June 18, 2010

Roopkund : Expedition To The Skeleton Lake

If at all THE HIMALAYAS created its account in some social networking site then imagine the number of friend requests and fans it will be able to accumulate within a short time and the so called celebrities and the actors all combined will be no match for it. Just too small, just too insignificant. It is to re-live the same craze that the summer of 2010 we decided to head towards the mighty Himalayas. The planning for the same had started nearly 6 months prior to the actual commencement of the trip with all sorts of booking done in order to get maximum discounts in any possible way.

The destination was selected to be the Roopkund lake , a frozen lake home to a hundreds of skeleton remains of man and beast in the higher reaches of the Himalayas (5029 m above sea level). With the mention of skeletons one gets a morbid feeling, but this place is far from it. The total trek requires 6 days on foot with each day throwing a completely different view. Being our first high altitude trek we had decided to go with experienced people and hence had zeroed on Indiahikes.

There are different mythological stories associated with the origin of Roopkund lake. Legend has it that Parvathi went to her parents home without informing Shiva. So miffed of and eager to teach a lesson to his wife Shiva sent a group of demons behind the lady. Parvathi started slaying the demons one by one and in the process acquired the form of Kaali. Even when Shiva appeared before her to calm her down she was unable to recognize her own husband and tried to trample him her legs. But soon she realized her mistake and asked the lord to create a place for her to wash off her kaali avatar. Hence shiva created this lake and hence came the name Roopkund.

1. Too Hot To Handle

"4th June 2010" was easily the most awaited day for this year if not for a lifetime. We were to catch a flight to Delhi and from there continue towards our basecamp via train. All the 10 of us(Manju, Prasanna, Deepak, Chandan, Harsha, Abhiram, Sachin, Maneesh, Shashidhar and Myself ) assembled at the Bangalore International Airport to catch the 10.50 am Indigo flight to Delhi. The flight journey was smooth except the info that food is not provided on board this flight had escaped our imagination. So taking advantage of a captured consumer base they sell stale food almost 10 times the ground value. One gets insight into a market with no competition. Thank goodness that is not the case at the ground level. "Jai To Competitive Markets" :).

After nearly 2.5hrs journey we finally landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport. Since being a domestic flight an aerobridge is not provided and one has to disembark and board a bus to the airport terminal, we were exposed to the afternoon climate of Delhi for a couple of seconds and those few moments felt almost like a lifetime in hell (ok.... i am exaggerating a little :P ). It was supposedly a cooler day with temperature of 38C against the normal 45C. But coming from Bangalore it was way too hot to handle. People in Bangalore including me start complaining whenever the temperatures cross 30 mark, but they actually don't realize its true worth unless they land in places like these. Namma Bengaluru is truly an AC city :).

With still half a day ahead of us we decided to go Qutub Minar. Got pre-paid taxis from the airport and nearly a 45 min drive from the airport we landed at the gates of Qutub Minar. The view of the minar was really imposing and considering that this was build almost a millennium back really makes one look upon it with disbelief. When this tower was built it was the tallest man made structure on the planet. Great , at least at some point India was leading the tallest race :P.

The Minar is surrounded by lots of ruins including the famous iron pillar which is twice as much older than the Minar, believed to be the erected by Chandragupta Vikramaditya. After having some food at a nearby dhaba and at the suggestion of the dhaba owner we decided to visit the Akshardham temple , the biggest Hindu temple in India. We took a rickety Delhi City bus and after an hour and half of tiring journey we landed at Akshardham Temple. Actually at all sensitive installations in Delhi there is heavy bandobast and hence people like us traveling with heavy luggage are "chicken targets". Always getting checked. Always the suspects :P.

[Akshardham Temple]

The actual temple was closed for visitors but the temple surrounding was open and had some interesting sculptures. Spent a lot of time relaxing in the evening sun and at around 7 pm decided to move towards our train station. But now at this last moment we were confused as to which station to proceed to as Delhi has lots of them , but in the end the confusion was cleared and we moved towards the Old Delhi Station. One of the Akshardham Official told we could take a metro train to Chandi Chowk. Now the option of metro train seemed like a blessing in disguise for us, but there was something unexpected in store for us :P. As soon as we got the tickets and got into the platform we got the shock of our life. There were so many people waiting for the train and even the trains arriving where not empty, they were packed to the brim and the guards literally push the commuters into metro and close the doors. This was not for the weak hearted and each of us had nearly 15kgs of luggage with us. Somehow got into the train after deliberately giving 3 trains a miss.

Arrived at the old delhi station to catch the overnight train , Raniket Express to Kathgodam. Met the other people who would be trekking along with us. First there was Ansar(the top performer :P) and Sagar from Indiahikes. Then a group of cousins (Siddharth, Kshama, Anish, Kausalya, Kishen and Abhishek) and the 2 dentists (Vinay and Harish) taking the total number to 20. Had got the the upper berth so slept with minimum disturbance which was not the case with others :P.

2. First Contact

Reached the station of Kathgodam at 8 am against the expected time of 6 am. Kathgodam is pretty much the last train link before the mighty Himalayas start rising from the plains to unimaginable heights. We had a mini-bus sent by the organizers waiting at the station. Boarded the bus and thus started the long and tiring full day journey to the base camp at Loharjung. The 260km journey started and soon started the ghat roads. Unlike the Western Ghats where we encounter only one ghat section this one had series of mountains lined up. "What goes up must come down !!!!!" and so on it continued innumerable number of times.

Had one of the best alu parathas at Siddhi Restaurant at Bhowmali prompting us to go for extra helpings. At some point during the journey got the first view of a snow capped peak. This made everyone excited and jump with enthusiasm to catch a glimpse of the Trisul(7120m). Pretty much brought the child within us, dont remember the last time we got so excited about something :P.

Since boredom was slowly creeping onto us Shashi took the initiative and organized a game called "Mafia", a game of deception . Hence like this played some more games killing time as our bus crawled through the winding roads.

[Fiery Red: Nanda Ghunti at sunset]

Finally at around 6 pm we reached our base camp at Loharjung. Were greeted by the camp managers of Ankit and Swapnil. We were briefed about the trek ahead of us , its religious significance and so on. Almost all of us (except manju and harsha) were put up in a dorm like room and we were shouting and laughing late into the night , putting even the night owls to shame. We had a big day tomorrow when the expedition of Roopkund will officially begin. :)

3. Off We Go !!!!!

6th June 2010
Trek Path -> Loharjung(2530m) - Didina (2620m)
Distance -> 9km

[Lord Curzon Road]

Sharp 7 am everyone is raring to go. The organizers provide packed breakfast and a handful of "instant energy boosters" i.e. candies :P.The weight of backpacks within the group varied from a measly 4 kgs to 8kgs with mine being on the farther end. We started along the Lord Curzon Road named after the same lord who took the route to explore the upper Himalayas. The path was gradually decending , and this made us worry since the organizers had told that we wont be gaining much altitude on this particular day. But anyhow we were not complaining for the time being since the scenary was very warm and pleasant and so was the weather.

Some people took it very slow and easy while others were pretty much in a hurry.... I was more or less in the middle enjoying the route at my own pace... this route was heavily loaded with subjects which would interest an amateur photographer like me. So took a lot of snaps along the way (well not as much as manjanna :D ). Also got my walking stick, very important for the successful completion of the entire trek. Kinda similiar to selecting your "mountain banshee" (for those giving blank looks its that flying animal in the movie avatar.:P ), for every personality there is a "unique danda". Mine was thick and sturdy and had chanced across this after 3 failed attempts.

On one occasion veered off the path in search of a perfect mate and in process ended up rubbing shoulders and what not with unknown species of trees. As soon as there was a skin contact there was serious irritation and itching and this torture lasted for almost 15 long minutes , giving the first lesson solid lesson of the day.

Came across a bridge across the river of Raun Bagad. Had the 2nd breakfast of the day at this place. Till this point the entire path was downhill , after this point there was a pretty steep climb towards the hamlet of Didina , our camp for the day.

In the beginning of this steep 52 hairpin bend climb some trekkers where doing less of walking and more of running , dont know what they were trying to prove . But this is reminiscent of the age old tale of "The hare and the tortoise"..... the slow and steady always wins the race.

Off we climbed this steep section. At some point we started to hear the tinkling sound made by the mule's bells (in this part of the world all the domesticated animals are born with bells around their neck :P ) getting closer and closer. One would not expect the mule's having been overloaded with luggage overtaking us in these steep climbs, but that was the bitter truth....... By the time we reached almost near to our base camp most of trekkers got scattered and small groups were left to find their own way to the camp. Our group comprised of prasanna, maneesh and myself . We took a route via the fields and finally came across a house made of stone, our camp for the night. One by one everyone arrived and in the end it was known that we had taken the shortest possible algo... sorry route :). A big thumbs up to our scouting abilities :).

[Wildlife Photography]

All the 10 guys were let into the basement of the stone and mud house and with the strict instruction to avoid sleep. This place with beds and all was one of the coziest place I have ever been too, just short of being at home. Now this was pakka torture , the beds giving an open invitation to have a sound sleep, the tired body too noding in agreement , but the rule of the land playing spoilsport :( . Anyway after killing time in the evening we all went for a cricket in the adjacent fields. It was fun playing "high altitude" cricket even though the space was limited. We were joined even by some locals in this extravaganza.

Were informed that the next day's climb was the toughest part of the trek and there was 108 zig-zag climbs in total.... hmmm.... interesting :).

4. Endless Meadows

[Rhododendron Flower]

7th June 2010
Trek Path -> Didina - Bedni Bugyal (3354m)
Distance -> 12kms

The entire team was up quiet early. One major observation in this part of the world is that the sun is up very early in the morning and goes down quiet late. The 5am and 7pm in the hills feels the same as 7am and 5pm respectively in Blore . Guess it has something to do with Solar Solstice in close proximity (June 21).

Since this day comprises a steep climb, all of us were pulled into a warm up and stretching session. Heard crackling music from all sort of regions :P. The guys who reached late the previous day were told to leave earlier than the remaining group. Also the sky was quite cloudy and the locals predicted the weather might turn bad and hence advised us to hurry up. So of we started. No sooner had we left the camp the climb started. This climb was through dense oak forests.

Lots of dried leaves on the trail path , leading to lots of "Unison Crunching" in the initial stages and "Isolated Crunching" as the day progressed. This forest was pretty dense and sunlight was blocked to the outer fringes. On and on we went . Many of the other trekkers were struggling on this steep gradient , but frankly speaking I didn't find this part of the trek difficult. The trail which will make me bend in respect was yet to come and was just 2 days away :P.

[Ali Bugyal]

After a couple of hours of steep climb we reached the opening from where the famed meadows started, we had reached Ali Bugyal. From this place there was acres and acres of grasslands in all directions. From this point there are no trees at all makes one wonder whether the oxygen content in the air reduces drastically so that no trees can survive, but we were still breathing and alive. Also we had come on top of the valley, with Loharjung and Didina within the slopes of the valley. This resulted in some breathtaking views of the mountains. On one side you have trees and grass filled hills along with human habitation and on the other side you had the snow filled peaks along with isolation :P.

[Higher Than The Himalayas]

From the Ali Bugyal to Bedni Bugyal the route was really a pleasure to walk, too good for any words to describe. The entire path was a gradual gradient and views were simply superb. In simple terms my index finger was totally busy clicking snaps.

[Ridge After Ridge of Mountain Chains]

When we were about to reach Bedni Bugyal it started to drizzle and which converted into a full fledged rain as soon as some of the early comers were shoved into the tents.The remaining part of the group came very much drenched. Also met Sandeep who was to lead us all the way to Roopkund. A professional mountaineer by nature , got loads of respect for this dude.

It was 1pm and so started the most painful part of the entire trek. In our case 4 people (prasanna, chandan, abhiram and myself) trapped in a 6x6 tent as rains lashed outside. From 1pm till the next morning we were prisoners within the walls of reg-zine except for one 30 min break in between . Got a first hand experience of cabin fever. The mind was on the verge of temporary insanity. But thanks to the fellow trekkers it was not allowed to cross over. Killed time by singing, talking etc and even inter-tent antakshari :P.

Since we were camping in the open, tents were leaking from all directions and the sleep at night was less than perfect with water getting sprinkled from the roof of the tent at regular intervals :P.

[Bedni Bugyal]

5. No Sweat Day

8th June 2010
Trek Path -> Bedni Bugyal - Ghora Lotani (3906 m)
Distance -> 6km

[Eagles Eye View Of Bedni Bugyal]

The weather gods seemed to have heard our prayers. Today we were blessed with a clear and sunny day. This day was supposedly the easiest part of the entire trek but in my individual case it was far from it. I had got a nasty shoe bite and it was painful. The trail was of only 6kms and that too with a very gradual gradient.

Even though this trail is well within the boundaries of grasslands, the view was completely different from what we had experienced the previous day. The trail cuts through steep grass filled hills in a serpentine form. Halfway down the lane we arrived a point known locally as "Shashi point". This is a saddle point where the trail cutting across shifts from the left side of the mountain moves towards the right. Didn't know then that this point inspired our own shashi to do something superlative :P. As I approached this place started to get some mild headaches and feverish feeling. It dawned upon me that high altitude sickness at last seems to start raising its ugly head. Anyway sat at the same place along with others as we waited for the other members of the group. Some of guide's were searching for a rare herb root which packs quite a value in medicinal market and they were successful with a couple of catches.

3hrs of leisure walking and bang we had reached the base camp at Ghora Lotani. Some felt that it was too short of a trek. But I was not complaining with both my head and legs in disarray :). The Ghora Lotani Name is derived from the fact that this used to be a last point for mules and horses towards Roopkund. But now this is far from truth with mules being pulled all the way to Bhagwabasa. Better rename this place as "Ex-Ghora Lotani" :P.

As soon as I reached this place had litre's of water forcefully fed in and voila within 10 mins the head-ache had vanished :). Since the sun was making up for its absence the previous day the option of resting a bit in the tent was similiar to getting cooked in a oven :P. So we had no option but roam and explore the surroundings. The views at this place is in complete contrast with the one at Bedni Bugyal. Here the base camp is completely surrounded by taller mountains making one feel as if a frog in a well. But even then the views of the valley is superb.

By evening we decided to pay visit to shop which sold omlettes and chocolates in the middle of nowhere. Had 4 plates of omlettes and these vanished in a blink. It was nice break from the dry rotis we are fed everyday :P. At the same time the sun was going down and the last rays of the sun was illuminating the opposite mountain giving sakkath views.

[View From Ghora Lotani]

Being surrounded by mountains from all directions but one , one would expect some sort of protection from the crazy winds blowing in these parts. But we couldn't be more wrong. As soon as the sun went down, the temperature dropped exponentially. When we were all called for the dinner it was literally freezing. So employed the famous huddle of the emperor penguins, exposing the rears and protecting the essentials :P.

In the middle of night I woke up to take a leak. When I came out was simply blown away by the desolation and dead silence maintained by the mighty Himalayas. Spent a couple of minutes enjoying this phenomenon of mother nature before my ass began to freeze and I had to get back inside :P.

[Peak Of Light]

6. Stairway To Heaven

9th June 2010
Trek Path -> Ghora Lotani - Bhagwabasa (4600 m)
Distance -> 6 km

The toughest day of the trek finally arrived right next to the easiest. Today we were to climb up to Kalu Vinayak Shrine and continue to Bhagwabhasa. There are lots of mythological stories associated with both the places. The former place was supposedly where a human faced Ganesh guarded while his mother took a bath in Roopkund and subsequently getting decapitated from Shiva. The latter was the place where Parvathi left her Tiger before proceeding to the same destination and hence the name "Bhag"wabhasa.

So hence started the walk through the clouds. Got some extra cushions for my shoe bite. Manjanna and Prasanna were still having the high altitude hangover :P. Only Manjanna got medication, Prasanna was feeling too manly to eat a pill for a measly headache :P . After climbing for some half an hour were totally surrounded by mist/clouds bringing down the visibility to single digits. Also the thinness of the air started to show, for every couple of steps we took we would slow down to catch our breath. Even though it was not as steep as Didina-Ali Bugyal route the lack of oxygen made sure it was tougher than that.

Slowly we pushed on along this track. Met a lot of trekkers returning back and giving us the tale of a foot of snow at Roopkund. As we were climbing up in the dense mist at some point the grasslands ended and the stone filled mountains had started which we realized much later. At last reached Kalu Vinayak, pretty exhausted. The guides offered prayers to the stone idol for the successful completion of the journey.

[Kaluvinayak Temple]

KaluVinayak is a saddle point and from here we switched to the other side of the mountain, the path being downhill all the way to Bhagwabhasa. From this point onwards started the snow fields, covering the landscape and we were blessed with minimal clouds, hence this place truly felt like heaven. Me , Prasanna and Maneesh teamed up as we traversed through this dreamland at our own pace enjoying the surrounding to the max. Had one on one snow fight too en route.

[Kaluvinayak-Bhagwabasa route]

En route found a group of huts made from stone and we mistook this to be our camp for the day and were happy to find it. But it was not to be the case and we got a big royal dog biscuit :P. After nearly an hour of walk from Kaluvinayak we reached Bhagwabasa. The view at this place was simply mind blowing.Awesome , spectacular... Snow filled peaks within close proximity and pretty much in all the directions. When the clouds were minimal the sight of Trishul was simply awesome .This was the primary reason of why I came on this trek :) and was immensely satisfied :).

There were two metal bunkers for the group. One was taken up the guides and porters and remaining one was taken up the trek group. With 20 people stuffed into this bunker it was crammed up to the brim, but no one was complaining. Were served maggi for lunch. It tasted worderful, gulping down maggi at 4600 m above sea level. Thinking of participating in Me & Meri maggi contest with this story :D..... dont worry was just kidding :P.

We started killing time in the bunker playing some indoor games which evolved into outdoor games with a full fledged snow fight. Had fun in this even though my aim in snow fight was pretty pathetic , so the only option for me was to sneak up and hit from behind.

As darkness fell so did the weather. The weather soon turned into a full fledged hailstorm. Even though the size of hail was normal , was just praying that it doesn't rain with tennis ball sized hails the next day, else all of us would end the same fate as the skeletons of Roopkund :). Since the weather had turned bad there was no option but to accommodate all the trekkers within the metal bunkers. Even though it was jam-packed it was warm and cozy inside, and one would not be caught inside a tent in such a weather :).

[View From Bhagwabasa]

7. The Final Ascent

[First Rays Of Sun On Nanda Ghunti]

10th June 2010
Trek Path -> Bhagwabasa - Roopkund(5029 m) - Bedni Bugyal
Distance -> 22 km

[View From Bhagwabasa- Trishul in the background]

The day of final ascent finally arrived. The initial plan was to leave at 5am in the morning in order to cover Junargali pass situated just above the Roopkund Lake. But thanks to weather the previous day it was totally out of question now with nearly another feet of snow dumped overnight. So we started pretty late , at around 7.30. The weather was again crystal clear. I had been wondering that for the entire trek the weather turned bad only when we were least inconvenienced , but again I was to be proved wrong.

For the final push towards Roopkund we were freed from the burden of the backpack, so I thought it will be walk in a park.... yet again would be proved wrong :P. Had attached cramp-ons to my boots to hold on to the mountain when I do MI-2 type stunts :P. The initial path was pretty flat but slowly the path started to rise. As we went higher and higher the amount of snow also increased considerably, making it difficult to traverse since on one side was sheer drop and on the other side knee deep snow. So the area of the trail suitable for walking was very narrow.

If the weather hadnt turned this bad the previous night I dont think this path posed much of a challenge and this was indeed confirmed by the guides climbing along with us. After a moderate climb we reached a base and from this place Roopkund was a very steep climb. So before we embark on this tough climb we rested for a few seconds enjoying the view. In whatever direction we saw we could see just a carpet of snow beautifully laid on the lifeless rocks. A pretty sight to watch .

So after this short break we started the final assault to our "Lakshya". The climb was very steep and for every step we took the lungs would gasp for breath and fact that we had reached nearly 5000 m above sea level didnt make it any better. Slowly crawled towards the lake. The snow had become too soft at some places because of the Sun and it was quite difficult to traverse . In the end reached the Roopkund Lake, breathless even to celebrate. Was the fourth person in our group behind Ansar and the 2 dentists to reach this place :).

[Roopkund Lake- Frozen in the background + Some bones]

Found couple of bones lying on the snow, the centre of attraction for all the subsequent climbers. The lake was frozen solid so there was no chance of getting any sight of skulls etc. Once everyone was on the top we started sledging down the slopes using plastic ponchos to protect the tender parts ;). It was fun sliding and rolling in the snow.

After spending nearly half an hour at the peak and having our breakfast of paratha it was time to return back. But as soon as the thought settled down in our mind the weather seemed to deteriorate.

We had taken a couple of steps back it started to drop hails. Call it irony considering the fate of the Roopkund residents. Slowly we started ascending and the fact that while getting down you have to face the drop makes the matter a whea bit difficult. Since the Sun had disappeared the snow on the floor started to get hardened helping in gripping and me in particular.

[Group Pic]

At one point there was a very narrow path with a drop on the other side. Shashi was leading the subgroup of me, Deepak and Abhiram at that time and suddenly he slipped and started falling to the other side. The desperation with which he was trying to hang on with his stick and his repeated attempts to anchor it was really horrific scene to watch and watch we did and do nothing more apart from informing the others. As soon as he fell out of sight we feared the worst , but a couple of seconds later we heard his voice and came to know that he was still clinging on to his dear life. The guides and Sandeep came to his rescue and later it was known that the drop was not deadly, but thanks to the weather and poor visibility, we were unaware of this. In this process Shashi had discovered a short cut, hence all of us where made to slide through this drop, sharing the same thrill as Shashi experienced, but not fearing for our life at the same time :P. Later Sandeep christened this point as Shashi Gully :P. Probably the skeletons to the lake had taken offense to us sliding and all , and in revenge had decided to increase their membership count :D .

After this incident the weather further worsened and we were caught in the middle of a storm. Slowly we walked back and reached Bhagwabhasa. But todays trek was far from over with our final destination of the day all the way to Bedni Bugyal, a good 12 kms from here. Many were expecting we would be leaving after the weather clears up, but it was not to be so and soon after our lunch we started the return journey.

When we started the weather was a bit ok , but just around 500 m from the base camp and sky again opened up. Hail stones, snow, rain, wind , a combination of all these started to lash as we struggled to move in freezing temperature. After a gruelling descent in slush we reached Ghora Lotani. The succeeding batch was camping at this place. So got hot cups of tea to warm up a bit. By this time Prasanna started to complain that his feet and hands were too numb and its close to impossible to continue further. So he chose to spend the night at Ghora Lotani with the other batch itself. Now the path was almost flat and to warm up my body increased my pace considerably, close to running..... at this time I was lagging at the end , but after this was sprinting with the leader group :). Finally exhausted we reached Bedni Bugyal to be welcomed by Swapnil our camp manager at Didina. After reaching this place we did nothing but relax and rest and do nothing. The night sky was simply "whoaaa"... with a crystal clear sky and billions of twinkling stars :).

8. Back To Civilization

[Free Spirit]

11th June 2010
Trek Path -> Bedni Bugyal - Wan - Loharjung
Distance -> 14km

[Trishul From Bedni Bugyal]

The final day of the trek, and I was having mixed feelings. Happy that the successful trek was finally coming to an end , and sad that this trek will remain nothing more than memories, fond memories of course.

Just before we were about to leave Prasanna arrived riding a white horse, the only thing missing was shining armour :P..... After having the breakfast we got ready to leave for the Wan, from where we were supposed to take a Jeep back to Loharjung. Just a few minutes of walk and we entered the Oak forest and within it started the steep descent.

[Oak Forests-Skeleton of a tree :P]

Initially was satisfied taking the longer and safer route , but the spirit of adventure possessed us we started taking shortcuts. The principle we followed was climbing straight down even when there was no path making our own roads :). A scene straight out of movies where the hero shows his herogiri :P. Even though got some cuts and bruises enroute the adrenaline rush was totally worth it. Was joined by Shashi and Prasanna in this misadventure :P. Such was the pace that we were able to keep the speedy mules at bay... Even one of the guides admired the speed with which we were climbing down. But after an hour or so the legs started to hurt a bit and decided to give it a rest and followed the normal zig-zag route route.

[Bedni Ganga]

As we reached down the valley we came across the Bedni Ganga river. A gurgling stream flowing right across our path. We decided a rest a bit here and immersed our bare, aching feet in the freezing water..... ahhhhhh !!!!!!!. After a while we started towards Wan, with a climb enroute. Dragged the tired body and soul through this climb even though it was short lived.

[Prasanna Admiring A Huge Tree]

When we were about to reach Wan we came across a lots of Kids and they have pretty much the same dialogue to each and everyone. "Namaste, mitai dho". The same phrase was repeated without any change :)...... i was pretty curious how everyone has agreed upon that. Anyway sometimes mitai varied to paisa and in one case a selfless "Namaste" from school going kids :).

[Bade Miyan and Chote Miyan]

Atlast we reached the taxi stand in the tiny town of Wan after pretty much guiding overselves all the way from Bedni Ganga.The trek has officially ended... sniff!!!. snifff !!! (Kushi ke aassoon :P). Got a couple of souvernir snaps and it was time to leave behind my walking stick which faithfully served for 6 long days. After loading our rucksacks onto the jeep, off we started towards Loharjung. The route offered some good views of the valley. We reached loharjung to be welcomed by Ankit the camp manager. Also he informed later that we were the best trekking batch this year yet, for our spirit and attitude. Dont know whether the same dialogue was repeated to other batches as well :P. Got our certificates of accomplishment, the proof of completion , frankly a lot has gone to earn this :).

[Trek Finally Ends]

Spent the rest of the day roaming around this tiny town exploring it, and calling back home after 6 days who were pretty anxious to hear news from us , after they got the news of some trekkers getting stranded in Himachal Pradesh due to heavy snowfall.

Had a conformable sleep at night :).... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

[Graduation Ceremony- Me being the odd man..y?? observe maadi]

9. A Tiring Return Journey

The day we were looking forward the least. This day was dedicated for the day long return journey to Haridwar. But in our case Rishikesh, a journey shortened by 30kms thanks to white water rafting we had booked at this place. Brushed our teeth after 6 days :P. At 7.30 the minivan started. The driver of the minivan was one who is in no hurry, hence snail paced driving. We didnt mind that since its better to reach our destination late than never at all :P. The journey was too boring apart from some good views of Pindar and Ganges along the way.

[River Pindar at Karnaprayag]

Reached Rishikesh at around 6pm and after bidding adieu to the fellow trekkers went directly to the Red Chillies center. They directed us to a hotel nearby. The hotel was clean and comfortable (don't remember the name :( ), even though the price was on the higher side. Everyone took a hot shower. The last one was taken when we left Bangalore... a good 9 days of dirt and grime accumulation :P. After this moved out for the dinner this being a birthday treat from Deepak. Some local recommended Rajasthan Hotel and man this had the worst tasting food we had in a long time , this coming from guys who spent 8 days eating plain food of dry roti and rice. But the ice-cream parlor below provides lip-smacking desserts. Returned back and had a sound sleep...

[Ganga At Rishikesh]

10. Tango With The Ganges

[The Holy Dip]

Today was white water rafting day. With 6 days of rest for the upper body doing nothing but hanging on and enjoying the views when the lower part of the body did all the slogging it was time for role reversal. Were informed by the organizers to be there at their showroom sharp at 8.30 am. So to do some sighting we all got up early and left at 7 am towards Laxman Jhula and Barah Mandir. Laxman Jhula is nothing but a suspended bridge on the Ganga river , while it swings a bit when heavy winds blow hence the name "Jhula". The barah mandir was a big disappointment. This is more like a shopping complex having 12 floors and in the lower floors there being more commercial shops than mandirs. After having "masala dosa" at a eatery we reached Red Chillies at exact 8.30 am.

[Laxman Jhula and Barah Mandir in Background]

Rishikesh is hyped as the best white water destination in India , well I might not agree with it with lots of less famous but more exciting routes in the deep jungles of India, but it can be rephrased as the "Best Commercial White Water Destination In India"..... with hundreds of companies set up doing the same business.

We boarded the transport's provided by the organizers for a drive, 35km upstream to start our ride. After an hour of drive we reached our starting point. Were introduced to the instructors (Bhim and Deepak) and another guy in a kayak. After an initial introduction off we started with 6 guys in each raft. There was a couple in another raft. Deepak was the guide in our raft. He told everyone to jump off the raft and I did a splashing jump in no time. With being more used to warm South Indian rivers , didnt expect the Ganges to be so cold. So started to have breathing difficulties......(later checked out in net.. this is a normal behaviour.. :) )... after some time it returned to normal .... The trick to avoid this is to get into water some 15-20 mins before and get used to its temperature before taking sudden entry like diving.

Soon we got accustomed to synchronized paddling. One by one the rapids began to appear. The rapids have been innovatively named like Three Blind Mice, The wall, Golf Course, Roller coaster and so on. It was exciting sitting on the edge of the boat and negotiating through all these rapids. "The wall" was a grade 4 rapid and at this place Maneesh was thrown out of the raft only to be rescued by the Kayak. There was also a celebration cry with the successful completion of each rapid with "Go Baby, Go Baby, Go Baby "(banging the paddles to the rubber boat and converging everyone's paddle together). After some 3 hours of continuous paddling we reached mid-way where we were served with lunch. The lunch was really good :). We continued after lunch. By this time we were joined by a lot more rafters. The wind had started to blow against our direction making it a tiring affair. At one rapid "Bread and Butter" we were told to disembark from the boat. This was fun, with no rubber for protection :P.

[Lunch Break]

At one point Deepak told all of us to sit at the end of the boat and we did an intentional flip throwing all of us into water and completely overturning the boat.. was super fun. When this was tried again we fell even before the boat flipped ..... call it surrendering to fate :P.

We were taken to point where we were to dive from 20 feet from a rock ledge into the water below. was quite thrilling.... even though the fall lasted only for a couple of seconds those couple of seconds in mid air were really long with me wondering when will I finally land. After this came the curtains for the rafting adventure , but the last 50 metres posed a bigger challenge. Strong gusty winds started to blow against our direction with our every attempt to surge forward ending in disaster. Finally we came ashore and carried the boat on the banks for the last 50 m... Phew.. it was heavy.

After rafting ended we returned back to our rooms to get freshened up and after this we went towards Ram Jhula and bigger version of Laxman Jhula. Witnessed a beautiful sunset. After roaming around we went to a restaurant called Chotiwala. There were a couple of pandits with choti and lots of makeup inviting people. These chotiwala's did more harm than good with their horrible makeups :P. The food was not that good , but the lassi was very good.

Then it was time for us go to Haridwar to catch the Mussorie Express to Delhi. But none of the local rickshaws were ready to take us. So again called Red Chillies and they sent us their pickup truck , of course with a price. Had a awesome ride in open air :P. Reached the station and boarded and train and occupied the seats in no time , because in these parts of India having reservation doesn't guarantee seats :P. The upper berth opposite to mine was taken by a very attractive girl.... I couldn't stop staring at her ..... later came to know that the other guys too had an eye for her ...... boys will always be boys :P.

11. Fin du voyage

[Rastrapathi bhavan]

The final day of the vacation finally arrived. Was sad not just that it was ending , but was sad because had to get back to the same life in office the next day. After getting down at the Delhi Station we moved towards nearest station. The metro network has considerable reach in Delhi and was just wondering when we will see the same in Bangalore. With a combination of metro and auto rickshaws we landed at the airport. No one was keen for any sight-seeing...... too exhausted. Had pizza's before boarding the afternoon flight at the airport courtesy Manju and Shashi :P. The journey was event less apart from some awesome monsoon cloud formations as we approached nearer to Bangalore.

Landed in Bangalore at 5.45 pm and took the Volvo bus to reach home , but thanks to rain and traffic jams were able to reach home only by 8.30 pm. Home at last :).

[a parting shot]

Finally the great adventure in the mighty Himalayas came to an end. This is one of those journeys which you remember for a life time , the one which you look back into your life and feel proud of achieving and not just sitting in the sidelines and wondering "I should have done that ". Eventhough it was not one of those luxury vacations we are so used to, instead spending 6 days in wilderness and complete isolation from the outside world and we start admiring things which we earlier took for granted, even simple things like a warm and cozy bed imparts its importance. But my affair with the Himalayas has just begun and its far from over..... Biking and cycling anyone ?????!!!!!!! :D :D

Total Summary

Cost Per Person (Including Trek Fee,Winter Gear, Transportation, Food, Accomodation) -> 18 K

Total Trek Distance -> 69 kms (6.95k/head) (http://www.roopkund.com/)

Total Rafting Distance -> 35 kms (1.5k/head)(http://www.redchilliadventure.com/)

Snaps Link ->






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