Sometimes, things happen in strange ways which might make you believe in dreamy stuff like destiny. Two months back a casual read of a LinkedIn mail lead me to chatting with an old classmate who promptly added me to a WhatsApp school group. I was not aware of the existence of this group and added my best friend from school to it as well. Shortly they were discussing a trek there and I ignored as usual as treks especially those with overnight camping was never my thing. There was a little push from them and when I looked into it I realized that it was a Himalayan Trek and I knew that if I ever were to do something like this in my life it had to be now – they were short of 2 and so I nudged my friend and we both signed up. Like toddlers telling their mothers that the other was going we got approval from our wives 🙂 I was also sure that except for my brother in law no one else from my family would survive or appreciate it. It costed me close to 70k (15k Flight, 24k for Trek package, 20k for items bought even with a kind friend lending several stuff, 10k on the trip itself for on the way food, one stay and some shopping)
I was particular not to read about this trail but did go though general stuff to understand the fitness level required. YouTube videos suggested to be able to jog 5kms in 30 mins and our treak lead adviced for an hour of up and down the stairs. I could finish just over 2 kms jog without a stop and walk 12 floors up and down 5 times in 40 mins. I thought it should be more than enough for a few days walk and boy was I wrong !!
Day 1 [Jobra]: This is when we realised that the trek is going to be in a no-signal zone for full 5 days. This is probably the most out of touch that I was going to be from my family. It was the biggest emotional factor right throughout the trek – not knowing how they were and not being able to tell them that we were fine. The very first stop was so mesmerising that it was better than all the touristy mountain spots that I had been to. I understood that seeing nature like this was an experience and trek was the means to that end. The camps themselves are cramp inducing and I refused to believe that 3 could sleep in that with their 2 bags each. Being inside a sleeping bag was no fun and I woke up every hour but thankfully slept again. Rain pattering on top of the tent added to the woes of many that day. Using the natural rest room was the most out of comfort any first timer would feel I guess 🙂
Day 2 [Jwara]: This is not how proper treks are done apparently. Here we carry a <5 kg daily bag with water and some essentials while poor mules carry our bigger bags (>10 kgs). On a proper trek you are supposed to carry everything yourself – the very thought makes my legs go weak. This was the longest day with about 7 hours of not walk but trek – uphill and among rocks – in stark contrast to what I thought it was going to be – a walk by the river on plain grounds 🙂 . We also had a stream crossing and I would have bet that the water was sub zero even though my rational mind was laughing at water being below zero. When we finally reached the camp site we just crashed. The morale was a bit low and a group talk session helped boost it back and also to know each other better. Food was a big highlight and while the expected dal chaaval (rice) and roti sabji were there, they were also accompanied by some amazing gajar halwa and later hot gulab jamuns, pan cakes and much more
Day 3 [Balu ka Ghera]: The tea just after you get up was different from the regular Kadak chai that I thought they forgot to make tea when I first drank it. Our trek lead Gautham had played some mind tricks with us and one of that was to always maintain that Day 3 was going to be tougher. Only on the morning of the day he said it was going to be easier than Day 2 and it was so. We thoroughly enjoyed this day with a flat river bed valley by our side for most of the way – not to mention a make-way dhaba serving hot tea and Maggi. We reached the camp site at lunch time.
Day 4 [Shea Goru]: This was the summit day and the walk over the ledge with nothing but slope with rocks was my most frightening moment of the trek. The experts said that they could sleep on that 2 feet wide ledge but for a first timer it was scary. There were some tricky sessions to cross as well like a small descent and then the climb towards the summit was arduous and chilly in equal measures. The poncho helped with the cold but brought its own issues of not being able to see where I was landing my foot 🙂 Finally we reached the summit and it was a huge relief for everyone and then joy followed. We had to do the climb down immediately since it was not a good idea to be at that height for long (close to 14k feet). The descend had some technical sections but a few of us did it around 1.30 hours as one of the members had to descend due to hypothermia. We reached Shea Goru which is apparently the second windiest camp site and it showed. We thought the camps might fly and some put rocks to bolster it further. We were served Pizza, pasta and even a cooker made cake for our attempt :-).
Day 5 [Manali]: We thanked those who fed and took care of us and started the rather easy but still a long day. We had packed lunch like Day 4. One of the interesting things was that we could see an actual river form from Glaciers – how small streams gathered and how they further coalesced to form the might Chenab near our last point. The tempo ride back was scary for the first 20 mins or so but the drivers here are so experienced that they manage it very well. We went through Atal tunnel (which cuts the return by over 2 hrs+). Back to hotel which looked like a palace now.
- The camel water pouch with its unique sipper was very useful and definitely recommended over the regular water bottle – it takes some time getting used though
- Not all Trek pants are made equal. There is one which you can unzip to make it Shorts from Pants and that is very useful though a bit costly.
- I got Forclaz 100 for the shoes and they took everything with ease
- Sipping water helped a lot and I probably consumed 50% – 100% more than usual
- Gloves were very important and I would have loved one that would work on the phones (touchscreen fingers) and waterproof.
- Bandana – This was for me a swiss army of Trek wear. This one piece costing just 199/- could cover the head alone, with ears, only ears, just neck and be there without adding any weight to be used when needed.
- Sunburn is real and so use SPF-50 cream along with full hand T-Shirts
- If you are the type that sweats a lot, ORS tablets might be required to prevent cramps and loss of minerals
Thanks to the Amazing Mountaineer who happened to be our Trek lead Gautham, special thanks to Shravan who was part engineer and part manager of the trek, Arun for believing in me and in himself, the entire group who took us in – Siva who I thought was not praised enough for a first timer (he was a husband first helping his wife and trekker later), Koffee with Kavitha who lightened the mood and treated everyone like family, Sendhil and Sheela – the athlete couple, Priya and Arun R – the in house doctors who calmed our nerves, Shivani akka who pushed on and showed what was possible, Manu who kept things interesting and Bala who took care of him like a bro and was my tent mate as well. Thanks to Jaggu who was the key motivator but could not join and above all thanks to my wife who encourgaed and let this happen in my life.