I must concede that prior to coming to the coveted academy trekking was unheard of in my life. A couch potato, in letter and spirit, I was dewy eyed to see my name in Trek Group 2 trekking to Roopkund. The grapevine was ripe that it is the most difficult trek route with skull-strewn snow-clad mountains and sub-zero temperatures. I ran pillar to post to get my group changed. It was only then that my LBSNAA- experienced better half suggested me to talk to the concerned faculty. Needless to mention, I had a sleepless night only to rush to the Dy. Director Sir next morning for getting my group changed. But all in vain. Sir did not entertain the request. I even lobbied with fellow Officer Trainees to swap groups. It too was a futile attempt.
Two of our previous short treks had been called off. With little heart, I boarded the bus on Saturday hoping against hope that just like past two treks, the Himalayan trek too might meet the same fate! I was not that lucky this time.
Day one had little to offer as it was all about bus travel and endless pangs of motion sickness. The night stay was harsher- we stayed in an unkept motel. The upholstery made me sick. I quickly unpacked my first aid box, that was nearly the size of my sleeping bag, to swallow countless allergy pills. Perhaps I took the idiom “Prevention is better than cure” way too far. Thus, night one was done and dusted.
Next morning proved an eye-opening one, literally and otherwise. Our room was on the banks of river Pindar and I woke up to the guzzling of pristine river water.
The waves galloping at lightning speed and breaking at rocks were soothing to senses. I’d never woken up to a scenic delight like this. And this was the first time I smiled since seeing my name feature in trek group 2.
That day we trekked 13 kilometers to reach our next stop in a hamlet, namely Sithail. We stopped midway to gorge on Maggi, spelled unapologetically as Magie or Maggy everywhere. I was thrilled. Back at home, Maggi is equivalent to Satan- you can’t even name it, let alone eating it. But the thrill did not last long. Post Sithail, Maggi was all that I, as a vegetarian, was offered apart from the occasional veg fritters.
The next stop was Wan– a village abundant in riverine streams and flurry sheep. We stayed at a colonial time rest-house with signature wooden flooring and obsolete bonfire fittings. Vegetarians had luxury of choice here. We could devour on rajma and kadhi– a much appreciated change from bread and noodles.
Trekking up to Wan was anything but challenging. We had hired mules to share the “burden”- them carrying the physical, we carrying the mental. The route from Wan to bugyals was a steep uphill one of 12 kilometers. After 6 chocolates, 2 fruit juices and countless ounce of sweat, was the summit reached. I was the second last to reach but I’m confident the group leader stayed behind me to make me feel less miserable. Below are pictures from Bugyal:
The below hut was our toilet-
The temperature there was sub zero and in the picture below you see a puffed pack of wafer due to exceedingly low pressure.
However, two incidences marred the happy trek sojourn. Firstly, during our stay at Wan, the non-vegetarians ordered a meaty dinner delight. The forest official then got a braying lamb. It was butchered in front of us. The blood bath made me nauseated. I believe buying meat from an abattoir is not unethical but killing a living being is. The second incident was also a death but this time not a four-legged creature. One of trekker from a private company succumbed to injuries while trekking in Bedni Bugyal. I saw the fractured man, who was then alive, being carried away in air ambulance. The next day local newspapers printed the unfortunate news of his demise. It left a lump in the throat but also taught the lesson that nature forgives no mistake. You pay price for every slip and sometimes the price can be as high as your life!
In the picture below you see the air ambulance:
In sum, the trek was an enriching experience. I realised I was underestimating myself in physical stamina. I could complete all treks, except the last stretch that was conveniently made optional, and reported back hale and hearty. I pushed my limits. The team experience made me live the saying- alone you go faster but together you go farther. I might have become some shades darker, few pounds lighter but, as a person, certainly better. Bon jour!