Day 02 :
There was a long discussion if Pangong should be done as the trek was scheduled to commence the next day. Going through Chang La without having clear skies and exhausting ourselves by going to higher altitudes - I was not so much in favor for Pangong.
The first time I had seen Pangong was when I had the vibes, looking at its beauty and serenity. Little did I know that I would be so close yet so far after so many long years. My heart broke, the destination for the day was fixed at a relatively shorter distance.
Keeping Alchi as our final point en-route going to Likir, Saspol and few more little villages just to be more enchanted by the beauty of Ladakh and feel smaller as the day passes by, feel humbled and equivalently shameful by coming across the simplicity and honesty with which the people live here.
In the morning, there were a few errands to run, so we hit the market for shopping once again
There were people heating up locks to open them
The li'l kid amazed by the cam beaming with cuteness
I had gone to shop from one store to another in search of souvenirs as I did not know whether I would later. The Chadar is unpredictable and since my list had everything checked, I decided to buy souvenirs. While doing so, I just forgot my camera at one of the stores and forgot that the camera was forgotten.
I was at a shop, speaking to shopkeeper. He was an artist. He was telling us the stories of how his childhood was, how he was forced, harassed, wife, money, etc. He had a beautiful tale to tell and I was lost. And one of the store keepers comes in and said, "Saab, aapka camera. I was in state of shock. How could I even forget my camera? Yes, you would go telling others, "lost in love", but still. It was an absolute shocker! I prayed and thanked them.
It was like losing my life and getting it back. My camera bag had more than a few extra valuables. This was just the start of what humbleness, sincerity, love, faith, loyalty and every possible good thing a human could showcase, was displayed to me on this trip. There are more instances like these, which I came across.
There were clear skies, blues and mountains - vast!
There were trucks moving with discipline. The whole set up looks like a movie scene or a painting. There was desh bhakti getting utpan when you see the jawans do all these things gracefully in almost uninhabitable conditions
We then came to the Magnetic hill. Oh yeah, baby the love was magnetic! And it did pull me (rather the car) towards it
As we moved, rather glided, through the smooth roads, while negotiating curves, there were these prayer flags put up, which just add to the whole setup
Anywhere you look, any stream you shoot, it's all a painting
It is just beautiful, everywhere you look
Then you get a highway to heaven! It just keeps getting better. If you aren't in love with the whole setup, there is nothing on earth good enough to enchant you. Love just happens
There are monasteries in the middle of barren lands, in the open skies
Even the trees look like they are placed to perfection
The bushes have the perfect tint, the perfect cut. The harshness of the winter is just forgotten when the results are so artistic
The sunlight might deceive you, but look at the surroundings. You can find snow and ice! Yes, the temperatures are still in negative
Just when you think the place can't get calmer and quieter, we walk across to go into the monastery
When you take your shoes off and go in, wearing 3-4 layers, you still feel the chill
The whole setup
Just makes your hair stand
There is a new definition to silence and calmness
Let there be peace
And then you are back on the curves, which gets you all excited
The roads are as smooth as they can get. The sun tries to beam as much as it can. The winds outplay the sun and temperatures are still moving towards the lower side as evening sets in
As we move across, lost in the silence, moved by the beauty and gliding on the roads, we hit the shades - the shades of blue
One bridge after the other
We reached a small little town named as Alchi. Just when you think things can't get more beautiful, we reached this little beautiful village
Where you have little cute tzos
Prayers all over
The whole village was just as beautiful as you can think it could get and what was just amazing is the simplicity of the people. They manage to keep the water running for the tzos
There were a couple of shops, but only one of them was serving tea. We went to it. The shopkeeper made some Maggi and took a while to setup things in the harsh conditions. While we were at it, he offered us prasad and his own home-made food, which he had made for himself. It was a khichdi of some sort, which tasted amazing! In the end, when we settled the bills, he charged us only for the Maggi and chai! We offered him something extra. After a lot insisting and pleading he accepted money.
We were back on the road, ready to get lost again
The sun was going down and the temperatures were dipping
There was not one instance when there was no view on offer
It got very, very cold. We had to go back to the city, so we had checked out of Siyala in the morning and the staff was kind enough to keep our luggage until night. We had to pick the luggage and report to the hiking group, who had arranged our stay from that day.
We had a reporting time of 6, but spoke to them and got to know we were the people who were the group even for the trek and can change the time if we feel! So, we had to run around the city, as people were out of cash and needed to withdraw some money, I knew this would be a problem. Added to this, it was winter. So, I had hard cash and insisted my fellow mates withdraw as much as they could. But, there was no need for it on the trek, that we realized later. After collecting our luggage from Siyala, we headed out to hotel Silver Line. We had a quick intro and briefing, our group had already gelled and we were lucky on that front. We were introduced to the guides, one of the three would be heading our group. We had Kawah and then we were told to stay at Palace View guest house.
Well, to start off, the experience was horrible. The place was horrible. It was winter and we did not expect the place to be all nice and shiny. But, the toilets froze, the walls had ice on them, the room carpets were wet, the blankets weren't thick enough, the service personnel just barged in without knocking. Overall it was a strict "no" to go and stay there. We had already checked out of Siyala and had to leave the next morning, so decided to just adjust and get used to what we were about to face at Chadar.
We then went out to have dinner at the veg Punjabi restaurant in the main market. The dishes were chole bhature, dosas, hot gulab jamuns, gajar ka halwa, oh my! We had a huge feast just before we set of for Chadar, thinking about how tough the days might get and we might not get decent food for a long time, while battling the winter.
A shot of the Stupa at night. It was just beautiful to look at and how tough it is to use the camera in winter, that is when the temperature must have been around -10 to -12
Meanwhile, I made another huge blunder. I had forgotten my camera charger at the hotel Siyala. I was wondering if the cold got to me, or the altitude or was it just Ladakh that made me lost? I was tensed, very tensed. It was 10 in the night. I might sound very cool about it right now, but it was a moment where meri "phati padi thi!" There were backup batteries to be charged, the primary battery drained out and the electricity was not constant with barely 8 hours to go to the Chadar.
I went out of my room, only to find that the whole hotel was deserted, the streets did not even have a spec of light, there were dogs howling and crying due to the cold and the hotel was almost 3-4 kms away. I was so desperate, that I decided that in the worst case scenario, I'll take a walk to pick it up. However, my neurons did fire up somehow in those negative temperatures and I made a call to our driver who drove us around the whole day. I told him the whole situation making more than half a dozen calls as the network fluctuated and voice kept on breaking. He said, in the morning at 4, I will get it for you. Morning at 4 - it would have been inhuman of me to allow him! I requested him if he could, he gladly showed up at my hotel door with the charger. I started thanking him. I was so grateful to him that I could have done anything for him. My conversation with him :
Me : "Thank you thank you, shukriya. Aapne bahut bada kaam kiya mera."
He : (While pulling hard on his beedi )"Saab, shukriya kyon, theek hai. Hum hi toh aapke kaam aaye. Khushi hui." (leaving the smoke out as he spoke).
Me : "Iska kitna doon, aapne itne raat mein itna lamba trip maara."
He : "Iska kya paisa lenge. Hum aapke kaam aaye bass. Ho gaya. Chalta hoon."
Me (while chasing him with a Rs. 500 note): "Arre lo. Rakh lo, kaam aayenge."
He : "Itna nahi rakhunga. Iccha se kuch de do, but isse kam."
Me (Handing out Rs. 100 x 3 notes that I had): "Ruko"
I went in and fetched a few oranges for him which I got from Bangalore. He wasn't ready to accept them! He was then happy to know that I got them from Bangalore. He happily took them and ran into his car, while pulling hard on his beedi and rubbing his hands to beat the cold.
I had a long, painfully cold night and made it through it. When I woke up there was a lot of hustle and bustle around the hotel. And the service boy was still barging in.
Had tea and a few toasts, geared up and came out to witness a small mela for the Chadar.
We put ourselves in the back seats and behind us was huge lump of luggage, that looked like the mattresses, tents, sleeping bags, and other supplies. The locals joined us and fit themselves in wherever there was space. They sang folk songs as we moved after picking the rest of the folks from hotel Silver Line.
We had a brief introduction and spoke to the four members who joined the seven of us. We were carefully watching the driver as he negotiated the curves, hoping that he did not turn out to be the Stig! But, I would certainly think he was the "brother of the great Himalayan yeti." After negotiating the beautiful scenic roads and seeing the Chadar being formed, while appreciating nature, we reached a place where the tar road ends and mud road starts. After four hours or so of the journey, where the mud road also ended, we got off the bus, all geared up for icy expedition.
We had to walk and dragged our feet through oodles of sand
And towards the edge, as we saw, stood the magnificent Chadar. My heart just started pumping faster and to be honest, I was nervous
We start descending towards it
It was a steep one, with sand and rocks all all over
While we were careful and searching for spaces to tread, searching for grip, these people just ran past us with huge loads on their back. We were astonished and baffled. Little did we know, this is just the start of sights like these. It's their way of living and they certainly are good at it.
Sights like these before we step on the Chadar, made our heart pump faster and hair stand
It was a huge crowd, coming down in a queue and you would wonder, if it is really going to peaceful
And we step on the Chadar
These were the first few, curious moments where we on our toes and like little babies who are amazed by the thought of standing on their feet. Being able to realize that it was happening for real took us a while. A few baby steps ahead and a few nerve-wrecking moments later, we started to actually cherish it
It was just amazing, the idea of us standing on a river. It just blew my mind! And was my face was lit up from one ear to another all the time
The guide assigned to us was Yamzor. He instructed us to come towards a campsite and we followed him. For this day we had just a km's walk and we settled in at the first camp. As they were setting up the camp, the people had already begun to enjoy
Camp being set up
A few of the groups going further ahead to settle down for the day
We were served tea and biscuits in a short while. We were amazed by the whole environment and just sat on the sand right in front of our tents sipping on the tea and getting lost - as lost as one could get
We were hungry, very hungry! This was the dining camp where we went for food
They served us hot, real hot khichdi! We had expected Maggi to be our staple food, but the khichdi was amazing. It had veggies in it. Added to it, there was pickle, ketchup and hot sauce. We were shocked that in such place they served us all this
We had few more hours to move around the campsite before the sun went down and temperatures dropped. So, we took a stroll on the Chadar exploring it
And then a little fun
The sun started its play. We sat to see while it painted everything
As we saw the play of sun and ice
it was evening and before we could digest the heavy lunch, they called us for dinner.
Everything was done early. It was barely 7 'o' clock and we were having dinner. All gathered up near the fire and we were told that the next day will be a hectic one as we have to cover a lot of ground, and in the morning at 6, we would get a wake up call
So, moving on, how do I describe the night?
Once the fire was down all started to move to their respective tents and as the temperature was dropping, we were realizing what people dread. We were sitting by our tents on the sand on the bank and realized we would freeze. So, we moved inside. The pain you get while you take off your gloves to unlace your shoes is just the start of the freezing pain. Next up, is putting yourself into the sleeping bag.
Brrrr! It's like taking the ice bucket challenge. You get into one and then you're cold from head to toe. You start to zip yourself up and realise that the the zipper of the tent is still open. You have to get up to zip it up. The cold wind seeps in and the cold creeps into every part of your body. Getting into the sleeping bag is like putting yourself in a cold bathtub. Then comes the tricky and painful part of zipping yourself up. Multiply that by two, as you have to zip the outer and the inner sleeping bag. Well, after 15 minutes of being in painfully cold conditions, your body finally heats up the sleeping bag and it gets a lot cozier than you can think. I hadn't realized that the sleeping bag was touching the tent's surface and as the cold seeped in I did not know that it was in contact with the surface. I regretted it when I woke up. That was just the start.
DAY 04 :
We woke up to the call of the porters. They come to your tent calling out loudly,"Good morning sir. Chai ya coffee? Morning... Subah ho gayi!"
Here I was wondering it's so nice and cozy and bam! There you have the start of problems. I could not feel my feet due to my own mistakes and then the face! I did not tuck myself totally in neither did I cover my face as I felt suffocated. It felt like it's not a part of my body. When I slapped myself, it felt like rubber.
Next, you pull yourself up and realize what the shock of moving from decent cozy temperatures to negatives is. That is from inside the bag, to outside. The hot tea helps you to breathe, while you absorb the shock.
Next pain, coming out of the the sleeping bag totally and putting on your shoes. You really need to be brave to do this. It was the most painful morning I had witnessed, while I crawled out of the tent and as I stood outside, I froze again.
But it was beautiful by the camp.
Next, you would be wondering, about the morning rituals. Yeah, well that became the most discussed topic of our life for the next few days. To go to the loo you have 2 options:
Option 1 : Khulam Khulla - There are small caves and blocking walls. Go to a safe corner, do your job and get back.
Option 2 : There is a little tent, which is the loo toilet for the particular group. Go in and you find 2 big stones and a little hole dug up.
So, you would want to weigh your options. I would certainly pick the latter. Why? Because I am just scared of ending up in an awkward moment if someone passes by. Added to this, the winds don't help. They might freeze you.
The latter option has it's own issues though. The hole is small, the number people are large. It's got to stink! If you are the first one it's amazing, as the time passes by it gets tougher. But still I chose the latter and there of course is no question of water. It's all tissues baby!
After you finish that, you would want to brush your teeth. Well, you have a frozen tube and the paste won't come out. Gargle with the mouthwash, eat a lot of gum.
A few comments that I make, a few more lines which may look as if I am complaining, a few weeps here there, does not mean I did not like it. I miss all of it even now and it was a trek that was meant to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. These are just momentary situations. None of them mean it is not worth it. Every second out there was worth it and happiness has its own forms. These comments are made to describe the situation exactly so that it can be felt and appreciated for the better lives that we live. If taken otherwise, I'm sorry.
We were walking around the campsite and trying to keep our feet warm. They were calling us for breakfast. It was breakfast and the first huddle of the day. "Keep your shoes in, put on the gum boots. The weather was bad and you don't how much water will be there. Always follow the guide. On the first actual day of walking on the Chadar, don't do whatever you feel like. If anyone falls in trouble, shout for help from the locals. Give away your luggage to porters, if you wish to. They will get it to you on the next camp site. We have a long day ahead, pack up. We leave in 5 minutes!"
We were, in a hurry and packing the luggage takes a lot more effort than you think it does. You have to apply sunblock. But guess what? It's blocked in the tube too. We somehow got our stuff from the tent in 15 minutes while Yamzor shouted out "chaalooo, challooo, chalooo". We were in comfortable shoes and the moment we switched to gum boots, our feet went numb all over again.
We started walking, the sun was not yet out and it was relatively cloudy. We were all very slow, using walking sticks. Treading on the ice slowly and carefully, we covered a little ground and THUD! There went one of my group members who fell on the Chadar. Yamzor says, "theek hai theek hai. Sab log 5-6 baar girega. Sambhal kar." We were still learning about the surface. The sheet of ice has various forms and shapes.
There are a few sections which you slip on and there are a few sections where you go 8-10 inches down while you walk, but they are safe. While there are few sections where you feel taking the corners is good, Yamzor thinks otherwise. We carefully follow the instructions and walk.
We werr amazed by these little shiny blue pools of water. How tiny we are! We took our first break here, which was fairly after an hours walk
The porter / sweeper coming along as he carries a set of luggage for the people who want their luggage to be moving along with them
As the last set came, we had a few munchies and a sipped a few cups of water. The first break on the Chadar
As we moved ahead and tread on the Chadar a little more easily, we came across patterns like these. It was a horse shoe like cut and there was water flowing beneath it. We had a good hour's walk and we could hear a lot of splashing of water, we wondered where the sound was coming from. We went around a little turn and witnessed this
Yes, there was full fledged force of water gushing through, it was serene blue and mesmerizing to see how nature worked. There we were standing towards the left of the frozen river and the river right just after a few feet is flowing while reflecting light and creating amazing shades of blue. It was scary at first and then, as we moved on, we realized we were walking alongside it for quite some time now
There are different layers of ice sheets here. The water was not gushing through here, but was moving smoothly. There was a huge pool of water, which went below the ice and came through mellower than it was earlier and slid through while few fractals joined a few others to form the ice
If you look closely, you can see the footsteps right next to the little water hole. We had to walk across it. Any one would have chosen to take the away part, but Yamzor pointed out telling if you take the away path, you will mostly land in sub-zero temperature waters. We cut across here and then we had beautiful long stretch ahead
Hello sunshine! We took anther break as we were tired after walking for a couple of hours and we just dropped our gear on the Chadar
While we drank some water and applied some sunblock, it was put into the inner fleece of mine, which picked up the body heat and was usable now. The sun was shining bright and if there were no winds, the atmosphere felt real good
We moved in a single file just like the ants do
Across this very turn we see this
See, the porters were 8-10 inches in the water. Let's not comment about the temperatures of the water it just felt hell-cold! More cold than the ice could be! "How?", you would wonder. I don't know either. It just is bloody cold.
So the porters were hitting hard and checking if it was safe and were we waiting to give a green signal to go through. There was a little problem. One of our group members declined to go through as it looked very dangerous and worst part being that he had just one pair of shoes - the ones he had on. It was really stupid of him, but we however decided that the path was not suitable to take as the water would seep into the gum boots from the top. So we took the mountains and walked on the gravel part and went on
What was about to happen next, was the scariest part of the whole trek. There are no photos for this little play. These were the exact moments for which one would go gaga over telling, "you have to be there to experience it."
So, we walked for half a kilometer or so on the gravel and we hit a point where there was no further going ahead. There was good Chadar right in front of us, but to get there, the edges were cut off. There was water at the edges. What was the next thing to do?
After a lot of poking of sticks into the surface and realizing the Chadar was not strong At any point for us to step on, they dumped a huge rock and to see if the inner layer of ice was strong enough to bear our load through it. But no, the stone went a little further in. Then they threw another one on it and could somehow make it a step-worthy place to take the leap.
There was yamzor on one side and there were other porters on the other. They just jumped off from one of the sides and got there. So, they were keeping one leg on the stones and the other and making people jump from one end to the other. There were around 8 of them who did this and the Chadar was getting weaker. The next lady who was about to jump, got a little confused and the porter pulled her, while she did not put in inertia to make it across and then, she fell in the water. Her left half was immersed in the water, which people dreaded. The idea of it seeping in the shoes made peoples' spine chill and this lady was in the cold water.
First things first. When you have such temperatures and you are wet you just have a little window to change your clothes before hypothermia sets in. The people and the porters found her bag and started rubbing her feet and hands and changed the socks and the first 2 layers of her clothing. While all this was going on, she sat there stunned by the whole thing. All of us worried, she had a huge mark on her left cheek. Chadar had slapped her.
There were four of us still on the gravel and stones, while this happened. The Chadar totally broke at that particular point and there was no way we could cross it from there. So the whole process of finding a suitable place started again and after 10 minutes, we finally found a spot. The four of us were very scared after watching the whole incident. We took leaps and made it across somehow. We were ready to move ahead, still shaken by the incident.
We then moved ahead on the Chadar, saw more and more beautiful views, which were treacherous at some points. But then it's mother nature, which has its own way of showing its beauty. One constant question that you keep asking yourself and the others in the wild, isolated, life threatening conditions is that "can you get enough of this?" Then you realize it's a statement more than a question. The answer lies in front of you all the time. There is never enough of it at all.
We then come across another patch of Chadar, which is not formed yet. Look at the image above and see the people moving towards the hill and going up the hill. It was a long detour and a time-consuming one. The distance which had to be covered through this land route was almost twice as that on the Chadar and going uphill and downhill consumed a lot of time. Here, there were places where you had no choice but to walk in a single file on the hill, where there is loose gravel and sand. You have to keep your balance and make sure you do not just go down with the falling rocks. As we were crossing, there were a few rocks rolling down and going into the icy water. It gave all of us chills and we had to walk carefully. This was all over more adventurous again.
You can see how the conditions on the little detour were
And also semi-formed Chadar
Harsh, yet beautiful as always
The moment we finished the climb down, there were porters waiting with the lunch prepped up along with hot chai and biscuits. We were arranging our luggage carefully again
Lunch time in beautiful sunshine...
...and then we were off again
The Chadar was all clean like a highway, allowing us to pick up the pace. We had lost a lot of pace due to the detours and were off the mark. We had to cover up a lot of ground and as we had to make it to the camp before sunset, we were pushing as fast as we could
We saw many more mesmerizing views, but did not have time to savour them
There were scenes set up by nature. You would not believe the terrain out there - how it transforms and how it moves from one form to another in perfect symphony!
We come across the dance of the ice. You wouldn't want to tap that
We headed forward and were pushing hard as there was little time and we had to reach before it got dark
The views just kept getting better and better. We were on a different planet we felt. It was just as amazing as it could get
And then, just when we thought we have had enough and seen all the shades of blue, we come across a spectacle
There was a hot spring flowing on the left and there was a frozen waterfall on the right. The temperatures, waters and chemicals had a chemistry out there and put up a show. On the other hand, there was a huge mountain ahead, across which was our camp. We did not know that yet
The Chadar was not in good shape and we were negotiating it carefully as the sun was going down. This is the hot spring / waterfall flowing in the -ves
We had a long walk after which, we had a steep hill to to cross. The light was bad and we were exhausted. There was no energy and left to click photos of the camp. Added to it, was just the start and first serous day of the trek. We had to conserve batteries. There were a lot many days still left and there were many more unseen views. There was a lot of calculation before taking photos and there was a lot of energy put in to make sure the batteries remained heated up using the body heat to retain the charge, be it day or night.
The camp was set up on a little hillock between the huge mountains and there was a lot of cover from the mountains and relatively, there was no wind felt. We had a good time and even though it was super cold out there, we were adjusting and getting a little better sleep in the sleeping bags ffter going through the painful process described above. The whole thing went on at the night and continued the next morning too. The pain never felt less, be it on day 0 or the nth day of the trek. The cold does creep in.
There were a lot of lessons learnt. A toll was taken on the body and there was a long day to come ahead after having done a long, toiling day! Learning a little about the Chadar, learning about its agility, unpredictability and how humongous nature is and how little we are.
Well, this was just the start!!!
Day 05 :
Well, waking up in the morning to the porters call, getting a hot sulemani or the black cup of the coffee to start your day! Sounds amazing, but it isn't that welcoming after all... when you are tugged in a double sleeping bag and your body heat is the only thing keeping you alive through the night! The moment the zipper goes down the cold creeps in and the painful morning starts.
The morning regime, I mean from taking the zipper down to putting on the shoes - everything is a bloody pain. However, after a little warm up and moving around, we had some amazing hot breakfast and the guide forced us to speed up, pack and move.
I was a little more organised today and many of my group mates gave most of the heavy luggage to porters and decided to travel light. Previous day, the first actual long trek and the events had given our pace a setback. But, today we had to keep up the pace and also enjoy, rather than just being concerned about the surroundings.
But you always need to mind your surroundings. We learnt how to tread on the Chadar, how to balance our body weight and use it to our advantage
We set off and after walking few paces we come across this :Just to realize that the harsh nature just takes out every little drop of life out.
One amazing thing about the trek is the terrain is same, yet never same! There is not one moment you would feel bored of the nature and surroundings. The environment really is treacherous, you take it it too lightly and it throws you out.
This man just relaxes and laughs at us while we struggle (he's the guide yamzor)
When you think you have seen enough, you come across this :
Kaach hai (clear glass)! The environment just manages to amaze you evry fe moments. I got flown away with the sheer happiness of something like this and started playing over it. Missed a few clicks, how ever no regrets!
We are walking and to the left we hear crackling sounds, there's this :
There is this guy who just traversed 10 feet while I was braving the cold and taking my glove off to get a shot! He was quick, damn quick. He came down like there is no tomorrow, no cold, no terrain and no chadar. He just got off the cliff and walked away. Just like those movies where the hero walks away from the blast. *here it was the loose stones falling off and cracking the chadar*
We had a long way to go, acres and kms of white sheet to walk on
Then, there are few beautiful spots like these :
Like the springs, the more beautiful look the more is the danger!
Mother nature puts up the art on chadar :
At spots like the one above, you will hear the water gushing through. The sound is so loud that, one would think the chadar will flow with it or fall into it! But, after looking at it for a few days we realised the temperatures drop so low that, even the great force with which it flows gets freezed and all the thrust comes down to 0 i.e solid state - ice!
We had a break, the usual yummy lunch, the tea for hydration and we are off
I just take a breather turn around to watch people, how the endure, how the walk, how tired they are, just as me, yet enduring, there is only one way > Forward
To my right the nature had stood still
Look at the blue pool, like I told the more beautiful, the more dangerous. If you keep your pole on this one, it would crack.
The chadar was not good ahead it was a big mess, negotiating carefully was a necessity. If you make a mistake down you go with the water which flows at high speeds and super low temperatures
We take careful steps and make it to the base after few more kms, it's dark, it's cold, it's colder thank you can think of. The body has worn out, it pains but you cannot feel the pain due to the cold. The mind wants to give up. But, it knows it can't as there is no way out. There is no network, there is no electricity, there are no people, there are no cities. All there is, is cold and silence of the star lit sky.
Day 06 :
I should skip the starting problem of the morning. (Ain't it obvious how tough it is as the temperatures are dropping). But I was loving this morning, there was no change. I was just like the who hated his school all the junior years, as you go into highers you love school. I was just loving and cherishing wach moment there
The beautiful setup of our camp, yes it was like living right some dream
The chadar was really in a bad shape at few spots, you just have to negotiate with it
Another shot of the base :
The reflections :
Long day ahead :
It had snowed last evening, the results are brown rocks go all white, new scenes are set up
The snow is like another villain of the story. It really is dangerous to have snow, we were lucky that the snowfall was not heavy. Had it been heavy, it would have left a few inches on the chadar and it would be impossible to see and gauge the chadar. In layman's words bangalore's roads after rains : "You never know if you are going into a pit or a crater to come out safe "
There are more clouds ahead, if the do not clear out the trek can be called off for the day.
The fractals are coming together, another day and they would be rock solid
This is really bad and risky, I mean yeah everything is! But, this is more risky than the normal chadar, the fractal sheets break, join, break, take a bit of chadar away or join in and become a part of it
Get this, still and the flow
The flow gets still? The still gets flowing?
Deadly, ain't it (No, not killed by animal. It's the skull of skinned goat which the people cook the meat of, off and eat.)
Look at the magnificence,
Does not look that magnificent? Here hyoomans next to it :
It's snowed, the chadar is not well formed, hard working hours ahead :
Narrow place to go ahead, we walk in a single file
There was no good news, the clouds were still persistent and there was no sign of the sun. However there was no snowfall, we picked up the pace and covered up the ground as fast as possible
It became really challenging as there was no sun and there was snow all over. We were just following the tracks made by our guide, he just dragged the stick on the surface along him and it left the skid marks for us to follow
All were in a single file, takin no risk
and snow came in
more clouds coming in, but so did clear skies
The playful sun and clouds set up few more master pieces
But, again the clouds came in and there was serious darkness around, it became all gloomy
Going ahead there was a slight clear sky, it got ok, just ok.
We covered up the ground and reached our camp. There was the yummy hot pakodas waiting along side tea and all the days tiredness just goes off. A series of conversations, teas and yummy meal became the way of life. There was no room for the sophisticated life out there, all were like a family more than family, taking rounds to decide who is going to take a crap first to how to survive the loo tent to amazing travel stories. Just the way of life, off we go to the sleeping bags with all the excitement filled in.
Morning! This is the day, why we have traveled so much, taken so many risks, played with the life, out our life into one guy's guidance and there is all hope, smiles and the air is filled with excitement. Today is the day we reach nerak, yay!!!
What? Disappointed with the pic? The sunshines and the ray of hopes and the excitement was in the head, the nature has it's ways! Not a movie where the scenes change according to your state of mind. It was quite gloomy and there was a snowfall previous night too, resulting in the gloominess around.
We were off and were walking at a pace which was the best, we might have mastered the chadar or at least the art of walking on the chadar
Amazing? Ain't it
You are just awe struck every moment and cold struck too! The winds were howling too and the temperatures were really low
The lunch break, there were porters around,
Their way of life
There are a few who walk by us while we eat, there is a lot to cover ahead
There is another group which breaks for lunch
We move quickly as the clouds are setting in
There is all the whites in front of you to cover, it's become a way of life to us now too
This thought that we belong here, we are used to the chadar, we know the chadar costed 2 people terribly.
Incident 1 : There was snowfall all over and guide had been asking us to follow him since day one and was more so specific about following the line. One guy went wayward and was away from his group. He paid the price, he went towards the edges, not towards the river. But, towards the mountains and slipped in! He just dropped in only thing above the chadar was his head. All of us were struck, we shouted out and all the guides and porters just threw their baggage and went to rescue the chap. He was pulled out and was stripped from his clothes within a few seconds as he was wet head to toe at water colder that we can think of! Hypothermia would have set in if not fo the quick rescue.
Incident 2 :
There was a girl in our group, it was very unfortunate that she fractured her hand as she fell on chadar. All of us would fall everyday and all of us would keep a count of it and have a fun time about it. This was just unexpected as the girl broke her hand and there was nothing we could do. We had minimal medical assistance and they tried setting her hand in and there was no other go but to trek till nerak as the sun was coming down.
There is some log lifting competition among us
We see loads of flags put up, it was surprise, as we never have had seen something like this for days
There are people cheering up, there are people greeting us and they were putting a little piece of cloth around us and asking for bakshish
After a puzzled 10 minutes we get to know that we have reached nerak and the people are greeting us for successfully reaching there, still puzzled, where is the great frozen 70 foot tall waterfall!!
We walk a little ahead and realize, it's just around!
Here we are,How tiny are we ?
A close up
The trees are just look like left over twigs!
On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-3.jpg
There were few more kms left to reach the final base camp, there was still a little to negotiate
Oh, there is a sign! oh, we are here! Oh, there is a sat phone! Oh, I can call up my loved ones to let them know I'm alive! Oh, what! Oh, oh! The brain went crazy and ecstatic, too many emotions flew in
We could call out using the sat phone here at the price 5 bucks per minute, by the time I went in and settled my luggage. Had a cup of tea and came out, there was a huge queue of people waiting to call up their loved ones, to let them know they are alive. It just gave me a gist of what army people would go through, what they have done for the country and what they are willing to do. The feeling was mixed as I stood almost an hour to make a call. Had to make another one, but could not as the phone ran out of the charge. Wondering how? So, here it is; sun! Yeah, the sun was not out whole day, the phone es charged with solar plates. No sun = No phone. Was still happy as I could be and was glad that I could reach out to my mom and tell her I was safe. I just stood for hours staring at this
This was our base, there were celebrations, there was meat for the meat eaters, there was booze for the drinkers there were celebrations all around and there was this little thought hitting my head 'it's over, from tomorrow it's the return leg, return legs are always painful'. With thoughts I was settling in the room trying to sleep.