I always wanted a job in which either I get a lot of holidays so that I can travel or my work includes travel. Unfortunately in India, if you are working in private sector, then forget about getting holidays, they might even snatch your weekends away! So I was left with one option that of finding a job related to travel. And last month I joined Bikat Adventures and it fits my expectation.
Recently, I went on a trek to Bali Pass with my company and the experience was completely unforgettable & unique because it was also my first solo trip. My work was to experience the trek and gather information, photos, GPS trail data, etc. and develop content. The work was not a difficult task except photos because photography is not my cup of tea, but still I gave it a try.
Bali Pass trek is a challenging one that requires a person to be physically as well as mentally fit. So I was supposed to do some exercises and yoga, but due to excitement I didn't do it for a single day. Before the trek, I was little worried about my physical capabilities because during the last few treks my performance was not so good when, in fact, the treks were also easy. Fortunately during Bali pass trek (I don't know how but) my fitness didn't cause much trouble, rather I performed well.
Before starting with my journey, let me tell you some facts about Bali Pass trek. And even before that, let me first explain that what a mountain pass is?
A mountain pass is a route on a mountain range or over a mountain ridge that connects two valleys. Most passes have been used conventionally as a trading route, for exchanging goods.
Bali pass is a high mountain pass that links Har ki Dun valley to Yamunotri valley. Situated at an altitude of 4950 m, it offers a perfect panoramic view of some remarkable peaks such as Swargarohini & Banderpooch, Garhwal ranges and Yamunotri valley. The trek starts from the forest of Taluka and passes through rich vegetation, river, lakes, meadows, waterfalls, mountain ridges and snow.
The added advantage of doing Bali Pass trek is that one can complete two treks at a time. On 3rd day of the trek, there comes a campsite called Ruinsara Tal, which is also a renowned trek in itself.
My journey started from Delhi, the national capital. Boarded the overnight bus and reached Dehradun at 0430 hrs. I reached a bit early, so I waited there for around one hour, had some tea & bun there. At 0630 hrs, Rahul (our trek leader) came and I got into the jeep. In the jeep, I met my trek mates and from there onwards 'I' became 'we'. There were four participants named Navtej, JD, Vikas and Anand. The other two participants were about to join us from Sankri and Seema camp.
Day 1: Dehradun - Sankri
We started our mountain journey to Sankri at around 0645 hrs and reached there at 1400 hrs. Amidst the way we had our breakfast at Kempty near Mussoorie. The best thing I like about mountains (not on crowded hill stations) is that most of the things such as food, accommodation, etc. are available at very reasonable rates, except travel.
The overall journey till Sankri was beautiful. We drove through Mussoorie, Nainbagh, Naugaon, Purola, Mori and Netwada. The road up to Mori was well laid down except for some patches and it was full of scenic views, as we were driving along pine forest. From Netwada, we entered into Govind Pashu National Park and from there onwards, the road turned bad. The drive was almost like off-roading, but we enjoyed nonetheless. I was getting a feeling of nausea due to the road full of curves but fortunately I didn’t puke.
Sankri is a small scenic town situated at a height of 1920 m. There are several hotels and guest houses available because most of the treks such as Har Ki Dun, Kedarkantha, Ruinsara Tal, Bali Pass and Borasu Pass start from this region and Sankri is the only town in this vicinity where one can easily stay and purchase daily need items from the shops available. However, there are no big restaurants available, but one can easily find a place to eat.
On the way to Sankri
After reaching Sankri, we did our lunch at a dhaba (run from a local home) and then explored this tiny place through a short walk. The dogs there were so big and were looking like wolf in the night. Then, one shopkeeper told me that all mountain dogs are usually big, but they don’t bark at everyone like the city dogs. These dogs have sense!
Later we got into our rooms for some rest. In the evening we met our 5th participant named Lijo. He was the only person in the group that was near my age. I had a nice conversation with him and after dinner we slept. The night was cold.
Next morning, we got ready by 7, met the rest of our team, which included our guide Chaen Singh and 8 porters, and departed for Taluka, from where we had to start our trek. With the departure our adventure started. Despite having seats available in the jeep, I and Lijo got on the roof of the jeep and enjoyed the whole journey of about 1 hour. After reaching there, we began our trek without any break.
Day 2: Drive from Sankri to Taluka & Trek from Taluka - Seema camp
We started our first day trek in the bright sunlight. The trail was easy and clear. There were no arrows or marks, but one could easily identify the route.
In a conversation with Navtej, he told me that the best way to identify correct route on a trek is by noticing the mules/horse/goat shit. If there comes a situation when there are 2 routes, both having shit, then choose the route with more shit! You will easily find your way. However, the only condition before applying this method is to check whether it is a porter trek or mules trek.
Apologies for distracting you. Coming back to the trek. While trekking, we met several other trekkers going to Har Ki Dun as the first day route was common for both treks but there was no one going to Bali Pass except our team and an Israeli man whom I met at Seema camp. The first day’s trail was full of upward, downward and flat paths. The path was made up of sand and big stones. We were walking along the Supin River and through the pine forest. While walking, we were able to hear the gurgling sound of river all the time. The sound was also helping us identify the correct route. During the trek, we crossed couple of bridges over the river. The distance that we had to cover this day was 15 km. We walked at a steady pace and reached Seema in around 7 hours. Took several short breaks and one long break at the Gangaar village, which is situated on the way. After reaching Seema camp, we ate delicious aloo-pakodas made by our cook, Krishna.
Supin river at Seema Camp
Day 3: Seema camp - Rainbasera
Second day started with the early morning yoga session. The weather was cool so it was like a warm up for us. After yoga, we quickly did our breakfast and left for Rainbasera. Today's distance to cover was 9 km. The landscape got slightly changed. We were not walking through the forest anymore. The trail was on the green pastures and was mild steep. Our first milestone was Debshu Bugyal, which was a small scenic meadow. From there we had our first clear view of snowcapped peaks. On the west, Kala Nag or Black peak (laden with snow) was also visible. After crossing Debshu Bugyal, we descended through a trail full of small loose stones and wet sand that made it a bit difficult for us. After coming down, we crossed the Supin River over a bridge and reached left side of the river. Then, we had to again climb through a steep section. At this time, I got little irritated by the trail because we had crossed several sections where we climbed with our full effort and then got down to the same altitude, from where we started. Several useless thoughts were coming into my mind like my all efforts had gone in vain and blah blah! but then I thought "c'mon buddy it’s not an expressway, you are on mountain" and then I continued my trekking. Our second milestone was a small shelter situated just 1 km before our campsite. This shelter is called Rainbasera, but we didn't set up our camps here due to unavailability of flat surface. We set up our camps on the banks of Supin, around 1 Km further. The campsite was beautiful. We had pitched our tents on the river shore. In the night, we did bonfire and after having dinner we called it a day.
Doing Yoga at Seema camp
On the way to Rainbasera
Crossing Debshu Bugyal
A view of snowcapped peaks from Debshu Bugyal
Day 4: Rainbasera - Ruinsara Tal
Woke up at 7 and started our trek by 8. Today's terrain was similar to that on the 2nd day, except some sections. There were some sections that were tricky, where our hand support was required. We crossed it without much difficulty. In about 4 hours, we reached Ruinsara Tal. It is a serene lake surrounded by mountain ranges and meadows. There was one wooden hut situated near the lake Ruinsara. We turned the hut in to our kitchen and pitched our tents nearby. Weather was cold there as we had gained an altitude of around 1200 ft. We were all good and there were no signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). After having dinner, we had a discussion with our guide, Chaen Singh about the itinerary and the route. He altered the itinerary a bit because our previous itinerary would have been difficult, he divided one day walk into two and removed the rest day. Later, we did bonfire inside the hut and enjoyed the discussion on “development of India” that took place between the participants.
On the way to Ruinsara Tal
Hut near Ruinsara Tal
Day 5: Ruinsara Tal - Odari
This day was an easy and a short walk. We started at 0800 hrs. Our initial walk was through dense vegetation. I was scared of snake bite, but then Rahul told me that snakes and leeches don’t survive above 10000 ft. After hearing this, I became tension free because we were at around 12,200 ft. Then, we descended through a valley near Ruinsara Tal and crossed a bridge over the Supin River and then climbed through a steep trail. After climbing this steep section, we came across a small meadow from where we could see snowcapped peaks and glaciers. After crossing the meadow, the vegetation started vanishing. We reached Odari at 1200 hrs. There were some small water streams around that provided water for us. The place hosts a naturally formed rock cave and that is why the name of this campsite is Odari. Word ‘Odari’ means a cave. According to the locals, it was this place where Bali (a character in Hindu Mythology) stayed for one night before crossing the Bali pass. For us, it was a perfect place for bon fire. After lunch, our trek leader gave us the learning sessions which were quite interesting and helpful. In the sessions we learned how to rope up, how to ascend and descend properly, how to tie different knots, etc. In the evening we had our first glimpse of magnificent peaks of Swargarohini 1 & 2. The peaks were really beautiful as we were not able to get our eyes off! Since there was no vegetation, we did not find woods for the fire. Thanks to the porters, who explored the nearby place and brought some woods, we did a small bonfire inside the cave and played antakshri (our national group activity). Locals sang their mountain songs (thando re thando), other members sang Kishore Kumar songs and then we finished it with our national anthem. It was an amazing feeling! Singing the national anthem @ 4065 m at a place where there was nobody except us.
Before this trek, many people had told me that in mountains, the sky looks stunning during the night. One can even observe the core of the Milky Way galaxy. So I was curious to see the sky that night. In the evening it rained but, by God’s grace, the sky turned clear and we got mesmerized with the view. The vast expanse of sky was dotted with millions of stars and the color was also little different. Rahul also taught me how to find direction by observing the stars.
A bridge over Supin near Ruinsara Tal
Campsite Odari, Swargarohini peaks in the backdrop
Day 6: Odari - Basecamp
Initially, it seemed an easy day as our trek leader described the terrain. When we started, then we got to know that now our real trek has started. The trail was quite steep, almost 60 degree incline was there. We walked over a mountain ridge that was full of scree and loose stones, with both sides having a downfall of more than 150 ft. The walk was tiring but it was thrilling at the same time. We covered each Km in around 1 hour 15 minutes. At 1300 Hrs, we reached our campsite. Today we gained significant height because base camp was situated at an altitude of 4678 m. After reaching there, we were all happy because we had a misunderstanding that we had already crossed the most difficult part of the trek. Then, the guide corrected us by saying "yeh toh sirf trailer tha main picture toh ab hai". We all started feeling thrilled after hearing this dialogue. After the lunch, we sat outside the tents and started waiting for the sun to get some vitamin D and suddenly it started snowing there. The temperature dipped several degrees below zero. We were shivering due to cold. I also started feeling headache. I thought it could be a symptom of AMS. So I talked to Rahul (trek leader) and explained my condition, he advised me to go for an uphill walk so that I can get acclimatized by gaining a bit more altitude and losing the same. I followed the same steps and started feeling better. Next day was the most critical, so we all walked for half an hour.
Whole team at Odari
Day 7: Basecamp - lower Dhamni via Bali Pass.
Woke up at 0500 hrs and started our trek to Bali Pass at 0600 hrs. This was the most important day because we had to cross the pass. Initially, we had to climb 2000 ft and then we had to descend 5000 ft through a strenuous terrain. The trail up to the pass was full of snow and it was also quite steep, but still there was no need of roping up, our micro spikes were more than enough. It took around 2.5 hours to reach the pass. After reaching the pass, it was seeming like we were on a mountain peak. The pass was only around 10 ft wide and 30 ft long. We saw Swargarohini & Banderpooch massifs, Yamunotri valley and the complete Garhwal range including Nag Tibba. The view was breathtakingly beautiful. After a small photo session, Navtej took out the Indian flag and raised it. Raising Indian flag at 4950 meters was the best patriotic feeling that I ever had in my life. Then, we started descending and with the descent the climax started. The terrain was almost vertical, through scree and loose stones. Due to this terrain, the descent became quite difficult and risky. We had to keep a certain gap in between each trekker to avoid injury. Though we faced several challenges but we all successfully descended. Then, we took a small break at Upper Dhamni for rest. After crossing this leg, we had to descend through a downhill meadow. It was not as difficult as the previous one, but due to uneven surface I fell several times and my ankle got twisted thrice. Thanks to the first aid kit which helped me in vanishing the leg pain. Then, we came across a path that was literally a goat path. The path was just 6 inches wide and was irregular. To make the matters worse, there was wet sand on the path, making it slippery. We were trying to take some support from the small loose plants on the trail but as you can understand it was not helping much. On one side of the path there was a mountain wall and a 200 ft deep valley on the other. Somehow we crossed this leg full of obstacles. To cross this leg, mental strength is a must, weak heartened would definitely faint! It took us around 6 hours to reach the campsite, lower dhamni. The campsite was in the forest. Since it was our last night in the camps we did bonfire till midnight and discussed about mountain ghosts and had loads of fun.
On the way to Bali Pass
At Bali Pass
Day 8: Lower Dhamni - Jaan Ki Chatti via Yamnotri
This was the last and the easiest day. The initial route to Yamunotri was irregular. After 2 km, the forest route converted into a cemented path. The distance from Lower Dhamni to Yamunotri was 4.5 km. We reached Yamunotri in around 1.5 hours. We took a bath in the Sulphur hot water springs. It was fun and relaxing. The hot water took away all our pain in legs. After all this, we did Darshan and left for jaan Ki chatti. Jaan ki chatti was 5 km from Yamunotri. At jaan Ki chatti, we did our lunch and stayed in the hotel.
Day 9: Jaan Ki chatti - Dehradun
We left the place at 9 am and reached Dehradun by taxi in around 6 hours. At Dehradun, we also did a small after trek party and then we all left for our homes. Trip over.
I started with a doubt in my mind, whether I would be able to complete the trek or not but I attempted with full confidence and successfully completed it! I guess that is how life is, taking that first step is important for success and it is always scary before you begin! Overall trek was wonderful. Our trek guide continuously kept saying “it seems we all are blessed with the great weather” and he was right. Sunny mornings, clement rain in the afternoon and lucid sky in the night - it became a daily routine for us during the trek. Apart from this, the coordination between participants and the trek crew was amazing. Everyone enjoyed a lot. There were no chaos in our group. Awesome weather and healthy coordination are the two most important things, needed to make any trip unforgettable and now I can happily say - Yes we made it!