But somehow dragged myself till kaluvinayak!
It was supposed to be a temple and the god was nowhere to be seen! He was buried in snow! Completely… head to toe! Poor fellow… we had to excavate him using the ice axe! All the pooja articles were stuck in snow, close to 6 feet deep where we were standing.
We could see the bhaguabasa campsite from there. The way was completely snowed. Guide said it would be difficult to find someone if he gets inside the snow! Now that was crazy…n creepy! We were there to have fun… and we did not want anything bad to happen. We all thought its better to get back to bedini bugyal… as a known evil is better than an unknown devil!
We had food at kaluvinayak and started our way back! We got back to bedini at 530 n guess what… the weather got bad n it started to snow yet again… Heavier than yesterday!
Anywhere I roam… where I lay my head is home!
“Good call!” I thought as we made ourselves comfortable inside our tents… Thankfully no heavy winds this time! It snowed through the night… I had to pee n I got out at 230… with my slippers on… And god! My legs n hands were numb in seconds! Shitting was an episode in itself! Damn that cold!!
There was a lot of snow over our tents… which was acting as a refrigerator for the people inside! Again the temperature was negative… but it was bearable compared to the previous night! We felt home at bedini!! Home away from home!
Getting lost within myself… Nothing matters no one else…
I was actually disappointed as we couldn’t make it till roopkund. But then, you cant take on nature. Some things are beyond our control. Though it was hard, I had to let it go. We fell 5 kilometers short of roopkund. Sadness!
We traced the same route on our way back, camping at exactly the same places.N it snowed all along when we trekked from bedini to didana. It rained later in didana. We ended our trip by paying homage to the holy ganga, by rafting 16 kilometres! Was awesome when we fell into freezing cold water!
After all this… I still missed roopkund. As Ruskin bond has rightly said, “Once you lived with the mountains, you will return, you will come back…to touch the trees and grass… and climb once more the windswept mountain pass…”
I wanted to go back…I wanted to wander in the woods again… but I knew it was not happening. Lets see… if destiny has it for me! Roopkund… for me… will stay as a lake which is immersed in an aura of forbidden mystery.
Well o well! That was a big blog post! But then, it had to happen! It was Himalayas! It deserved even more. But you as a reader, don’t deserve to be tortured anymore with my crap! Let me end it there!
Himalayas it is… Take a bow!
PS: Thanks to metallica! For the lyrics I stole as headings!
If you hatch up a plan, log on to http://www.summiters.net for more details! We went through them.