Friday, June 27, 2014

Trek to Nag Tibba,Night 1

As we were waiting it began to drizzle.The drops landed on my face and i could feel the cold,rejuvenating drops as they flowed down on my face.I was there high in the mountains,in the middle of nowhere,with the huge forests all around and then the trance like rain.Everything seemed so magical.I was enchanted by it all.I was woken up from this trance like state by bhanu urging me to get into the tent as the intensity of the rain slowly began to increase.We clambered into our tents.It was getting dark slowly and we had to take out our torches.
            We were longing for the maggi now as pangs of hunger grew bigger.While talking my head was touching the roof of the tent.Suddenly something big hit me on the head through the roof.I winced in pain and immediately withdrew my head.Even as I was checking for any cut a sudden sound of pattering rose up.It looked as if stones were being thrown at the roof of our tent.immediately Bhanu unzipped the first layer of the tent and lifted the outer flap.We could see nothing and then I shone my torch over the area.To our amazement we saw a layer of white sparkling ice all over the area.It was a hailstorm.We were mighty excited now.It was ice and huge balls of it were falling all around.I immediately took out my camera and started filming the whole thing. Bhanu gave a running commentary.Like I said in my previous post,I love imagining.different scenarios started in my head.I imagined myself to be in a remote Antarctic research station and was caught up in a huge storm.
                With these thoughts in my mind we were wondering what our next plan would be for the night when we heard a low whisper in the sound of hail.I looked at Bhanu to confirm if he too had heard it.He returned my look, nodding.We strained our ears to hear.Another whisper now, more of a shout.It was louder than the previous one.We lifted up the flap and saw a figure coming towards our tent.It was Mr chand and he seemed a big agitated.He told us to vacate the tent and come out.We understood immediately.The ice was piling up the on the roof of the tent and we weren't sure of the tent would hold up the weight.I took out my jacket,stuffed my camera in a side pocket and off we went.It was still raining thought the hail reduced considerably.Sounds of thunder came from far off.With flashes of thunder the entire landscape was lit up and the hills looked majestic in those momentary flashes.
            The three of us clung to each other as we walked over white ice and slippery stones.The only means of lighting out our way was the torch we had.We walked on slowly and reached the forest rest house.As we entered in we found the others already there sitting in the front room.The porters did a commendable job of setting up a fire in the fireplace and setting up the cooking equipment.The others were taking in the warm,comfortable heat radiating from the fireside.I could see the looks of worry on their faces.Mr and Mrs Vinay had every reason to worry.They had little kids with him and this was not a good situation to be in with kids.Raja,Ishani and Shreya sat glumly on the floor trying to get some circulation back into their numb feet. Bhanu and myself were the only ones who were enjoying this unexpected development.But we kept out excitement in check.I didn't want to upset the others.As we waited there I began to think about our plans for the night.I asked Mr Chand about our sleeping arrangement.He said that we have to spend the night there in that dilapidated rest house itself.I was disappointed for a minute.I always wanted to spend a night in a tent and sadly it wasn't going to happen that night.On the bright side I was getting to stay in a forest rest house.I didn't do that before either.So Bhanu and myself began to do a small Recce of the building.We opened the from room door and made our way in.All we had now as Bhanu's power bank with us which showed us the way.One of the porters took my torch to bring back other stuff from the main camp.As we started exploring I began to think of one of my favourite horror movies 'Blair witch project' The famous last scene of the movie involves a similar house in the woods as the one we were in.Our Rest House had a simple layout. There was a small hall which separated the front room from another room at the back.After our little exploration was done the porters cleaned up the place and the kids were immediately sent to sleep in the back room.It was decided that the ladies and the kids would sleep in the back room.Meanwhile we went back to our tent to bring back our rucksacks.All along the way I filmed the whole thing.I covered my camera with a polythene bag and somehow managed to take the video.We got back with our rucksacks and began to prepare for the night.We changed clothes and with Mr Chand's help set up out sleeping bags. Bhanu and Myself took the worst place to sleep.It was right on the path leading from front room to the back room and on top of it there was a toilet room on my left.I could do nothing but close the door and hope for the best.Meanwhile in the middle of all these activities going on we were given excellent hot soup and rice with dal prepared by our jovial cook Mr Yashpal.Both were delicious and this lifted everyone's mood a little bit.Mr Chand told us that in his ten years as a guide he experienced this kind of situation only twice before.After dinner we had nothing to do but sleep.With the rain still drizzling out side, one by one everyone tucked in for the night.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trek to Nag Tibba,Day 1

(This was the second day of my Adventure trip to Uttarakhand.This trek journey started off from Dehradun.)

Part 1-
5am.I woke up excited thinking the big day has finally come.I got ready with thoughts of trek swirling in my mind.I was expecting bhanu around 6am.Time for departure for the trek was at 7am.Meanwhile I met Raja,fellow trekker who had arrived just then.He came from delhi after a hair raising journey by bus.As he couldn't catch a moments sleep in the bus he wanted to take some rest.We chatted for a while and then I went out to guide bhanu to the guest house.Soon bhanu arrived and got ready.We found out that the vehicle which was to take us to Pantwari was late and we had some extra time with us.Raja and bhanu took the news happily as they could get some more sleep.After they had their sleep there was an ice breaker session, though it didn't break much ice.Our guide introduced himself first.His name was Sreechand and he had been in the business for the past 10 years.That was reassuring for all of us who were,which I later found out,first timers.There were a total of 9 people with 1 guide and 1 cook.We all introduced ourselves though I didn't remember anyone's name.After this little session we started off in our vehicle tempo traveller.Our vehicle was late and this time gap affected our trek later in the day. Anyway we had an uneventful journey to pantwari.We took the herbertpur route.The journey was picturesque and I was getting all excited for the trek.We reached Pantwari at around 12pm.

Part 2- Start of the Trek
The trek started off in real earnest.There was a small trail leading away from the village up the hill.Initially there were a number of steps leading up along a temple dedicated to Nag Devta.We passed along this temple and up the steps.After about 5 minutes my breath started heaving.I looked around and sure enough everyone was out of breath.I was surprised with myself now.I was wondered if took the trek too lightly as,in spite of my thorough and careful planning,I paid no attention to the physical demands of the trek.Then I thought maybe it was the initial stress one feels when one is suddenly thrust into doing hard physical work.Sure enough slowly the rhythm got into us and we were feeling better.Meanwhile little conversations began to start with us and the rest of the group.Out of the nine,four were a family,Mr and Mrs Vinay and their kids,gautam and siddharth.The kids were all excited and racing ahead of everyone.They had to be regularly kept in check by their parents.But I liked how discipled the kids were.One command to stop and they did.No fussing no whining.Also both were adorable.Then sometime later I got to know about Ishani and Shreya.Both were studying law in Nalsar in Hyderabad.This Hyderabad part served the fuel for the initial conversation and slowly the group was getting along nicely.

After a walk of about half an hour we gained some height and we could see the village down below to our right.It was a beautiful sight.From here the pics session began.After a brief halt we resumed.
Mr Chand told me to tighten the straps around my shoulders and chest.He told me to keep in mind one basic thing about rucksacks.The whole weight of the pack shouldn't be taken up by the shoulders.It should be divided between the shoulders,the chest and the stomach.After he adjusted the straps of my rucksack,I could feel the difference.I could move better now.As every martial arts movie says 'the weapon and the person holding it should feel as one',I felt one with my bag.It felt as it were a part of me.With these funny thoughts I moved on. Inspite of Mr chand's repeated advice to not drink more water we all did anyway and soon our bottles were running low on water.Luckily we reached a water stream which to the dismay of some of us was nothing like a stream.It was flowing out of a tap and this destroyed the mental romantic notion we had had of a mountain stream.However,We were to find more natural and beautiful streams the next day.

Along with us trekkers and Mr Chand, we also had porters with donkeys with us.They carried our tents and food supplies.With their superior speed they moved ahead of us.Watching them go I couldn't help but think of Dr Livingstone and his various expeditions.Also the novel King Solomon's Mines,where the lead character goes on an expedition into the interiors of Africa.They all had porters and donkeys with them.I imagined myself to be on such an expedition.That pumped in energy into me.I have this habit of imagining.I believe they make the trip,any trip more thrilling and enjoyable.For example when I was going on a safari in the jungles of Achanakmar in Chhattisgarh I imagined myself to be a famous hunter in the likes of Jim Corbett or the time when I went to the very underrated Bijapur in karnataka, I imagined myself to be some 18th century explorer searching for lost cities. Irrespective of what people tell me I enjoy imagining.I do it all the time.Coming back to the trek.The rocky terrain was disappointing us.For different reasons.reasons. Bhanu for example was complaining that this doesn't seem like a proper trek.He wanted a barely recognisable trail with dense forest all around.For shreya,the path was making it more difficult(than for others) for her to walk on.

Stopping,chatting and taking in the views We trekked away in the afternoon sun.Slowly sweat began to form on my face.Beads of perspiration trickled down from my face onto my shirt and The weight of the rucksack was pulling me down with every step.It was getting more and more tiring and we were getting quite restless to reach the base camp.We kept asking Mr Sreechand the same question again and again,when will we reach? And irrespective of the distance we covered or the distance left,his answer was always the same 'thodi der me'(soon).In her frustration Ishani jokingly threatened Mr Chand and he just laughed it off.

We walked along flower beds,besides dropping slopes,on rocks,among herds of goats grazing,in dense forest cover before finally arriving out into a clearing with some smooth stones.Mr chand gave out a stop command and declared that it was time for lunch.Relieved and happy,we took out our packed lunches which had been given to us at the start of the trek.The lunch consisted of a boiled egg,a banana,a mashed potato,two parathas and a tetra pack of frooti.Hungry and tired we gorged down on the food.After the much needed lunch break we again set out.We were in a hurry to reach the base camp before dusk.Shreya's problems compounded when she tripped and her leg got cramps.Mr chand showed her some exercises which eased the pain a bit.She nodded her agreement but I oculd clearly see the pain in her face.But we had to move on and slowly we did.Ishani was the photography enthusiast amongst us and she kept taking pictures of the scenery and of us.She took a number of awesome pics.The views on offer were amazing.The hills stretched away into the horizon.The sound our feet made as we stepped on the leaves coupled with the forest and the hills around was mesmerizing.I had always dreamed of going on a proper trek and here I was out in the hills with a fine group of people.I was happy and content.

We passed by many beautiful places.There was a small,quaint abandoned hut right beside a steep drop.I wondered how a person could live there.Sometime later shreya tripped again and wincing in pain she sat down declaring she wouldn't be able to move for some time.Raja helpfully offered to do some accupressure massage and that eased her pain for the time being.With Mr Vinay and family racing ahead and Shreya limping behind we made progress as fast as we possibly could.We passed by beautiful fields, carpets of flowers,abandoned huts,some beautiful birds we couldn't identify,fallen trees and small water streams.Sometime in the afternoon when bhanu and myself got a bit behind the group,bhanu suggested we take a short cut and we did.We bypassed everyone and got to the front of the group.When the kids caught up they started calling us 'buffalo cheater'! I was perplexed as to what exactly a buffalo cheater meant? That still remains in my own Unsolved mysteries list.With these little bits of humour and fun we kept on walking.As evening approached Mr chand suggested we quicken our pace as we wouldn't want to be left on the trail when it got dark.We were very tired by now and nothing could induce us to go faster and we plodded on at our own pace.Soon we reached a gentle hill behind which Mr chand told us,lay our camp.

Finally as soon as we crossed that gentle hill,I could see specks of red and blue in the distance.To my delight it was our base camp.The location couldn't have been better.A small trail ran along the gentle hill towards the tents.In front of the tents away some distance was a drop,with lots of trees.Behind the tents the hill sloped up with forest cover starting after some distance.The tents lay in the middle of a clearing.We had five tents with a master tent which served as a kitchen and also as dining hall.We reached,just threw our bags and sat down on the cool grass to relax.We were given hot tea and that refreshed us.Hot maggi was being prepared for us when suddenly something unexpected happened that just threw our schedule for the night in disarray.More about it in my next post.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adventure Trip to Uttrakhand,India: Inroduction.

        Not long ago I made a small goal for myself.That I would complete atleast one Himalayan trek in the next 5 years.Though it looks easy,the kind of circumstances I was in at that time made it look very difficult.I made the whole plan of the trip and was only looking for an opportunity to go.I choose Nag Tibba Trek for our first trek as I read in countless websites that it was one of the best treks for first timers.Next step was to choose a Trek Agency.After doing lots of research I choose Great Indian Outdoors.As I found out later my whole planning paid off as GIO was excellent in its service.So everything was in place and all I needed was a leave.So last month when an opportunity presented itself I grabbed it with both hands and off I went to Uttarakhand for the Adventure Trip.To make things even better Bhanu,my childhood friend, took a sudden leave and joined me.Without further delay, here starts my day wise trip account.

         I arrived in Dehradun at 11 30 pm in the night.I took an Auto and reached Vasant Vihar,where the Guest House of GIO was located.Here the trouble began.We couldn't find the exact address given.All the streets looked the same.I tired to make sense of the maps given but couldnt. The road were deserted and no one was around.After spending 30 minutes searching,I saw a watchman.I asked him and he gave some vague directions.I called up Rahul,the caretaker and he said that he would be out of the house waiting for us.After asking two other watchmen we finally reached he Guest house. I checked in at 12 30am.After a brief chat with Rahul I went in to sleep.Having slept uneasily due to a power cut,I got up at 8am next day and had a nice breakfast prepared by Rahul.I had wonderful parantas and egg bhurji.

           I decided to take a stroll around the place and in the process also visit the famed Forest Research Institute(FRI).It was a sunny day.FRI was at a walking distance from the guest house and I reached the main gate in 15 minutes.I took a Rs15 ticket at the entrance and walked in.The campus was cool and pleasant with trees everywhere.There was a straight road with pretty houses nestled among trees,at each side.At one one house I saw two kids playing with a football in the small garden in front of the house.Everything looked so peaceful.I also saw people on bicycles zipping around the campus.I kept walking and after sometime I could see the main building emerge out amongst the trees.Just then I saw a girl with a fedora hat on her ,cycling and holding an umbrella over her.In the background was the beautiful building.The whole scene looked right out from a university campus of UK.I moved closer towards the building and started taking pictures.The building was built in 1878 by Dietrich Brandis.The architecture is Greko Roman.

             Initially I was doubtful of entering as I could see no one.I kept strolling at the front for sometime and soon saw a couple of kids emerge.I followed their direction and went inside.The building is huge and it gets confusing.I kept aimlessly strolling inside and was looking for some kind of map to guide me.The hallways especially were beautiful and I took many pics here.I found out that there are six museums inside the building.
One needs to buys a separate ticket for visiting them.It costs Rs25 per person.Two of them were closed for renovation.I visited the rest.They are more like four sections instead of museums in their own right.They were average and nothing remarkable for the casual visitor.Lonely Planet describes them as leftovers from a school science fair.Of the four,the wood museum evinced the most interest from me.There were models of machines and buildings here which i liked.After strolling to my satisfaction I made my way outside.I walked to an area known as Ballupur.After having lunch in a local restaurant I went to a internet cafe and went over my plan and strengthened it with back up plans and alternatives.After going over and over the plans and when I was satisfied I made my way back to the Guesthouse preparing myself for a relaxing evening and then tucking in for the night.