face off, kitties

Nothing in particular

After a really long hiatus, I am back. And i hope this time its for the good and i will write more often than I have in the past year or more.

There has been no reason to stop writing but many reasons to start again. And while I will not delve into details, some tidbits of the weekend that has me upbeat after a long time

— Watched 2 Kannada movies! yes, can you beat that.

— Walked the length of Cubbon park and clicked some amazing old tree pics. 

— Read couple of books and thought I could have written better than that. (yes yes and thats why i am writing this blog without any agenda ;-) 

— Recollected my last trek experience and it brought out a range of emotions in me  of joy, excitement, ambitions, will, peace and the realisation that you may have done all the hardwork and yet luck, divine intervention/destiny play an important role in life! and that's what got me back to writing. 

— Found a 7 year old pic and remembered the good times. Life has been so good afterall!

— After a long time, i came across the beautiful lyrics of Azaadiyan from Udaan. 

सुबह की किरनों को रोकें, जो सलाखें है कहाँ

जो खयालों पे पहरे डाले वो आँखें है कहाँ 

पर खुलने की देरी है परिंदे उड़ के 

चूमेंगे आसमां आसमां आसमां...

And it has me happy.

And before the exuberance ebbs out, signing off!

face off, kitties

Everest Base Camp Trek - Part 2

Contd. For part 1: https://srao.livejournal.com/127880.html
The tea house in Periche was cosy and had a large spacious lunch room. They also had a sun-room which combined as the bakery. We were the only occupants for the day and hence had the whole place to ourselves. We watched the docu-movie on Everest ascent by Peter Hillary there. There was no internet connection unless you buy the everest-link, which we decided to skip. Found out via the book i was reading on Kindle, that the tea house we stayed in was where the US President visited long back in 1980s. Quite a cool, fact!

Periche to Dingboche and back
The next morning was a rest day. Just outside of the tea-house there was a memorial built for the Everesters who lost their lives in pursuit of the summit.
We decided to go to the other side of the mountains towards the left of our tea-house - Dingboche to see the magnificent views of Ama Dablam and also catch Island Peak. After lazing around, we climbed up the zig zag path up. With the thin air, the path seemed tough even without the bag on the back! From the top, we could see Ama Dablam and the Periche valley in its entirety. Towards the left was Nagarjuna peak.. One could also go to Chukkung, Dablam base camp or Island peak base camp from here. We decided to cross over and go to Dingboche. Dingboche is at a slightly higher altitude as compared to Periche. However many trekkers choose to go to Dingboche for better acclimatization.. and also its less windier than in Periche. The wind howls in Periche due to the mountains and valleys.. whereas Dinboche is calmer. Also there are many options of tea houses as compared to Periche. We walked the entire length of Dingboche and settled for a small place where we had tea and cake. We met Lakpa Sherpa here who has summited Everest multiple times and once also teamed up with Baba (the para glider) and glided his way back to Shyangboche and then kayaked all the way through Bay of Bengal.

After this brief meeting, we went our way up towards Nagarjuna mountain. Up and above until we got beautiful shots of Ama Dablam and then decided to come down and go the other way to Periche. On our way down to Periche, we met the campers - Berliner and French, who had come up for acclimatisation. They had a very bad headache and all symptoms of AMS. I suggested they should have Diamox and since Divya and I had enough between us, we gave them some from our kit. Since this was the first time I had suggested it on real patients, I suggested they should read up on it (to prevent being beaten up for wrong suggestions ;-)). Later found out, it did make them feel better. I am glad the prescription helped.

Later that afternoon, the weather changed drastically. The weather always turned gloomy, windy, bitter cold after 2 pm and I thought this was no different. However it snowed. The temperature dropped sub zero and it turned darker by the minute. A young lad Julian walked into the tea-house and the owners turned on the documentary for him. We watched it a second time with him. We found out that he was a good soccer player, had come in with few friends who had gone on their way to cross a pass and then go to Labouche; whereas due to a bad knee he had chosen to take rest and go to Labouche directly.

Periche to Dughla
After a not-so-good-night's sleep, we woke up early to be greeted by snow everywhere. It was good enough to be tread over. so we started our trek to Dughla. The plan was to go to Dughla and even up to Labouche if the weather and our fitness permitted. It was way too sunny and I found it exhausting to walk though the altitude gain was hardly anything. With snow everywhere, there was no way to keep down the bags and rest anywhere. With the snow reflecting the sun, it was a very tiring walk. I could see folks come down the other side from Dingboche. It was extremely tiring and when I saw first signs of Dughla, i was excited. By the time I reached Dughla, i was half-dead, but few mins break there, i was already feeling better. Nevertheless I decided that Divya & I should stop there and go to Labouche the next day for better acclimatisation. Also post lunch, the weather always changed.

After lunch, Olivia and I went up a bit to get a feel of the upward climb and also clicked an amazing pic, which feels surreal each time i look at it now. I came back down to continue reading my Kindle book. The others played Bluff with the group from Taiwan. By now i had made up my mind to leave some stuff behind and carry atleast 2 kgs lesser so that I had a better experience going forward. The thought of a lighter bag made me sleep better.

Dughla to Labouche
Early next morning, I threw some stuff outside into a carry bag. So did Divya. With the backpack lighter by couple of kgs, we felt more energetic. The way up though turned out to be more daunting. The sun was harsher than I had anticipated. The wind made it impossible to breathe and I panted with every step i took. Olivia, Divya and I took break at one point and did Surya Namaskar. I felt a little better after that. We further climbed up the straight ascent to reach the end of the firm ascent. Many folks were resting here. Admiring the beautiful chortans and the view the place offered of the path below from Dughla. I waited until i felt that I could breathe again. Read some of the inscriptions on the chortan and started my way ahead. The path went down a few feet and then was a steady walk upto Labouche. However at the altitude and even a 8kg bag, i was exhausted. Julian walked past me and commented that I was way too slow. But i was happy. I had made it to Labouche. Nearly there.

Post lunch, we went up to get beautiful views of Nuptse. It was biting cold, so we didn't venture too much up.. instead Olivia and I went up on the opposite side and perched up on some rocks until we decided to come back down. We went to an exotic coffee place and had coffee in stylish glasses with stirrers with fancy ladies at their tips! Take that for being at nearly 4800m above MSL!

We had a lazy evening at Labouche reading books, talking before the sun set in and we had a good dinner before heading to our rooms.

Labouche to Gorakshep
THe next morning, Divya fell sick and decided to not take the route ahead. Olivia decided to take a different trek route. Sachin and I were the only ones left for the Gorakshep trek. We went ahead, albeit late after all the morning happenings. I was dead slow to begin with. Also the guilt of leaving behind Divya was too heavy upon my mind and i thought of turning back after every 50m. It was quite a flat path up for an hour but the wind and sun combined with altitude made it very difficult. And then the real ascent offered the first climbing challenge for the day. I figured i was much better at the climb compared to the walk. Or maybe, the morning thoughts had washed away and now I was in better shape. But this was not it. After this there were 4 more small mountains to ascend and it drained me totally. I stopped after every 50m to take in breath and drink water/chocolates. The Khumbu glacier and moraines towards the right were menacing to look at. One mis-step while admiringly peering at them could make me roll down right into them ;-)

To EBC and back to Gorakshep
Finally at around 11:55 a.m. we had reached Gorak Shep. Having left Divya down, unwell, we decided to complete EBC immediately. We had a quick lunch and started for EBC at 12:45 pm. Even without the bags, it was a struggle. The path was not as steep as it was tedious. We walked and walked and walked.. literally. When I first saw the small yellow tents with the Khumbutse in the background, I was awed, thrilled and sighed a relief. There it was! But then even after the first spotting, it took us nearly 1.5 hrs to actually reach there. We met Julian when we were around an hour away, who excitedly told us about his trip to EBC and told us that all this struggle was to click a pic with a stone with 2017 inscribed on it. I half made up my mind to walk back with him :) But then decided to go on.

We finally reached, clicked pics. Lingtren, Kuhbutse, Changtse, Nutpse and most importantly Khumbu glaciers. This is just the beginning for the summitters. It marked an end of my destination for this time atleast. The feeling of relief swept across me. I had done it. I didn't think it was possible to begin with and there i was. I was all teary-eyed behind my ever-useful-to-hide-tears-but-good-for-nothing sunglasses.

But i was way too exhausted now. Sachin and I decided to eat a protein bar before we headed back. It was getting dark and the evening weather weighed heavily on my mind. We nearly ran all our way back to Gorak Shep and reached around 5:30 p.m. By then we were tired. No, that's an understatement. We didn't think we would see tomorrow! that's how exhausted we were. After a quick check that Divya was alright, we had dinner and went to our rooms to sleep.

To Kalapathar
The next morning was Kalapathar. I woke up early at 5:30 a.m. and started at 6:15 a.m. I went up alone because Sachin wasn't feeling good.

I had packed 1 protein bar, Snickers and water. I hadn't had my breakfast and that was the most stupid thing i have ever done as I would find out few mins into the ascent..

to be continued..
face off, kitties

Everest Base Camp Trek - Part 1

5 years back in May when I left for Sarkundi, I didn't give a 5% chance that I would go beyond the first day. I had trekked in Sahyadris but not enough to really withstand a long trek, altitude and the backpack on 'my' back carrying all the essentials. My doctor who signed my medical certificate was also very skeptical and signed it only after my dad coaxed him into doing it. Yes, my dad did believe, I could. Or maybe he wanted me to figure it out myself, if I could.

And so when I completed Sarkundi, I was all pumped up. I posted, next on my list is Sarpass, Rohtang, Everest Basecamp and many more. I would always remember and think how outrageous it had been to put EBC on that list.

EBC, Really!?

Since a year though it was again on my mind. I was running out of time I felt. I needed to do it before I was too old to attempt. yes you might wonder am I too old in my 30s? Don't know whether it was the grey hair that would suddenly pop up and remind me of my age or the digestion which keeps getting weaker by the year reminding I can't eat all that I want or the tiredness that hits me often, which kept egging me to atleast 'try' it.. After my Hampta pass trek, i was sure I was 'ready' for it. Not physically, but mentally. It no longer bothered how strong I was on a trek, how fast/slow I was. All that mattered to me was that I was still in the fray, enjoying my treks. I hit 35 last Oct and I knew it was now or never. I seeded the idea with Divya and she was up for it. She convinced me to not join a group and do the trek on our own. We were anyway of no porter policy, but this time we added no guide policy as well. A lot of blog reading followed and we just booked our tickets to Kathmandu. Sachin and Olivia joined us later.

Divya and I are quick on deciding but not so active on planning front. Once the tickets were booked, we kind of laxed and just let time take its course. One week before the trek, we were still not ready with the preps. Having had to step out for a office trip, I hadn't even attempted to prepare. One of my friends told me 3-6 months training was required; another dear friend who has trekked with me in the past told me it was time I atleast walked long distances in preparation. My co-trekkers asked me if i was ready with the backpack stuff. And well, zilch.

I just managed to pack my bag in between my office schedule and catch the flight to Kathmandu.

Landing at Kathmandu was similar to what I feel on landing in Pune airport - like a bus stand. And the fun began!

To begin with, though we knew that Indians didn't need anything not even a visa to get into Nepal, we were unsure after we landed as to where should we go to! The crowd with us was mostly western and they all rushed to kiosks and counters for on-arrival visa. We eventually figured, we just had to go to the counter and get our passports stamped! Olivia got her on-arrival visa and then off we were (not before some bargaining) to Thamel.

Our hotel, Kathmandu Garden, was a quaint place and I rather liked it for its simplicity, good spread, friendly desk-manager, a small book library where you could borrow or lend and how folks gathered to chat about their experiences. The next morning we decided to get our TIMS card and then shop. Shopping in Thamel is an overwhelming experience - trinkets, colorful shirts, harem pants, restaurants, trekking gear - colorful, (pseudo) branded yet great quality stuff, spoilt for choices, you name it and you get etc etc. Well, we had a field day gathering all the last minute stuff we wanted. Bargaining. Buying. Wondering where we would fit in our bags. What would we throw out to accommodate this new thing we have purchased and so on.

Finally we were back to our rooms and did the final packing. After a lot of struggle which involved a lot of sweat and tears to push stuff in, throw stuff out, find the optimal way to pack a bag, we were finally set. Our bags weighed 10 kg each at the minimum and this was without the water bottles already 3 kgs more than what I had thought of.

The next morning we had our flight to Lukla which was delayed by two hours atleast. I had read so much about the Lukla flight but then it turned out to be a dud. Neither was I awed by the hilly ranges we were flying over nor were there any jitters on landing.. Finally all 4 of us made it to Lukla.

Phakding to Lukla:
We started the trek at around 2 pm to Phakding. We were a little worried if we would reach Phakding in time to get accommodation in tea house. The walk initially was an easy one but it turned out to be long unwinding given the time of the day and we hadn't had lunch. Having just eaten some bakharwadi, jalebi we had started out. The heavy backpack started telling on me. After around 2 hrs 20 mins of walk, we reached Ghat and though its just 2 kms from there, I was dead tired and all I could think of was throwing away the backpack. As soon as we touched Phakding outskirts, I stopped at the first nice tea-house that I set my eyes upon. More than the worry of not getting accommodation, the need to throw away the backpack had overpowered me to stop there. Fortunately it turned out be a very comfortable and beautifully located tea-house with good meals. After a short break, we decided to go further in to Phakding to see the village and the way for the next day. Divya clicked pics of several kids. Olivia played soccer with small kids and I was bullied by kids into giving them a 'manual' merry-go-round ;-) In all we had a good time before we went back to our tea house for our dinner.

Phakding to Namche:
The next day we had decided to set out early but by the time we started it was 8 am. There were several tea-houses on the way out of phakding and though I could see folks setting out, it seemed like many had already started out earlier than us. Our first big mountain view was of Thamserku (that's the only spot where I have a good pic of me!) After nearly 1.5 hours from the time we started from Pkahding, we reached Benkar where we stopped at a beautiful tea-shop which overlooked the mountains - Thamserku specifically and cherry blossom trees. After having a round of tea, we moved ahead. After quite some time we reached Chumao where we were asked for our TIMS. The person there said we were still 20 mins away from Monjo - which disappointed me. I had looked into the maps and it meant that we were almost nearing lunch time and were yet quite far from our destination. We stopped at Monjo for lunch and it took nearly an hour there. After that longish break we started off to Jorsale. Just before Jaorsale, we were stopped to pay the Sagarmatha Park entry fees.

Crossed the tea-houses in Jorsale and most of them looked empty/deserted - an indication that folks had left the place long back. We were running late. One of the guides we met at Monjo had indicated that we were atleast 3 hrs away from the destination but added - ofcourse you are young and can make it. I was quite optimistic. But as we started the ascent after Jorsale, my enthusiasm had fizzled out. I was tired hauling myself with the 11 kg bag. I was nearly out of breath, when we saw the beautiful bridge that connected two mountains which were atleast 250m apart due to the Kosi rivers that were flowing beneath. This is where Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi meet - marking the confluence. Crossing this particular bridge is a defining moment - windy, beautiful, picturesque and it gives you that 'feel' that the real trek begins now. And it did. The climb from here is steep, winding and just doesn't end. We met few fellow trekkers enroute who were campers and were completely on their own for food/stay! Impressed with their goal, we continued. The upward climb just didn't seem to end. I contemplated leaving my bag and coming back for it the next day. But better sense prevailed and i trudged along. Finally, I spotted Namche from between the trees. It looked beautiful. But it was still a good 15-20 mins away! Another flight of stairs and tea-houses welcomed us. While Olivia, Sachin moved ahead, I decided to stop for tea. It was 6 pm and I was amongst the last few to have reached Namche for the day. I had been sweating/breathing heavily all along and now sitting there to a beautiful view, I started getting cold. With the trees thicket on one side, to the mountains on the other and deep valley right in front of me - it felt perfect to my tired self. After the refreshing tea, Divya and I started off the last lap to Namche Bazaar. By the time we reached the tea-house which was scouted by Sachin, we were tired, cold and could barely move. I have never felt more tired.

The rest day:
The next day was the rest day (thankfully). Namche, is the most happening place on the EBC trail. Bustling with trekkers, trekking gears, branded goods shops, restaurants, bars, bakery, coffee shops - you name it and its there. It is commercial and yet has this charm of being the trek-hub. It didn't feel like Nepal. The westerners and the western influence was evident in so many ways.

We went to the nearby monastery, the helipad and in general just spent the day doing nothing.
Under normal circumstances, I would have walked every inch of a place so beautiful. However,
I felt quite uneasy all day. I was sure it wasn't altitude sickness but indigestion that was causing the discomfort. A crocin and an hour's sleep made me feel better. But once out, I didn't feel so good even wandering around or climbing the few steps. I wondered how I would feel the next day though.

Namche to Tengboche:
The next morning, we woke up early to leave for Tengboche. Well, we were still late as compared to others in the tea-house. The steps just behind the tea-house where we were, snarled up to the exit of Namche. I was surprised to see the rush. Not that I didn't anticipate considering the crowd I had seen the day before. But yet when you see the same folks with backpacks in front of you, its quite a different thing. Also there were large groups which were setting out (unlike the 4 of us - we were on our own). I envied everyone who had a smaller bag and seemed to climb with a spring in their step. I trudged. Right from step 1. I couldn't bear to think what awaited me. I stopped at regular intervals giving myself time and chance to breathe. I always drink quite less water on treks and this was no different. I needed more breathing time. We reached the spot where people breakout on alternate routes. Going a little ahead from there, the first glimpse of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam to the right welcomed us. When I first saw it, I couldn't believe it. I waited for a guide of another group confirm before I believed and clicked pics of it. But the picture is nothing compared to what I saw. I was so overjoyed that I could turn back from there having seen THE mountains! (the heavy backpack can make you go crazy at times). It was a steady walk from this point without much of an ascent for the next 20 mins which helped to get a good view, enjoy without being too breathless. And then began the descent to Lavasche..And then further down to Phunki Thenga. The last one being an absolute bummer. I read the height of Phunki Thenga and almost cried out. We were below Namche! So after nearly 3 hrs of ups and downs, we were 'down' as compared to where we had started from. The trek from Jorsale to Namche had already made me wary of post lunch trekking. In all my previous treks, I had learnt to keep the post lunch trek as lean as possible. Do all the tough work in the morning and keep just an hour or two post lunch. Hence the Jorsale to Namche trek had freaked me out even before we started and well the uphill journey had just killed me with a full stomach and a heavy backpack.

After a good sumptuous meal at Phunki Tenga, I was just about to have en encore of that feat. Yet another day where I trudged along. In parts, I was all alone. Everyone seemed to have disappeared above me. I took breaks often and had water, chocolates to give me the necessary energy to climb further. Folks older than me surpassed me. The one thing common among everyone who crossed me to go ahead was that they had lighter bags, had trekking poles and were fitter. Ofcourse, I attributed their success to the former 2 reasons. Fitness came third I told myself. No prep didn't mean a thing. It was this God-damn-bag that was hurting my ascent. I truly believed that! After long patch of trekking alone, I came across a group resting. I rested with them having found company after a long time. I stood up to go when they did so that I had company for the rest of the trail but they disappeared ahead of me in no-time, leaving me on my own. I waited for Divya to join at one point and dozed off. I must have got up in couple of mins, but now i was not sure if Divya was ahead of me or behind me. My ability to doze off just about anywhere just reached new heights with this literally! I walked ahead to find the clouds coming down and i was enveloped in clouds and mist which made me feel cold. The trees on both sides protected from the direct assault of the clouds. I spotted a beautiful bird ahead - which was the only one I did in the Sagarmatha national park!! Walking further ahead, I saw a stone with scriptures on it indicating the civilization wasn't far away. I sighed a relief. Though not as upward now, I was beginning to get tired of the patch. Finally I did reach Tengboche. The most beautiful place so far. But with clouds having descended there was no visibility and anything beyond 10 feet was not visible. We had a brief look around before settling in at the Gompa lodge. We got 2 rooms though they were not as comfy or special like the ones at Phakding or Namche. But nevertheless warm and awesome. Just having a bed to rest was enough for me. At night, the clouds cleared and the stars were visible. i could also see the mountains silhouettes. It was a beautiful night.
Olivia woke up early to see the Tengboche monastery. I was content seeing it from outside and took the extra hour sleep instead to wash away my tiredness.

Tengboche to Periche
From Tengboche we were headed to Periche. Most folks go to Dingboche. Periche is supposed to have been hit badly from the earthquake of 2015 and from then on, folks have preferred to go to Dingboche which is at a higher altitude and also the wind there is even whereas in Periche, which oversees a valley, has howling cold winds all night (and day). We, however, had Periche on our itinerary and I quite preferred it was at a lower altitude. I seemed to be taking longer to get used to the heavy backpack and I felt the lesser I had to climb, the better ;-)

From Tengboche we went downward to Dubuche. There is a nunnery at Dubuche. From Dubuche the walk to river was quite a pleasant one. On crossing the river the upward climb started and it was quite a sharp upward climb. Here for the first time I had gatorade and it upped my energy levels. I was quite surprised at the sharp uplift which made me climb the next few mins with ease until the energy wore off and I was again tired - hit by the cold wind and the ascent. Sachin and I stopped for a snack break renergizing ourselves before we ascended further.. and then downwards to Pangboche. Pangboche was a small stop where folks probably stopped only for tea. We had a quick round of tea before ascending to Shimor. The trek to Shimor was long but not tough. With the river flowing to our right, it was a near pleasant 20 degree upward walk. We had a good lunch break here and then ascended further. It was quite pleasant until the clouds started descending on us again. I figured anything after 1:30 pm in the mountains was a tedious business. Clouds and cold tend to suck the life out of you and you even a simple ascend becomes demanding thanks to the sudden drop of energy. There was a sudden 45 degree ascend of about 200 m. Everyone who were with me until then continued up easily whereas I had to wait and regain my composure. I took small steps at a time and reached up to be greeted by incessant winds hitting out on me. I would have been blown away had it not been for the heavy bag which weighed down everything including the wind. After a stop of 5 mins, we decided to go ahead further.. Thankfully, we were shown an easier route down towards a bridge which took us to the other side where Periche lay. From thereon it was just a 15 mins walk which we covered with great gutso having braved the wind, chill, clouds and the backpack! Periche is one place which left a lasting impression on me for multiple reasons...

To be continued..
face off, kitties

When did I read last?

Yes, that's for me. When did I read last?

Ever since I got this kindle, the reading has died down. It has to do with the fact that I am way too scared to handle, always forget to charge it and don't find it super comfortable like all do.

Anyway I digress.

One can read no matter where/what if there is intent.

And I have indeed lost the intent to read. Whether it is the kindle or the plain lack of interest in so many things I did earlier and don't find the time or spend time on, baffles me.

Movies, cycling, instagram, sleeping and work ofcourse has kept me busy.

So while I got bored of twitter, I caught on to instagram. I love the beautiful pics and I am mentally always making plans of where all I would visit in this life time (and yes I have plans ready for the next one.. and the next one too.. that long it is turning to be). So yes, virtual planning has kept me busy too.

And while on planning, I have a cool one coming up, waiting to be executed.

Getting back to the topic. This post is to remind me to get back to reading.

Any suggestions on what I can pick?
face off, kitties

Random thoughts of a lazy mind

(this was lying in my draft for more than 3 months now and I thought I had posted it! Posting it today)

Dear Life,

Hope you find this note of defiance in the right spirit. Nothing has gone quite right. You have been a pest, a tough one to avoid and a hurdle that's difficult to ignore or cross. Gone on and on when all i wanted a pause, rewind or even better just stop. However, its not my choice, how you meander. I have to go with the flow. Always. Isn't it.

But then i figured that i need to make most of what you give me. Like when zindagi throws lemons at you which are supposed to hit you on the head at the wrong inapt moment, take it heads on (literally) and then and well, throw it away. I don't think you want to make lemonade out of the squashed-on-your-head lemon. So with that as the ideology, decided to just take things as they come and discard what's not so favorable.

And well, there are ups and downs, meanders all along. All one can do is try different things. And just when you think you got it this time, there is another twist to the tale. Isn't life what happens to you when you are busy making other plans - Did I hear you say that? yes right.

But there are always those smiles and those small rays of hope which slowly make things alright. And before you know you have either accepted the meanders or they have straightened out.

Awaiting the new year let bygones be just so.
face off, kitties

Hampta Pass Trek

Yet another trek, yet another story, yet another experience.

I wanted to go for Great Lakes trek in Kashmir followed by a trip to Sonmarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Srinagar. But YHAI canceled the trek and i had to change my plans.

So the next option was to pick another trek. Hampta Pass it was to be. Read a little on it and it was mostly said it was a very simple trek and a route oft-traveled. I was amidst very busy work weeks coupled with fever and cold. I had apprehensions whether to really go for the trek or not! My dad had already made plans of going from Manali to Leh. The other option was to skip the trek and only go for the Manali -Leh leg.

After all the flipping, I finally decided to go for the trek.

I was supposed to fly on Monday afternoon flight. After a last minute rush to complete my work, i managed to leave home and catch the flight on time. Just before getting into the flight, Divya & I decided to eat a paneer roll.. only to find out later that we were flying Jet which serves food! Add to it, it was delicious noodles with veggies which I couldn't skip. After all that and some more drama at the airport, we reached Kashmere gate from where our bus was slated to leave. The wait there was agonizing with no signs of our bus. Finally it did arrive. The avomen tablet ensured that I slept like a log.. Missed the first sighting of the Beas - the river I am totally in love with. But as we entered Manali, i woke up to scout for the 15 miles basecamp. We got off at the bascamp a few 100m past the gate. The 100m is of significance, as we had Divya's cycle bundled up in a huge rectangular box (which she had carried from Pune till here!). Dev, a fellow trekker saw the 'damsels in distress' and helped us out. (Stopped a passerby on scooter and asked him to carry it!).

Finally we reached the basecamp and checked-in. It was quite sunny by the time we reached. After throwing our bags into the tents, we decided to step out. A short walk around the Beas and we came back for lunch; after that we decided to go to Manali town. This was my second visit and I really didn't care much abt it.. But the Mall Road and its beauty can't be missed - each time you visit the beautiful trees and mountains on the side are hard to miss and admired. After some road side shopping and walking around, we came back to the basecamp.

The next day was acclimatization. We made new friends. I could write a whole new post on it, but will skip for now. Acclimatization confirmed that i could trek. But it also confirmed there was something wrong with my digestive system. I vomited and felt sick after we were back (thrice that day). The paneer roll at Pune airport had upset my tummy more than I could admit a day before embarking on a trek! And then I even slipped and fell. It was raining all along and it didn't help. The tent was infested with insects and frogs, spiders, earthworms were all our guests. Well, I did sleep finally and the next morning, I was much better.

We started with a bus ride to a place around upper Manali. The views were breathtaking all along. Then started the trek. The first day is completely uphill and I haven't felt so drained out on the first day of the trek! Though I wasn't sick any more, i was exhausted with all the uphill climb. The drizzling all through made matters worse as the humidity was up almost all the time. We reached the lunch spot which was the most beautiful place ever! Yes, the exhaustion probably made me think so. but it was indeed beautiful.

After a quick lunch and some more getting to know fellow trekkers sessions, we started ahead. This was the last leg (and I walked with full gutso with all the lunch in my tummy) and we reached the next camp.

Can't put it in words the beauty of this place. I can never forget the beauty we were surrounded with as the fog wrapped us OR the sun rise the next morning. The golden rays pushing their way through the clouds only to make it look like a golden mass floating above the mountains is a sight to behold and i am one of the few lucky ones to have witnessed it.

We started out the next morning to the next destination.. It was a quite beautiful morning and having witnessed the sunrise, i was all the more bright and raring to go. Also had heard that the trek today wasn't uphill as it was the day earlier. The walk was a long winding one. We crossed a dam on the way and had a lot of chit chat with folks thanks to the lesser taxing path. That's one thing which is absolute need of treks - to mix a steady climb with a simple path - helps you to get back to breath and also get to know folks around. The first stop over for the day was a small tea shack. It was muddy everywhere due to the last night's rain so we couldn't find any place to sit. But throwing the heavy bags and having a cup of tea is always very relaxing. Also, what waited ahead was unknown then!

Just 2 mins ahead from the tea-shack and the real trek of the day beckoned. It was just too much off a slushy and slippery path and slightly uphill at that. Balancing required a lot of concentration and I don't remember much about the surroundings until the path ended and opened up to a beautiful green meadow like surroundings. With mountains on either side, river flowing by the side, the green bed of grass looked beautiful. Here we stopped for lunch and tea. The next leg of the trek was on the other side of the river. A simple walk across the fields and then we reached another beautiful river which we had to cross. The river was actually a waterfall from in between the mountains which in the rains had become swollen enough to become almost a river and flow beyond. The crossing over it, with water flowing beneath didnt look easy at all. Especially now it had started drizzling and the crossing was slightly slippery. Reached the other side! The tents were put up there amidst sludge. Divya was behind clicking pics and hadn't reached as yet. While waiting for Divya inside the tent, it started drizzling. Once she was back, we decided to walk upto the rocks behind the tents. We perched ourselves on the rock with the raincheaters on. As we sat there, it poured down further until we decided to come down to the tents. With sludge all around, mist due to rains and the sun setting in, there wasn't anything to do but call it a night.

The next morning started with rains. The kitchen helpers were late resulting into late breakfast and packed lunch. We eventually left an hour late from the designated time and started the trek. It was raining all through and the road was uphill. We had to cross multiple small waterfalls. A single wrong step can cost a lot and though at the end it is a great feeling, while trekking its just too arduous concentrating. Further up the heavy rains turned into a drizzle giving some respite. As we trekked higher, we had to cross a huge rocky patch which has water flowing from above - making it quite perilous. The oldest uncle in the group decided to cross it over first while we watched him with bated breath. I crossed over soon after that and was happy to have got done with it. There was more trekking that followed and I was really hungry by then awaiting the lunch spot. But it was not to be so. The 'attraction' of the day was crossing another huge waterfall which was flowing off a flat piece of rock and down into the valley. The rains had increased the intensity and the water was knee deep and super chilled. We formed a human chain and crossed it. The water was intensely numbing and the pain in the legs were unbearable to say the least. Needed a lot of massage before it felt better. We broke for lunch after this. Post lunch, i would have expected a shorter trek to the tents. But it was along one through a lot of sludge and also steep in places. Finally, we were at Balu ka Ghera.

I just love reaching the tents early as it gives plenty of time to explore the place. However with incessant rains at every camp, it was impossible to do anything 'fun'. Here aunty fell sick and most of the time after this was spent making her feel better. It didn't help any further that it was still drizzling all the time and the tent was amidst water and sludge with very sparse area where one could stand and stare at the vast beauty surrounding us. Again we had to sleep early.

The next morning was again a cold and wet one. This was the day we had to cross Hampta Pass. The trek was a long one through plains, rocks.. we were walking alongside the river most times. It seemed a nver ending one. We finally reached lunch point and by then i felt a mild headache. Felt like AMS was finally catching up. Found out that aunty had fallen quite ill on the way and without help she wouldn't make further. The team decided to walk along with her. The trek had now slowed down considerably. We rubbed her feet now and then and ensured she took few steps at a time and rested. More than an hour and we had just moved few feet further. The porters literally decided to take the matter into their own hands or their own backs! They carried her instead of nearly dragging her up. Due to the extremely slow walk up, many of the group were now feeling sick - exposed to the bitter cold and altitude. By the time we reached the Hampta pass top, most of us didn't feel the 'joy' of being there. We quickly shook up and clicked pics.. The beauty around us and the glaciers brought us back to senses and reminded us the purpose of this beautiful journey. It was a short stop there and we had to descend. The descent was steep, long and very painful on the legs. The tents could be seen far off and were like a spec in the vast land of nothingness. We climbed down the long winding rocky path and after what seemed like ages we finally reached the tent. Aunty had been brought down by the porters and she was already in the tent. She was feeling quite sick by the looks of her.

This place was Seagoru. There was a river flowing by the tents and there were mountains all sides.. The snow peaked caps played peakaboo with clouds and these were moments to behold and cherish. Unfortunately, with autny being sick, we couldn't enjoy much and soon we had to settle in and sleep. At night I woke up to aunty calling out divya for help. I woke up with a start and looked for my torch. She was complaining of nausea and all other symptoms which indicated AMS. I rushed out of the tent to call the camp leader. He woke up with a start and got off the tent and looked up and uttered 'look at the stars, such a beautiful night'. I was startled with the sudden observation given all that i could think of was aunty. But in hindsight I was witness to the beautiful night thanks to him. In all the mad rush i had forgotten to stop and enjoy the beauty around me. After waking up Murli for help to administer oxygen to aunty, i went and slept.

The next morning was super chilly and the last day of descent. Also, we had to cross a river. Yes, yet again. It was decided that aunty was to be taken on a stretcher as she had refused to stay back and also refused to walk. So be it!

The day started with crossing the river. This time the river was much much more painful although there was no scare of flowing away or being washed away in the valley with a wrong step. However, that was more than compensated with the chill that hit my bones and it took ages for me to feel okay thereafter. The downhill trek was a rather simple but long one. With aunty on a stretcher being carried by fellow trekkers, it turned out to be very strenuous for the boys. Once again missed out the scenery and the moments to stop and soak in. We reached the waiting bus quite late.. The route from Chatra to Manali was beautiful. Absolutely breathtaking views and enroute Rohtang, it's quite a paisa vasool route. Most of us were tired though. We finally reached the basecamp 15 miles. And thereon we parted to our respective 'next' destinations..

Manali - Led roadtrip with my parents awaited. Next post.
face off, kitties

Don't breathe...

Went into it thinking it's a horror movie. Which it wasn't. Came out terrified, though.

A very very well made movie with very few dialogues and tense moments which kept me on the edge. The number of times my hand muffled the scream and surprise are countless, perhaps.

Will not delve into details, but a must watch. Is just too beautiful how just visuals, sound effects can be used effectively to make an awesome thriller!