Sunday, April 16, 2006

trekking...long time due

Chalti Jayegi, Chalti Jayegi… IIMI ki masti chalti jayegi
Lala la la lala la la …. Lala la la lala la la

The team:
Amol “Pahadi” Gupta
Ankit “Chindi” “CCC” Jain
Amit “SwacC””YO Meen” Singh
Saket “Lakha” “Snakeit””Tilu” Lakhotia
Saurabh “Bhai” “Dittu” Loomba
Srickant “Sri” Rajagopal

Famous one liners:

Amol: Yaar, mein to Pahadi hoon, ye sab mere liye normal hai ( referring to the cold)
Ankit: Bhai log…… ( yes, it continued throughout the trek)
Amit: Yaar raste ke liye kurkure vagaira le lete hai
Saket: Abe dekh loomba, Amol phirse has raha hai
Srickant: C’mon Amol, Amol: Yo baby

This was a trip that had been planned since the last 1.5 months, mainly by our pahadi bhai with inputs from sources all and sundry. Our group increased from 6 to 10 and finally settled down to 6 again with Shrey dropping out at the last moment. Me and Bhai asking for a tough as nails trek with the others trying to get a ‘reasonable’ trek in. Amol choose Shambu ji’s Yeti adventure based on the twin advantages of cost and flexibility. That was the beginning of his fame in the northern parts of India as “Gupta Ji”

I have the chronicles from the day the trek started but a few memories from the time we started off IIM Indore campus.

All of us except Loomba ( hehe, it was the beginning of the ‘exceptional’ Loomba) had already sent in our luggage but to be on the safe side Amol got us a taxi too. We left by the Intercity on the 3rd of March and reached Loomba’s place from Nizamuddin around 8 AM on the 4th. Loomba’s Mom greeted us with (forgot the name, round thing  ) and achar.

Saket: Mein ye kha nahin sakta yaar, mere moon ke chale hai. He continues eating half of the those on offer.

T V, Newspaper and a huge lunch later ( Rajma Chawal and Roti Sabji, due to the exceptional rajma the roti was given a rare go by) we set off to Haridwar( arrived at the station with just 10 min left ). We bought a lot of stuff that we felt would be useful on our trip including medicines, candles, torches, tissues, toilet paper et all, withdrew money, I got my shoes repaired etc in Delhi. We met Amol and his father at Haridwar station and 3 of us went by car and the other three by auto to BHEL guest house around 7 km from the Haridwar Railway station. Amazing rooms ( TV et all), great dinner (puri choley etc) and the next day we were off to Uttarkashi.
Saket and his fixation for “kitti” began en route to Delhi.
Amol’s mom also likes ‘kitty”
The junta spent the entire train journey to delhi by reading the year books end to end ( not to mention giving special comments to singla)
Puri,sabji was the dinner enroute to delhi ( the beginning of Saket’s mouth ulcers)
SwacC spent 4 hrs in Loomba’s house trying to figure out how to buy train tickets online =)) and Saket swears that “Agar mein uske saath ATM mein nahin hoto to sale ko naya system samajh mein bhi nahi aata aur who card nikalta hi nahin”
Haridwar: We reached Haridwar in the evening and the town seemed to have gone off to sleep. Amol’s father told us that the population would be around 20k and BHEL formed one of the important nodes of the city. The Har ki Paudi is outside the main city and seems to be pretty well maintained. The entire city is deeply religious ( no booze, little of movies etc). The place around the station was still bustling with activity.

5th: Amol’s mom had packed dry poha and sandwiches for the journey. Much of the journey was spent listening to the latest music in Sagar’s Tavera. ( The route to Uttarkashi was blocked in 2 directions) We reached uttarkashi at around 2-3 and met our guide. He seemed to be a decent chap and he made us stay at Hotel Bhandari ( 2 rooms at 250/ night) . We were to leave the next day and we were going to push him for a 6 day schedule instead of the planned 7 day one because we wanted to do white water rafting in rishikesh on the 12th. We ate at a restaurant ( hehe, 5 Rs off on listed price because we came through a contact), roti, alu jeera, dal, panneer et all. The guide asked us to rest for the night and said that he would meet us the next day with his team after making the necessary arrangements. We spent the rest of the day on the banks of the river ganges, making phone calls and making the necessary arrangements to take us away from civilization.
6th morning: We left after having bfast ( alu parathas) in a Mahindra vehicle ( remembering time and again that only Mahindra could survive in such a terrain), reached Hanuman Chatti with our team. Shambu, Anil Rawat, the cook, Budhi ( all staff), Dhiru, Suresh, Suresh, Jai Singh and 3 other porters.
Sangam Chatti: The starting point for most of the treks to the upper reaches of the mountains, the place is along stream of ganges with small shops serving snacks etc dotting it. A new tourist center of Nigam is coming up there. Donkeys and Bolero’s are galore there.
We leave Sangam Chatti at 12:53 PM. We have our rucksacks packed with stuff. ( All of us plan to buy the gear sooner or later). The rucksacks end up being pretty heavy :D. We take snaps of the map of our trip. We reach Nala Chatti by 2:06 PM. We need to cover only around 8 km for the first day and the steep climb is pretty good for our spirits. Shambuji was speaking about an alternate trek to Dayara mountain passes to witness the snow. We stop at Agora village and have tea there. Saket is hungry by the end of it and Amol is the ‘leader’
Asked for the first impressions of the trek to Vavra ( we reached at 4:10 )
Loomba: The fun is continuing and I hope it will last forever.
Amol: I feel close to god and Iam sitting in the lap of nature.
Ankit: Enduring and Enjoyable
Swac C: The best trip I have ever had
Loomba: Life couldn’t have been better ( You see Loomba cannot have the same number of quotes as others )
Saket: Much much more than I was expecting.
Vavra: Situated along the river Vavra is a very good place to camp at. As with most of the locations loo’s have been erected but the open spaces are more inviting ;). The bridge over the flowing water ( literally) and the higher camp site were fun for first time trekkers like us.
Dinner at Vavra consisted of Panneer mutter, dal chawal, roti. We were greeted by chai and biscuit enroute to Vavra by one of the porters.
7th Morning: The first of our all natural ‘hagga’ sessions. In spite of being a bunch of guys the average time it took to get out of camp was around 2 hours. Abe haath dhone wala soap kahan hai, muh dhone wala soap kahan hai et all. The fact that the girls “ Saket, Swac C and Loomba” spent 1.5 discussing which sides to sleep in the tent did not make matters any better.
We leave Vavra at 9:00
At 10:15 we encountered our first steep climb. We had asked for the shortcuts so as to reach dodital early and Shambuji was obliging. We stuffed our sleeping bags inside for fear of rain and needed ot rest constantly. Me Saket and Amol were having the worst of it with each stopping to encourage each other. You realize once you start walking that it is always you vs you. How far you can go on is purely dependent on yourself. Fuck the terrain. We reached Kachhori after 3 hours, it’s a point 8 km form base camp for the day. We see our first snow en route to Manji at 12:15.
Kachori: It is a point where normally a shop would have been there to cater to the tourists. But now in non-season there is nothing but sheds and we could just thank our stars that we went in non commercial time.

We reach Manjji at 12:45 and stop for an extended break and eat outdated stuff: parleg biscuit, nestle milky bar wafers, perk, priya gold biscuit and parle elaichi biscuit, the bill 250 bucks =))
Manji: Manji is situated at the summit of a near vertical trek and gives trekkers their first glimpse of snow. There is snow all around the place were tea was offered. Again during seasons the place must be full of dhabas etc but now the dead trees, the huts, the ice and the earth merged into one giving it a almost heavenly look. The trees provide excellent photography points.
At 1:15 all of us had an experience of our first snowfall. It was as if small molecules of thermocol was falling all over you. The pieces hit you and vapourized. We started skidding on the ice and and tried ot photograph ourselves doing so. Shambuji was getting restive with the snow as he felt the path would become hazardous. We left Manji at 1:35 and by 2:00 we were engulfed in full fledged snowfall. All of us had layers of snow on us. One of my biggest fantasies was to walk on a mountain in the snowfall and boy did it get fulfilled. The terrain became slippery.
The Demonstration Effect:
The slippery rocks meant that junta started falling like nine pins. Saket to his credit ( over Loomba ) fell the maximum number of times, he was showing us how not to fall. The cold was making the ice very hard and the trek became very tricky. Swac C had the first close call and the team had to hold him. Only Loomba had any grip on his shoes and the rest of us were betting on our ‘kismat’.
We reached a Shiv mandir enroute ( given by some Tata ) and the 8 KM was pure fun. The snow meant that we dint get too tired too. We managed to reach Dodital at 3:45 PM. It had taken us 6hours and 45 min to cover the distance of 14 KM.
Dodital: A small serene lake right out of my dreams. The lake was fed by water coming out of the melting snow and the water was continuously replenished. This was not the season for dodital and were the first team this year and hence we had near exclusive use of ‘nature’s cradle’. We spent around an hour hitting each other with snow, sliding over the snow taking naked photographs and setting up camp. The lake begins where the snow ends. It is like the dress of a female. Hehe you never know what begins where and where one is supposed to look. The excess water from the lake flows in the form of a small stream which is barricaded by rocks. The place is demarcated into various areas. Virgin hard snow everywhere.
Loomba ka fighting Chalta Rahega:
And then came the French woman and Loomba showed immense respect for the guest and sauntered off for a walk, much to the chagrin of Saket who was thinking about their van. What can you say “Dost Dost na raha, bhai bhai na raha” 
We went to check on the other side about what was on offer for us during the rest of the trip and the snow scared us into believing that we could not go ahead with the abysmal gear that we had. A slight scare with Marion’s ( the French Woman ) guide looking for her and me and Saket went ahead ot look for Loomba, who was too busy ‘fighting’
We had our fill on stunning Vegetable soup for the afternoon and dinner was alu , dal, fried rice, custard coffee ad roti. The first bonfire of the trip welcomed us after dinner. Kapde sukhalo, Shambuji ke bate suno, talk about anything you can remember.
8th morning: I began to sleep less ( mainly I think because my nose was completely blocked ) and ended up waking atleast an hr before the team. As always tea and biscuit welcomed us. All of us wake up and the next thing the whole team is trying ot catch a glimpse of the naked French woman.
Saket: Abe Ankit teri power kya hai?
Ankit: 3 in both eyes
Loomba: Meri bhi 3 hai. Actually its 3 in one eye and 3.25 in another.
Saket: Dekh Loomba, sala Amol phir se hans raha hai. Sale Amol tune to Loomba ka career single handedly khatam kar rakha hai.
10:45 Start to Dharwa Top with Shambhu, Budhi and Dhiru. We had alu parathas in the morning and had packed the same for lunch. We were told that the climb would be difficult. The trek started and we needed regular breaks to catch our breath. And every time you looked up Loomba was there. You cannot keep him down. He would walk on with Budhi and wait for the team. Slowly the trek got harder and harder. We had parathas achar, toffees, choclate in between where the water ended. Some breathtaking views of all round followed. We were climbing on ice. Pug marks of bear and trails of other animals followed us all round. Shambuji casually remarked that one of the purposes of the stick we were carrying was to combat any animal that came in our way and of course the more important purpose was to get much needed balance. Some times the snow gave way ( again Swac C was the guy who fell), sometimes it slipped and most of the time you looked down and your heart stopped. The 5 km was ardous sometimes but the top kept us going. It was beautiful. Each of us had settled in his own pace. Loomba, Saket me and Singh were at the front while Ankit with his torn shoes and Amol with his fear of heights were following us a little bit behind.
I was totally out as were reaching the top. My breathing had almost stopped ( my stupid sinuses at last gave way) but the fun is in going that one step ahead.
We reached a kind of plateau near the summit.
Ankit and his machis: hahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahaha
Loomba made some structure by placing ice in piles, following dhiru. Ankit dunno what bit him ( till then he kept saying jisko jo karma hai karo) broke one structure. Seeing that Loomba was getting senti he broke the other one too. That set off Loomba.
“ Hamesha aise hi karte ho”
“iam not part of the team”
“ koi van nahin hai”( you should have seen saket who was worried about his movies)
“ mein kisi ka bhai nahin hoon”
“ I will go where ever I want and I can go alone”
The scene would have been pretty hilarious except for the fact that Loomba was going ot the edge of the cliff. Swac had gone ahead and I followed him and what followed was one the most hilarious things you can see.
Ankit ne Loomba ke gaand me aag lagayi aur phir machis jalane pahuch gaya. He knew that it would take a long time to burn up and kept at it. From a height it was quite a sight. Amol could make no sense of it and kept shrugging his head. Amol wanted to turn back but kept with us for the team.
I was thinking:
There walked 6 soldiers
Hoping to have the time of their life
They walked into heaven
And then they kept walking
It was precisely that, for most parts of the walk no one knew what the other person was thinking. It was very difficult to think about other things while trekking ( and hence its one of the best exercises). You are thinking only about that jutting rock, your pace, your team’s pace, the destination the risk et all. All of us were lost in some way and changed in some way, you see nature in its pristine beauty and it touches you.
You could actually say only one thing “In god and Shambuji we trust “ :D
2:15 Swac C at the top
2:30 me at the top. We egg on loomba to come through and the others. We are asked to climb down quick because of impending bad weather.
Dharwa top: Basically 5000 mts above sea level in a swarm of ice. You can see all the way to Uttarkashi ( according to Shambuji) and far far away. You see peaks that you want to climb onto. Every step of yours will take your foot in by a considerable depth. It invites you into its arms almost.
We start the fun trek err slide down. Guided by Dhiru we started sliding down on anywhere we could slide. We slid rolled skated, skied did everything that we could think off on snow.
I reached base camp at 4:24 and the others reached in around 10 mins time.
Amol: Accomplished the impossible
Swac C : Nothing is impossible
Ankit: Thrilling, enchanting, wanted to pat god for having created this
Loomba: I ve had the tiem of my life.
Saket: If words were to be framed to define this experience I would have framed a line
The evening was spent discussing the trek and all things sundry from group work to idiosyncrasies of various individuals. Amol declared that a pahadi needs only ‘do bheega zameen”
The dinner was alu, dal, roti and rice.
9th :
The next day morning at 7 the team is working as usual. Since we could not go further we had decided that we would take a detour from Manji so that we could walk along a new route.
I spent 1 hr walking in various ice blocks at Dodital. Had wanted to sit and think in ice and it was fun. The devil lies in the details. The mountains prove to you that you can only be prepared the rest of it happens and purely probabilistic. How you respond is the question.
Shambhuji was to arrange for a person to call to Haridwar to Amol’s house so that the Taxi reaches Uttarkashi instead of Barkot.
Amol’s Message”
Taxi uttarkashi aa jaayeaur 12 baje aa jaye. Snow ke karan plan change ho gaye. Taxi uttarkashi aa jaye.
Swac C ‘s message
Pranaam etall followed by
Real formal stuff
We reached the Mandir at 10:32.
I reached Manji flat at 12:00 and got to the first trace of civilization. England was 54 for 2 at lunch. We wait for the team. I had wanted to match the pace of the porters and man was that tiring.
The way the snow mixed with the land in Manji was amazing. This time we had chai at Manji. The snow seemed to indicate to me that things are only relative. The snow then melts into water and is absorbed or flows away.
Amol: Life is like a roller coaster, you think that he toughest part has come but it has yet to come.
Problem with life in the fast lane is that you get to the other end real fast.
Swac C: Clarion call mover ur sweet ass girls and the other s said “ ya pussy”
Loomba: Beginning of the end and longing to have more such trips in the future.
Some banter:
Saket: Abe sade barah baj gaye
Amol: Ghadi peeche kar le kya?
Ankit: Amol + Chimpanzee= Captain Chimpi
Saket: Hagga bagga ho gaye ( only saket can explain that :D )
1:25 we took a detour from the line that would take us to Vavra. 3:00 we had lunch and reached Morsun by4:30
Morsun: A small clearing bang in the middle of nowhere. You reach it by crossing a small stream ( Amol wet his legs and got his 2 bheega zameen :D ). This was the site of our biggest and longest camp fire. We discussed our insti, people, placements, group work, howlers,googlies et all. The rest of the evening Swac C, Saket and Loomba ( with Amol and Ankit chipping in sometimes. Amol knew his favorite songs completely, errr almost).
Vegetable Soup, Chowmein, roti sabji kadi ( good ) rice et c and we crashed at 10 PM
We set out at around 11 and reached Sangam Chatti at 2:15. Had maggi and chai there after a splendid dip in the ganges ( basically I convinced Saket that it was not tantamount to suicide and he obliged. He then convinced the others that it would be fun).
We reached uttarkashi and stayed in hotel ganga ( all arranged by Shambuji who was more than happy to oblige us because we had not created any problems with the payments).The night was given to Romanov and Amol and me were arguing with Swac C late into the night. Most of it was general good natured fun I thought with issues like the newsgroup and airtel account dominating the discussion. Damn vodka never gets you high or high enough.
11th. Amol woke me up with a punch. We left for Rishikesh in Sagar’s Tavera again. Reached Rishikesh by the evening on a pretty good drive ( coz I dint fall asleep) and stayed at hotel gangour ( the same place where loomba had stayed put when he had come here the last time. Unfortunately he dint get to use the same bed hehehehe )
Rishikesh: Seems to more commercial than Haridwar. Still bears the same look of sleepy religious towns. The river and the Jhula’s form important nodal points of the town. We had our dinner at Chotiwala (since 1958). Huge thali to quell our huge appetites.
Our rafting expedition was to start off the next day with a trip to the marine drive.
12th: We had bun and butter/ chai and proceeded to marine drive. Our rafting guide Gajpal took us through the basic steps of rafting and we started with Ganga Maiyya ki jai and Madu dada ki jai chants. We wanted to overtake everybody on the river that day and seemed ot have no match. The fun parts were the body surfing ( you jump into the rapid) and the highlight:
Amol “ pahadi” refusing to jump from the pahad: Amol had decided that he wanted to be (in) famous in northern India. So he refused to jump from the 20 feet height. It was the final part of our trip. Half of India was present there “ abe kudega” “ 500 ki lagale, nahi kudega” “ab to kud ja mere baap, laundi bhi kud gayi” Swac C went to encourage him and jumped into the water 4 times. But pahadi dint jump.
To be fair “pahadi” hadn’t needed a woolen cap or gloves for the most part of the journey. But as Amol says it’s the depth of water honey, it’s the height.
We tried to race with a real big group finally and just about matched them finally after a large number of water fights. We landed at Ram Jhula in a huge downpour but the adventure group’s office ( himalaya ventures) helped us change and move out of rishikesh. All of us boarded a single bus and moved on to delhi and haridwar respectively.
If I were to recall the images that I remember the most:
Amol: First of all his immaculate planning and flexibility. His pahadi jokes and his refusal to jump ( a choice, we all make choices)
Ankit: Bhai log, jugad ho jayega, kept on and on. Someone must rewrite the laws of physics to accommodate him.
Amit Singh: The surprise package. With his good stamina and amazing amazing voice Swac C was a revelation. (Even if I was constantly trying to pull his leg, no offense mate, the core position remains “ if you are god, I am an atheist” )
Saket: The guy does not give up and can lighten up any situation. His trying to get ankit to pack his bag , jokes on loomba and their damn van
Loomba: The quintessential bhai. The team player. Followed the teams pace again and again even though he could have gone at any pace he wanted to. . The same thoughts I had through my stay at IIMI, loomba is as close to perfection as you can get. ( hehe , ok his handwriting and his fighting left apart )
Some things that got confirmed:
Loomba has to have the last say: Even though Saket managed to single handedly destroy Loomba’s bravado ( with Amol laughing and Ankit providing the machis)
The fixation with a certain ‘k’ continued
Group work with Amol, Ankit and Saket would have been fun
The MBT gang are going to have a whale of a time in Pune
Saket and SwacC could open male beauty parlours and SwacC should do a course on 7 sigma at IIMI
Saket, SwacC and Loomba cant sleep without deciding( in about 1.5) hours how to sleep
Pahadi Amol, will remain a pahadi, whatever that means
To end I would say that this trip would have different meanings for each of us. Much of what I have written is a chronicle of facts. Please feel free to add to this and mail it across. At the end of it all I would say for each of us it is a victory. A victory to our spirit of adventure. A victory to a group of people who can stretch themselves to have fun.
To each his own.
Chalti Jayegi, Chalti Jayegi……..
written for the group by me

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