Demystifying the How Safe is Kashmir Question!March 14, 2018
When I was trekking in Nepal, I knew for a fact that I am doing this to look good back home. You know how childish we can be with our motives. I wanted to snag some respect amongst peers and look cool. Fast forward two years from my Annapurna Base camp trek, it sounds obnoxious even to me but it was my driving force back then. Travel evolves you and makes you realize that the only person you please by doing all of this is yourself and no one else.
In the World of Fakes, I am Trying to Keep It Real
Now if you read the first part of my journey (read it here
), you remember that I was lost and 5000 steps down on the first day itself. Sunset in mountains, especially in late November, happens early, which means I am racing against time. Unlike other western trekkers, I am least prepared to be on the trail. My bag was a fake North Face rented from Pokhara that gave little to no support to my back; I had no headlamp that could have illuminated the trail in the darkness, and literally no energy left to go anywhere but forward. Besides, if I can lose my way in broad daylight, I sure as hell don't trust myself in the darkness.
With these pleasant thoughts brewing in my head, I sat heavy in the middle of the trail. But then I realized, the more I sat and contemplated, the more time I will waste. So I got up, brushed off and decided to get going. As I was going up, I counted the hairpin turns on the map to know how much more I have to go up before I can go down again.
“Tip: When you are trekking for days, don't micro-manage the distance. If you are tired, stop. Take sometime to catch your breath. Slow and steady progress is still a progress. I know that now, but back then I was a wreck.”
So I kept charging on. Just 30 minutes of slow walking brought me to a teashop. I was so happy to see the place that I didn’t feel the pain in my legs anymore. I went up to it looking for help. But not only was that shop empty, but there were two ways from there to Chommrong. Can this day get any worse? I sat there again, thinking which way to take. By the way, did I tell you that by this time my phone had conked off too? Yea, talk about “when it rains, it pours.” By now the sun had set behind the tall mountains and the last remaining rays lit up the sky just enough for me to see the trail. I was losing my shit. Getting lost that day was just half of the problem, finding Kailey was the other half. All I had was a maximum 40-45 minutes before it got completely dark and just then a miracle happened.
The Happy Reunion
A group of trekkers from UK came from behind and I joined them without wasting a second. They took a trail that went downhill. I went along with them. A father-daughter duo was a part of this group but they were from Spain. The daughter was obviously very fast but her father was old and slow so I matched my pace with him. They were kind enough to let me trek with them till Chommrong. Within 35 minutes, I was at the base of the village with other set of 500 stone steps ahead of me. I quickly went up as my lungs were bursting at the seams. Now even though I arrived at the village, I still had to find Kailey (the Canadian trekker with whom I began my journey).
I stood at the village entrance and for a minute forgot about my worries as I turned around to see where I came from, the orange sunrays painting the sky. But now it was 80% dark and I still had no clue where to go. Just then, on an instinct, I remembered earlier from the day that we met an Australian couple who said that they will be staying at Aparna Guesthouse in Chommrong. I thought, well if I can’t find Kailey, I can at least find the couple! I took a call of judgment and asked a few people around for the directions. They told me it was 1km from where I stood. I cursed under my breath and started walking in the direction they pointed to me. As I walked through the dark paths with no lights, my fear was almost palpable. Just then I see stone steps going down and the guesthouse I was looking for. As I got excited and began racing down the steps, I saw Kailey, the Australian couple, and their guide, Neema, shaking their hands at me vigorously! Eureka, I reunited with my friends from the trail and it was the happiest day of my life.
As I got there, they burst into clapping and welcomed me with a cheer. It felt like I had reached the finished line. It was still Day 2 and 6500 steps by now! I told them my tale of being lost and also realized that I lost the only jacket I had brought with me on the trail. I wanted to forget all of that and soak the last view of the mountains in front of me before it became completely dark. I sat staring at the mountains that I was chasing all this day, taking sips of rum that I have been carrying around with me from Pokhara. This was my instant fix in the freezing cold minus the jacket. I broke away from the reverie as they all started joking and laughing at my day’s adventures! And then arrived a piping hot thali of Dal Bhat, the wonder food that will keep me going for the next 7 days.
Tip: Dal Bhat may be expensive as you get higher, but they give you unlimited servings. It does complete justice to the money you pay because the food is always so amazing. There are obviously plenty of other options from pizzas to burgers to what-not. But I strictly recommend Dal Bhat for its blissful taste and satiating quality!
After chilling for about an hour or two from the time I came staggering into the guesthouse, we were ready to call it a night. I slept like a child and welcomed day 3 with as much excitement as trepidation.
“Dal Bhat power, 24 hour :D”
Chommrong to Bamboo
To avoid the incident that happened last night, Kailey and I decided that she will walk ahead of me, reach the next village, and stop at the first guesthouse until I arrive. Luckily, we both had an amazing understanding like that. She looked out for me the whole time and also told people on the trail to keep an eye out for me. Sometimes it was funny because a lot of people would show signs of recognition when I told them my name
“Aah! You are Kanika, the trekker in all black and a green backpack!” That was always hilarious and a great icebreaker.”
Day 3 started with more excitement. I thought that the worst is over, but naturally it wasn’t. With every passing hour, the trail became steeper, unrelenting, and longer. But by now, I had got my rhythm. Rather than feeling despondent, I took it nice and slow. I took fewer stops and tried to train my body for tougher days by walking more. On Day 3, we had to go up a village and go down another that was largely uneventful. I remember walking alone in the forest, feeling stronger and more confident about myself. I sang loudly and talked to the birds, enjoying the isolation. After about two hours of walking apart, I saw Kailey sitting at the fork on the trail. She was waiting for me, fearing I’ll somehow take the wrong trail again. She doesn’t trust me anymore (haha).
We started trekking up again and decided to break for lunch. It was a beautiful place with a clear view of Mount Fishtail (Machapuchre). This is the first time I could see the Annapurna range appearing closer. It felt strangely nice because it was a tough journey so far. I had some hot chocolate, a snickers bar and some nuts. This became my lunch on the trail for the remaining days. I realized that if I ate too much, I got lazy and found it hard to walk. Anyway, it was 2 PM by now and we decided to make haste. Kailey likes to walk fast and I like to take it slow. From here we decided to meet next at Bamboo.
As I reached Bamboo, sure enough Kailey was sitting at the guesthouse entrance and she already had the room situation figured. God bless her soul!
Tip: When you are trekking in Nepal, especially popular trails like Annapurna Basecamp and Everest basecamp, there are times when you may not find accommodation. Mostly people have guides who call ahead and book a place for their clients. This mostly happens during rush season. I was trekking there in late November and still the trail was quite crowded. Luckily for me, Kailey was always ahead and found us a spot long before I arrived, as was the case in Bamboo.
It is funny how difficult day 2 was and how relatively simpler day 3 became. I was able to handle most of my worries confidently, relying on locals for help a lot of times. We spoke the common tongue so it was always easy to start talking to them.
My Magic Potion was a Big hit
As I reached Bamboo, I quickly washed up and went to the communal area for some hot tea. I was warming up to my cup when a bunch of trekkers entered the common room.
I loved this part after the day’s trek, when you sit with other trekkers and talk about your experience from that day. I still had some rum remaining from yesterday so I poured it in my cup of ginger, lemon, honey tea. Me and my friends drank this when we were travelling through the mad cold of Spiti. It worked like a charm in bringing instant warmth and became a drink for our soul! A British guy saw me doing this and asked me for a swig. I gladly shared my tonic and he loved it! Soon everyone was drinking my magic potion. My rum spiked ginger, lemon, honey tea became an instant hit!
I was excited to check my step count for the day and was happy to see that I have outdone my fear. I had not only trekked close to 10kms that day but also climbed about 4000 steps adding to my total of 6500 from yesterday! Can you imagine doing this in your city lives? This can only happen on the mountains where the air may be thin but its clean.
You may be falling apart at each step
but people only help you become better each day! I met a Belgian woman and the only Indian guy on this trail who changed the way I trek. We shall talk more about this in part 3 of this blog!
Meanwhile, tell me if you have you ever trekked in the altitude. Share your blog links, if any, in the comments for me to read your experiences!