Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Notes for Dharma valley - a summer trek to the Panchachuli base camp

Note#3. A great sunny start (Dar-Bongling-Urthing - 11Kms)

Hot water. Breakfast. And a halfway ride… Small joys that we will begin to appreciate even more as we went along the trip… We set out and Avinash Nepalchyal our guide was with us. He was a 2nd year BA  student and was helping out his uncle (Mr Lakshman) during his break from college. His father is in the AMC and he lives in Dharchula with his mother and brother; a very confident, mature modern young guy…and very proud of his roots. 
This is something I found across. Everyone was so happy and proud of their culture and roots and without being arrogant had great pride in telling us about it. Everywhere people were happy and prosperous. 

Halfway we sat on the roof of the Maxx and it was some experience to have the wind in your hair, your heart in your mouth as the vehicle lurched along narrow lanes with steep falls on one side. It was sunny, it was real and it felt free and happy. We stopped at Dar to start the trek. 

The walk was easy…lots of ups and downs in the trail…. Gauri spotted a yellow throated Marten along the way in a rhododendron forest. This time of May summer was in effect and most vegetation around was almost dry, and the sun was draining us a bit. At Bongling village we had our first break and their hospitality was so touching. We met a 76 year old veteran who takes tender for the meat supply to the local ITBP post. As we trekked further he caught up with me and started talking….he told me about his son in Chandigarh and his wife who passed away just a few days back. Along the way we saw many small shrines for the dead. He explained that these are benign spirits who guide the travellers and keep them safe from harm and bad spirits. I said a prayer to all… you can’t not believe in such haloed places.

The day grew sunnier and so did the discomfort. On a personal level this trek was an alarm bell for me. I need to stop thriving on overconfidence and get fit. My ankles were hurting terribly and I am ashamed to say that after the first two days I couldn’t carry my full backpack and had to make-do with a day pack. I’ll never live this down… I am sure my ankles hurt because of the excessive weight I have put on. So either I lose it or I lose opportunities to trek:(
We all tumbled into Urthing; some with more speed and grace.
Urthing is a beautiful flat campsite with a vertical shelf of mountain face on one side and the Dhauli Ganga flowing beside on the other. The arrangements were unbelievable. We had room size tents! There was a full kitchen and meals to die for! Food, tea, soup, sweets… hard to say this was campsite food! We all relaxed; some played cricket, some took a walk along the river, and some even took a dip!!!
Late in the evening as we gathered outside the kitchen hut, Sayee sang. I must explain Sayee to you. You can’t ignore him. He is a well know musician in Goa. Has a deep voice - a rich baritone, sings beautifully, is gregarious, generous and a great entertainer. He is also Dilip’s very close friend.
We all sang late into the night; us the cooks, the staff…it was a happy merry night. Made merrier with some local alcohol. Have to admit we broke all of Mr Lakshman’s rules everyday:)
We retired into our tents thinking the fun had ended. But late at night Haroon called out and we rushed out thinking it was some wild animal. In a rush to get their cameras Nidhi and Anu ran pell mell and bumped into each other. 

But it was worth it…a big round cheezy yellow moon had just peaked off the mountain head. First everyone got busy clicking and adjusting… then giving it all up just stood and stared at the moon and the mountain, the moonlit valley, the stillness in the air, the rushing of the Dhauli Ganga, the lone trail that disappeared somewhere ahead... and time stood still and everything was perfect.

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