Sunday, December 21, 2014

Surpassing Sarpass Trek, YHAI Trekking Himalayan Expedition at 13,800 feet - 2

 Day 3: 5th June, 2014 – On the way to Grahan

The travelogue continues from day third here. In my previous blog I shared my experience with the prerequisites, exercises, acclimatization, routine and stuff. It’s time we begin our real trek.
After the very hectic graduation years, this break was a must-have-break-else-you-will-die break for me. My situation was best described in this song.

Aaj Kal Jindagi Mujhase Hai Keh Rahi
Tu Jo Meri Maane Toh Chal Deewaane Sapano Ki Raahon Mein Tu
Saari Khushbuo Saari Roshani Ko Le Le Inn Baahon Mein Tu
Abb Hai Tu Jahaan, Din Raat Saare Naye Hain
Aaraju Jawaan Jasbaat Saare Naye Hai
Pehchaane Saari Muskaane Saari Bhar Le Nigaahon Mein Tu O Ho
Tere Liye Nayi Hai Jamin Naya Aasmaan
Likh De Hawaao Pe Koyi Nayi Daastaan
-      Shankar, Ehsan, Loy (Wake Up Sid!, 2009)

Beautiful waterfall during YHAI Sarpass Trek 2014

Certainly things were all new. This was my first Himalayan Trek. More like backpacking as I was completely unaware of the location and packed everything in 2 days. Guys who accompanied me were all new to me, coming from every corner of the India. And it was Himachal Pradesh – The Land of God! Even the nearest police station was at distant 15 km from Kasol base camp. So, rare were the crimes!!

Today was the day when we were about to depart for the trek and bid adieu to YHAI’s Kasol base camp. We all woke up with ease today. No exercises! No hurry! No standing in bathroom lines! And no feeling of Neil Armstrong!

By 0700 hours we submitted our blankets. Had breakfast. Drank water. Pee-ed! Packed the luggage. Fall in. Gave attendance and by 0815 hours we were waving goodbye to the camp, walking aligned in a line; with SP-35 and SP-36 group waving us goodbye and wishing best luck. The claps were so reverberating that for a moment my ears skipped the gushing sound of Parvati river. Just like soldiers, we were saying hola to the base camp, which reminded me of another song-

Kandho se milate hain kandhe, kadmon se kadam milte hain
Hum chalte hain jab aise toh dil dushman ke hilte hain
-      Shankar, Ehsan, Loy (Lakshya, 2004)

But neither our shoulders were aligning (kandho se kandhe) to each other (as the guys were as tall as Himanshu and Shreenidhi, and as short as me) and nor we were having any enemies (dil dushman ke hilte hain).

We were now on the same path as we were a day before for rock-climbing and rappelling. Slowly I decided to start conversation with every possible guy and know about each other. A little of KT (knowledge transfer) process.
Parvati River with snow-clad Himalayan range in backdrop

I approached the front-runner in the group, Chandrakanth. He was very calm, as if he is alone in the trek. A small grin on his face and broad moustache. I was unable to find the topic to discuss with him. This generally happens with me, when I share very distinct social and psychological background with someone. It’s tough to initiate the talk. So, while starting conversation with Chandrakanth same happened. I ended up with a discussion on Naxal groups in his region. We talked about Prabhakaran. Veerappan from Satyamangalam and Yeddyurappa from Shimoga. We nicknamed Chandrakanth as Prabhakaran (Founder and Leader of Liberations Tigers of Tamil Eelam) hereforth he will be called as Prabhakaran in my blog as well.

The next person I talked was Reshma Di, she works in TCS (that I came to know on the very last day of trekking). The only motto of mine for coming to this trek was to refresh my brain and stay disconnected with the world. Not to think about any other thing beside where to put the next step over the path. To enjoy each and every moment; without any brainstorming. In talking I realized she had been to a Himalayan trek before; Her Ki Doon. She shared her great experience with me. The kind of a trek it was. What kinds of challenges she faced.

Then she explained her wish-list of treks and shared the same with me. I was mesmerized to know that someone does have their own trek wish-list. WOW!!

We kept on moving! The forest was getting denser. Trees were giving the mirage of the horizon. River was streaming against us. I was pretty ahead so decided to take some slow shutter shots of river flow.
!!!!SP-34 group at the height of 13,800 feet!!!!

While doing this exercise I found the first love of my trek – my ‘STICK’wati...!! I found a very nice wooden stick by the river bank. It was all destined, I started believing one shot from movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – sab likha hua hau, ye trek, ye lakdi ka milna! Sab likha hua hain. The only difference was that I was not drunk alike Hritik Roshan.

At a very beautiful juncture where the river takes a Kejriwal turn (U-turn) in the valley. Most of the people were resting, few were posing, few photographing. Meanwhile me, Himanshu and Nagarjun were in talks with guide bhaiya. He shared his very piece of information which was very useful.

And then I struck with the catastrophe; someone threw my ‘STICK’wati in the water for some photography experiment. The first thing I thought of was to throw his camera in the water for some splashing experiment. But then my ANGEL mind said that there might be some photographs of me in the same camera. So, anger swallowed and apology accepted. Lost the first love of the trek. But life is beautiful when we accept the condition and move-on with it instead of making all the efforts to make any changes.

Circumstances do not define us, our reaction to them does!!

Then I meet a very versatile personality, Shreenidhi D S that’s how he writes his name. I was about to ask him – Did Nikon launches its DS range cameras asking him?? My ANGEL part of brain struck my conscience that this should not be the right one-liner to hit the conversation. So instead I started with a cliché – what you do?? He said – WRITING!! And I was like dude, I am asking what you do for your living?? But his answer was straight and clear. He was a script writer of one of the most famous Kannada serial ‘Ashwini Nakshatram’ which is telecasted on ETV Kannada.

Seriously, this dude writes for his living. And then during the trek I got to know a lot more about Shreenidhi bhaiya. Felt good to have him accompanying me.
Thereafter, I don’t remember having any conversation with anyone else.

With the failed first love of this trek I was offered with new ‘STICK’wati by the same guy who threw it in the water. This was my arranged marriage! I accepted it full heartily. I got my new companion. The only problem with that stick was that, that it was equal to my height and everyone was laughing at me. All I can do was to compare myself was with Kali from movie KaalKyuki kali ko kaal kabhi dhokha nahi deta!

Just like Chandler does in ‘The One with The Joke’ episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S of noting down his jokes to avoid them stealing from Ross. I was writing everything in my small diary. But my reason was being able to write one blog like this even after 6 months of the trek.

As we were heading ahead in the trek the structure of stones was changing and some of them appeared like Paapmani from our childhood superhero serial Shaktimaan. In adult-world we will call them limestone and quartz. The only man-made things were pipelines and electric poles.

Candid shot YHAI Sarpass Trek 2014 -1
I then thought of drinking the fresh Himalayan water (which Bisleri mineral water sells – Advt tagline), but guide prohibited saying that he knows a place where water is more fresh. I bet Bisleri is unaware of it. Somewhere in the route an ice-cream seller crossed us. He was carrying a cylinder, an ice-cream cart and music was playing. To my surprise, he was playing Hindi songs. I was missing songs way too badly. In conversation with him, he told me that he actually belongs to Bihar (so no surprise if he was listening to Hindi songs) and lives at Grahan and takes mere 2 hours to reach our base camp; for same we YOUNGSTERS were taking over 8 hours.

Around 1335 hours we got some glimpse of Himalayan snow and peaks. And then we had our lunch beside river. A guy was already sitting there with maggi and cold drinks to sell. The general talk with our guide continued. His name was Jaychand. I found Chand very common with people here. For a second I even thought if these guys are having a cold war with the Hedge family surname.

While everyone was having lunch I invested my time in sharpening and caressing my ‘STICK’wati. With the help of a grater I tried making it plain and reduced its length. While having a brief talk with three musketeers – Mallesha, Pritham and Vinay. They were all lying down with their bag pack as a pillow.

And from nowhere Chinmay bhaiya came with gilli-danda game. All of us had danda and the broken piece of by stick became gilli. The rules were quite clear, you can only hit the gilli in straight drive and if hit in the forest then out. At that exact moment all I wanted was a Firebolt broomstick, fastest magical broomstick from Harry Potter. But being a Muggle, I don’t have access to Dungeon Valley. The second option was drinking Red Bull – because it gives us wings. But this act meant loss of faith in trek. But even without this I managed to catch a couple of catches. Situational song at this very moment-

Dil Dil Mein Hai
Dil Ki Tamanna Sau!
Dhoop Khile Jism Garam Sa Hai
Suraj Yahin Yeh Bharam Sa Hai
Bhikri Hui Rahein Harazon Sau
Thamo Koi Phir Bhatanke Do!
Uljhe Nahi To Kaise Suljhoge
Bikhre Nahi To Kaise Nihkroge
Hawa Zara Si Lagne Do
Soya Tha Abb Jagne Do
Pankhon Ko Hawa Zara Si Lagne Do!
-      Salim Merchant, Sulaiman Merchant (Salesman of the Year, 2009)

Now our next destination was Grahan camp, 7700 feet. The floor now turned from rock to sand. Footmarks of goats, khacchar, sheep were replaced by footmarks of WoodLand, Nike, Puma and Reebok.

I again engaged myself in talks with our new guide, Karamchand. Another Chand. His body smelt like rotten eggs. I don’t think he had bathed since his last summer. I was also deprived of bath from over 5 days. I was all engaged in talking with him and possibly he forgot that he has the responsibility of over 40 people to guide. Most of the people were lagging behind. The guys behind us were huffing and puffing. If they were left with any energy, it was being utilized in shouting to slow down or best stop. And I got first compliment from Karamchand that I am a strong guy. He said – hatta-katta jawan hain!

Then we passed some sheep herds and then beautiful mountain ranges. Some mountain patches witnessed landslides. The road was now inclined. With few water streams from where we refilled our water bottles.

Reaching the place some huts and people were visible. Then there was an Israeli couple who was walking towards Grahan. The guy’s name was Nadaf. Had a small conversation with them and they were very happy with the beauty of Himalayas. I thanked them for the appreciation and wished them good luck. After walking a few metres Rajesh Kumar was the guy I continued my trek with till Grahan. He was a worker and a farmer. He was building homes during winter in the valleys and during the summer was a farmer.

Mild rain showers welcomed us in Grahan. I started murmuring - Halki-halki si barish thi, pehli pehli mulakat thi...
Beautifully carved temple at Grahan, Kasol, Himachal Pradesh YHAI Sarpass Trek

Once you reach Grahan, you will be surprised to see the built and structure of houses. All made of rocks and wood only. With very beautiful carved artistic works on the doors and windows. People sitting roadside and calves eating fodder. The smell of cow-dung filling the nostrils.

The main attraction of Grahan was an ancient awesomely carved wooden temple. Then we literally captured the tents. Our tent location was in the middle of two snowless mountains and Sivalik range was visible from there and beside it was the Sarpass range. Awesome view it was!
Camp commander welcomed us with the hot tomato soup and then for a ‘SMALL’ address to us. He said our batch reached before time and our batch was first doing so irrespective of having over 12 girls in our group!! We all cheered and then he continued his ‘SMALL’ address. And continued!! And continued!! And was not even close to ending. He seems to be a girl to me now with all talkative and chivalry qualities he imbibed.

He gave a nice and happy piece of information that the temperature will be low here as compared to Kasol base camp. And it was because of the huge mountain ranges between Sivalik Range and our tent site. They were working as a barrier for cold breezes. Vice versa of Kasol base camp where the chilling breeze of Parvati range was hitting us directly without any obstruction.

Then we did some photo shoots, had dinner and went off to sleep by 2100 hours.
Sunset was most beautiful here!!

Sunset at Grahan Camp during YHAI Sarpass Trek

Day 4: 6th June, 2014 – On the way to Padri

The first task we did in the early morning was to protect the Pakistan. Due to heavy wind and rain the toilets that were made of clothes were devastated and one person has to compulsorily stand outside or else sing song & become toilet singer. Tea was out and as I went to take I overheard the song-

Umeedo Ke Suraj
Nikale Chaaron Aur
Iraade Hain Folaadi
Himmati Har Kadam
Apne Haatho Kismat Likhane
Aaj Chale Hain Hum..
-Anish Sharma, Shubham Mahadevan (Dhoom 3, 2013)

I saw the mountain ranges were much similar to those that we used to draw in childhood. It was the 8th day in a row without bath and I was happy with that.
We then gathered and fall-in. Our chivalry camp captain leader with emphatic looks wished us good luck and we departed.

Our new guide was Hukum Chand, OOPS!! I mean Humum Singh. Finally a guide without Chand in end. A small bio of him.

He is the ‘khoji’ of this path and standing with a straight spine at the age of 57. There is one more route to the Sarpass. It’s from Khalipasss via Mandi. With him I got a hell lot of information. Population of Grahan is close to 500 people. To cut trees for the houses you require permission.

I started asking him about every flora on the way. Kaleshi, a flower used to make juice. Shambal, a yellow flower tree was used for treating the eyes. Haham, etching plant, good for blood. Arsada, white poisonous juice. Kharsh, wood my stick was made of.

With this hell lot of Ayurvedic information I meet Khasil. He was selling Ayurvedic medicines. When I shared this knowledge with him, his expression was like Obama if a normal Indian tells him about the NSA scandal in the year 2012.

By now we travelled around two and half kilometre. From Grahan we descended and again rose to find ourselves at same altitude where Grahan Camp was located. That was a bit frustrating.
Sunrise at 4 am at Padri camp YHAI Sarpass Trek
It was 1120 hours by now and we were told to have a tea-break. On the route we can find tea-stalls selling many edibles. Maggi, cold drinks and stuff. By then we were at the height of 8300 feet. All of a sudden I decided to make Maggi of my own in that ambience. I poured water into the vessel and at the right temperature slowly put the maggi cubes in it. Maggi masala being the integral part of the making. Put my timer for 2 minutes and just after two minutes I poured whole Maggi into the plate.

I was expecting a yummylicious taste. But to my distress the maggi was still raw. I thought of launching a lawsuit on the company. But then, thought that at such height it takes some more time for food to cook due to low atmospheric pressure. Cancelled the law suit and enjoyed the taste!!

The seller was having a red coloured juice. After inquiring, we got to know that it is known as the Brass. It is made of a flower and has the medicinal character which helps to digest food.
In my continuing discussion with Hukum Singh he told me that Grahan is also known as Thunja, which means wheat in their language. And the people living there are called Manala.

Around 1330 hours we had our lunch at the height of 8533 feet. The mosses on the trees were getting denser. After a short stop there; Bhanvna, Vainshnavi and I sang Tinka Tinka Jara Jara song. While I was lost in showing-off my hidden talent I lost my pen. And this was a bigger blow than losing my authentic stick couple of days back. Thanks to Bhavna for doing the best favour for me by giving me her pen.

In the next half hour we reached our destination – Padri!! The camp location was just fantabulous. Even Shakespeare would fail in explaining it to the world. Tents were rooted on a grassland plain facing huge snow-clad Sarpass mountain range. By the time we reached there it was sunset time. As the sun was setting, the snow on the Himalayas was showing its vibrant colours.

We were watching the colours of the sky changing from blue to yellow to orange to black. Snow’s was more dramatic. Snow was turning from white to yellow to gold to purple and finally to blue.

We were tired but still managed to play some awesome games suggested by Bhanvna. In the first game I was the winner and second game ended in draw as Mr. Cheater a.k.a Mallesha played some tricks. A song that was describing us perfectly-

Hum Raahi Jab Ho Mastaana
Mauj Mein Ho Dil Deewana
Phir Chalne Waale Rukte Hain Kahan
Yeh khumar yeh nasha jawan bekhudi
Ab na koi nagar na koi gali din vahan rat yahan
-      Udit Narayan, Hema Sardesai (Pukar, 2000)

Soon after dinner heavy clouds started gathering all over the sky and heavy winds started blowing. We were told by the camp captain to collect as many as and as heavy stones as possible and make sure they support tents.

We were so dreaded that we started digging the whole landscape like gold-miners dig for gold. Few stones were taking two guys in place. Tents were still drifting and roving with heavy winds. But we were in relief when the wind speed reduced. Meanwhile, I meet Mr. Ashwath Nadahalli, the entrepreneur guy who has his own company. He has his own company. Plus a data scientist, and plus a very nice and helpful guy. I was happy to share my tent with him.

As the sun set, the stars started twinkling. Before sleeping, I decided to wake-up early and take some photos of our Milky Way.

Our own Milky Way stripping from Soutn to North
To my surprise 100s of people have been already out there in the morning, doing some rituals of their God. Later we found out that it was the annual festival in which they take their God in the height of the Himalayan Mountains and do all the ritual proceedings.

I took some awesome photos of our Milky Way and then went back to sleep.

This shall be the end of my Sarpass travelogue. There are still many stories to tell, experiences to share and things to explore, but the constraint of time is the only thing in-between. Let’s hope if I can write the next part someday in future.

I am also thankful of all of you guys for making my trek the best ever trek till date.
Abhishek, Ashwath, Anil, Himanshu, Bhavana, Nayana, Nitesh, Mukund, Chandrakanth, Chetan, Dayanand, Gautam, Harisha, Jeet , Surekha, Subodh, Khushbu, Kusuma, Mallesha, Preetham, Vinay, Manjunatha, Nagarjun, Reshma, Sagar, Sachin, Sampath ,Sandeepa, Shreenidhi, Chinmay, Gopal Krishna, Mahesh, Phaneendra, Reshma, Sujata, Neelam, Sharfaraz, Ramesh and Sanjay – thanks a lot guys!! :)

My apology goes to all for posting this blog after 6 months. I know there were many expectations from my blog, which I couldn’t fulfil. Many stories remained untold. Gripping nostalgia just lost its flow. Will try if I can continue writing the next sequel.
Till then, CIAO!! Hope we will have one more trek soon.

Candid photo YHAI Sarpass Trej 2014 - 2
God of the Manala people from Grahan

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keywords: sarpass trek, yhai, kasol base camp, kullu, manali, himachal pradesh, 13800, 2014, beskeri, ratanpani, grahan, padri,nagaru