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A Weekend Trek to Ilaka Got via Triund (McLeodganj)

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“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”            – Cesare Pavese

It’s been quite some time since I had made this trip, but couldn’t have shared the experience. As it is said, “it is never too late”. Last year(2016) when I was at Delhi for my internship, I had utlized 6/8 weekends in exploring the nearby places in and around Delhi. McLeoganj and trek to Ilaka Got via Triund was one of those six trips. The trip was for a span of only two days and it was a solo trip.

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Budget: INR 3500 (Including transport from New Delhi)

How to Reach:

A lot of buses ply to Dharmasala and McLeodganj from ISBT, Delhi. I boarded the Himachal State Transport(HRTC) Volvo AC Bus (these govt. Buses are indeed good !) around 6:15 PM on a Friday evening from ISBT, New Delhi. The ticket price was around INR 700 after applying some discount coupons on Paytm. I met Sam here who was sitting just by my side and was on a world tour. He was going to stay for a month at Mcleodganj and then had plans to explore the North-east region of India. He had just completed his studies and before going into a full-fledged business; he decided to explore the world. The benefit of solo travel is that you get to meet a lot of travellers like this and get to know their motivating story. The bus reached Dharmasala around 6AM and McLeodganj around 6:45 AM.

Trek to Ilaka Got via Triund:

Before setting out, I had carried out a preliminary research on the area and had contacted a tour operator who was organizing trek to Ilaka Got at a cost of INR 2500 per head. But I hadn’t booked any. When I got off at McLeodganj bus stop, I came across a board “Himalayan Treks” (just near the tea shop at McLeodganj bus stop). As it was early morning, there was noone except a local who was sleeping on a bench there. When I talked to him, I got to know that he was  a trek guide(Vijay – +91-7831804538) and he agreed to take me till Ilaka Got(including Food + Accommodation) for just INR 1500. But as I was the only person, he told to wait for some other trekkers till 10 AM and if noone woould turn up, then he agreed to take me only.

I walked towards the market and from there walked down a bit till I found a reasonable hotel. As it was a Saturday, the road was filled with school kids waiting for their pick up bus. A lot of hookers were asking for hotel stay on the way, but I preferred bargaining with the hotel directly and finally fixed a deal of 2 hr stay(for refreshments only) for just a price of INR 200. I took a quick snap and was ready for the exploration around 9 AM. The view from the hotel was refreshing and picturesque. The entire McLeodganj was basking in the golden ray of morning sun.

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I explored the market area, had breakfast and went to the guide around 10:30 AM. On the way, I came across this small, but beautiful temple which is situated within the market area.

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Unfortunately or fortunately, there wasn’t sign of any other trekker. So he agreed to take me alone. I had aimed for Indraahar pass(14765 feet) which was a 5-6 days trek. In two days, it was impossible to cover Indraahar pass. So I settled with Ilaka Got(11800 feet) which is also a 3 day trek. Had I had one more day, I would have gone for Indraahar Pass definitely.  I had to complete it in 2 days due to lack of time. The journey started at 11 AM.

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Drop off till the starting point of trek(Gunadevi Temple) was provided by the tour operator. I had kept all the unnecessary luggage at the tour operator office to increase my walking pace and had taken only the essential ones. The trek to Triund started around 11:30 AM. The path was passing through a thick jungle. The view was getting better with each step. A lot of fellow trekkers were on the same path, a few were just sitting on the lush green grass and were enjoying the picturesque beauty. The path is extremely well-marked and there is no chance of someone getting lost, in case someone is travelling alone. There weren’t much water sources on the way. After around one hour of trek, we reached Magicview cafe from where entire Dharmasala and Kangra valley was visible(including the cricket ground).

We took a short break and continued the journey. The route was filled with rhodendron trees. We reached at Triund(10,000 feet) around 2:15 PM. It started drizzling the moment we reached there. We rushed into one of the Maggie shops there and enjoyed our lunch. Hot Rajma-Chawal and pickle in that chilling weather was a bliss.

The sky got cleared in 15 mins and I went out and explored the vicinity. It was a long stretch of lush green field(bugyal) and the slight pour of rain had made the sky clear. A group of foreigners were playing guitar and enjoying the awesome weather to the fullest. A duo of Belgium beauty were relaxing on a piece of rock in awe of the gigantic snow-clad mountain standing in front of them. A few trekkers were setting up their tents. Tents are available on rent here. The higher you’ll go, the costlier the food will get. A bottle of water was INR 60 here and a plate of Maggie around INR 100.

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Though my heart was saying to stay for a little more time, the mind was against it. We had to reach Ilaka Got before the sun set. So with a heavy heart, we started for Ilaka got. After ascending for around 15 mins, I got a better view of Triund. It was believed that the entire Dharmasala town is built on a pond and any tectonic vibration may result in sinking of the town. Now there is also work in progress to connect a rope-way directly from McLeodganj till Triund. I was doing a two days’ trek in a day. And the path was mostly steep at the beginning. The guide was walking very fast as it was a daily routine for him, but for me it was getting difficult to keep pace with. On top of that, there was hardly any source of water on the way. After an hour of walk, I was so exhausted that I would have slept on the road given the chance. But the path was getting more scenic and greener.

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The last stretch was mostly flat. Then we came across another Maggie point. The shopkeeper seemed to be a friend of the guide. They started chit chatting and a laid down on those lush green grass. Clear blue sky was up above my head and snow-clad Dhauladhar mountain in front of me. The campsite of Ilaka got was visible from here, but there were still miles to go.

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We moved ahead. For the first time, I heard the sound of water stream; but it was way below. The half-rotten body of a horse was laying down below. The guide told that the horse got a heart attack two days back due to overburden of luggage. Once the campsite comes in sight, the distance seems to fade away. Finally, we reached the campsite around 5:30 PM and I took a sigh of relief.

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A group of trekkers were returning from Indraahar pass when we reached Ilaka got. They showed the pictures of Indraahar pass and it was tempting to pay a visit there; but I hardly had time. After a short break, I went out and explored the surrounding. There was still some snow by the side of the camp. There is  a cave named Lahesh cave around 1 hr away from Ilaka got, but the route is treacherous and filled with boulders. So I skipped exploring that as it would be difficult returning to Ilaka got in dark. Moreover, the path is extremely steep and I wasn’t in  a condition to climb till the cave after such a long trek. Once the sun went down the horizon, cold breeze and chillness got a grip over my body.

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But it was time for some fun. We were three there: the guide, the cook and myself. I took out two bottles of beer from my backpack that I had carried all this way for this auspicious moment. I put those into the snow beside the camp and we started to make a campfire. But the wind was so cold that it was hardly bearable to sit outside. So we made the campfire inside the dining tent, yeah not recommended. 15 mins was enough to chill the beers in those super chilled weather. I handed them one and made myself cosy beside the fire. After a while, they both started telling me folk stories of their community and of their locality. The talk went on across a time frame of past, present and future. After an hour or two, we finally decided to have dinner and went to bed. The sky out was crystal clear with millions of stars twinkling to the tune of the universe.

Next morning, I woke up around 7:30 AM, had breakfast and started our return journey. The return journey was pretty smooth and comfortable. We reached Gunadevi temple around 11:30am. The guide dropped me at McLeodganj market around 12 noon.  I had booked JAT MURI ROU Express (18110) from Pathankot railway station which was scheduled at 11;45 PM. Pathankot is the nearest railway station from McLeodganj which is around 90km away. So I decided to explore McLeodganj till evening.

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With my guide (Vijay) at Ilaka Got

Things to Do at Mcleodganj:

I fixed a deal with an auto driver to cover the top tourists places nearby within 4 hours for INR 500.

Church of St. John in Wilderness:

This spooky church is situated just a km away from the McLeodganj bus stop. The building is bit old and stands tall among tall trees. An evening visit to this place will surely tickle your adventurous appetite.

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Dal Lake:

This is not a big lake, but the ambience around the place is serene. You can take  a walk around the lake. There is a temple beside the lake.

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Dalai LamaTemple (Namgyal Monastery):

This is just a stone’s throw away from the market. The place is extremely peaceful and serene. You’ll get to see a lot of Tibetan monks here. Most of the people were engrossed in reading holy books and praying.

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Tibetan Museum:

This is just next to Dalai lama temple. The history of Mcleodganj and Tibet is well-documented here. You’ll get to know all the struggle and war these people have gone through in the past.

Naddi View point:

This is just a few km away from Mcleodganj city. The view of the Kanga valley from here is astounding. Some part of the trail of the trek was also visible from here.

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Bhagsu Waterfall:

Though I couldn’t visit this place due to lack of time and this is one of the top tourists spots at Mcleodganj.

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PC: Flickr / Anamika Baghel

Mcleodganj is an awesome place to get some fresh air from the hustle bustle and boredom of life. A lot of foreigners come and stay here for a month and more. The place is lively and refreshing. Hope I will have to pay another visit to this awesome place to complete the unfinished activity of Indraahar pass trek. See you soon Mcleodganj !

 


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Everest Base Camp Trek in 30 Photos !

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#01 The journey starts with a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.  The weather at Lukla is extremely unpredictable and volatile. I had to wait for four days to reach Lukla due to bad weather. Most of the aircrafts are 16 seater, you can literally watch the pilots controlling this complicated machinery  if sitting  at front row. It’s preferable to sit at left side to get a glance of the Himalayas. The thrill while landing at Lukla can’t be explained in words, but can only be experienced.

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#02 Lukla Tenzing – Hillary Airport (2860 m). Lukla is one of the most dangerous and deadliest airport in the world with a very short airstrip abruptly ending to the valleys.

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#03 Prayer wheels en-route Lukla – Phakding. You’ll come across a few small villages and chortans during this 3 hr journey.

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#04 A suspension bridge en-route Lukla-Phakding. There are total seven suspension bridges in EBC route.

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#05 Phakding (2651 m) First stop in EBC trek.

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#06 A small village en-route Phakding – Namche Bazaar. This is the toughest of all with steep ascent most of the route.

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#07 Lunch point ! EBC route is extremely commercialized with tea-houses, lodges and restaurants throughout the way. Dal-bhat is one of the most common food item. Wi-fi is available at most of these restaurants on chargeable basis.

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#08 After this point, there is steep ascent till Namche Bazaar. You need to move onto the next mountain through the upper suspension bridge. Crossing the bridge was an amazing experience in itself.

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#09 Namche Bazaar (3438 m), second stop in EBC trek. Most of the trekkers stay here one day for acclimatization.

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#10 First glimpse of Mt. Everest and Ama Dablam. Trekkers climb till Everest view lodge for a better view.

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#11 Namche Bazaar market. This is the last major market in EBC route. All trekking gears can be found here, but with a higher price tag.

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#12 A Chortan en-route Namche Bazaar – Tengbonche

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#13 The Split ! One to Gokyo-Ri and the other to Tengbonche. EBC through Gokyo-Ri is a more difficult, but scenic trek.

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#14 Tengbonche (3870 m), third stop in EBC trek. There is a monastery of Lord Rinpoche. To the right, there is a small hike to get a better view.

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#15 View from Tengbonche

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#16 Sun-set view of Ama Dablam(6812 m). Though it is around 2000m shorter than Mt. Everest, but it is lot more difficult to climb due to its steep ascent and treacherous trail.

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#17 The landscape takes a drastic change after Somaroi and the height of trees get reduced to shrubs. It looks like green patches.

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#18 A mesmerizing view en-route Tengbonche – Dingboche.

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#19 Dingboche (4360 m), fourth stop in EBC trek. Most trekkers stay here one day for acclimatization and either hike till Nagarjuna Peak or till Ama Dablam base camp.

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#20 Nagarjuna Peak (5088 m) This is a 2.5 hr hike from Dingboche. Ama dablam, Lhotse, Peak 38 can be seen from here.

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#21 View of Ama Dablam from Nagarjuna Peak.

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#22 Valley to the left (way to Pheriche) en-route Dingboche – Lobuche.

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#23 Lobuche (4940 m), fifth stop in EBC trek. Mt. Pumouri can be seen in the background.

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#24 Gorakshep (5170 m), the last stop in EBC trek. The no. of lodges is very limited here.

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#25 Kala pathar (5545 m), a 2 hr hike from Gorakshep. It’s around 700 ft higher in altitude than EBC. The route is extremely steep, rocky and windy. One can see the best view of Mt. Everest, EBC, Everest summit last trail, Lhotse and Mt. Pumouri from its peak on a clear sunny day.

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#26 View of Everest Base camp, Mt. Everest, Khumbu Glacier from Kala Patthar peak.

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#27 South-side view from Kala Patthar peak.

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#28 Everest Base Camp (5364 m), the Final Destination.

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#29 A close-look of Everest base camp and Khumbu glacier.

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#30 The prayer flags, the devotee and the mountain (EBC). Smell of accomplishment and sweetness of satisfaction was in the air.


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Everest Base Camp Trek: Living The Dream ! [ Part-II ]

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“I think that drive and mental strength are the factors that distinguish ordinary for extraordinary achievements. In competition, it is not the physically strongest climbers who win, but rather the mentally strongest.”   – Jibé Tribout

Click here to read the Part-I of the post if you haven’t yet.

Next morning when the golden ray of the sun kissed my forehead, I woke up to this magnificent view from the window.

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I ran outside to get a glance of the sunrise and the view out there left me spellbound. I stood there for quite some time and tried to soak this marvelous sight of nature to my heart’s content, watched the sun-ray slide down from the peak of the mountains slowly and gradually. It seemed like someone removing the blanket of darkness from the mountains. Tengboche is an excellent spot for some splendid photos of the mountains.

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Tengboche to Dingboche  (5 hr / 14,300 ft)  :

We set off for Dingboche around 8AM. There was a short, but steep descend at the start passing through a small jungle. The route was full of rhodendron trees.

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There were a couple of tiny villages on the way. We walked down till we came across the stream.The bridge was broken, but there was a temporary one.

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From that point, there was a small steep ascend and mostly flat-road after that. As we were moving slow, I was getting plenty of time to enjoy the scenic beauty on the way. We stopped at Somaroi for lunch. The landscape changed drastically after that, so did the height of the trees. It was shrubs all around the ground looking like green patches.

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The sky was clear enough to gift us some magnificent views on the way.

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Ama Dablam

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A porter-cum-kid taking rest. It was his first assignment with a 30+ Kg weight.

The sight of Ama Dablam was getting larger as we were approaching Dingboche. This stretch was the easiest of all. We reached Dingboche before we could know. We checked-into Everest Resort where we had a nice stay.

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Dingboche

The wind there was freezing cold. We were safe inside the wall of the resort, basking beside the heater in the dining hall. In the evening when I went out to take some sunset shots, my hands were trembling at such rate that I would have to take 3-4 clicks to get a stable shot. At night, cards was keeping us busy.

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Mt. Everest in clouds

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It was a full moon night !

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Next day was an acclimatization day. We were supposed to climb up a little bit and to come down. I like these acclimatization days more because you don’t have to slow your pace or wait. You can go at your own pace or may be faster; explore the most you can and then come back to the hotel. The guide had told us to go till the flag-post point, the route after that was tricky and treacherous. There was a peak named Nagarjuna peak (16,669 ft)up there; 2.5 hr of steep ascend in not so easy path. I had made up mind to try my best to reach the top, least would stop if the path would cross its safety-limit. I reached the flag post in an hour and moved ahead for the top.

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The First Stop !

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A trekker catching her breath with the view of the mountains

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The route got narrower, steep and bumpy. It was so steep that I would have to stop after every 15-20 steps to catch my breath. As I didn’t have day-pack, I hadn’t taken water-bottle with me. Luckily, I had some dry-fruits with me. That helped me a lot. After one more hour of climb, I was on the verge of breaking. The sight below was scarier, I would have to climb all the way down !

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Can you spot Dingboche here ? There was still 1 hr to climb.

Someone coming down told me that it’s just 30 mins more to the top and it’s worth it. So I continued. The last stretch was bit tricky with no clear route in sight. One needed to cross some large rocks, boulders and make way to reach the top. Once you reach there, the marvelous picturesque sight will make all your pain fade away.

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@ Nagarjuna Peak – 16,699 ft

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Ama Dablam view from Nagarjuna Peak (16,699 ft)

 I just sat there for a couple of minutes till I was full with this gorgeous and beautiful sight of nature. Descending is always easier, but more dangerous. It took me 1 hr to climb down that mighty mountain. I was literally running down. By the time, I hit ground it was around 1:30 PM and my knee was pleading before me to give it a break. Everyone already had his/her lunch when I reached hotel. I did some stretch-up and had my lunch. We were mostly surviving on Dal-Bhat. I tried so hard to stay awake in the afternoon, but the tiredness was so much that I couldn’t. There is also another alternative for day hiking at Dingboche: to Ama Dablam base camp.

As we had one day less, we had to make up for it anyhow. So next day, we planned to go to Gorakshep directly in-stead of Lobuche. But the issue was there was only one guide and he had to stay with the other group. Still we took the risk. “Great things in life never happen the easy way.”  We had only one thing in mind: to reach EBC.

Dingboche to Lobuche  ( 5 hr / 16,207 ft ):

So next morning, we(Swayam, Barsha & I ) left early for Gorakshep. The porter was with us, but he wasn’t much of help. He was a kid studying in 8th Std who could neither speak nor understand hindi or English. Just after moving for a short distance, Barsha felt ill. She was struggling from day-2, still she managed to reach this point; that was an achievement for a first time trekker itself. She told not to take risk and wait for us at Dingboche. It was a matter of one day only, we were scheduled to come back there next day itself. As there wasn’t any guide with us, so I also didn’t force her. Because in those unknown territory and hostile conditions, getting medical help in case of emergency would be uncertain and very difficult. Moreover, we were covering two days’ distance in one day. And if the illness was due to AMS, it could be fatal. So we sent her back to the hotel at Dingboche with the porter and we continued the journey.

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A view of the valley towards left

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Thukla

The initial stretch till Thukla was an easy one: long stretched, but  mostly flat green terrain. One could see the village Pheruche down to the left valley. We were moving fast as we had to reach Gorakshep anyhow. After an hour of walk, there came a stream just before Thukla. There was a small bridge to cross it. The water near the bridge was frozen and iced. From Thukla, there was a long steep ascend. Just the sight of that gave us Goosebumps. The wind was getting colder and unbearable.   The wind was so chilled that we had to look for big rocks and took shelter there in opposite direction of wind in between. The other route via Gokyo was visible from there. Group of trekkers were coming from that route. That was a longer, tougher but more scenic route. That route met this one at Lobuche. Once we passed the steep ascend, there was a little descend afterwards. That was the best descent I had ever come across, because that saved us from the super chilled wind. The path to Lobuche seemed like never ending. There was a flat stretch before Lobuche. After 3.5 hrs, we finally reached Lobuche. Just then the porter also joined us. We went to a hotel and had lunch. After a short rest, we set out for Gorakshep around 12 noon.

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Lobuche to Gorakshep ( 5 hr / 16,961 ft ) :

We were just at the edge of Lobuche that we saw a trekker who was returning from Gorakshep fell flat on ground. He must be in his 50s. He had lost his sense. We had some Glucose with us, that we offered the group attending him. Someone took out his jacket, two held upon his face to give him some shade. After around 5 mins, he regained back his senses and told that he had to kala pathar in the morning and was coming back directly. As Lobuche was just at a stone’s throw way, they carried him to a hotel and we moved on. The path was mostly flat, but the burning sun above and the super chilled wind were adding to the misery. After a 40-mins walk, there came a short but steep and tricky ascend. As the porter was going bit ahead, we missed the actual route and got stuck at the wrong one. A local returning that way helped us and showed us the path. The terrain had changed totally. No trees, no shrubs, but only stone and rocks all around; surrounded by mighty mountains both side. Then we got the glimpse of Khumbu glacier, one of the biggest in the world. There was hardly any energy left in the body, still we were pushing ourselves. Finally around 3 PM, we reached Gorakshep, our last stop.

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First glimpse of Gorakshep

It wasn’t the end of our misery, but the start. We were supposed to stay at Buddha Lodge. But as we reached late, the owner had sold the rooms to foreigners with some good money. As it’s the last stop, so very few hotels and lodges are there. There is scarcity of place most of the time. He offered us a tent to stay, but we hadn’t brought any sleeping bags with us. Finally, he allotted us a tiny room with two tiny beds and a broken window. The room was just big enough to fit two bodies in that. There wasn’t any electric bulb in that. We first approached the owner to change the room, but it only felt in deaf’s ear. We then tried contacting XLanc members to get another hotel, but all in vain. EBC was our priority, so we decided to adjust one night anyhow. It wasn’t that easy though. We had patched the broken window with tapes to prevent the chilled wind, but the room was so suffocating that we opened it. There was -25 deg C temperature outside with chilled wind. We slipped under the blanket and waited for the sunrise.

Gorakshep to Kala Pathar ( 4 hr / 18,200 ft) :

Next morning, we were supposed to go to EBC with the porter. We woke up around 5 AM, got freshened up, but the porter-guy was nowhere in sight. We looked for him everywhere, but only got disappointed. It was nearly 7AM, we couldn’t spare any more time. We were about to leave for EBC that a passer-by told it would be extremely cold at this early morning hour at EBC. So I thought of going to Kala Pathar first and then to EBC. But my friend was skeptical about going to Kala Pathar keeping in view the last day’s fainting scene. So I alone went. The look of the Kala Pathar route was scary. It was extremely steep and slippery. Though there wasn’t much wind at that time, but the temp was so low that even after wearing two gloves I felt like my hands will burst in cold. I was changing my hand holding trekking pole each 2 min and was tucking the other hand inside the jacket. After one hour of climb, I still was left with 90 mins of climb with no sight of the destination. I was in a dwindling situation whether to continue or to return back.  The returning trekkers were motivating me to make it till the top. After around another 15 mins of climb, I got the glimpse of the peak.

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Route to Kala Pathar peak with Mt. Pumouri in background

Only that one glimpse fueled my body and there was no turning back. I climbed up slowly and steadily and made it to the top in less than 1 hr. That last stretch went through boulders and big black rocks. Once I reached the top, the mesmerizing sight of surrounding mountains faded away all tiredness. The might Mt. Everest was right in my front. The Everest base camp and Everest glacier were also clearly visible from Kala Pathar. This was my highest point climbed so far, 18,200 ft. At back, Mt Pumouri was standing tall. At south-side, 3-4 small lakes with crystal blue water were visible. I was 360 degree surrounded by tall, mighty mountains.

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@ Kala Pathar – 18,200 ft

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View of Everest and Everest Base camp from Kala Pathar

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EBC & Everest Glacier view from Kala Pathar

It is moment like this that makes all pain, effort and fatigue worthwhile. I sat there for some time and tried to imprint each and every sight in my mind. In front of those gigantic mountains, the philosopher in me realized how small we are. Though I wanted to wait a little bit and to drink the sweet elixir of nature bit more, but I had “miles to go before I sleep.” In just 45 mins, I climbed down and reached Gorakshep around 9:45 AM.

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Gorakshep top-view

Swayam had already left for EBC by that time. Our guide had also arrived by then who informed me that the porter had left last evening only due to some emergency.  I quickly had my breakfast and started for EBC.

Gorakshep to EBC ( 3 hr / 17,600 ft) :

Around 10AM, I started my journey for the final lap. The road to EBC seemed like a cake walk after doing Kala Pathar. The path was mostly flat with little bit of ups and downs through rocks and boulders. But the body had started showing signs of tiredness and fatigue by then. After around 1 hour of walk, I got the glimpse of Everest Base Camp. With each further step, the sight got clearer. Towards right, there was this big glacier. Some party was going on at EBC, I could hear the loud music far before. That electric music helped  me walk those last few steps. Around 11:45 AM, I put my foot steps on the heavenly land of Everest Base camp.

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To the left, some party was on: dance, music and crowd. To the right, there were a lot of yellow tents pitched. And up above was this mighty mountain. I explored the base camp area in and out. Each 5 min, a helicopter was landing there with some luxurious tourists. The snow on the mountain was bit bluish and was dazzling in sun.

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 But it was nothing like Kala Pathar. One could see happiness and accomplishment in the face of the trekkers. Everyone was in a rejoice and cheerful mood. They were congratulating each other on the success of 11-days long trek. I started back my journey around 12:15 PM and reached Gorakshep around 1:45 PM. I had egg- fried-rice in lunch and immediately set out for Pheriche.

Gorakshep to Pheriche ( 6 hr / 14,100 ft ):  

This was the toughest day for me. Kala Pathar, Everest Base Camp and journey back till Pheriche, all in a single day ! That too without a guide 😀 There was another challenge in front of me: to reach Pheriche before it gets dark. The same route had taken around 7 hrs in fast pace from Dingboche while coming. It was already 2:25 PM, when I left Gorakshep. That means expected time of reach at Pheriche around 9:30 PM. In no way, I could afford that. I had to double the pace, but the body had already faced enough for the day. There wasn’t any alternative, but to make it happen. The initial 30 mins path was bit tricky, the rest I literally ran, jogged would be more appropriate though. I crossed Lobuche before 4PM and reached Thukla around 5:30 PM. I climbed down that last stretch before Thukla so hurriedly that my right ankle was almost worn out. But this much of progress gave me a feeling that I would make it to Pheriche before dark. After crossing the bridge, there were three roads: the middle one leading to Pheriche. I followed that only, but after a few meters ahead I had had to take right and had climbed all the way down. But I went straight as there wasn’t any route visible that way. So I was going towards Dingboche. Though I knew this, I thought there would be a way down to Pheriche as it was visible while we came that way. And there wasn’t a single passer-by to ask or verify. It was starting to get darker and fear was getting a grip over me. After walking for some time, I got the glimpse of Pheriche; but it was down in the valley. And no route was in sight to climb down till there. I was high, very high than Pheriche’s level. It was getting darker. Then suddenly, I saw someone coming on a horse, like a savior. He guided me a way to climb down that humongous height. In those prevailing darkness, I made my way to Pheriche before it was too dark. I stayed at White Yak Lodge. Barsha also had moved there by then. This was the best stay during the trek: with no crowd and over friendly hotel staffs.

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Flora & Fauna in EBC route

Pheriche to Namche Bazaar ( 6 hr / 11,280 ft ):

We left early next day, moved steadily to Tengboche. We had lunch there and moved to Namche Bazaar. As Barsha’s knees were in bad shape, we were moving very slowly. It was almost dark when we reached Namche. We checked into the same hotel

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Hotel Komal dining area

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Natural Set-up: Where the sun cooks a cup of tea for you !

Namche Bazaar to Lukhla ( 6 hr / 9,200 ft ):

Finally, here we were: last day of the trek. We followed the same rule: ”Slow & Steady”.  We reached Phakding around 2 PM, had lunch there and continued till Lukhla. The last stretch seemed like never ending. It got dark while we were still at a 40 mins distance from Lukhla. Barsha was in bad shape, hardly able to lift her leg.  In those darkness and gloomy forest, She literally limped, jumped, but never stopped and made her way to Lukhla. It was around 7:30PM when we reached Lukhla. The sight of first street lamp of Lukhla gave me more happiness that day than EBC or Kala Pathar. Next morning we flew back to Kathmandu.

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Lukhla Airport

It was truly a journey of a lifetime. Three days back to back flight cancellations, one day short in time, no guide support, knee injury: nothing could stop us in making it to EBC or Kala Pathar. We were destined to make this happen. It may sound like bragging, but it is well deserved. Each three of us had pushed his/her limits and had went through hell lot of obstacles and difficulties.

“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.”  -Sir Francis Younghusband

“Alok! You should go for Everest Base camp once, you’re good.” Prakash, a fellow trekker, a journalist by profession, had told me this during my first trek to Har ki Dun in 2015. I had laughed hard on him that day. And today it is history: done n dusted. Everest base camp through Gokyo-Ri route is also in my bucket list and only mountain knows when it will be echoed.

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Tips of the Trek:

  • Book Kathmandu to Lukhla flight in Tara Air either in first or second or third slot. After 12 noon, the weather at Lukhla is susceptible and more prone to change. Do NOT ever go for Sita Air.
  • Take TCell sim. Up above, Tcell has better coverage than Ncell though is bit costly. At EBC, both works that too with 3G. At Dingboche, you may get network at Nagarjuna peak.
  • Take some energy bars or dry fruits; but don’t add much of weight. Travel as light as possible.
  • Fix your lunch or dinner menu before leaving Lukhla, otherwise you’ll have to survive on Daal-Bhaat only throughout 11 days. Though there aren’t much options, but talk to your organizer & keep two-three alternatives handy.
  • Make sure hotel rooms are confirmed for Gorakshep well in advance.
  • The golden rule: Not to sleep in the evening and to do some stretch-out after a day’s trek.
  • If you’re new to trekking, do the insurance. It’ll cost around 1500 IC(Indian Currency) for 11 days.
  • Keep enough INR 100 rupees notes with you. INR 500 or 2000 rupee note will be difficult to exchange up there.
  • If you’re going in April or afterwards, you can skip the sleeping back. There will be enough blankets at tea-houses. This depends on weather also.
  • If you’re thinking of taking porter, take from Lukhla only. At higher the cost is more plus getting a porter is also uncertain.
  • Take some good quality gloves or make sure it’ll keep you warm in those chilly wind.
  • Go out once at night at Tengboche or Dingboche and enjoy the night sky. Up ahead i.e. at Lobuche or Gorakshep , it’ll get difficult due to extreme low temperature. Plan the trek keeping in view of moon’s status for better result.
  • There is a day-hike from Tengboche to a high spot from where you’ll get an excellent view: a bird’s eye view of the monestary with the mountains in the background. Apart from Nagarjuna peak, there is another alternative of day-hike to Ama dablam base camp from Dingboche.

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PS: I know the post was very long, but hope you had a good read. FYI it was just  half the story, the rest we’ll talk over a cup of coffee or a glass of beer 😀

All photos used here are clicked by me only. Some of the photos have been clicked without intimating the person in the photo. Write to tektriphy@gmail.com or info@tektriphy.com for any issue or suggestions.


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Everest Base Camp : The Dream of Every Trekker ! [Part – I]

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The times demand that we not settle for climbing ordinary mountains; we must hoist ourselves up and climb extraordinary ones. – David Gergren

This year has been legendary so far to quench the thirst of my eyes. In last two months, I had completed three International trips: a not-so luxurious but lot of activities based trip to Dubai- The city of Skyscrapers, a fascinating snow-filled trip to Bhutan- The city of Happiness and a toilsome and knee-jerking trekking trip to Nepal – The gateway to heaven. I’ll start with the last one. Not only because everything is fresh in my mind as it’s just got over, but also because this one demanded maximum effort both physically and mentally. Yeah… it’s trek to Everest Base Camp(EBC) and Kala Pathar.. an altitude of 18,600 feet !

EBC is in each trekker’s To-Do-List and so was mine. But I had planned to go for EBC  after 2-3 more high altitude treks. But they say, “You don’t decide, but the mountain calls for you”. And the mountain echoed… the best one in the lot this time.. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. I just grabbed the opportunity and started my preparation. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy one and I needed to work on my fitness. But I had only a week time after my convocation. That too I slept like a child. Now there is just three days left for the journey to start. Everything is settled, except one: fitness. I hadn’t started my fitness preparation till then. It was 7PM. I thought “Now or Never”;I put on my running shoes and went out. Started with a 2.5km running stretch, by third day it was 3.2km. Something is better than nothing. I packed my backpack making sure not to miss any essentials. I was going by road to Kathmandu. Puri to Howrah and then to Raxaul. After crossing the border at Raxaul-Birganj and then by bus to Kathmandu. Seems hectic, huh !! When you’ve budget constraints, you need to set your priorities clear: Comfort or Experience.

Kathmandu by Road:

Howrah to Raxaul : Train No 13043 :Howrah – Raxaul Express
Raxaul to Kathmandu : By Bus
PS: Best option is to catch a flight from Delhi

This time I was doing the trek with XLANC(An adventure club by XLRI students), not Indiahikes. So I was bit skeptical about it. Rahul was our ground coordinator. We were four members from XIMB: Swayam, Shaz, Barsha and Myself. We were given accommodation at Alobal1000 hostel. The atmosphere was very lively and happening at this hostel.

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Rooftop Restaurant of Alobar

Rahul briefed us about the trek and other essentials like porter, insurance, lodging, route , amenities etc. As I had prior high altitude trekking experience, I was selected as the Group Leader. We packed our backpack and went for a sound sleep. Here goes the itinerary.

Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu (1,350m/4,428ft) : before 3 pm
Day 02: Fly to Lukla, trek to Phakding (2,651m/8,700ft): 40 minutes flight, 3 hours trek
Day 03: Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3,438m/11,280 ft): 5 hours
Day 04: Acclimatization Day/Rest Day – Namche Bazaar
Day 05: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3,870m/12,694ft): 5 hours
Day 06: Tengboche to Dingboche (4,360 m/14,300 ft): 5 hours
Day 07:  Acclimatization Day/Rest Day – Dingboche
Day 08: Dingboche to Lobuche (4940 m/16,207 ft): 5hours
Day 09: Lobuche to Gorak Shep (5170 m/16,961ft), visit Everest Base Camp (5364 m/17,594 ft): 6 hours
Day 10: Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar (5,545m/18,192ft) to Dingboche (4,360 m/14,300 ft) 6 hours
Day 11:  Dingboche to Namche Bazaar (3,440m/11,280 ft): 6 hours
Day 12: Namche Bazaar to Lukla (2,800m/9,186ft): 6 hours
Day 13: Fly to Kathmandu in morning. Sightseeing (Buffer Day)
Day 14: Kathmandu: Sightseeing (Buffer Day). Possible Bungee Jumping (3rd highest in the world)
Day 15: Go back to India

EBCmap

EBC Route #1 (Source: TrekkingMart)

Next day, we had a flight to catch to Lukhla which is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable airport in the world.

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@Kathmandu Airport

 We checked-in to Kathmandu domestic airport, but after waiting for around 2 hrs, we got to know that it had started raining at Lukhla. All flights to Lukhla got cancelled that day. We waited till 3PM, but after no positive reply from airlines, we returned to Alobar. The same thing continued for next two days also: though sometime for weather, sometime for airlines’ irresponsibility. Most of the airlines to Lukhla are pvt. owned and they gives priority to foreigners(other than Indian) to get high value for ticket. They can do anything.. I mean anything. Sita Air was the worst airlines, seemed like a family run business :p On third day, we boarded the bus four times which was supposed to take us near the flight and got off due to sudden change in weather at Luklha. After three days of continuous cancellation, we didn’t have any buffer day left, on top of that we had one day short. Shaz backed out and went for Annapurna Base camp trek. But somewhere in my mind, it was still EBC. I wanted to give one last try, but we would have to make for this one day short as others had scheduled international flight to catch. I made myself clear, “Let’s split (as getting a single early flight for all was difficult and after noon the weather was keep on changing at Lukhla) and move to Lukhla in whatever way (1+1+1 or 2+1 or 1+2) possible. But whoever will reach there, there is no backing out. He/She’ll have to complete the trek or at least try his/her best.” Rest agreed on the plan. Next day, we splited and tried to get early flight to Lukhla. This was the fourth day. It’s Now or Never situation. Luckily, there was a vacancy for three and we all got in same flight. But we weren’t that lucky , were we ? There was some technical issue(hydraulic leak) in the flight and it got delayed. Finally Tara Air moved us to another plane and it took off. Finally, we were all in air, on our way to Lukhla. The flight landed at Lukhla after 45 mins and we all knew EBC was happening: this year and this time only. Nothing could come between us and EBC now.  The journey to Lukhla seemed way more difficult than journey to EBC!

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Finally, we landed at Lukhla 🙂

We had our lunch at Lukhla and got introduced to our guide Lakhpa. As we were already three days behind our schedule, so we got clubbed with the next batch who were from IIM-A. There were four of them: Sidharth, Nikhil, Preet & Pallavi. We waited for them. After around 3 hours, they finally landed at Lukhla. We started for Phakding once everyone was done with lunch.

Lukhla to Phakding (3 hour / 8700 ft):

We started around 3:30 PM from Lukhla. At the check-post, we entered our details and the belongings details and hit the road.

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The Group : XIMB + IIM-A !

The route was scenic and passed through a couple of villages; little bit of descend but easy going. Most of us were first time trekkers, so we were moving slow n steady. On the way, there were a few hanging bridges.

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One could see the tired, fatigued but accomplished souls returning to Lukhla on the way. It seemed like a very commercialized and structured route. There were coffee shops and refreshment corners throughout the route. And it was full of lodges, restaurants and tea-houses; mostly made up of wood. We reached Phakding before it was too dark around 6:40 PM.

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Phakding

After a short rest, we had our dinner – Sherpa Soup and went to our room. The water was freezing cold. One had to think thrice before even washing his/her face :p It was too early to sleep and to our surprise the other group had brought cards 😀 Sid taught us a new game that 6 can play at a time and the time just flew away.

Next morning, we had breakfast – Bread toast with Omelet and set out for Namche Bazaar.

Phakding to Naamche Bazaar (6 hour / 11,280 ft):

This was the toughest of all with ascend and steep climb most of the route. We started around 7:45 AM. There was a hanging bridge just at the start. After little bit of up and down and passing through a few villages, we reached the 2nd check-post.

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The first timers were having a tough time, but they were keeping pace with. To ease the load, a few decided to go for porter from Namche.  Porter normally charges 1500 NC/day (avg load 25 kg), but the higher you will go, the higher will be the charges : NC 2000/day from Naamche. So I told the guide to call a porter from down there Lukhla on base charge and he will get some extra for coming up till Naamche. This way, there will be some saving for those who were opting for porter. At around 12 noon, we reached our lunch point.

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The place was so refreshing and awesome for a break: at one side glimpse of gigantic mountains and just below  a stream with crystal clear bluish water flowing through lush greenery. After lunch, we moved by the side of stream for some distance.

We didn’t know that we yet had to face the steepest climb until we reached this point.

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Just the sight of hanging bridge up above is enough to get the fear a grip over your mind. We took a quick halt, gathered our energy and went for it. And after crossing the bridge, we were told that it’s just the start, another 3 hr of steep climb is up ahead. A few were on the verge of breaking, but they pulled themselves up and gave their best. The picturesque scenic sight was more than enough to reenergize and to motivate. After that steep ascend, there came a rest point where one could get the glimpse of Mt Everest for the first time. But we didn’t get any as that day it was cloudy.  We came across 3rd Check post after around 2 hour and finally reached Naamche around 6 PM. Yeah… too slow 😦 but this is bound to happen when someone starts trekking career with EBC ! If it’d have been that easy, everyone would have been doing. What I mean is though it wasn’t that difficult, it wasn’t that easy either. After such a toilsome episode, when we reached hotel, the rooms weren’t good and on top of that the owner was at his worst behavior. After much deliberation and a phone-call session of 1 hr with XLanc members, finally we shifted to another hotel: Hotel Komal, a good stay. Too much of cost cutting had been done by XLanc for which we had to pay the price: in both physically and mentally. We had our dinner with a cup of black tea and went to sleep.

Next day was an acclimatization day. We went to nearby Everest view point and clicked some pictures. Here we got the first glance of Everest:The mighty.  One can see a couple of peaks from there: Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Peak 38, Nuptse

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Naamche Bazaar

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First glance of Mt. Everest

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Museum

There was a museum there depicting the history of Everest trek and its flora and fauna. Then we climbed up a small ascend for a better view, spent some time there and came down.

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 We had our lunch and took a short rest( but No Sleep in daytime). In the evening, we explored nearby market area.

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Naamche Bazaar

Pubs, Cafes, bakeries:  one can find everything up there; just that your wallet will get lighter bit faster there. Tengboche was our next stop on route.

Namche to Tengboche (6 hour / 12,694 ft):

The initial trail was an easy one : concrete road and mostly flat. There were a few ‘Chortans’ on the way.

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After crossing AmaDablam restaurant, there came a split : one leading to Tengboche and the other to Gokyo route.

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Then there was a descend till the bridge and a sharp ascend from there. We were supposed to have lunch at Tengboche, but as were moving bit slow so it was already noon at the the bridge.

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We had our lunch there : Egg Fried Rice and moved ahead. There came the 4th and last check-post. The next stretch was bit tricky and steep. On top of that, the scorching heat of sun adding icing on top. There wasn’t any water-source till Tengboche except one which was just around 15 mins before Tengboche. The journey was like walk 20-30 steps, find a tree(some shade), catch your breath and move ahead. At around 2:40 PM, I reached Tengboche and the group being little behind. The view up there was marvelous. The sight did away with all the pain. I clicked some pics till other members reached there.

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We stayed at Trekkers’ Lodge just by the side of the monastery. After a short break, we paid a visit to the monastery. The atmosphere was awesome in there : peace, calm and serene.

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We watched the sunset till the last ray of sun vanished up in the sky. I got some good clicks also.

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In the evening, the temperature was below 0 deg C. Everyone piled up in the dining room where there was a heater. After we had our dinner, the other four had this plan of campfire, but the old way i.e. lighting fire by cracking stone to stone 😀 They had also brought FireStone that makes it easy to spark. But the weather was hostile, windy and cold. The tissues were getting wet too quick, even deo-spray didn’t help. After an hour of trial, finally we decided to go for the match-stick and the fire was on. It was bliss to get some heat in those freezing zero degree and cold wind. After absorbing some of the heat, I clicked some photos and we went to bed.

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Next day, we were scheduled to leave for Dingboche, our next stop.

This already has been a very long post. I’ll pen down the rest  in my next post. Stay tuned and keep travelling….

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Roopkund Trek – a tale of Myth, Mystery and Mesmerizing beauty

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‘Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.’ – Jack Kerouac

Finally got to post something worth after a long… long time. There are so many tales to be told…. Tales of last few months.. something cool n something hot. I’ll start with the best in the lot – The Roopkund Trek, yes to that mysterious lake up above 16000 feet.

The plan was set and ready to roll just after my internship location got confirmed. Two months of Internship at Delhi and then a finish with  trek to Roopkund. My last date of internship was 31st of may. I was supposed to go on 2nd June for the trek, then got to know that three of my friends have already booked on 5th June Slot. I liked my first trek with team Indiahikes. So had made up my mind to go with them this time also.  Registration was done, gears were ready, medical certificate was filled and it was time for some action.

After a sweaty summer at Delhi, it was time to shiver in the freezing cold of the Himalayas. I could hardly devote anytime for fitness, but I was walking around 7-10km on an average per day thanks to my internship. After a wonderful trip to Kasauli with my friends, the next one on the list was Roopkund trek. I boarded the Ranikhet Express on 4th June just before 5 mins of its departure time. No No ! I wasn’t sleeping, I was having some quality time at Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi. You know how hard it is to leave such a place early that too on a weekend ! But the mountain was calling. I had to leave, but not before 9:15 PM.

Train: Ranikhet Express [15013]

Departure Time: 10:30 PM (Delhi)

Arrival Time: 5:05 AM (Kathgodam)

Journey: From Old Delhi Railway Station to Kathgodam

Alternate: Bus from Kashmere Gate ISBT

Station to Base Camp:

The train arrived at Kathgodam right on time. Just after getting off the train, one could feel the soothing cool atmosphere.  Everyone gathered near the parking area and then started our journey to Lohajung- the base camp for the Roopkund trek.  There were 23 in the team.  Nine from Mumbai, three from Bangalore, four from Delhi, four from Odisha (Ashutosh, Jayanta, Satayu and me) , two from Kolkata (Satyenda & Amitda) and the legend – Chaurasiaji.  We came across Bhimtal Lake, Almora, Kausani on the route to Lohajung.

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Bhimtal Lake

It was a-11 hour journey to the base camp. The scene was getting more beautiful and the wind cooler as we were moving ahead. At around 5 PM, we- Vinam,Salil, Abhinav, Ankit & I reached the base camp. The rest were on their way as they started a bit late. They had to face a hailstorm and literally clear the road of stones and wood to move ahead. Everybody arrived at base camp by 7 PM. After the heavy pouring, the clouds got cleared and we got the glimpse of the mountain with a few feathers of rainbow.

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View from the Base Camp – Lohajung

We did with the formalities-medical certificate, undertaking and personal info etc. Jude was our trek leader . I also met Dushyant who was trek leader in my previous trek at HKD. Jude started with the team introduction and briefed us on various aspects of the trek- trek itinerary, etiquettes, medical tips, green trail etc. Four of the Indiahikes volunteers/interns – Srilaxmi, Nikshep, Komal, Sampada  also joined our batch. The next day’s schedule was 6-7-8 ; 6-Wake Up call, 7-Breakfast, 8-Trek start. We had dinner with mouthwatering hot Jalebis and went to sleep.

Base Camp to Ghaeroli Patal: [7,700 feet to 10,200 feet]

After a hearty breakfast of sandwich, boiled egg and milk with corn flakes, the much awaited journey started. We rode to Wan which was a 1-hour journey. Then the trek began. Kundan chacha was our local guide and Debendra Singh was sweeper- the person who stays at the back and makes sure no one is left behind. Kundan chacha worshipped at a temple which was just a stone’s throw away from the starting point and as per him that was the actual starting point of trek. There are so many stories and traditions attached with that temple.We were already told that the first day would be the toughest one, it actually was. There was a  ascent – a descent and a very steep ascent. There were a few tea shops on the way. After walking for an hour or so, we reached a water stream- Neelganga around 11 AM.

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Trekkers taking rest near Neelganga

Everybody refilled their water bottles and took some rest there. Nobody knew what was coming ahead – a steep ascent. That was really exhausting. The route was full of Oak and Rhododendron trees.  But when we saw the sight of the camp after climbing for more than one hour, that feeling was exhilarating. That was for the day. We had reached Ghaeroli Patal – 10,200 feet.

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Ghaeroli Patal Campsite

We did some stretching, then Jude briefed us about the campsite. The hot lunch was ready by then. We took a little rest after lunch. But ‘Sleeping’ was a strict NO ! We explored the nearby area. In the afternoon, we played 7-Up J  Yeah ! Jude and I won the game :p Tea-Soup-Dinner timing was 5:30-6:30-7:30. We went to sleep by 8 PM- the mountain timing. Due to exhaustion, everybody fell asleep within a few minutes.

Ghaeroli Patal to Bedni Bughyal: [10,200 feet to 11,700 feet]

Two of the most beautiful meadows of the Asia were on the card for the day- Ali Bughyal & Bedni Bughyal. 6-7-8 was the morning schedule. As each day, a group was coming; so the camps were kind of fixed. We didn’t have to untent the camp. That saved a little time and energy. But setting a tent and packing it is always fun for me. We moved through a thick forest and reached Ali Bughyal around 10 AM.

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View at Ali Bughyal

The greenery and splendid view of the sight left us spellbound. We clicked a few photos and enjoyed the scenic beauty. Then we moved to a tea shop, a few meters ahead; sat there for some time, enjoyed hot omelette. By that little time, Komal and Nikshep had climbed up another nearby meadow by then. After spending half an hour there, we moved ahead to Bedni Bughyal.

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The trail was mostly flat. Just before half a kilometer to the campsite, it started raining. Everybody put on their poncho and reached at campsite. After the usual briefing, we had our lunch and take some rest. Thanks to the rain, the sky got rid of the clouds and was all clear. We could clearly see a no of peaks from there – Kalidag, Nandagunti, Trishul, Neelkant, Bandarpuch, Charkhamba etc.

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We also played cricket there with the local boys. This was the best campsite and the atmosphere was also more of a balanced one.

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Bedni Bughyal Campsite

Bedni Bughyal to Pathar Nachauni: [11,700 feet to 13,000 feet]

“Gaaaeeezz! Wake up ! Tea is ready!” I woke up with this sweet voice. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was Komal. Anyway, I had already made up mind to skip tea and grab some more sleep. We started at 8 for Pathar Nachauni. Just after a few meters, we came across another temple. There was a dried pond nearby- Bednikund. Kundan-chacha explained us the mythical importance of the temple and the pond and we moved ahead. There was a little steep ascent after that. Then it was a gradual ascent. We reached campsite around 12 noon.

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Pathar Nachauni Campsite

The team was so energetic that we were arriving at our destinations much before the anticipated time. The sweet Nimbupani we got there at our arrival did away with all the tiredness. After lunch and  a small break, we went to collect plastics and polythene from a nearby dhaba. This was a part of Green trail of Indiahikes- to make the Himalayas better & cleaner. One could see a group of people looking for something in the ground there. They were looking for a valuable thing that is generated from a worm a few feet below the ground.  Pathar Nachauni was the windiest campsite I have ever seen. The wind was very strong, even capable of taking away the dining tent and cooking tent. The dinner was yummy and the kheer was delicious.

Pathar Nachauni to Bhagwabhasa: [13,000 feet – 14,600 feet]

Next day, we started from Pathar Nachauni.

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After climbing a bit from the campsite, we stopped near the dhaba area. That was the only area up 13,000+ feet where network was available. Even internet was also available in the mobile. Kundan chacha explained the mythical story behind Roopkund trek on the way. It was a long way. After walking for a few hours, we reached top of that trail. There was a temple of Lord Ganesh there – Kalu Vinayak temple.

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Kalu Vinayak Temple

After a little rest there, it was a bit of descent to the campsite. It started hailstorming on the way. The moment we reached the campsite, it was all clouds in the sky. Then it got cleared gradually and bestowed upon us the best view that it could.

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The technical team briefed us about the next day itinerary and trained us on how to use the clamp on and getters. One thing, they focused most- “Have confidence in your clamp ons!”. A few meters up above Roopkund lake, there is another point- Junargali. The technical team made us clear that if the weather would be clear, then they would take the call and only those would go, whom they would choose. That day, the dinner was the best in the lot; with Gulapjamun as sweet-dish. All packed their bags and went to bed early.

D-Day:

“It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks.” -the three rules of mountaineering

Finally, the D-day was here. 3-3:30-4 was the timing. We woke up at 3AM and started our journey for Roopkund at 4AM. It was all dark and the torch was the only savior. After a gradual ascent, there was a steep climb before ChidiaNag. On the way, we put on our clamp-ons before we hit the snowline. It was easy walk for some time then. Then just before Roopkund, the real challenge came. A real steep ascent with narrow snowy path. The technical team were motivating us excellently to climb up. After a struggle of 30 mins, we got the sight of Roopkund. That was the time, my time….. our time. The time of happiness, the time of accomplishment. I was about to click of the lake, Surinder pal(technical team) asked , “Do you want to go Junargali?” I said,”Hail ! Yeah” and followed him.

The route to Junargali was not that easy. First a steep climb on the snow for a few meters. The air was real thin there and body was getting tired real fast. After the steep climb, it got tricky. The path was so narrower and dangerous. At one side, the snow-clad mountain and at the other, there was nothing. One slip and you will be hundreds of meter below. The technical team made the path easier for us by setting up a rope. We held the rope in one hand and the trek-pole in the other. “Confidence on Clamp-Ons” that was what took us up there – 16,070 feet.  The view from there was magnificent.

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”

But we had got only 10 minutes up there. As the weather was unpredictable, so we had to reach below asap. We, 8 out of 26, made it to Junargali. Those 10 minutes was the worth the effort and enough to mesmerize my soul with splendid beauty of nature. Really, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”

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We climbed down from Junargali to Roopkund lake. Somebody great had said, “ Ascending is tough and painful, but descending is dangerous.” The technical team helped us a lot in a smooth descent. Then we reached Roopkund lake and took a tour of the lake. We were provided Aluparatha and pickle as breakfast.  After spending sometime there, it was time to descend.

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Roopkund Lake

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The descend was bit tricky for the most, but our Junargali expedition helped us a lot. A few slipped while descending, but it was fun. We reached the campsite around 11 AM, had our lunch and moved back to Pathar Nachauni. We made it there at around 2:30 PM and camped there for the night. The next day we came all the way back to Lohajung. We arrived at Wan around 4 PM and Lohajung around 5PM. Everybody got freshened up after six long days and the final briefing and experience sharing happened.

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The team that made it to Junargali

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The team at Roopkund

We took rest that night and set off for Kathgodam the next morning. The train was at 8:40 PM to Delhi. We had a sumptuous meal at a hotel and boarded the Ranikhet Express. Each one back to his/her daily schedule-Employee Life/Student Life. We learnt a lot in these 8 days, saw a lot, felt a lot and experienced a lot. Moreover,  everyone got a new family in those mountains.  The memories will remain fresh forever.

Sayonara! Till the next one.

Tips of the Post:

  1. Travel light and enjoy.
  2. Try Buran Juice and Lemon tea on the way to Lohajung.
  3. Explore the crystal clear stary skyline at Bedni Bughyal or Pathar Nachauni.
  4. ‘Water’ is the only medicine in those mountains.
  5. Airtel network connectivity is there near Ghaeroli Patal and Pathar Nachauni campsite. Vodafone till Bhagwabhasa campsite.

Links:

Roopkund Trek details.

Roopkund Trek – Flickr Photo Album


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Har ki Dun Trek- A Picturesque Route to Tranquility

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

This is the second post of my HKD Trek. To check the first post Click here Har Ki Dun Trek – Part I

“ Wake up ! Everybody WAKE UP !!” No, that wasn’t an alarm. That was Dushyant’s wake up call.It was the D-day. I slipped out of my sleeping bag and stretched up a little bit. Then I checked my watch and felt amazed at finding even the minute hand and hour hand stretching up at 1800 .Ofcourse the minute hand facing north and the hour hand facing south. I zipped out the camp and found Shravan, the local guide, standing just outside the camp with morning tea. That was the best luxury we had at those 10,000+ feet up there and in those freezing temperature.  Then I gulped down one full bottle of water. It was not the thirst, but the necessity of the body. There were a number of water streams near-by; but taking a bath was out of question. I couldn’t dare to change my clothes, forget about taking a bath. By 7AM, breakfast was ready: Poha, cake with honey, boiled egg and hot milk. The food was very delicious and yummy. All thanks to the Indiahikes cooking-team. We packed our lunch and got ready to touch the HKD summit.

The trekking line up was very systematic. Normally, there are two experienced people/guides at both end of the line: sweeper at the back, guide at the front. And the rest of the crew move in between so that there is least chance of being misled. Apart from this, one has to ensure that he/she can see the next person ahead of him/her and at the same time he/she must be within the visible range of the person behind him/her.

Kalkatiyadhaar to Har ki Dun:

Har ki dun campsite is a 4km journey from Kalkatiyadhaar, but time taking due to heavy ascend and presence of snow in the route. There was a stiff ascend just at the beginning of the journey. And when you are climbing with a 12kg backpack, the distance seems longer.  It’s moment like this when you get a feel of the gravity.

After climbing up for around 20 minutes, the view of HKD peak just got clearer. The route was so scenic that you’d feel like sitting there for some time and enjoying the beauty.

But time is a bitch and everybody has to obey its rule. After another 20 minutes of walk, there came another small waterfall. There was a small dhaba beside that. One thing that amazed me was that the dhabawala was keeping the cold-drinks dipped inside the water-stream to keep it chilled. A natural fridge. 🙂  There we filled up our water-bottles, took some photos and moved ahead.

A Shot I Longed for...

There was a small wooden bridge after that and a bit of ascending. After this ascend, the route was flat for next 2 km. Snow-covered white mountains at the right side , greener grass beneath and spotless blue sky up above. Then we entered into an area full of cherry-blossom trees. This looked like a red-blanket upon those green grass and white snows. If there is a dreamland, this is it.

Cherry Blossom Tree

After crossing this, I was at an open area. There was a big rock at the left. Sandeep, Shravan , Devesh were sitting there. This must be our lunch point. Though technically Shravan was showing us the path, but for most of the time Sandeep was ahead of him. We waited there for others. The next person to reach was Anandi followed by other menon family members. And at last the group of girls. The last person to reach was always fixed. There wasn’t any deviation in that position. It was always Jyothi. She was the tortoise of our group; slow and steady, but a winner. We had our lunch there. By the time, we were resuming the journey, it started raining like small tiny snow-balls. We put on our poncho and moved ahead. That poncho was giving a devil like ghost look.

After walking for a few minutes, we came across lots of snow. It was fresh and soft. That first step on the snow will always remain special. I was very careful while walking on the snow. Because one wrong step and bhussssh…. You are in deep snow till your knee or even waist. The trick is to step on a step-mark that somebody has already stepped in. After walking through those snow for 30 more minutes, I got a glimpse of the campsite. The location of the campsite was a marvelous one.

HKD Campsite

HKD Campsite

View from the HKD camp

View from HKD camp

The mules couldn’t move ahead. So the camp was set just at a 100m distance from the Har ki Dun site. Just when I reached the camp, it started snowing. I got into the camp and waited for others to reach. It was around 2:30 PM.

Everybody reached the camp in next 30 minutes and started playing. They were throwing snow-balls at each other. Shravan was catching the snowballs thrown at him and re-throwing at the same person.

In the mean time, Anandi and Angad created one master-piece of a snowman.

Supercool Snowman with its creators

Supercool Snowman with its creators

Tea and soup were ready by that time. Everybody enjoyed the hot cup of soup. We moved to the HKD point then which was just a 2-minute walk-away. We reached the point where HKD valley and Swargarohini 1,2 were clearly visible.

The Final Step to HKD

 

HKD Valley & Swargarohini Peak

 

Dushyant briefed on its history. Swargarohini is the same mountain from which Yudhisthir had climbed to Swarg. As per facts, no human has yet able to climb this peak. We took a few group photos and everybody returned.

The HKD Groupie

The HKD Groupie

Anandi & Jovina

But I, Angad & Sunayana planned to climb down to the HKD valley. But we can see a fierce rain coming our way. Though I hadn’t taken poncho, still I took a risk. But Shravan denied and talked us out of it. And it started snowing heavily, just when we reached the camp. There was nothing to do. So everybody gathered in the dining tent for some games. And Dumb charades began. It was fun. A few hot nos were “The shawshank Redemption”, “Pakija”, “Jajantrum Mumuntrum” etc. It was dinner time when the game finished. The atmosphere was getting cooler and cooler. I had my dinner, brought a bottle of hot water and slipped into my sleeping bag.

Next day , we started the journey a bit early as it was a to and fro journey. The destination was maninda lake. We had to make our own route as there weren’t any. And add to that it was all covered in snow. Prakash and Shravan were  making the way and we were following. The route was very treacherous, but scenic.

It felt like walking on a soft white blanket of snow.

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As I hadn’t carried any day-pack, so I was sharing with Sandeep. After walking for two hours through the snow, we came across a small pond like area. But nobody could believe it to be the Maninda lake. As the only person who already have been there was Shravan and he was far behind at that moment. There were hardly any footstep marks ahead of that. So everybody settled there and waited for the others to reach. I and Anirban moved ahead a bit to take some photos and then a little ahead and then a little more ahead.

We could see everybody sitting at the same position and resting.

We waited for 10 more minutes. Only one more living being joined us by that time. It was Fifi- the local dog who accompanied us the whole trek. There was a straight stretch of snow in front of us at least around 3 km. And at the end of the visible sight, we could see a turn of a valley. We thought of reaching that point or till we came across maninda lake. We  moved ahead and ahead. In between we were stopping by to click some photos.

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Then  we lost the sight of our trek-group. But we weren’t coming back. Then I remembered I had Sandeep’s bag with me. His watter bottle and other belongings were in it. I thought of returning, but with the same effort I could reach our marked destination. And once I returned back, I couldn’t come again this far. So finally we decided upon moving ahead till 11:30 AM, because then it’d take 3 more hours to return back assuming  a 25% increase in speed. We walked and walked and walked till we could. The snow was totally virgin-snow. There weren’t any mark of foot-steps. Totally pure white untouched snow. At one point, we found out that we couldn’t move ahead. There was not any trail or path beyond that. Not at least visible to us. The maninda taal was still out of our sight. So we sat there on a small stone, took out our refreshments: Orange and Biscuits. After having those, we regained some energy to walk back. And we started the return journey. After walking for 30 mins, we heard a sound. Anirban thought it was a wolf or something. We looked everywhere, but there was not any in sight. After walking around 30 more minutes, we came across Dushyant moving in our direction in search of us. Just the sight of him, charged me up. He told us that it was Badassu pass route and we had covered almost half of it. He also told that that small pond like thing was Maninda lake 😛

@Maninda Lake

 

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Had he been with us, then we could have marched ahead. But it was also the first time for him of coming this far. Then we returned back to the camp and reached at around 2:15 PM. Everybody was sleeping after having a hearty lunch. We had our lunch and got some rest.

In the evening, I, Anirban and Sam went to explore the HKD valley. We climbed down to the valley and went near the water-stream to take some photos.

HKD Valley

 

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After some time, I saw a rain moving in our direction. So packed up and returned. I was the only person who was not wearing any rain-coat or waterproof jacket. So literally I had to run till the campsite. Maggi was ready when I reached the camp. Add to that hot delicious soup with papad. Then I took some rest in the camp. At around 7PM, we had dinner and went to sleep.

Har Ki Dun to Puani Garaat via Kalkatiyadhaar :

The return journey started the next day. We started early as we had a long distance to cover i.e. around 11km. We passed through the same snow, meadows, water-streams and bridges. Descending was fun. “A cake-walk in a park”- as per Anandi. We had our lunch break at kalkatiyadhaar site and moved to Puani garaat via the other route. That is not through osla village, but through the other side of the river.

As this was a long distance walk, so everybody was spread up a bit. I was in the middle. At one point we had to climb down to the level of river and cross a bridge.

Shades of Nature

 

At that very moment, it started raining and wind was very heavy. I had to take out my poncho from the bag and put on. Till the time, I was ready to move ahead, there wasn’t anybody in my sight in the front. So I just kept on walking. I walked for 20 mins, but still nobody was in sight. I was bit afraid. Was I lost ? Then I saw a person in a poncho waving at me. I moved ahead and she was none other than Anupama. I was relieved. But the relief was temporary. Soon I got to know that she was in the same situation as I was. Were we both lost ? We kept on walking. After 15 minutes of walk, we came across Devesh resting under a tree. Now we were relieved. We walked till the Puani garaat camp site.

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But it was already occupied by another group. So we had to choose another spot. It was a blessing in disguise. We found a better spot just near the river. I got freshened up in the river and changed my clothes that I was wearing for last 3 days.

Puani Garaat Campsite

 

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Puani Garaat to Sanki via Taluka:

Puani Garaat to Taluka is a 13km journey and from taluka to Sankri a 12 km journey. We started early due to the long distance. The path was simple and soothing. It was a straight walk till taluka. A few snaps from the return journey…

Bholu

 

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Gangad Village

 

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That nap after Lunch

 

From taluka, we travelled by bolero till sankri and reached there in the evening.

Rooftop Journey to Sankri

Rooftop Journey to Sankri

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The Final Sun-Set of the Journey @ Sankri

 

After reaching sankri, I got a bucket of hot water from a nearby shop at the cost of 30 rupees and took a bath after 6 long days. In the evening, the briefing session was held where everybody shared their experience. Then there was a cake-cutting ceremony for successful completion of HKD trek. Later certificates were distributed to each one.

TrekLeaders.. Saranveer & Dushyant

 

The Group that Conquered HKD

 

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Everybody had dinner and went for a sound sleep in the coziness of soft bed after sleeping for 6 nights inside a sleeping bag.

In the morning, we started our journey to Dehradun. That was also a hail of a journey. The tire got punctured thrice on the way to Dehradun. Luckily, we reached on time. We went directly to Doon Darbaar :A must visit place for all the non-veg foodies.

The Heaven of a Non-Vegetarian

The Heaven of a Non-Vegetarian

Then I moved to Haridwar railway station from Dehradun railway station where I had to catch the train to Bhubaneswar.

It was  an experience of a life time.

Tips:

  • Try Rhododendrons’s juice at the local area. Rhododendron is a red color flower and is only available in some particular season.
  • Bring some chocolates with you to distribute to the local village children.
  • Bring some booze and save it for the return journey. You aren’t allowed to take those to the trek with you. Enjoy after coming back from the trek. At sankri, you won’t find anything.
  • The less you carry, the more you enjoy. So make sure to take only those with you that you can’t manage without.

 Awards of the Trek- (Unofficial, my personal view: fun intended 😛 )

  1. The Energetic Trekker- Sandeep
  2. The Tortoise of the Group- Jyothi
  3. The Backpack Trekker- Me 🙂  I was the only person in the group to complete the whole trek with my backpack.
  4. The Drama Queen- Jovina 😛
  5. The Best TrekLeader- Dushyant
  6. The Best Guide- Shravan
  7. The Man of Patience- Prakash

Signing off…. Till the next story…..  Adios Amigos  🙂

Photo Repository:

Click here to see my Flickr HKD Photo Album 

Info. Repository:

Click here for HKD Trek Details