Har Ki Doon Trek – First Steps
I guess I had a sleep of four-five hours last night. In the morning we got ready for the trek and currently we are waiting for The Invisible to come and brief us. Me, Jain and Musician had some extra time in the early morning after getting ready to roam around Sankri and click some photographs.
When we returned back to the Guest House, we met the Invisible and he taught us how to tie our bootlaces, to wear socks, to avoid and treat blisters, to take rest with the backpack on our backs, to hang our cameras correctly and to wear our backpacks efficiently. They were very basic but important things to save us from complicated situations we may have to face during the trek.
We left Sankri in the morning at about 08:00 am in another batch of Boleros. It was an eleven kilometers ride to Taluka. The road is dangerous to ride upon and at a couple of places we had to cross running water streams flowing on the road itself.
We were all excited with the adventurous spirit these roads filled in us. In my vehicle, the others co-passengers were Mountain Man, Jain, Businessman, Curator, Consultant and Student.
The trek was to be started from Taluka village. We put our backpacks on our shoulders, trekking poles in our hands and water bottles in the net pockets of our bags. The Invisible arranged his team of staff. He again briefed us all about the start and congratulated us. He informed that today’s trek will be approximately eleven kilometers and everyday we have to try our best to reach the next camp by 12:00 Noon and latest by 02:00 PM maximum. Although, he said our trek leaders will ensure that no one is left behind and they will be willing to move at zero speed, if needed. We started at about 08:30 AM.
This was the first time we were seeing Himalayan landscape from so close. We could just stretch our hands and touch the flowing water, rounded boulders, pluck a flower, feel the rough bark of a pine tree, hear the music of stream, feel the alien freshness of the air and taste the sweet Himalayan water directly from a spring flowing nearby.
As soon as we get down from the village on the trekking trail we could see the amazing view of river Supin flow in between the valley. Our most part of trek will be this valley and this river will accompany us upto Har Ki Doon.
In addition to the river, everyone would agree for the most part of the trek, the view of snow-capped mountains, azure sky, blue green water and the scattered log houses of the natives in the lush green surroundings remain consistent throughout the trek, which in fact is inspiring.
There was light drizzling in the beginning of the trek, to which I took out my Quechua poncho which will remain highly accessible thing in my bag.
The guides and the staff accompanying us were supportive in nature and loved to share about the valley and were enthusiastic to know about us as well. As soon as we left the village, it was expected for all of us to wonder how the people in these villages access education and health facilities. The obvious answer was either they have to walk up to Sankri or to hop on a mule in case someone is really serious. Life is difficult in the interiors of Himalayas.
In between we stopped at a tea shop, where we were served packet lunch comprising of Aaloo paranthas. Since, I was quite hungry I ate the lunch immediately. We filled our water bottles from a pipe arranged in such a way to collect running water from a nearby stream and with its outlet near the tea shop. Gajji informed that he has just completed Advanced Mountaineering Course at NIM, Uttarkashi. Me and Jain asked him tips for our BMC program at HMI to which he told if we are physically fit and learn all the knots correctly it’s easy to pass it with A-grade. Although, we were more worried to complete the course in the first place.
The first day of walking in mountains, mostly ascending with a heavy backpack made us all tired and exhausted. Last two kilometers were the most difficult for me. I started feeling the gradually increasing steepness of the climb . It started becoming difficult for me to take breath normally. I feared my Bronchitis may get worse. But, nothing of this sort happened and we reached our base camp shortly. It was 04:00 PM then.
To our surprise and excitement, there were seven yellow Hillman Expedition tents shining bright in a small grazing ground by the side of the river just beside the trail. There was one big tent which served as kitchen. This is our first camp site and is known as Chilloorgar.
As soon as we reached there, we threw away our bags and grabbed carry mats to lay down. This happened when Gajji gave us call to do stretching exercise. Though difficult, we had to do it to prevent any cramps in the night or the next morning. The exercises were fun and it relaxed us a bit more.
My urge to sit down and relax was diminished and I wanted to explore the nearby surroundings. After the exercise session, we were called for Tang Orange juice. They distributed sleeping bags and carry mats to place in our tents. We three —me, Businessman and Mountain Man decided to share a tent. We arranged out bags and other things in the tents. By this time, evening snacks Aaloo Pyaz Pakori was served with tomato sauce and tea.
I was still feeling the effects of shortness of breath. So, I took Grillinctus-BM (Mucolyte and Bronchodilator) which relieved me immediately. I took rest by sleeping on a rock under the sun. As soon as the sun set down, I felt a sudden surge of cold in my body which wake me up. Me, Musician, Jain, Doctor, Topper and Adventurer joined Gajji for a short walk nearby.
We came closer to the river where it was quite violent. Topper and adventurer sat on a rock while Doctor started clicking photographs of the scenery. We asked Gajji about why people live in such remote area. Being a resident of Sankri, he replied that quite a long time back, Maoists used to come in the Mountains and kidnapped children and young men to make them soldiers. The villages had to leave their houses near the roads and easily accessible locations and had to perch in high mountains. He also shared his concern about the tough life of the people there.
He told us that all these trails, bridges, roads and other infrastructure were not available at the time of his grandfathers. They had to even walk up to Dehradun to bring basic requirements such as salt. One of the families in a village has a bag of salt brought from Dehradun in this way. On me asking, do they still consume it, he said they will die if they eat such an old salt. It has become poison. I don’t understand how salt can become poison, but I offered no argument.
Suddenly, he jumped close to the river and climbed a large rock swiftly. Doctor got excited too and tried the same. Although unsuccessful in the attempt, we applauded his efforts. Then, we returned to our camp site as the darkness starts settling.
In the remaining light, I write my diary entry sitting on a rock near the kitchen.
When we came back, we were served corn soup, pop-corns and tea. As the cold was growing, the warmth of corn soup was soothing.
When it became completely dark, we used torches to carry out even the smallest tasks. We had a bonfire where we played Antakshari. After which we were served dal, chawal, roti and gobhi sabzi. It tasted delicious after which I took another 10ml of cough syrup as a preventive measure. There was also sweet dish of canned fruits which they call fruit custard. It was the first night I was sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag. I loved it and it was comfortable. In the night briefing by Gajji, we were told that next day will be a steep climb of eight kilometers. I feared it most considering my present health situation. But, it had to be done.