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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.