I prefer solitary treks. I prefer walking alone. That being said I prefer company of likeminded people who do understand that. The hampta-pass trek kind of underlines the fact that no matter how weird you are..there are likeminded weirdos. Starting on a tuesday afternoon where I had to run from office (changing from formals to trek pants and seeing the look on the secretary's face was well an enlightening expierance). That and the worn out backpack in place of the breifcase and trek boots in place of the shiny formals to complete the look...Maannnnn I am expecting some puzzled looks back at office on this tuesday! Metro ride to Civil lines and rendezvous at the corny sounding 'Majnu ka tila'(who keeps a name like that??). Majnu was a legend and here was a 'tila' named after him. Woww!! Its like naming a drain after Ghalib..Ghalib ka naala!! So much for naming hot spots. Pankazzz was waiting along with Gear-ish and a host of eager faces. We board the volvo to Kulu-Manali and I plug in my ipod(ok ok..its a sony walkman). Girish sits next to me and frankly I apprehensively ask him..so many girls? on a trek? I wonder why did you bring them along. Girls are frankly a pain on treks . They talk. And they have the weird habit of spoiling the silence of the moutains. I would have preferred a smaller group and preferably of expieranced guys who know when to shut up and listen to mountains...But such is life and Girish sheepishly assured me that it was a nice group and we will get along all fine. Yeah..I hope ! :( First accident of the night...! Darpan introduces himself and we get to talking about Delhi-Mumbai. Poor guy like me is a mumbai lover and is obviously isnt exactly in love with the 'city of djinns' . Our frustrations take on mind boggling dialectics as poor Girish and the 'delhi gang' cant fathom why are we so angry at Delhi. Although I have made a mental note to start 'liking delhi' ..I guess somethings just dont change. So we argue till we are tired and then like all democratically inclined Indians,go to sleep.
Second accident of the night... It starts raining . And its a selective rain on our Japanese import..Yachna. Clearely it was a Indo-Japanese conspiracy to trouble poor Yachna. On a more prosaic note , the AC ducts were leaking and Yachna madam just happened to be at the wrong place. Like every red blooded Delhi gal..Yachna gave a mouthfull to the driver and then explained to all of clearely and patiently that 'she isnt angry ..she is just setting things right'. We realise that its better to keep quiet and nod our heads rather than getting another sermon in Japanese(or in Punju).I tuck in my head and let the storm pass... Third accident of the night...We stop at a dhaba for dinner. Time for Priyanka madam to give a commentry on the hygiene and food of the michellin star dhaaba. She orders for a 'pheeki' chai. The Dhaaba has never heard of such abominative invention and instead hand her a cuppa of tea which was actually a substitute for kheer/rabdi. Priyanka blows her top. Doesnt have the desired effect on the waiter. So she resigns herself to her faith and sips it in mumbling to herself. Dinner over we huddle into the bus..and ride on. Its a beautiful morning when we wake up for tea at a small restaurant.
Normal mornings at mountains and its a normal start. Only thing that was funny was the faces of all the team members when they had just woken up. I find it funny that when a man wakes up its not abnormally an event but when women wake up in the morning they all look like they have just come through a storm. Its scary. But I keep my misogynist thoughts to myself.I have realised that freedom of expression aside...these are ideas that can get you killed in this day and age..and I love myself. We stop at Kullu to buy raincoats for some of the guys who had forgotten to buy it. Some guys take this opportunity to stuff themselves with burgers, chowmein and other 'modern food stuff' as they fear that this is their last 'civilised meal' befor the trek. We move into the trekker /sumo and move towards the starting point. The starting point is inside that of a reserve forest so we take permits. Then we get down at the ground zero to have some lunch and start. Tragedy strikes. My green waterbottle is missing. Now, for those who came in late..I love my green water bottle and I feel alone without it on the trek. I slip into severe depression. Wild grey clouds hover till Girish waves me bottle he had found in the bus. I am happy again.
We start the trek. Dennis and Priyanka are clearely well kitted up with thier swanky walking sticks while some of the newbies are in their stylish Puma gear. Of course some of the more well heeled had bought sun-hats and glares more suited to a day at the race course track than the trek. And it was a sight to see this motely group tentatively begin their walk. Shagun is clearely enjoying the trek and her running commentry and josh is kind of pumping up the group while Pranit and Rakesh are at a loss to understand exactly what is she so excited about. We come across interesting stuff like sheep getting sheared and a lot of amazing streams and rivulets. More interesting were some denizens of nature who were rather mundane when walking on dry land but developed amazing histrionics when it came to crossing small water puddles. Entertainment..pure entertainment. Speaking of entertainment...Salman's soul entered a teammate on the way and suddenly we had to oblige with shirtless hairy armpits related photo events...! Again ...entertainment..entertainment..entertainment.
Led by Panna our guide we reached 'Balu ka dera' and Darpan/Shagun start a rather philosphical discussion on the correct name ..'Baalu' or 'Bhalu'. Girish is brought out to solve the dead lock but it seems the cause is lost on him as he somehow logicalises that its 'Baalu' because clearely there are no 'Bhalus' in sight. Well we didnt get the 'Bhaalu' side of the story but we are too tired to care. Night falls and we are around the first and only campfire of the trek(no woods after that). A few of the first timers were a bit tired and of course a bit of fever from fatigue ..but they took in an early dinner and retired. Some of the night birds stayed up to chat away the night.That night we discovered the hidden gem of the group..Nishanth. Nishanth was a devotee and a true devotee. If Mahadev had an opening for that post of fav devotee, Nishanth would have made it by a long margin. We feel blessed in his company. Darpan and self get our 'respect-o-meter' out and recalibrate it to match Nishanth's talent. Speaking of talent ... Well..sometime else!! People get hostile !! A small acclimitsation trek to get ourselves fitted up and we are chomping our way through our mess tins..and off to slumberland. Next day morning starts with a challenge ..Finding the right stones. (those who found them will understand). This day trek is a bit tough and we cross two glaciers.
First timers did face some challenges but overcame them beautifully. Especially Yachna and Zeta who surprised us with their amazing 'can-do spirit'. We reach the Hampta Pass in afternoon and face the most anti-climactic moment of the trek. Now Hampta Pass is clearely not the edge of the world but its innocousness is almost self effacing. There are no signboards(aka Rohtang/Khardungla) and its a pass thats almost ashamed of itself. Rakesh lights a agarbatti..as is the custom and others eat away (as is the custom). Some photo sessions later the group bunches and then marches to Chatru. Its one of the most boring downhill treks ever. But it gives me ample time to draw/write and dance(I sometimes do that when I am alone and there is no one around)..its a beautiful feeling to sing out aloud in the wilderness..and I imagine myself to be Elvis/Rafi and Roger walters all rolled into one. Fortunately no one is there is to take note of my hidden talents ;)
We camp at Chatru and lets say we had a good time. Period. Next day we catch the bus to Chandrataal. Hero of the day is my FOLDER 10 of music player which alternatively irritates and entertains the team mates on their way. Chamdrataal is the smaller brother(or sister) of Pangong Tsao Lake but is more beautiful because 'Delhiwllas' seems to have missed it on their marauding ways. Amazing colours and space. I wanted to be there for atleast a day. But time was short and we utilised it for a Kingfisher Male model shoot. The pictures were a hit but after sometime the moral police and cold butted in and we had wrap it up and returned to the camp. That night was the best night of the trek. Yes it was. Thanks to Shagun,Nishant, Darpan, Girish and Wakil..and well..the 'OH' group. I guess I wont forget the night for a long time. Next day we tied up and rode the way back to civilisation. My takeaway: Solitude ki maa ki aankh. Enjoy !