(View from Nanu in the morning)
Our eyes open to clouds at hands reach. We get a first glimpse of the snowcladden top far ahead. We had missed this view in the altitude gain during yesterday night. It’s 7 a.m. in the morning. The rain shower has stopped gently nudging us to step outside and continue marching ahead.
Bholu is no where around. We have the company of another black mountain dog who’s limping a bit. Is this Bholu? Did he get injured? We couldn’t find an answer. We shared few biscuits together. I took a bite of snickers bar. We start trekking at 7:30 a.m.
(Uphill trek ahead)
5.5 km of steep uphill trek ahead of us.
V has an upset stomach. My legs are still hurting. S and D are energetic and eager to push ahead. B is feeling a bit dizzy. We roared Har Har Mahadev and tried to push ahead. We could only proceed 200m before gasping again for breath. We sat down again.
Every stop to take rest was adding it’s toll on the will power. It required more will power to get up to walk again. This isn’t helping my body. I have to break the loop. I took a resolve to not sit until the summit. Unfortunately that meant bidding goodbye to the team and slowly chugging alone.
(Beautiful grass on the path)
Every 150-200m body would cry for rest. My contract with body was simple. I’d stand still when rest is needed. Sometimes I took some water otherwise click a picture and muster the strength to make progress. Beautiful slanting grassland gave way to a dense jungle. It started drizzling too.
I continued to tread through with more water breaks. Tried to hold water in mouth while walking to reduce these stops. It failed miserably; turns out the last drop of water would leave me fervently gasping for air and increasing my heart beat. The next thought was may be my breathing is not right leading to lack of oxygen. I meet two localites journeying uphill. They invite me to breathe as much saying Bhaiya yeh air heart keliye bisleri hai (bro, this air is mineral water for the heart) 😇
Next I tried do deep belly breathing consciously with every step. And during the stops I’d breathe in and out vigorously similar to the Bhastrika Pranayama. I am not sure if this practice is right, but it helped immensely in increasing the oxygen flow and heat in the body.
One of the mind bending part of this trek are those moments where you are the brim of giving up. Aur nahi ho payega (can’t go any further). But there is no where to go but forward. You’re literally all alone in the dense forests in the Himalayas. You may see a soul walking down at times but alone otherwise. How would you get any energy to move forward?
Two sources really. A loud roar of Har Har Mahadev is an amazing energy capsule. It felt as if you’re tapping onto the centuries old potential energy stored up in the mountains with those words. I can’t find any other rational explanation. Second, everyone coming down will greet and say bas aap aa gaye, 15 min aur (you’re almost there, 15 more minutes). This is the stream of hope and energy passing on from the temple at the summit through the words of fellow travellers. I can’t stress how powerful these short bursts of hope are!
Sky clears up after the dense forests. You start hearing the sounds of the bell. You’re filled with gratitude to be part of this continuous chain of devotion. I see a few houses and restaurants. It marks the start of the village at the summit.
(First view of the village at Madmaheshwar)
I drop the stick and bag. Grab some water channeled from a stream up in the mountains and wash my face. Put a few drops on the head and step into the beautiful temple. Shringar activity is taking place, the lord of universe is getting decorated with a silver colored lingam surrounded by smaller deities. The priest is applying sandalwood paste after carefully managing to place flowers strategically on the deity.
Sounds of Vedic mantras start reverberating the inner sanctorum of the temple. Purusha Sukta it is. I close my eyes to feel the presence of the universal being. Who else are the thousand eyes but us, where are the legs but ours and where are those thousand hands but those of yours and mine. This reminds the words of Geeta describing the universal being, sarvatah pani padam tat, sarvatah akshih sirah mukham (everywhere are the hands and legs, everywhere are the eyes, heads and mouths). That is the consciousness shining forth. This experience took me momentarily to those sages who authored the hymns on a land surrounded by majestic mountains and the Ganges below.
I took a few moments outside the temple to hold this feeling. Hope this will last forever. It’s past noon now, time to get down. I enjoy two hot Aloo Parathas in the village. Food tastes so much better when the Mind and body are in state of gratitude.
(Through the forest in way back)
Trekking downhill is a different experience. Now the pressure is on the ankles and toes to not slip through the rocks. I kept the tradition of passing hope and a note on the distance ahead to everyone I meet. The chants of shivoham shivoham are running in a loop in this mind. First six seven kilometre was felt like a dance in unison with sounds of river below, melody of the birds, the mountain around and the cloud above. What a state of flow…
I meet several people trekking down. We exchange greetings. There are locals traveling from Joshimath. Everyone I meet keeps asking about my next plan. I will walk till my legs support me. May be I will stop at Gaundhar and stay for the night. A kind couple offered me a ride to Ransi when we meet at end of trek.
I stop at Nanu to pick up yesterday’s wet clothes. Two kilometers further, I stop to gulp the pure rhododendron juice. I meet a fellow traveler who was taking rest due to height sickness, handed over some ORS, biscuits and Diamox tablets I had on me. Time to pick the 8kg backpack 😓
(Through the grassland on way back)
I meet an young lad from Rudraprayag trekking enthusiastically. His parents are coming way behind. We talk about his dreams, life in the mountains and so on. He wants to join the Army and serve the country. I try to share an idea about few other professions. We reach Bantoli together and he stops there to wait for his family to join. We bid goodbye.
I trek few more kilometres and the uphil trek begins. Thankfully I meet some fellow engineers for this part of the journey. These two folks are part of a larger group who had already reached the end. Their legs are also not keeping well like mine. We decide to drag along together. We keep talking startups, PSUs and everything else. One of the folks is an environmental engineer and is tired of the inefficient cleanliness initiatives. We talk about CSR efforts by corporate and I learn that they’re not very effective. We are one km away and one of their mates comes along to carry their luggage and give us company.
We make it to the end. 24kms of trek today.
I join the group to Ukhimath on a taxi. We find some place to rest, grab a thali with chapati and sabji. The crew has their onward bus to Rishikesh early in the morning. We say goodbyes. I apply some muscle spray on the legs and doze off at 10.45pm.
This post is the part of a week long solo backpacking series. All posts are below: