Discussions with a couple of Trek groups begins: IndiaHikes, and Trek the Himalayas IndiaHikes slot for September last week to October 2019 were sold out - multiple holidays were part of this period. My travel inspiration - Mr Thanashyam Raj had suggested that he went on a trek with Bikat Adventures. Reached out to Bikat to see if they had slots, and to my surprise, they did have the last 4! Without wasting time on thinking about it over and over, ended up paying the money and registered for it.
That brings another big problem - Flight prices. That was apparently 2 weeks filled with 2 holidays and 2 optional holidays. That only means, the flights were costly for the MAA (Chennai) - DEL (Delhi) sector in this period. One would have flown to Europe and returned back for the prices that were showing up on the multiple portals. Having shelled a ~15k INR for the trek (partially-refundable), I had my fingers crossed that I would somehow get the flight tickets for a lower price. And I started positively looking every day on Yatra, Ixigo and Skyscanner for any drop in flight prices.
September 2019 - first week
On a Wednesday evening, logged into Ixigo while I was waiting at Tidel signal for more than 10 minutes and a long traffic pile-up ahead of me. Saw that AirAsia flights were available for booking at ~7k INR. I wasn't sure if that was true, so logged into AirAsia app and found the same. Without wasting the next second, parked my car and immediately keyed in the details and purchased the ticket within 5 minutes. When you have hopes, and if they are positive, they will happen. That day almost ~15k INR was saved - had I booked the flights a couple of weeks ahead in time.
Day 0: September 28, 2019
A boy in his mid-20s wearing shorts and a hoodie, meet the trek mates at ISBT - Dehradun. He introduces himself as Vitso Vakha. But I never realised Vitso would be so young and small. Puzzled, I stupidly asked him "So are you our trek leader for this trek?". He was super humble, and replied with a smile: "Yes".
Never judge a book by its cover! Vitso ended up being a fantastic down-to-earth trek leader!
We all then started from ISBT at 8 am in a tempo traveller to the first base camp at Dhaula, with breakfast and lunch on the way.
Dhaula base camp
After having placed our rucksacks in our rooms and a brief freshening up, it was time to meet in the common area for tea. Vitso was to brief us about the trek, the rules, the do's and don't's, keeping pace with the team, daily routines of warm-up, exercise, yoga, etc. Our focus now shifted to the aroma of the snacks that were being served with hot chai.
"The hot tea in the mountains is a thing one should look out for!"
Day 1: September 29, 2019 - First day of the trek - Dhaula to Sewa
This was our first day of the trek, and we were told we will be passing by beautiful greens. There would be slush all around because of the previous night's rains, and the chances of slipping are higher. So we were told to be a little cautious on each step.
Note"Always keep to your mountainside when you’ve animals on your path".
Around 4 pm, we settled down at Sewa Homestay overlooking a gorgeous mountain and the Sewa temple. I also ended up capturing the best time-lapse of my life. Watch it in full screen.
The Homestay had a porch that had few beds for the guides and others and also few rooms. Post dinner, we started discussing who sleeps in the porch (that oversees the night sky), and who inside the rooms. We offered our rooms to our guides, and few of us slept in the porch outside. In the cold weather, it was probably a wrong decision. At 2ish in the morning, it was all worth it! Opened my eyes to see the Milky way in the sky. This was my second time, yet this time it was much more clearer. It was so beautiful that I kept staring at it for an uncountable amount of minutes. Tried capturing it on my DSLR but mine wasn’t well equipped for it.
Day 2: September 30, 2019 - Sewa to Jiskun
Before beginning the trek, it was time for some exercise and yoga. I realised I could do the following pose too!
Today was the day we move from Sewa to Jiskun. It was also the day we cross from Uttarakhand to Himachal Pradesh which gives the real name to this trek - a cross country trek.
Jiksun is a beautiful hamlet on the mountains at altitude of ~7500ft and is probably the last village on this trail.
We reached our Homestay at Jiskun by 3 pm, and it was also slightly drizzling by then. We put our rucksacks and everything in the homestay and decided to roam around and meet the villagers and buy something unique from there. Bought a Himachali hat for me.
We were also offered yummy hot pakodas from a family function that was happening nearby.
Having done with the hot pakodas, and the rains having stopped by now, we had witnessed a full rainbow with all the colours clearly distinguishable. I've never had an opportunity to see one like this before! This trek experience was just getting better and better every minute!
Dinner usually is Rice, Dhall and some Rotis. And when you’re in the mountains, you’d love all of them, every single day, no matter you've it as a monotonous schedule every night.
Day 3: Jiskun - Burans Kandi
Our homestay owner Pyari Lal Ji was a super humble person who was also joining us from that day onwards.
From now on, we had 2 guides - Pyari Lalji and Rajesh, our trek leader Vitso and our porters who were carrying our essentials with their herd.
We were told that this will be a long day to trek and we should be making it before sunset to our next camp. And usually, all trek groups reach approximately by 4 pm. But considering our pace in the last 3 days, we would arrive only by 6 pm. Also, in the mountains, it gets darker by 5 in the evening. And you cannot expect the weather to play to your tunes either. So we were warned that we would not have as many breaks as we did in the last 3 days, except for one lunch and a short couple of water breaks. People at the end of the group must pick up the pace and not slow down people at the front. Apparently, I was the last one in the group all the while, 10 mins spaced from the first person for 2 reasons:
I don't like to talk while I walk; and
I don't like to walk fast but walk at a relaxed pace.
That would make me enjoy each and every inch of the trail, nature, mountains, pause for a while and hear the flowing waters, and capture them all in my DSLR and phone.
We reached a place where we would be receiving BSNL network. And none of us spoke to our families for the last 4 days due to a lack of mobile network coverage. So, it was time for me to inform my family about my journey so far and say that I was safe. But my parents were uber-cool - they never picked my call!
After hugging a few new-born sheep and being offered some tasty orchard apples by locals, we then moved to our next halt - a small Maggie and chai place which looked like a shepherd's halt.
Beyond this was a forest region which is dense enough and our next halt was by a waterfall that is a 3 hours trek. We need to reach the lunch place by 12pm if we had to arrive at Buras Kandi base camp by 4 pm.
After a 30mins delay, the people at the end including me, reached the lunch point, and our first batch that left with Rajesh had almost finished their lunch. That meant we were so slow, and we had to catch up fast. We spent only five mins for lunch and another five mins for filling our water bottles and started moving. Eventually, we saved 20 mins on this lunch break.
This time around, I started at the front. So I joined Pyari Lalji and another team member and was leading the pack. When you take the lead in the group, it gives you enough enthusiasm that you forget that you are carrying a heavy rucksack or that you are slowing down the team. It seemed to have rained a bit.
Reached Burans Kandi campsite - our first tent stay of this trail. This was by the Rupin river and we were told that it would be extremely cold from here on as we were at 10k feet above sea level and you can forget to brush your teeth from now on!
Day 4: Burans Kandi to Lower waterfall
While the entire camp was asleep, I decided to take a stroll and go on capturing some photos since I didn’t do much the previous day for almost 60% of the trail. The river was really calm and soothing that the sound of it flowing was the best thing that calmed down my mind and body. I sat there for a while listening to the slow-moving waters, with my feet now in the cold water. Within minutes I could realise that it was not cold anymore.
The valley was surrounded by mountains that I could not capture the morning sunrise. Today was the day, we had to move to the next campsite, which was called the lower waterfall campsite. This was a move from 10k feet to 13k feet. This is the place where you would get the first view of the gigantic Rupin waterfall. While Vitso was explaining the journey of the day, we realised it will be hardly a 4-hour trek with a patch of frozen boulders, and we had to be careful while walking on it.We started the trek, and in 2 hours we reached a place for a halt. Our essentials and the herd with our porters hadn't arrived. Unless they arrive at Lower waterfall camp, we wouldn't have our tents up or food or anything. So we rested in this beautiful place which was by the river.
NoteIf you are a person that throws away chewing gum papers, plastic and waste on the floor as you go, please __do not__ visit this place and spoil the nature here.