Har Ki Doon Trek Day-7

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Har Ki Doon Trek – Day 7 – Back to Sankri

This morning we had the breakfast of Aaloo Paranthas. We were getting ready to leave for Taluka from where we will get cabs to take us to Sankri. It will be an eleven kilometers walk and most of the time we will walk downhill. After walking for only one hour we had reached to the tea shop where we had packet lunch on the first day of trek.

There was more descent and fewer ascents which was troubling my legs. But, we had to keep walking. Today during the trek, Musician was ahead of the group. He was walking really fast. When we reached the point where two rivers were meeting, we realized that he was missing. Gajji and two other guides started searching for him. There were diversions in the route and there was a possibility of him taking the wrong road. They also considered the possibility of him reaching Taluka village as he was ahead of all of us. When they asked the local people coming from Taluka side about him they answered in negative. So the searched was focused on the diversions en-route.

After about an hour or so, one of the guides found him. He had taken a wooden bridge which was not to be crossed and kept walking further under the illusion that he was walking on the right path. But, when he saw no one coming from front and behind he stopped and returned back, during this time the guide found him.

We reached Taluka in the afternoon. There were no vehicles arrived yet to take us to Sankri. Sankri was still eleven kilometers from here but this was a flat motor route. Mountain Man and Adventurer decided to walk towards Sankri on this relaxed walk. I also followed them. In between there were streams crossing road and to prevent our shoes from getting wet, I changed in sandals and walked into the cold water. It was too cold but relaxed out feet. When we were walking further at a dense forest location, we see a civet crossing the road just ten meters ahead of us. I was walking ahead and stopped and both of them too. The civet also stopped and looked at us. This was the most beautiful animal I had seen. His fur was so clean and soft, his eyes were a mix of fear and excitement. Then he moved on and so we.

When we had covered four kilometers, we see all the other team-mates coming in vehicles behind. Many were sitting on the roof of a Bolero pick-up. We threw our bags in the back side of the vehicle and jumped in. It was fun walk and a nice ending to our trek.

This time our stay was in Hotel Swargarohini in Sankri. We collected our deposited bags from the locker room of GMVN Guest House and came to our hotel. I had a nice bath in cold water after seven days. It was refreshing. It was a feeling of coming back into the civilization. This room was shared by me and Jain.

Me, Doctor, Jain, Topper and Adventurer had a nice chat in the evening about holistic topics. I wrote the words of Henry David Thoreau from his book Walden in the diary of Topper, ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to face only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived’. I was surprised that I remember it so well.

In the back side of the hotel the sun was setting and I was sitting on a chair writing this diary. It’s a beautiful view of mountains, valleys and the sunset. Sounds of children playing on front road were heard. This small village is bustling with trekkers, some going to Har Ki Doon and some to Bali pass. Our guides were already booked for the next day and were preparing for the same.

Everything feels so different this evening. I am an official trekker now and this term is addictive. It is motivating me to go for more treks and crave for wilderness. Here, I do not want to go back to my job and work like I did before. I have to try and find out the ways to make a living by travelling. I hope I do it soon.

Change

My worries have converted into happiness.

Stress transformed to become peace of mind.

Strength has overcome weakness and all the doubts are left behind.

Survival, life and nature are not alien to me anymore.

I am so close to the heart of nature than I was ever in my dreams.

Love, affection and trust in people have become absolute in humanity.

Fear is slowly fading away, leading way to courage, respect and kindness.

This change is a promise to changes more profound.

-Mon Avis

 

The evening was spent relaxing and the night partying. Next day we get up little late at 06:30 am and get ready to leave for Dehradun. The vehicles had arrived and by 08:15 am me, Mountain Man, Curator, Businessman and Jain had left Sankri.  We all chatted and enjoyed a lot. We had delicious and mouth-watering aaloo paranthas in a restaurant at Mori. We reached Dehradun by 05:30am delayed by a small accident in which no one got hurt and traffic jam between Kempty Falls and Mussorie.

Me and Businessman had enough time in Dehradun to visit a mall there. We had our dinner of donuts and sandwiches there. For Businessman whose love for fast food retail outlets and names of dishes is well evident, I will have to mention that we had a Full Loaded Veg Sandwich and a Bavarian Chocolate Donuts along with Fruit Drink and Hot Chocolate.

I cannot control the nostalgia I have developed for the life in the woods where we were so free that we could run, walk, be ourselves, laugh, talk, share, drink water or fill up our bottles from any clean stream and eat nice simple food.There were instructors to guide us, friends to support us and most important we just had to go with the flow. Now, I am missing these times and the friends I have made there. I hope we all have such a good trek and such good trek mates in our future treks as well. Respect!

Har Ki Doon Trek Day-6

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Har Ki Doon Trek – Day 6 – The Return

On sixth day, I woke up at 06:00 am late and much tired than usual may be due to a full week of physical exhaustion. Our plan was to reach our first day camp site by today itself. It will be about 15 km of descent. We started back from the camp at 08:33 am. Within one hour we had covered two kilometers. This was much faster than climbing. It is such an easy walk that we are enticed to walk fast and run but knees put a limitation here. Thus, we have to be cautious and walk slow.

We were walking down and down with few climbs. When we reach near the wheat fields we had our lunch. Mountain Man was much ahead of all of us and by this time we expected he would have reached the camp site. Then again we started walking. After walking a little distance it started raining. I took out my poncho. It was raining moderately with winds blowing. This was flapping my poncho and my clothes were getting wet. I prayed for a clear sky soon.

This time instead of crossing the big hanging bridge, we went straight and reached Osla village. We see the village temple, its houses, women weaving warm clothes and children asking for toffees and sweets. There is a BSNL satellite phone operated by a villager. Here almost every-one of us called home and informed about our health and well being. This was an emotional thing considering talking to mom and dad after a week of disconnection. I talked to my mom. I was about to called my dad, but my fingers wanted to call mom. I told her that everything is fine and I will be back to my workplace by third of June. I felt good to talk to her and it diminished all the worries about me from her mind.

At 02:00 pm we reached the campsite. Here it is relatively warm. This time the tent was not made at the same location but slightly above on the trail. The place was not congenial as there was mud and mosquitoes. Being optimistic we all enjoyed our time there as well. We will reach Sankri the next morning and it was only one night we had to spend at this location. Maggi and tea were served in the afternoon.

Most of the evening went talking with each other. I had a long chat with Jain about our forthcoming trip to HMI Darjeeling. We charted our preparation schedule and make each other buddy to follow it as per schedule. After we talked for about an hour, I went for a short walk nearby. Near some fields, I see a grinding mill which is powered by running water coming from a stream. The design seemed quite old and I believe they have been harnessing the energy from water since a long time back. I would also see a 1X20KW micro-hydro power plant near Taluka while going back which is again an example of sustainably using natural resources to generate power for human needs. In this month, the crops grown are mainly wheat and mustard. In many fields vegetables are also grown.

In the evening, we again played our favorite game near the river bank. When the camp-fire was ready we went near and on Doctor’s advice started introduction session.  It was great knowing about each other. Out of seventeen group members, fifteen were present there. Jain and Student could not attend the same. Here, I will tell what I understood from their introduction about themselves:

  1. Musician informed that he is a musician. Later during discussions I would know that he has a liberal attitude towards most of things in life.
  2. Cinderella informed that she is an investment banker, teaches slum children and a white wine connoisseur. What she did not tell but was evident from her singing is that she is also trained as a Carnatic singer.
  3. Actress was a corporate professional with Titan Industries. She left her job to become a full time theater artist in Mumbai.
  4. Banker informed that she is a banker.
  5. Teacher shared that she teaches children affected by autism.
  6. Curator identified himself as a nasty joker and a good observer. Observer in a sense that he told us all, the qualities he has observed in each one of us.
  7. Mountain Man shared the secret to his fitness which is his love for a wide variety of outdoor sports since college time.
  8. Doctor talked about his love for outdoor sports, his zeal to make his children stronger both physically and mentally. At the same time he always wants to keep them close and form an attachment.
  9. I told them about my wish to see the world and understand humanity as a universal thing which includes flora and fauna as well.
  10. Businessman on too much insistence agreed that he is married. A fact many of us did not know throughout the trek.
  11. Professor informed that he and Mary are married for last ten years.
  12. Mary shared that she and Professor are the proud parents of two daughters, one eight years old and the other four years old.
  13. Topper talked about academics and love for her father. She has completed her tenth grade to which Adventurer added that she is a class topper as well.
  14. Adventurer shared about her love for adventure, taking risks and listening heavy metal rock. She also informed that her love for adventure is because of her father who has always encouraged her to do all this weird stuff.
  15. Consultant informed that he is an e-commerce consultant. He is also a single parent and has come along with his son, Student, who is studying in ninth grade. Every year they go out for ten days and this time they selected Har Ki Dun trek.

Later, we all shared jokes and sing our favorite songs. By this time, the dinner was ready which we ate full. It was the last night of sleeping in tent and a sleeping bag.

Har Ki Doon Trek Day-5

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Har Ki Doon Trek – Day 5 – The Heaven on Earth

In this morning I was sitting in the sun’s virgin rays directly falling on the ground. After coming here, I realized the importance of sun in our day to day lives. I also realize that how fast the sun can rise and set in a few seconds.

In the morning, when sunshine was not yet arrived, water and air was extremely cold at 11250 feet. It becomes very difficult to come out in open and brush our teeth and wash our faces. As soon the sun comes, the first rays are warm enough to bring cheer to our faces and it seems every element, living and nonliving thing has become cheerful and come to life. In this cold morning, me and Businessman climb up the hillock for meditation overlooking the great valley.

After getting ready and having breakfast, our whole group along with the guides left for sightseeing without any load of backpacks on our backs. This was relieving. We went up along the river straight towards the Har Ki Doon peak. We went into the Hata valley after hiking for about an hour or so. This place was beautiful but strange in terms of very little vegetation present. The valley for most of the year is covered in snow and little vegetation grows. We could see snow melting and forming small streams which joins a rivulet to meet with much larger rivers.

Gajji instructed us on how to walk up, down and sideways in snow. In the beginning, almost everyone except Doctor was slipping. But, after the trick became clear every one of us could walk relatively faster in snow. Use your toes while climbing up and heals while coming down! We also went up to some height in snow and slide down which was entertaining seeing other do it.

Here, Doctor checked his watch and the elevation was +12000 feet. We felt proud of our achievement and congratulated each other for doing +12000 feet in our first trek successfully. With this many of us dreamed of crossing 14000, 16000, 18000 and further in future.

While coming back we were literally running as we had no load on our backs. Doctor still cautioned us to descend slow as it may put lot of pressure on our knees and cause pain. This advice I followed during the rest of the trek while coming back.

We reached our campsite by afternoon. Lunch was ready and we ate full. The remaining time was free till night and we had to leave back the next day morning. This time was boring as well as gloomy for me. I had nothing much to do. So, I sat alone on a rock and pondered over a lot many things. People were talking about how the world would have changed by now. We had no communication with external world since we left Sankri. I also wondered the same. I missed my family. I worried about the same life I will have to live when I go back.

I laid myself on a rock and had a short nap in the sun. Since, last one week we had no phone calls, we were completely cut off from the world.  I was thinking of home, parents and wanted to talk to them and know how they are doing. I was literally missing them. These seventeen team mates and Indiahikes staff were only our little world.  I feel human beings have infinite potential and there is a need to test it again and again to expand their limits.  Now, when I have completed Har Ki Doon which is the first step towards adventure in my life, I feel confident and crave for more.

In the night we had bonfire where we again played our favorite time pass game Dumb Charades  and went to sleep after having dinner.

Har Ki Doon Trek Day-4

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Har Ki Doon Trek – Day 4 – The Heaven on Earth

Last night sleep at 10,000 feet (data taken from the Doctor’s watch) height was comfortable with nice dreams of me acting as Anakin in the movie Star Wars. The consultant once joked that I looked like Darth Vader in my Quechua poncho. The poncho is blue colored and comfortable to put on and off. It also saves my bag from rain. I first time used it during our first day trek when drizzling had started.

I would later learn while coming back to Osla village during descent when it rained moderately with heavy wind blowing that this poncho flatters a lot in wind and thus expose my clothes to rain water. I would also know that it’s better to walk light as the body gets heated up during physical activity. During rain wearing a poncho, the condition becomes much worse. Although, I did not suffer any heat stroke or something but I will have to be careful in the coming treks as I was wearing at least one jacket most of the time even in the hot sun.

I must have woken up two-three times in the night owing to change in dreams and the bells of cattle grazing around the tent sometimes coming so close to the tent that I could hear sounds of grazing. I woke up at the sound of the birds chirping around and it’s again just 05:30 am. Outside its cold and the water much colder but we have to brush with that only. Some of us used warm water to wash our faces. We were ready soon, knowing the whole procedure of emptying out tents, submitting carry mats and sleeping bags and getting ready for breakfast at the earliest. The breakfast was chapatti and chola. Even though I ate it full, I was hungry and was enjoying mixed dry fruits on the whole day trek.

Scenery on Our Way to Har Ki Doon
Scenery on Our Way to Har Ki Doon

This day the climb is not tough but a mix of ascent and descent. At some places we walked like we are walking in a park. Our second trek leader shows us a faraway grove of pine trees near a snow covered mountain which is Har Ki Doon valley and our final campsite will be behind the grove. This motivated us all and we walked faster  with less number of rests in between.

Snow Capped Mountains -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Snow Capped Mountains — Har Ki Doon Trek
Snow Capped Mountains -- Har Ki Doon Trek
On the Ridge Looking Upon The Banderponch Range — Har Ki Doon Trek

 A number of beautiful sights were waiting for us today. Herds of numerous lambs and goats come down on the trail, flowers of various colors, streams formed due to melting of ice on the mountains and more pine trees.

A waterfall on the way to Har Ki Doon
A waterfall on the way to Har Ki Doon
Goats and Lambs Coming Down to Meadows -- Har Ki Doon
Goats and Lambs Coming Down to Meadows — Har Ki Doon
Flowers at Har Ki Doon Trek
Flowers at Har Ki Doon Trek
Snow Capped Mountains at Har Ki Doon
Snow Capped Mountains at Har Ki Doon
Ice melting into Water -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Ice melting into Water — Har Ki Doon Trek
Flowers on Har Ki Doon Trek
Flowers on Har Ki Doon Trek

We reached base camp walking leisurely after ten kilometers at around 02:00 PM. We had heard that the last group of Har Ki Doon trekkers of Indiahikes had to face bad weather with rains at this point. We were lucky that the weather was clear and the Doctor said it is expected to remain clear for coming two three days at-least. Well, he was right and the next rain we encountered was on our descent from Har Ki Doon camp site.  Lucky again, Eh!

Beautiful View on the Way to Har Ki Doon
Beautiful View on the Way to Har Ki Doon

Har Ki Doon camp site is 11250 feet or 3429 meters (again referring Doctor’s watch). Our tents were set up in this very beautiful cradle shaped valley, by the side of the river in a grass covered clearing. This time we were taught how to make our own tents. It’s fairly easy.

Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Camp Site — Har Ki Doon Trek

This time I am not going to take any rest or wear woolens till night. I will either keep standing or walking so as to acclimatize with the environment. It has got other benefits also like I will use this time to make myself familiar with the place. All the pain seems to be gone now and only peace remains.

In East quite close to us, we see Har Ki Doon peak, on its left side across the valley Hata mountain is visible and the valley is known as Hata valley. We had come from the west. In north, climbing up a little hillock strewn around with rocks and boulders we could see the pathway to heaven. The fabled mountain from where the Pandavas took for their journey to the Swarga (heaven), Swargarohini (6250 meters) is seen from the hillock.

Swargarohini-I peak -- Har Ki Doon Trek -- Courtesy Professor
Swargarohini-I peak — Har Ki Doon Trek — Courtesy Professor

There is this beautiful valley with river, streams, pine trees, large meadows in which we could see cattle grazing far away. As we look much farther East we see the ice of glaciers climbing up to the top of the mountains. The mountains are like play-field for clouds. Imagine clouds clinging to the top of a peak like softy ice-cream. Clouds lazily resting on the couch of ice formed on the peaks. Some clouds want to climb up the mountains but are too slow. This game of clouds becomes much visible in afternoon and evening. I along with others sit their quietly meditating on the scene. This is what we all came here for, to have a glimpse of this heaven on earth. We spent a good amount of time exploring the place.

Har Ki Doon
Har Ki Doon
Swargarohini Valley
Swargarohini Valley
Swargarohini Valley
Swargarohini Valley

Doctor has time and again sensitized us to the problem of logistics such agencies face on trek. It is the most difficult thing to arrange. So just for information, our tents, food, sleeping bags and other stuff was carried by seven-eight mules. The support staff comprise of eleven people including our guides. Each of the two guides remained at the first and the last position in the line. The staff was well adapted to the environment. Most of the time well-mannered, polite and seem to enjoy their job. They rarely seem to get angry or frustrated.

The last day promised Pulao (Veg Biryani) was served in today’s lunch menu. We ate it heartily and filled ourselves up to neck considering the huge delicious quantity they prepared.

Three very important issues we discussed during the evening talk were:

  1. Garbage on Himalayan Trails: From the beginning, Indiahikes sensitized us all about the importance of keeping trails garbage free. They gave each one of us an orange bag and instructed to keep all our garbage in these bags. Additionally, they motivated us to collect any garbage found on the trails weather it belong to us or not. In my knowledge there was none of us who littered around the trail or camp site. At every camp site they dig a hole in the ground where they buried all the garbage collected including kitchen waste. But, we were more concerned about the less informed trekkers who just threw away plastic wrappers without giving any thought. I believe that everyone must carry a garbage bag along, collect garbage and bring back to the nearest town where it can be well disposed.
  2. Lack of First Aid Training Among Trekkers: This issue was brought forth by Doctor. He said there is a need to train everyone about First Aid including Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation. In situations such as we were in nearest medical aid may be hours and days away. By the time the patient reaches Hospital, his condition should be made stable or improved using First Aid treatment.
  3. Global Warming: We read a lot in newspapers and watch on television about the increase in Global Warming. But, the place where this effect is most visible is Himalayan glaciers. Gajji informed that about a hundred years back the Jaundar glacier which was about nine kilometers away from zero point was much closer during this time of the year. Slowly, it has receded as the ice melts faster.

Even at his height and cold, I faced no health issues and this good health will continue for the whole trip.

Camping at Night -- Har Ki Doon Valley
Camping at Night — Har Ki Doon Valley

In the evening, we see that some enthusiastic boys from the staff carried a dry log of wood for campfire. They started the campfire and we all attended. Here, first of all they sing and dance round the fire with the local staff boys. The boys advised us to keep our voices low. I don’t know whether they feared that wild animals may get attracted to our camp site or simply they did not wanted to disturb the peace of the valley. Later, all were back to Dumb Charades which was our favorite past time in the night. Actress, Professor and Mary were the star players of this game. It seems as if Professor and Mary know almost every other movie and Actress can act it out quite well. The competition was good and we all enjoyed the game.

While the others were playing around the fire, I asked Professor to bring his camera and tripod. I took him at the top of the hillock and we tried to night photograph Swargarohini. We had little success. We came back to near the bon-fire and clicked the photographs of our group around the fire. We also clicked some pictures of the night sky and in one picture the result was acceptable.

Stars at Night -- Har Ki Doon Valley
Stars at Night — Har Ki Doon Valley

In the night we were served dinner after which I had a peaceful sleep that night except for a dog barking for an hour until he was scared away by Musician.