Having done quite a few one day treks, I was telling myself that I should try and attempt something bigger – and along came the KMA announcement for a trek to
May 24: Stay in Manali
May 25: Manali to Prini and there on to Tilgan
May 26: Tilgan to Sarrabogi
May 27: Sarrabogi to Kokunallah
May 28: Kokunallah to Ooching Bihai
May 29: Ooching Bihai to Juara
May 30: Juara to
May 31: Juara to Ooching Bihai
June 1: Ooching Bihai to Manali
June 2: Manali to
June 3: Reach
I choose to fly to and from
The flight landed in
By now, everyone had arrived at
Rooms were arranged for us at Manali - these were much better than I expected within the limited budget with excellent view of the mountains and plains. Having the whole day to ourselves, most of us took a quick walk done to the Manali city and market place and had fun window shopping and tasting local cuisine. There were lots of Nepalese & Tibetan food items on the menu, and I did not waste the opportunity to taste some excellent Momos - and topped that off with a double scoop of Baskin Robbins ice cream of which there was a next little counter in Manali!
That night we have fun - with a round of introductions followed by song and dance and jokes.
The formal trek started the next day with a briefing from the organizers and we were introduced to our three guides - Amar, Cheturam & Sanjay. They would be our guardians for the next week, leading us up to Hamta pass and back to Manali. The next days are a blur of activity in my mind, so I will not go through them in any specific order, will just capture moments and incidents that spring to memory:
Washing plate - sounds innocuous, doesn't it? Having stayed alone for the past several years, I am quite used to this activity. However, try doing this after a hard days trek up in the mountains when it is raining and you have to wash in a small stream with freezing cold water. Enough said.
Food - Roti/Phulka & rice on most days. Tastes amazing after all the exercise in the cold mountain air. Treat the guides nicely and you might be even treated with a Biriyani at 10,000 ft.
Tents & Sleeping Bags - my first time in both. Not as bad as I expected, although I learnt two valuable lesions - one, make sure all zippers work, the cold has a way of creeping in through the slightest crack. Two, try and get a tent on level ground, I found myself waking up 2 feet down from wherever I had laid down to sleep because there was a slope.
Games - If the weather allows, there is nothing to beat Koko, Dog & bone or Frisbee at 10,000+ altitudes. If weather is not so benevolent, there is the always the option of 14 people stuffed into a 4 man tent, nice and warm, albeit a bit suffocating. Open flaps resolve the latter issue though people near the flaps tend to get wet if it is raining (as is mostly the case in the afternoons up in the mountains). Good indoor games are cards (Rummy, Bluff, Donkey), god/police/thief/villager (which I introduced and later regretted after playing it a million and one times, believe I learnt it from Kiran in Mensa). Or just sit around swapping life experiences; being such a heterogeneous group, this is bound to be varied and interesting.
Dancing & singing - come night, it is time for the camp fire. Gather wood first and then you're all set to sit around the fire singing old Hindi songs. Soon the local guides and helpers join you, and then it is swaying to the rhythm of the local songs set to the tune of beats from an empty plastic can.
Getting up - Slowly gain consciousness in the warmth of your sleeping bag, hesitating to get out and expose yourself to the cold. Drag yourself out finally for the ceremonial face wash in the cold, cold stream. Once this is done, you have completed the hardest part of the day and are all set to face a new day.
Once we were back at Manali we had a taste of the local wines - Apricot, Peach, Plum & Kiwi. Everyone agreed that Plum & Apricot were amongst the best.
On the whole, a very amazing experience for me - treks through verdant mountains, icy valleys & pine filled slopes, making lots of new friends - from school kids to retired folks, waking up to new sights, sounds, smells & taste every day, too many opportunities for photography, fun games, lots of laughter & teasing and fun, dancing and singing and above all - totally disconnected from the daily grind.