.....a lonely trek I did on my 30th birthday.....
I've been thinking for a long time to do a trek alone. With my 30th birthday approaching on 6th June 2010, I somehow thought it was the perfect time to do it. It was a good thought albeit a bit difficult. The most difficult part was to convince wife to let me go. I first shared this thought while we were together on a trek from Manali to Byas Kund. I thought it was an opportune moment. I was wrong. It took a month but somehow, just before the b'day, she agreed. May be she could see that this was important for me and it was not about her. Or may be their was some cosmic help. I would never know. Also I don't want to know.
I had come to Meerut with my wife for some dinner party. After the party she dropped me off on a bus from Meerut to Haridwar. The destination of the trek was still not decided apart from the fact that it would be somewhere in Uttrakhand. So Haridwar was a good starting destination. During the bus journey I discussed the possible destinations with Bombs & Chumms. Both of them independently suggested some destinations. However they both suggested Roopkund, so I decided to do Roopkund. At 3:30 AM I reached Haridwar, rather I should say I woke up at 3:30 AM to find that the bus was empty and had reached Haridwar. Then from there I tried to take a bus to Gwaldam as Harsh had suggested to me. But as I found out, no bus goes from Haridwar to Gwaldam. There was a bus going to Joshimath which was supposed to leave at 4:30AM. I hopped on that bus thinking of changing to some other bus/taxi en-route. There was a rather odd Israeli with a guitar and dholak sleeping. As I found out later, he was sleeping in the bus for the night. This was my first experience of few more to come on this trip of the frugality with which Israelis travel in India. Later he got off the bus to catch a bus to Manali (where else). As it turned out I also had to got off that bus since it did not leave till 5:OO AM and seemed to have not intentions of moving. So I took another bus to Dehradoon and reached there at 6:30 AM, but the bus to Gwaldam had already left at 5 AM. Then I thought of taking a taxi but I did not like the feeling. You see, 5th June (6th June by Indian time) is also world environment day. So I decided to stay in Dehradoon for one day and prepare for the trip. I bought important stuff like torch, raincoat & map during that day. Also took printout of this blog sent to me by Chumms: india-articles/roopkund-india-trek-report/
Due to this day, this became one of my better prepared treks, the only essential commodities missing were a tent and camera. But I had my phone with camera so....
Woke up really early to catch a bus leaving at 5:00 AM to Baageshwar from bus-stop close to railway station in Dehradoon. The long bus ride alone is a unique experience. I throughly enjoyed it this time around but did not liked it a bit while coming back. May be the reason is that as you go up the mountains, the weather and scenery keeps improving. Also may be I was lucky to have got a good window seat while going up. During this bus journey I was asked for the first time by a co-passenger traveling to attend a wedding at Devprayag : Are you single? Later, this same question was repeated by atleast a dozen people during the trip. First time round, I got confused as to how can he be so intrusive. I felt a strange deja-vu of trying to enter some fancy disc during college days. But then I understood what he meant and answered : Yes I'm traveling alone. At 3:30 PM the bus reached a place called Tharali. I was the only one to get off at there. There I saw this sign board:
So, there is still a drive of 53 KMs remaining to reach Wan and from there a trek of 23 KMs to Roopkund. My target today was to reach Wan. I had read in the various blogs, it would be difficult to get any transportation to Wan in the evening. So I tried to book a taxi to Wan right away from Tharali. One guy agreed with reluctance in lure of 2000 rupees. But as we started he was stopped by policeman and was detained for driving without license. Apparently this was third time he was caught by the same cop so there was no escaping. I hiked back to the taxi stand but no other taxi driver agreed. So I took a shared taxi to Deval. During the taxi ride I made friends with a local guy Laxman Bisht who had to go to Lohajung. We reached Deval at 4:30 PM. Laxman talked to one of his friend Davinder Punyal. Davinder had a taxi and he agreed to drop us to Lohajung. On our way to Lohajung it started raining & everything became extra beautiful. We decided to buy some beer from one of those unofficial liquor stores. But beer was out of stock so we bought local rum Black Bull. We had rum with water in the car. I can definitely say that Black Bull is like 100 times better than Red Bull. Lohajung is like 2500 mts. from sea level but we were much more high when we reached Lohajung at about 6 PM. As luck would have it there was a marriage in Wan & for that there was a jeep going to Wan at that hour. I hopped on that Jeep which was jam packed. As rain started to subside the human density inside the jeep started to decrease. I wonder if people are getting thinner like the air outside. It was not the case, people were acrobatically moving on the roof of the jeep to get more air. This looked scary on this very bumpy ride. But I soon found myself on top of the jeep chatting with a kid, Mansingh. He offered to come with me as a guide to Roopkund. I had no intentions of taking a guide with me but some guys below had advised me not to go alone without a tent. Mansingh looked like a non intrusive trustworthy guy, so I agreed to take him along. We reached Wan at about 7:30 PM, it was pitch dark. Mansingh checked me in a small dingy hotel. Whole of the village was visibly excited to attend the wedding. So was the hotel owner where I was staying. I could see his eagerness to leave, so I requested him to give me quick maggi and omelete for dinner. After this sumptuous meal I slept early to start the trek in the morning.
I woke up at about 5:30 AM and had a view of the Wan village for the first time. It was not bad. Wan is an interesting village. There are only 3 jeeps which dare to commute daily on the treacherous road connecting Wan and Lohajung. It has a decent population despite bad road connection. There is a low capacity hydel-power plant which provides electricity to the village from 6 PM to 9 PM daily. Bulbs are banned, only CFL are allowed. There is a GMVN guest house which is the biggest building in the village. Mansingh & me started started our trek at 7:00 AM from Wan. The initial track goes through the farmlands of the village. I always find the first part of the trek most tiring.
After about half an hour we reached the highest point in Wan village. From here a decline started towards a vociferous river flowing in the valley. It would be a good point to have a rope-way connecting Wan to Bedni-Bugyal. It took us an hour to reach the river known as Nil Ganga and also Bedni Ganga. There was a big camp along the riverside, I guess of about 20 people. Although river was doing its best to create noise to overpower the noise created by humans, but without any success.
After Bedni Ganga a relatively steep rise started through thick cover of pine trees. After about half an hour climb we reached a point where mobile connectivity was available. I made one quick call to inform back home that I'll not be available for next 2-3 days. This path was enjoyable in the beginning but it soon became rather monotonous. I forced myself to take infrequent and small breaks. Also I took steeper shortcuts.
At about 11 AM I reached a resting point known as Gairoli Patal. Where I met Mansingh waiting for me. Also resting there ware 3 Bengali trekkers with lot of baggage and porters. Three of them looked like brothers and had unbelievable similarity with those brothers in Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey. May be I found the similarity due to hats, but mannerism was also quite similar. I expected some change in scenery after crossing Gairoli Patal, but it was not to be. However on reaching Bedni-Bugyal there was a definite change in scenery. I reached there at about 1 PM. In terms of performance this was the best patch for me.
In most the blogs I read people took about 7-9 hours to reach from Wan to Bedni-Bugyal. I was able to do it in 6 hours. More than my perseverance the reason was lovely weather. It was nice and sunny throughout the trek. Although the path was mostly shady trek, real beauty of the weather I realized on reaching Bedni-Bugyal. The mountains covered with very green grass were all around me. As far as I could see.
I took lunch at the dhaba and then a nap in the sun. I slept like a log for half an hour. Then walked around the grassland bare foot. It was quite relaxing. I also read the blog printout here to realize that I've done well to reach here in such quick time. I was extra pleased with a sense of achievement.
Although Mansingh was quite reluctant to go any further and he had talked to the dhaba owner to stay there for the night. However from reading the blog I realized that I'm very lucky to have this lovely weather. I should not waste it and try to reach the next milestone Pather Nachani before sunset. So I convinced Mansingh and the dhaba guy to proceed further.
At about 2:30 PM I departed from Bedni-Bugyal. It was gentle steep and rather pleasant walk from Bedni. The scenery was beautiful but I was feeling weight of depression. The feeling of sadness has been lingering inside me with this upcoming "30th milestone". I've been having these doubt that I've already lived the most fun part of my life. Although I've been trying to suppress these thoughts and telling myself that it is not true, but I could not completely convince myself. So far in the trek I was going faster and faster to tire myself out and absolve myself from these thoughts. At this stretch the view was so beautiful, I did not want to go faster. I could not avoid thoughts related to futility of life. How meaningless it is to just keep walking. That's exactly what I kept doing for about an hour before reaching the top. There was a narrow path going toward the other side of the mountain, which I could not see. I looked back and I could see the complete path till Bedni. It was really beautiful. I sat there and took few pictures from my phone, whose battery was still surviving.
I sat their for a long time and kept looking toward Bedni Bugyal. The dhaba, small temple and sheeps all looked so small from such a distance but they seemed to be so elegantly ingrained in this whole scenery. There were grass covered mountains all across the valley, in which stones and other structures made a nice pattern. I felt reluctant to go to the other side. I knew from the blogs, that beyond that point there was now a downhill walk of about an hour to Pathar Nachani. I strongly felt that I should have brought my tent along with me, then I could have camped here for the night. I found a nice spot on the grass and then rested for a while. Quickly I was in deep sleep. When I woke up, I felt I was sleeping for 2-3 hours but it was actually only half an hour. It was getting really cold and so I quickly got up and started to walk. Then I crossed the top to reach on the other side. Just when I crossed I saw the view to other side. It was simply mind-boggling and breathtaking. The snow covered mountains peaks were visible as if they are touching distance. As if I could run ahead to touch them. The view was like seeing Taj-Mahal for the first time, after crossing the all the long gardens and mughal structures. I don't know which peak it was and all but they were super. I took photographs and made a collage of that view.
The photograph from my 2 mega pixel phone does not do justice, but the view was grand. The clouds and blue sky added to breathtaking beauty of the view.