Pat Conroy says, "Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never brake off from the journey".
It has been 2.5 years since we have been colleagues at work, but i got to know the Traveler Shastry boss (respect your seniors!! :) ) some six months back. A very chilled out person, he dresses up likewise, with the same nonchalance of a wanderer who is too busy planning his next backpack trip and least bothered of what's happening around. So when i requested him to be a guest writer on my blog, it had to be about his expeditions.
And here we are with the second post in the Guest Blog series about his latest journey ...Trek to Chanderkhani.
25th April:- Ran from my office @ 5.30 in the evening back home to catch my Cab @ 6 to the airport. I couldn't resist my excitement as this was going to be my first Himalayan trek. "Excitement Bardasht nahi ho raha !!" - I told some of the guys (including my boss :P ) at work, just thinking about it gave me goosebumps :) . Landed in New Delhi @ 10.40 pm, and checked into the YHAI dorm and had to wake up early to catch a bus to Kullu @ 6.40 am in the Morning.
26th :- Woke up at 5 in the morning, with red eyes, left to catch my bus @ ISBT Kashmiri gate. My estimates were that I reach Kullu by 7 PM .. I turned out to be a bit optimistic.. Reached Kullu at 9 PM.. To my surprise, I happened to be the only person at Kullu Bus stop with not a soul around, all lights out and it was raining. After looking around for a few minutes, an Autowala came to my rescue, I told him "Bhayya ji, Seobagh jaana hai, YHAI base camp, Jairu Mineral water plant ke paas".. He didn't know the place, but after asking around, calling up some people, he said "Bhayya sau rupaye lagenge.." and I of-course instantly agreed as I didn't have any other option. Finally, what seemed like a never-ending journey came to an end for the day and I reached the base camp @ Seobagh. After reporting, they were kind enough to serve me dinner at 9.45 pm. Finally, I went into my allotted tent only to find out that there are 10 more guys inside. :) it was a big tent, I made myself comfortable and went to sleep.
27th :- The only thing I remember after I fell asleep last night was waking up to the call of Bed tea @ 5 am. This is when I got a good view of the base camp, the sound of chirping birds, the flow of the mighty Beas river just beside the camp, the fresh air, the morning sunrise.. the distant snow capped peaks.. ahh.. I was in Love.. :) This was sooooooooo much more than what I had expected.. At breakfast, I got a chance to catch-up with the other people from the group.. Lucky to have a diverse yet like minded people.. from all over the country.. from all age groups.. At 9.30 we left for our acclimatization trek (with our rucksacks well not with the full load of course but a partial one) to a hill nearly. En route, we reached a house of a local gentleman.. the view from his place was just breathtaking, really envy him.. :( He offered to prepare Lassi and Chaas for us by the time we get back from the trek. Trekking ahead, we reached the end of the trail to a mud track where we took a break. After a round of introduction from all the group members, the trek leaders chose a group leader, co-leader, environment leader and entertainment leader and explained to them there responsibilities. On the way back, we stopped at the gentleman's house for lassi and chaas.. it was too good ! ( Just like his gorgeous daughter.. A local Pahadi gal.. :P ) We headed forward on a different route and reached a pristine waterfall, I don't think anyone knows about this place, it was well hidden inside jungle to be easily spotted.. After about half an hour of photography, we headed back to base camp for lunch by 1. Nothing else was scheduled after lunch until the night's "Campfire".. I'll tell you why that's in double quotes.. There was no actual fire.. !! It was just a gathering of people around a tree.. our host, the cultural leader took us through this with many performances from the groups and finally, lights out in the tent by 10.
28th :- Routine morning schedule followed by rappelling, back to lunch by 1 followed by a surprise surprise... a steep ascent trail to a nearby hill, it was a narrow one with a steep fall on one side.. I was scared at a couple of curves, but everyone made it up. :) Had fun talking to the instructors at the very top where they shared some of there mountaineering adventure stories. Climbing down can be more scary than up, but luckily, they took us through a less steeper trail which was easily negotiable. IN the evening, we were instructed to ready our rucksacks for proceeding to the next higher camps, which were inspected and approved, additional baggage was deposited. The next group had already arrived and reported, so they took over and conducted the Camp fire tonight.
29th :- The day had finally arrived. Today, we were to leave for the first higher camp.. Camp Yogso. After the morning routine, we got ready with our sacks to leave. The Field Director wished us luck for the trek and we set off by bus to the Malana Dam where our trail would begin. I recalled the song "The trail we Blaze" from the Movie "The Road to El dorado".. Aah the mountains were calling, I could feel it. Our guides had arrived to pick us up.. We trekked though the jungles, gentle uphill trail (sometimes was quite steep), crossed quite a few streams, some big ones, spotted many wild Rhododendrons.. and stopped for lunch @12.30 in the jungle. Well, some of us dozed off as we took an hour long break. We continued up and by 3, we were at the first higher camp, Camp Yogso.. in the middle of mountains from all four sides, it was an awesome place. The camp site was sort of inclined with the kitchen tent on the upper side.. so going from our tent to get dinner felt like so much of an effort. Worse, to attend nature's call, it was further up in the bushes (Jhadi ke Peeche).. so much more of an effort just to reach a convenient spot :P. Dinner and Lights out at 6.30, except that there were no lights here.. it used to get dark then so they served dinner early. Luckily, we were allowed to light up wood for campfire here tonight.. it was a lot of fun with old songs.. in the middle of the mountains at night.. :)
30th :- Bed tea at 5, breakfast 1t 7.30 and we left for the next higher camp at 8.30.. camp Behali. This trail was through a very old village named "Malana". I'm not going to talk more about this village.. google it. Today the trail was initial steep climb followed by ups and downs.. with many streams on the way, pine trees all around.. Finally, we reached a crossing where due to landslide, the trail had almost disappeared. Thankfully, our leaders were experienced enough and helped all of us cross this. Just a few more steps ahead and we were at camp Behali.. The snow capped peaks definitely appeared closer.. This was one of the most beautiful campsites, with Malana Nullah flowing right by.. lush verdant greenery and many Himalayan birds.. I was lucky enough to spot a Himalayan Monal. Same evening routine of a higher camp, lights out by 7 (no lights as usual).
1st May :- After the morning routine, we left for the next higher camp - Camp Waching. The trail was a steep uphill climb after which, what we saw surprised us all.. A flat ground, big enough to play cricket at such a height, with such a view of a snow capped peak on the opposite side.. It was as if we were in a high altitude meadow. We could see the locals playing cricket up there.. Well, it suddenly started to rain, we put on our raincoats ran for it to the next camp and soon, the rainfall turned into snowfall.. we ran faster and reached the next campsite.. Camp Waching. This camp had jungles on the mountainside, and a snow capped peak on the other side of the valley. What a view ? Now I never wanted to leave.. I was in love with the mountains.. the fresh air, the beautiful view, the simple life.. aah.. how beautiful are the creations of Nature ! Evening routine followed and we were singing oldies till we fell asleep.
2nd :- We left for Camp Nagroni.. aah, the name itself had a suspense. The trail was a gentle ascent, partly on soil, and later on snow. The entire campsite was laid out just beside snow.. Snow snow everywhere... it was just beautiful. Excited, we all started to play in snow.. hitting each other with snowballs..hahaha.. it was sooooooo much fun ! Some of us took off our top just for the heck of it.. :P. The D-day was tomorrow !! when we had to cross Chanderkhani to the other side. We were at 10000ft today and tomorrow we had to ascend till 13000 ft and descend again to the other side to 10000ft to camp Naya Tapru.
3rd (The D-Day) :- Snow snow snow, we started our ascent to Chanderkhani at 04.30 am. It was an enduring trail.. well, there was no trail, the snow cutters hired by YHAI were making the way for us. We reached a point where they could not locate an easier path upwards. They took out the rope and tied it to a pivot on a tree uphill.. We held the ropes and took the steep path upwards, almost 45 degrees uphill climb for 20m. Further ahead, more snow.. and finally reached the top of Chanderkhani @ around 11. Hey Hey !! We made it ! I felt proud of myself. I could get a 360 degree view of all the peaks around, they seemed to be at the same height as us.. it was just such a breathtaking view.. I can still recall it just by closing my eyes.. Such a beauty ! aah.. Now suddenly, it started to snow.. and we were all scared. We decided to wait for everyone to reach the top before heading further. Luckily, the clouds cleared in an hour and it was all good ! Now, a point where there was a 10 meters steep descend, again they took out the ropes. We walked and walked along the mountain to the other side of it and reached a sliding point.. :) Yey ! We could sit on the snow and slide down almost 100ft.. it was one of the best experiences of the trek.. ! A further descend took us to the next camp Naya Tapru @ 4.30 pm. We were exhausted after this 12 hour trek, but everyone was proud with a sense of achievement ! It was a wonderful feeling to have successfully touched the summit of Chandekhani.. :)
4th :- Today, we left Naya Tapru back to the base camp via the jungles though the villege Naggar. It was a simple downhill trail and we reached Naggar by 1.30pm. Took a bus back till seobagh base camp and we received a Grand welcome by the Field Director of the Program. His eyes were filled with tears of joy and he gave a warm hug to every single participant for the successful summit ! A nice feast was for dinner and we all feasted in glory, narrating our experience to the other groups who had just reported at the base camp.. it was just a pleasure.. as we were the first group to return from Chanderkhani. :) Some of the members left for there further journey today in the evening and the group broke out. It was very difficult to say goodbye.. :(
5th :- The rest of us who had chosen to stay for the night left today. Everyone from the group received an invite to a whatsapp group.. :) the CP1 rockers ! (CP1 - Chanderkhani Pass Group 1 - thats what we were referred to as by YHAI) and shared pics, and keep in touch even today.
I made so many friends.. pals.. travel buddies.. !! and as John Mayer says: "Friends never say Goodbye!" Overall, this trip was an absolute delight and triumphant ! I fell in love with the mountains and what they had to offer.. ! Sometimes, they speak to me in my dreams and ask me: "When are you coming again?"..