This amazing, fantastic, adventurous trip was the outcome of productive encounters. A fellow adventurist(whom I had met in Cycling trip) had posted a pic of his Himalayan trek on facebook after which I contacted him and asked him to inform if he is going to a similar trek in the future. Fortunately that come soon enough and he suggested Rupin Pass trek from IndiaHikes group for which I registered on Feb 27 – so the excitement for trek was in my mind since then.
As the adventure got bigger, the preparation got tougher and healthier. As the trek would be physically taxing, IndiaHikes had posted a training schedule for the same. Though I didn’t follow it completely, I continued practicing yoga (mom taught), went to jogging less sporadically, started with the gym for the first time in my life, ate mom made special laddus, etc. Shopping ranged from the stores of Decathlon to the streets of Chikpete. I dint want to take any chances as this was a high altitude trek – anything could go wrong and there was next to impossible chance to recover if I wasn’t well prepared. After shopping in Decathlon I realized why girls are so obsessed with shopping – too many new things add to excitement. I visited Decathlon-Sarjapur during their 4th Anniversary celebrations. This was a part of urban hiking – Vikas(my flatmate) and me walked all the way to the store from home with Quechua sack and high ankle shoes just to get used to the trekking gear. Decathlon had conducted a mini Enneathlon event in which I came first. So that day, the combination of 20 kms walk in daylight and 9 mini games ( that too without a proper breakfast) gave the feel that I was ready for the trek. My journey began on May 29 2013, on which Bangalore gave me a rejuvenating farewell ( https://nixieslife.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-best-morning-i-ever-had-in-bangalore/). The train to Delhi was at 8.20 PM and I was still at Bangalore Central Jayanagar 9th block at 7.15 PM in Bangalore traffic. I asked an auto guy to reach me to station asap, for which he obliged for a high fare (obviously). But I was glad that I reached the station in time, thanks to his tortuous drive which attracted a lot of rebuke from fellow riders.
Rajdhani Express – The journey begins:
It was a 34 hours journey from Bangalore to Delhi and I hardly felt bored. In-fact, I don’t feel bored at all nowadays – if not anything, one recent incident of my life is always in my head. Food served was delicious and the supply was frequent, so one can forget the journey part by just waiting for the next meal serving. The chimneys of the factories nearby track resembled torches welcoming one of the fastest trains in India. The train had to pass through 6 states in different terrain. In some places I could see dried up rivers which was a very sad sight. Weather at the stations en-route was a harbinger of heat I would face in Delhi. The best thing which I liked about this train journey was the people around me. I made a friend as soon as I boarded the train. There were different kinds of people – Sardarji, armyman, businessman – each with stories to share. They were extremely cooperative – the businessman called someone to ask directions to Aurobindo Ashram, place where I had to go. These small simple gestures of care and cooperation bring happiness in my mind for I believe humanity is the greatest religion in the world. I fear that this diversity will slowly diminish due to globalization as not many places have this variety nowadays. I always prefer travelling in less expensive coaches where comfort of 1AC and 2AC is more than replaced by that of being with cordial people. I reached Delhi on 31st morning and stayed at Aurobindo Ashram. I will elaborate about this place in the later part.
Rupin Pass Trek:
Delhi – Dehradun – Dhaula(5,100 ft):
We left to Dehradun from a local travel bus (Snow Region) – this bus had good reviews from RedBus and it didn’t disappoint us. We reached Dehradun early in the morning and met my fellow trekkers near the railway station. Vikas was the only person I knew in the trek and I love to get to know people during such adventures. We left for Dhaula and stopped by Kempty falls for breakfast, which was completely void hyped tourist spot. The ride was scenic and very bumpy and we reached Dhaula in the evening. We were served with delicious snacks (something like finger chips), the food was palatable throughout the trek considering that they had to prepare food with limited resources. The campsite was just by the river side and the tents were installed well before we reached there. I just sat on a stone near the river. This is what I always do – sit admiring the nature’s beauty lost in thoughts.
That night was my first in camp tents. I was never enrolled into Scouts or NCC and that’s why all this was new to me. During nights in the campsite there was no light other than torches, which felt quite different initially but I got used to it soon. Three of us shared a tent and they were equipped with mats and sleeping bags.
I had a good sleep – a simple pleasure that I did not have for all the nights.
Day 1 – Endurance check:
Everyday, we were supposed to be ready by around 6 A.M. for the trek. Taking a dump in the mornings is no less an adventure, I had to follow the western style for a week and dig a cathole. Well these things are included in such trips but this was my first time. After the morning breakfast of June 2nd and warm up exercises 21 of us started with the much awaited trek with a 10 kg backpack. Actually I had packed almost everything which was mentioned in the things-to-get list which made my backpack heavier. The guide was doubtful if I could carry the sack for the entire trek. If we had to offload the sack to mules/porter we had to decide it then and there. I didn’t deter, I thought the trek would become easy if I offload it and I wanted to test myself. So, I decided to carry my backpack for the entire trek. This was one of the best decisions I made. Every day we were given some snacks for the trek which turned out very helpful for me as I hardly carried any energizers with me. Soon after first few steps I went to the front-line where our best trekker Rajesh was there. I managed to confirm with his pace and somehow felt good being in front, hence for most part of the trek Rajesh, me and few others were in front-line. First few kilometres was an easy walk alongside the Rupin river with beautiful scenery soothing the eyes. We followed the Rupin river upstream for most part of the trek. It flowed rapidly in the valley which was shadowed by either lush greenery or ice. I thought that this would make an apt rafting spot, but then I wondered who would trek so much to do that. Number of agricultural fields could be seen on mountain, people there just lived like early people: trusting their legs for transport, just nature and people to entertain them. The next part of the trek was very tiring- steep ascend followed by more ascends which tired me a lot. We kept asking the route to Sewa village frequently as we didn’t want to risk trekking in wrong routes. The scenery kept changing and I loved every bit of it. Five of us reached Sewa mandir very early and though we had faint idea that lunch was served there, we decided to move to the campsite for the day which was around 30 mins further. It was a descend till the campsite and I had forgotten to cut my nails which hurt my toe. After descending till the river, Rajesh made an intelligent assumption – looking at the flat green patch beside the river – that it would be the campsite and he was right. After wetting the shoes by some stunts crossing a stream, we reached the campsite and waited for others with an empty stomach. This was near the border of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. I decided to bathe and this one was the bath I took in the most chilling water yet in my life. My head almost went numb when I dipped into the water.
I realized that it would be foolish to do such a thing henceforth in the trek. With increasing altitude the water got colder to such an extent that I would even hesitate to wash my face in the mornings. After that I lay on a big bed like stone on the river side and literally fell asleep – these moments were precious – how often one gets to sleep amidst a natural beauty listening to gushing river after a tiring trek! Rest of the team came around 2 hours later having lunch at Sewa mandir. Acutally the guides had sent porters ahead to stop us from going further. The guides were angry that we had covered more ground sooner than we were expected to and we were warned that we would be made sweepers (last people to push the team) for the next day’s trek. Two of us reached very late and unfortunately decided to quit the trek. After the rain, in the evenings we could see the blanket of mist over the river. It was a very delightful scene and the campsite looked beautiful.
I had forgotten to cut my nails before the trek, fortunately, a trekker had a nail-cutter and I saved my toes from further bruises. We hadn’t gained much altitude on Day 1. This was because we climbed and then descended for the campsite. This made the altitude gain about 1000 feet.
Day 1 Night – Worst night on the trek:
I had a feeling of indigestion due to the burps I was getting, but went to sleep without thinking much. The night which followed was one of the worst nights I ever had, which hinted that I might not complete the trek. Almost every two hours I was required to take a dump in the dark with only a small LED light I carried. For the third time, it was raining and after useless wait for it to stop, I put on my raincoat to go out. I feared that this problem would stop me to trek any further, but I was determined to complete, I wouldn’t stop for anything. Totally before the trek I had to clear my intestines for 5 times, yes 5 frustrating times.
Day 2 – Adventure begins:
I was flagged as stomach problem person and the rest four who had reached earlier for Day 1 campsite were made leader/sweeper of the 3 groups (namesake) who were to maintain the consistency of teams speed. After the first ascend, our eyes fell upon the first view of ice covered mountains, which was an inspiring view. At the same time a fellow trekker gave me a Lomotil (tablet for stomach problems). It was like an elixir for me as I never had that problem throughout the trek. After few kilometres of walk we reached a landslide area which marks the most dangerous crossing I have done till now. The mountain was steep. We had to walk on loose mud, jump on stones and one misstep/slip could send us rolling to the river 200-300 feet below. I carefully chose my steps and crossed it without any accidents. We had lunch at Jiskun. The remainder of the day’s trek was a complete ascent, to the town of Jakha. It started raining and there was loud thunder. I love the sound of thunder for it is the best bass for me. I wasn’t carrying the cover for my backpack, therefore wrapped the inner things in garbage covers and let water add to the weight of my bag for the upcoming ascend. I guess the rain distracted me – the ascend, though very steep for a kilometre or two, wasn’t as difficult as it looked initially. As I was tired I hardly concentrated on my balance. Rajesh and I reached the town first and I set to dry my belongings as sun was out by then. It was a homestay in Jakha and the view from second floor was mind blowing, with the sun’s rays kissing the top of the mountains and there was beautiful scenery all around. We walked to the nearby Dhara village and a temple there had a monolith of 100×15 feet stone which, according to a localite, around 100 people carried that to its place. The temples in such villages had trophies adorned on them- maybe people attributed their successes to Gods. Coincidentally it was a trekker’s bday and the staff made some special arrangements to make a suji cake for him, which was utterly delicious.
By the night most of the clouds had vanished and we got a clear view of the sky. I could see more than twice or thrice the number of stars there than I usually did in cities. It was a stunning view- it seemed as if the stars were shining on a black blanket. We could see few satellites orbiting the earth too! Unlike the night before, I had a nice sleep in the homestay. We were at an altitude of 8700 feet.
Day 3 – Ice crossing and Sheep attack:
As soon as we started the trek on 3rd day, I came to a place where I could see green forest on one side and ice covered mountain on the other and sun rays blanketed on green mountains in between. It was really a breathtaking view. A big furry dog joined us for the trek and stayed with us till the end of the trek. The further trek was in the forest – we had our eyes on tall trees and legs on slippery stones. We had our first ice crossing and the fact that it was inclined towards the flowing river made it dangerous – this was because we weren’t aware of the techniques to be followed to walk on ice. I used my trekking pole for the first time, crossed the ice with trepidation. A few slipped and the guides made brave attempts to save them. Few of us went further and we could see a frustrated sheep which had been separated from its herd. One of my friends offered a biscuit to it and since then it tried to climb on or attack whoever it saw. It was very scary when it was my turn and I managed to hold its neck to get away from it’s mouth. Another fellow trekker and I were at opposite sides, pointing our trekking sticks to it for few minutes. I wondered about the variety of adventures we were facing. We soon got used to the ice crossings. The ice walks in the later part of the day’s trek were doable without holding our hearts in hand. The third day’s was really tiring for me maybe because I had used a major chunk of my energy in previous day’s ascend. I started feeling cold and very thirsty too. I usually don’t drink much water during treks, but this was changing slowly. A trekker joked saying that Rupin Pass should be renamed Rupin Door(Far in Hindi)! After reaching Saruwas Thatch(10,250 ft) campsite, I went to riverside and lay down. It is an awesome feeling when you open the eyes after a long time in such locations – like you are in a place free from wordly worries, tension. There is nothing but natural beauty around and peace inside. Later, I climbed on few stones and slept there recalling some romantic moments in the recent past. It gets dark only around 8 in the night and morning starts as early as 4.30 and for that one trekker put it articulately that we were cheating the Earth’s curvature by being on an altitude, thus accounting for prolonged daytime. We trekkers had an sort of introduction around the camp fire in the evening where I just admired the talent people had around me. Our guide Rajmohan enumerated his experiences and it was nice to listen to him. One incident he mentioned was particularly interesting. He said that none till now has ever managed to reach the summit of Mt. Kailash. After dinner, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bournvita (as I don’t drink tea ) taking heat from both the drink and fire in-front. I didn’t have comfortable sleep as there was some problem with the sleeping bag’s zip in the tent.
Day 4 – Waterfall climb, most beautiful views:
Guides had decided to club the 4th and 5th day trekking due to some reasons which put a big challenge in-front of us. I went to riverside in the morning and practiced a bit of breathing exercises. Whenever I practice Yoga, I feel like I am taking my mom’s blessings as she, being a Yoga teacher, taught me few asanas for neck pain. I have realized how effective practicing Yoga is. Armed with blessings and determination I started with the trek. There were many ice crossings and so at a few places guides had made steps to cross them easily. Rajesh and I reached a big ice location early and started playing around. We attempted sliding and threw ice balls at each other. We reached to the supposed Day 4 campsite from where I saw one of the most beautiful sights – mountains on either side, an ice covered mountain ahead of us, a waterfall taking its shape from there and disappearing below the ice sheets. The best part was that we had to reach the mouth of waterfall climbing on those sheets. This climb was very tiring, dangerous and exciting: we had to literally cross from one side of the waterfall to other via a snow bridge with river flowing underneath it. The ice was inclined toward the flowing river in an avalanche prone zone. Though we were given helmets, we were asked to safeguard our heads with the backpack in case an avalanche broke out. This time we were taught techniques to walk on ice (heel, front, side kick, zigzag, etc). When I saw fellow trekkers lined up for this task, I felt nice and proud that we were moving on as a team, as there is a great force in a team with a common cause. We reached the mouth of the upper waterfall (13,300 feet high). This induced a great amount of cold and a slight head ache in me. The natural pristine scenery was ubiquitous. Though we were treated with amazing beauty throughout the way, it wasn’t mundane, each place exhibited a certain sui generis. One particular view from the mouth of the waterfall was just magnificent: Rupin river flowing in the valley between ice covered mountains. The fact that we took that trail to reach that place made it look even more delightful.
Himalayas is really the big brother of the world, as no matter how much I trekked I kept seeing higher mountains. India is really fortunate to have such a mighty mountain range. The temperature was so low that I hesitated even to get out of the tent due to the chilling breeze though I had five layers of clothing on ( Innerwear, full sleeve t shirt, half sleeve, fleece, jacket). Maggi was appreciated here and one trekker commented on its reach from the stoves in houses at sea level to such high altitude places like ours. I had bought a special travel multifunction stainless steel set from Chikpete which turned out to be handy as it had both fork and spoon to savor the dishes. Later, we got the demos of getter(cloth attachment to leg to stop ice going into the shoes) and crampons(spike like addendum to shoes for better grip while walking on ice). Later in the night, after much circus in order to get into sleeping bag, there came a call for BOURNVITA. I was discontented as I wanted to drink but didn’t want to go out in that cold. I chose to go to sleep.
Day 5 – Rupin Pass, slides, snowfall, etc:
We had to leave early on Day 5 as we had too much to cover and it had to be done before the weather got worse. So I started with morning activities at around 4.15 AM. It was a different feeling to take dump in the open with ice covered mountains around me. We got ready with layered clothing to withstand cold and started for the Rupin Pass. After a steep initial ascend there came a point where we had to cross the ice and get on a big stone to go to other side. A girl called Sushila was a helper for the trek, got to the other side first. When my turn came I had literally put my life in her hands. She pulled me with such strength – I was amazed. She had shown such strength and bravery earlier too on first ice crossing, while helping someone during the slip. She was the true heroine of the trek: her genial and helpful nature won many hearts and was liked by everyone. After this, it was complete strenuous walk on ice till the pass. One more beautiful view captured my eyes – there was one place like a stadium. It looked as if there was a play area and high grounds around it, most of the part covered in ice. It was very tiring walk but this, after completing the trek I realized, was a walk in heaven – amidst the pristine magnificent ice covered Himalayas. The streams in these parts had carved out the ice for around 3 ft wide and 6 ft depth and the water was crystal clear and clean. I screamed a few times to listen to my echo and it felt so awesome to listen to my voice back from distant mountains. Last part of the climb to Rupin pass was most exciting for me. The slope was inclined at about 70-75 degrees and the ice was hard. The helper was making steps in front me and I was following his footsteps. I got impatient as it was taking too much time and I wanted to reach the top with as less help as possible. So I moved ahead of him, made my own way, trusted my balance and crampons and started with the climb. It was very taxing and I took breaks often. Ropes were being laid on to help the trekkers get to the top, but I wanted to test my skills and went on climbing without the help of rope. I still remember, I took few steps just with blind faith that I won’t fall and I didn’t. I reached the top and was very ecstatic as I was the first trekker to reach. There was a porter named Nikhil from IndiaHikes and he said to me “Apne toh Nikhil naam ki spoorthi bada di“. After passing through all terrains, I felt that legs are still the best all-terrain-vehicle. It was a beautiful view from the top – from that point on either side mountains had lesser altitude and I could see some parts of Rupin valley. Celebrations started after everyone reached the top and a pooja was done to thank the Gods for safe journey. There are no idols of God, instead few stones would be mounted on one another at such places. We were at an altitude of 15,250 ft. We started throwing snow balls at each other and some expressed their joy by sliding on ice. I again went to a lonely place, sat there and just looked around to realize what I had achieved. After enjoying for some time we set to descend from there, but this descend was not with the help of legs. We had to slide on the ice on the way down. We had around 5 slides and each one was different and exciting. Slide 3 was the fastest and exciting which was of around 100 meters length with a steep drop. My face was bombarded with Ice during the slide and I really enjoyed the momentum – it was truly a fantastic experience. I brought down a fellow trekker at the end of the 4th slide. Slide 5 was just like in an adventure park, with sharp bends and raised walls around the sliding path.
This has been performed by professional stuntmen, please do not try this on your trek. 😛
For the first time in my life, I experienced snowfall. Though it was a very light one, tiny ice pieces/snow balls hit us. The weather started to turn bad and ice got slippery, so we just kept slipping every now and then. En route the campsite, we had proper breakfast: filling masala puri, aloo and soya sabji. The walk to the campsite was on meadows and the view of the tents from top of a mountain looked delightful. We reached the tent. Hardly anyone was out that day as most of us were either tired or were shivering. Not many were out during lunch time, and that is why a porter went to each tent calling out for lunch. I still had light head ache and knee pain but just held on as it was the penultimate day of trek.
Day 6 – The final walk:
Certificates for the completion of Rupin Pass trek were distrubuted and after one final group photo as we left for Sangla, which was a total descend. We saw a herd of Yaks on the way and our dog single handedly tried to scare them off but was later joined by our guides. The scenery en route still kept amazing us. I didn’t hurry intially as I wanted to get most of the final day of the trek. But on later part, my knees started hurting and I hoped for some flat ground to walk. I hurried the final part of the trek to reach Sangla, but this was not the end. We had to go to a guest house in the town which was at an altitude. The walk to this place was one of the most tiring one, maybe because it was the final part or it was very steep ascend in sun. Sangla is adorned by appealing Kailash range and a muddy river flows through the city. Once I had reached guest house, I could see scoldings being exchanged between the people there. I realized that the trek was now complete – we were back to dealing with the world. As I told, carrying the backpack was a good decision I had made, as it hardly mattered to me. I was just neglecting the fact that I was carrying a 10 kg backpack. It was very easier than it looked. Other important thing I learnt: understand the sack completely so that it could be used efficiently. I took bath in Sangla after 4 days. After a recommendation from a local person some of us took a government bus to Chandigarh. Initial part of this journey was interesting, the road passed through major hydroelectric project area. The later part of the journey pained my shoulders and neck a lot. It was a beautiful morning in Chandigarh- people were jogging, I could see many parks in the city, big nice roads, etc. Then from Chandigarh we took a Volvo bus to Delhi which was a much better experience. Our team was very fortunate: we neither had much rains during trek or heavy snow fall at the top, we had nature’s blessings and reached our destinations safely.
Delhi – Ashram, Food, Metro – Bangalore:
I loved everything about Delhi other than the weather which totally complements Bangalore. Vikas and I stayed at Aurobindo Ashram in South Delhi. This place was so calm, the blaring of vehicles were replaced by birds chirping. There was calmness all around. A peacock was there right beside me enjoying the evening on the terrace. Nutritious food was provided and we washed the utensils after consuming the food, I like this self-service. In the train, the new friend had told me, “Delhi mein har kism ka admi milega, sabse kamina aur sabse accha bhi”, but I found only the latter group. I found Delhi people very hospitable (even the autowalas cheat less!). Metro was the best in Delhi. It’s so innovative, fast and easy. I was glad to see that at some stations people actually stood in a queue to get in. Many used the metro and I actually felt proud travelling on it. Very few facilities provided by government are proudly used in India and this was one of them. Food in Delhi was palatable: Aloo tikki at Nataraj Dahi Bhallewala, Aloo parantha at Parathawala gali, kachori at Haldirams, Chandni chowk; Hawaiian punch at Lanterns, masala and rooh afza soda in a local juice shop at Karolbagh, to mention a few. On the morning of June 10th we took a GoIndigo flight to Bangalore. Bangalore always has a welcoming weather. I felt so good after I reached my room. I really don’t know, why I just felt glad, as though I met a long ago friend. Lot many memories are attached with this room of mine.
The art of patience, tolerance, determination:
When I realized the danger I would be facing during the trek, all I thought was one thing – going back to see my parents. This one thing kept me going and I am back in one full piece but with a shade darker. I had sheer determination, patience and tolerance during cold and head ache. I need these three things to be with me forever because now I have a greater wait for something. It was very tiring scaling the altitude on rocky surface and I wondered if it was really worth. But then I realized, unless I don’t struggle, I wouldn’t be rewarded with something extraordinary. Each day I saw pristine mighty mountains filled with immense beauty which can hardly be seen anywhere else in the world and had numerous unique experiences. A true adventurer doesn’t deter from his final goal of achieving something no matter any number of tough situations are thrown at him. He just overcomes them with strength and reaches his goal. I would like to follow the same principle in my daily life too. I lived contently only with people, nature and a backpack. A lovely relationship with people and nature is all I need to lead a happy life and I hope I maintain the same throughout.
Thus a journey in which I trekked for 60 kilometres in two states(Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh) scaling an altitude of 15,250 feet without bathing for 4 days and without outside communication for 7 days came to an end but I will forget neither the beautiful views I saw in Himalayas, nor the peace I felt when I rested on the river side and on the mountains. I saw this beauty for my parents… I saw this beauty for someone special.