Himachal Parikrama

Taken from my old blog, dated June 4, 2012


[For those who dont understand Hindi, Himachal is a state in the north of India and parikrama means circuitous trip]

So. Some of you may have noticed that I was out of the grid for the last 15-20 days. I was trekking in the Himachal 🙂 . This is an account of that whole trip… [Kindly forgive the hindsight-y digested account. Didnt have pen-paper to record live reactions.]

18 May
left from Nashik. AC chair car, nice reserved seats and all.
Met Mandar and Sharvari in Mumbai. Usual frantic last minute purchasing [camera, in this case] and we are off. Again nicely booked, reserved seats.

19 May
Delhi. Long haul to a place, where we had to keep Sharvari’s extra luggage. some rest, and off to see Swapnil. bus to manali at night.

20 May
Woke up [still in the bus] to see the Beas parallel to the road, completing a beautiful sunrise frame. Beas showed us the way right up to Kullu, and onwards to Babeli, that was our base camp. Mild excitement about the beautiful valley turns to OOOOH LA LA when we see our first snow covered peak from the road.
Once we get set up in the camp, rest of the day is off. We meet Naval uncle, one of the nicest people in our group [SK-26]. Later in the evening, me and Shar go off to explore Kullu. We meet Naval uncle there, and have a pleasant 7 km walk back to camp.
Food is superb

21 May
Early morning exercises leave everyone a little buzzed. Excrutiating and fun at the same time.
Acclimation walk. Much discussion about the difference between acclimation, acclimatisation and adaptation. Started meeting people. Kalyan has organised tent-14 into one group. We meet Ajinkya, also a Punekar. Naval uncle and I trade stories. Walk is over in a short time. Rest of the day is off, we decide to go to Kullu for more shopping after the orientation.
Kullu is a pleasant town. After coming back, SK-26 preps for camp fire. people sing and tell jokes. Hits are Mandars ghazal and Rishi uncle’s Saurkundi dhaam story.

22 May
Everyone is a bit bored, the schedule leaves us loads of free time. Today we just have the usual exercises and some rock climbing and rappelling. This is fun. Mandar becomes famous in the group by climbing many rocks. Later in camp, girls ask about the singer who can climb rocks.

23 May
D-Day. We move to higher camp. We bid adieu to the field director Mr Gogate [he won’t be there when we come back]. Our group has 48 guys and 3 girls. Unusual combination. Off to Patlikuhl to start the walk to the first camp, Segli.
The walk is pleasant, through thick pine forests. A bunch of locals walk with us, plying us with buttermilk, rhododendron juice and food at every rest point.
Camp is in a village, in an old wooden house. after settling in, we roam around a bit. Later, everyone chats up Ajay, the youngster who is the scion of the family who owns the house. He is a big audience guy and gets going very nicely. Later, he also sings at the camp fire.

a note on the groups : we begin noticing groups and people of SK-26 by now. there is a big Gujju group, a tent-14 group [mostly from NITs]  , a telugu group of four, our group of 4-5, an older people group of 5-6 and 2 groups of four from mumbai and nagpur each. The rest assort themselves. There is a group of Deaf-Mute guys, 3 of them. Expert trekkers, they regale us with jokes and in general have loads of fun.

24 May
Farewell to camp leader Manoj kumar as we move to higher camp Hora. a brief interlude to a water-fall is the only new thing. Walk is good, the peaks move closer. After settling in, me Mandar and Ajinkya venture upwards for a bit of exploration.

Camp is nice, our first without electricity.

25 May
Since there is no camp leader here, some enterprising people light a camp fire in the morning. Much fun and talking. Some people organise cricket. Around 10, we move. shortish walk, we reach Maylee. Nice camp on a slope with a view. Best camp leader yet [and overall too], Mr Jignesh welcomes us. Camp has nice rolling greens, nice place to sit and chat. Some play cricket, some of us chat. Akash shares his love of movies with me.

Camp Fire is highly energetic today, this is our last one. We sing Beatles songs out of tune, play garba and whatnot. much fun. After everyone sleeps, a few of us go to the guide’s tent and ask them to sing local songs. they regale us late into the night. Super songs, that we hum all the way down to Babeli.

26 May
I wake up early today. Decide to foray along the sides of the mountain we are on, to check out the view from the ridge that is just visible. It is deceptive, and I walk through fields and brambles and whatnot to the ridge, a long way across. Its worth the view.
Short climb today, but virtually vertical. First sight of snow, small patches just before Camp Dora. After camp, again we explore the top. We see our first view of the full Kullu-Manali valley. We can hear a faint roar as Beas rages below.
The walk down is a run. The terrain has unexpectedly gouged holes and this is our first adrenaline rush as we miss the holes by mere inches, running at full tilt. 
Dora has the best views so far.

27 May
Usual sunrise. Everyone preps for a long day, the longest so far. Even our lunch is just biscuits and Frooti, to avoid high altitude nausea.
We reach the top. Snow is ubiquitous now, though it doesn’t cover more than 50% of the land. We have left the tree-line far behind.
Guides change, we wait and play in the snow.
New guides lead us downwards.
            There are two slides. Long steep patches of snow, where you slide down on your bum. The first one is quite long, about 1 km. But people clog the lane, we cannot go down full speed. A few of us climb back half way [walking on snow is fun!] and come down again, no brakes. Super fun! The next slide is a small one, but very steep. This time we are all experts and we slide down nicely.
Camp is a bit ragged, and in a not-so-nice spot. But the food is ample and we are high on the euphoria of the slide.

28 May
Climb down to Lekhni is fun, but nothing new to look at. A few people make some excuses and climb down all the way, to go home early. We stay put and reach the beautiful bungalow at Lekhni. Here we eat a local steamed sandwich, siddu. A lively game of dumb charades sprouts up, much fun is had.

29 May
We amble down to Alu Ground, chatting all the way down. On the way, we eat the most exquisite strawberries ever seen by yours truly. they are selling small cup-full of berries, at 10 bucks a cup. we finish all the cups they have. The base camp is almost packed up as we reach Babeli, since we are one of the last groups. We have lunch and depart for rafting. Rafting is fun, but not out of this world. Everyone makes plans, departs. Fond farewells.
We plan to go to Srinagar via Pathankot. We change our plans midway and get down at Dharamsala in the night.

30 May
Short naps in the hotel room at Dharamsala refills out batteries. We set out to explore Mcleodganj. It is a nice little touristy place, with a high concentration of Tibetan refugees. We cannot decide on a plan of action till 6 pm as loads of alternate plans crop up. Finally, on the insistence of Shar’s parents, we decide to stay put in McLeod, and leave on the morrow. we go down to Dharamsala, get our bags up and spend the night in the most awesome guest house ever. No frills, it is nice a clean place, with open spaces and pleasant styling. We eat tibetan food at Hotel Tibet. Gyathuk with mutton momos. Gyathuk is a soup-like thing, a kind of tibetan ramen, with noodles meat and veggies. It is heavenly.

31 May

We get up and visit the temple of His Holiness The XIVth Dalai Lama. It is modern boxy structure, but it excudes charm and peace and quiet. The tibetan chants lend the place a spiritual aura.
We eat a HUGE breakfast at Jimmy’s italian kitchen. Off to Bhag-su Naag temple, the Kul-Daivat [Home God] of the Gurkha Regiment. It is a nice temple, chock-full with tourists. The Bhag-su Naag waterfall is long and nice.
We buy some yak and rabbit wool clothing from friends and family.
Lunch is at Tibet Kitchen. We eat bhutanese and tibetan food that leaves us smiling with joy. The food experience at McLeod has been awesome. Awesome.
Bus to Haridwar leaves from Dharamsala at 5 pm. Route is scenic, and we sleep as the sun goes down. Bus breaks down in the middle of the night and we spend a sweltering 45 minutes in the workshop of Uuna bus sand.

1 June

We wake up to the hustle and bustle of Haridwar. Uttarakhand is a big change from Himachal. We dont venture out from the bus stop at Haridwar. We somehow manage to get a bus to Rishikesh, an incomprehensible task at the chaotic bus stand. The bus is stuck on 3rd gear half way through, and we chug our way into a desolate Rishikesh bus stand.  We do not know that the stand is a little way out of the city proper, and the first look at Rishikesh is a bit surprising. We check into the nearest decent place. We are advised to take a 410 rupee rickshaw, that will show us all the sights of the nice little town.
We cross the Ganges via the Lakshman Jhula. Me and Mandar dip into the Ganga at a nice semi-isolated place. As we walk towards Ram Jhula, our way back, we start seeing the crowds that are expected at such a place of pilgrimage. We have tea/coffee in a hippy cafe, and walk back across the Ganga using the Ram Jhula to our rickshaw. He shows us some more sights. We go to the hotel and rush to the bus stand.
Here too, chaos reigns. Though we are in time, it seems the bus we had planned on using is already full. We catch the next one to Delhi.

2 June
We wake up as the bus pulls into Anand Vihar bus stand at Delhi. We make plans, and go to Mr Ganeshan’s place, where Sharvari has her bags. We eat some breakfast, take naps, say our goodbyes to Sharvari and leave around 2 to the railway station.
In the hustle and bustle of the last 2 days and the tons on conflicting instructions, We haven’t been able to book tickets back. We decide to rough it in the general compartment. The ticket person suggests Paschim express, we rush to New Delhi station to catch it. I cannot believe how full it is as it pulls into the station. We enter, somehow. Mandar goes left, I go right. We never see each other until we alight at Mumbai. I get to sit after a couple of hours, as some people get down. Once I sit, I get up only twice, momentarily to stretch my legs. No food, no bathroom breaks, nothing. We get down at Borivili, rush to mumbai central. Mandar gets me something to eat as I buy a ticket to Nashik.
Here, though there is a big crowd, I get to sit in the door. A breezy 4 hours is nothing compared to a sweltering 22 hours. at 8:30 pm, I step out of Indian Rail property after a total of 28 hours.

Weirdly, I am not tired at all.

The blue line is the valley. Saurkundi is just to the left of the line [near Patlikuhl]. 
Dharamsala is marked. Mcleodganj is about 10 km away, sitting pretty right on top of Dharamsala [on a mountain]
In the bottom right corner, you can probably see Rishikesh. 

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