Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tryst with Destiny: Trek to Hampta Pass

After many days of speculation and infinite warnings from family/friends midst Uttarkhand flash floods, it finally happened- the Hampta pass. It was a five day affair, thanks to snowing and wet tents/clothes, we had to wind up in four days, oh sorry, we were more than happy to get back heart and hale as early as possible!

Checklist of the trek was really long and it took quite a while to arrange everything. Starting from trek poles to shoes to rucksacks to thermal inners to rain coats to synthetic tracks to energy boosters to medical kit. Once the gear was ready, it weighed at least 9kgs, which I carried on my back, every day, don’t I deserve a bravery award!

13-08-2013: Manali to Chika basecamp
Supposed to be day where we get the trailer of what is probably waiting. With Saranbir (got your name right!) and Thakur sahib guiding us, we started off to Jobri in 3 vans, yeah, I met 17 awesome fellow trekkers! Jobri to Chika was an easy stroll of 2hours, small steeps and small river crossings; we reached at 5.30pm and learnt how to pitch the tents. Chapthis with paneer and dal was served for dinner, not to forget, there was a soup and a desert as well. Food just got better by day and chai, kept tasting best as we scaled the altitude.

14-08-2013: Chika to Bhalu Ka Ghera via Jwara
After a good sleep, woke up fresh. To answer the nature’s call, I explored toilet tents, not satisfied with the ambience, decided to carry axe to dig cat hole and enjoy the landscapes! This happened for next 3 days as well!
Sky kissing pines are dark green,
And as white color sets,
On a chilled night with creamy fog…
I see no moon, no stars!

The mild wind stretches the peg,
That holds my hand built tent…
Not strong enough, not weak though!
Yes, my nest is going to stay!

As the sun rises from the hill,
My eyes focus on a flying eagle,
Fighting rains, all set for a hard day…
I wrap my tent, head for a new journey!
We were served good breakfast and bananas/toffees to munch on the way, trek of 5 hours. With plenty of short breaks and decent pace, we were trying to acclimatize to the environment. Ah, I forgot to mention that this trek was mostly river side! Saran (Our trek lead) made it compulsory for us drink these riverside fresh water, basic idea is to overcome AMS (Acute Mountain sickness). Enough of huffing-puffing, making friends with fellow trekkers- we managed to reach Bhalu Ka Ghera, means Land of Sand, and we pitched in our tents.

When everything was so perfect, it started to rain. The rain that took this trek difficulty level from easy to moderate! The rain that made most of us wear same clothes everyday due to the drenched rucksacks. The rain which almost shattered our dreams of making it to Hampta pass the next day. All of us were working on the alternate plan of things that we would do if we got back tomorrow. With dejection and sorrow, most of us prayed for the rain to stop. It kept raining. It kept raining.

15-08-2013: Bhalu Ka Ghera to Shia Ka Garu via Hampta Pass: The Independence Day!
I came out of the tent, looked at the skies, obviously clouds had not cleared, no sign of the Sun, I sighed. 10min later, Saran comes out, probably after working on some of his magical tricks which he kept throwing at us throughout the trip, Bazinga!, tells us- “Guys, we’ll celebrate Independence day in Hampta pass” . All of us were electrified and we hurried to pack our belongings, I knew I was going to live “Tryst with Destiny” today!

All set with rain coats, head caps, gloves and some food on the way to eat, we started moving slowly but steadily, like a wind which is waiting to turn into a storm, we picked up pace and with regular breaks we crossed valley of flowers. With every ascent, it just got tough since it had started raining and now, we were not even bothered about it. We crossed glaciers and I could not hold my excitement of seeing them for the first time in my life, I stepped on the sides and in a split second, my left leg had gone in, I threw away my trekking pole and held on to a rock nearby, managed to get out safe. I looked through the hole my leg had made; I saw a river flowing in deep silence!

Breathing got tougher and when we reached the Hampta pass, we let it go, shouting slogans of Independence Day and congratulating each other for the feat achieved. It had taken us 6 hours to reach the pass. We started the descent. Oh man, numerous slips and knees hurting, ascent was better than descent! Blue lakes far away were a treat to watch. We even spotted mountain rats, sheep, goats and dogs.

Shia ka Garu means land of cold, and temperature was easily in single digits, not sure, if it went to negative! After 9hours long trek, pakoras and chai was the savior before the yummy dinner. With our wet clothes, wet inners and wet tents, sleeping was out of question, I kept shivering. With trembling hand and hoping for Sun rays, I penned this down...
Sun will smile tomorrow,
Marks of yesterday’s water…
Will speak the story of valor,
Of incredible belief in destiny…

Footprints in snow glitters,
Hiding enormous flowing river!
I press my shoe hard, hard enough…
To kick away those vacuum…
To kick away that emptiness…
To kick away those failures…
16-08-2013:Shia Ka Garu to Manali via Chatru
Plan for Day 5, i.e., Chandratala was cancelled since we had spotted fresh snow and it was almost impossible for another wet, cold night. So we headed to Chatru where we were supposed to be picked by motor vans. 4 hours of easy descent plus plain land. We started our day with clicking group pictures and crossing the crazy freezing cold river barefooted. We reached Chatru and were relieved to have finally finished the trek successfully. Then the news broke in!

There were 3 landslides and we had to trek for 13 kms more to catch our waiting van. It started all over again in Spithi valley and we were running out of words in praise for the landscapes, numerous waterfalls. To support green initiative of IndiaHikes, some of us kept picking up the littered items. Crossing the first and second landslide was not easy, and then came the third, like the climax, JCB of Tibetan Border Force, that was clearing up the road, gave me a “lift to remember”! We jumped into van and best of music to listen with satisfaction of trekking successfully- what more can you ask for!

To sum it up, I can easily recommend anyone to take up trekking, yeah, “taking up”, it’s definitely a sport! It’s not about lavish landscapes or scaling 14000ft (Hampta pass), trekking is like life- sometimes you walk alone, sometimes you laugh, you face anxiety, you meet new people, make friends, talk about diverse topics ranging from politics to finance to mules, sometimes you fall, someone will lend you hand, sometimes you help your friend tie shoelace, learn a thing or two, sometimes you work hard and smile, basically, you smile from your most satisfied heart!

[This was part of the tour. Read the complete experience here]