Travelling enriches you as a person, widening your perspective about life beyond horizons. However, I had no idea I was going to experience all of this in the next ten days of my life. It was an impromptu decision that, for my first trek, I chose a 15,000-ft. pass located in the lap of mighty Himalayas.
The reminder emails and internet searches about the difficulty level made me realize how unprepared I was. A frenzied call to Sir Ranjit Singh, the only professional trekker in my circle, was what followed.
The very next day, fixing a meeting at 6 am for a trial run, we decided to take the difficult route to reach atop Yogi Hills. Sir Ranjit, my former geometry professor, would narrate incidents justifying his shift of interests from being a math teacher to a K2 (second highest mountain in the world) aspirer. A small hill that would take him around 10 minutes took almost an hour for me. A bit of dragging and a few motivational lines led to a splendid view atop and a sense of achievement.
The hustle and bustle of the Decathlon store on Ghodbunder Road is where trekkers, cyclists, joggers and sports enthusiasts convened. Hiking shoes, poles, gloves and windcheaters made their way into one big orange backpack. A list of precautionary dos and don'ts followed.
Continuing with my tradition of never reaching places on time, I was the last of the whole lot to board the train from Bandra Terminus. Travel, psychology, mythology, politics - discussions rolled over one after the other, and interestingly all the topics seemed interrelated. Diverse opinions; unifying interests.
The base camp was in Rumsu Village, Himachal Pradesh. Although having stayed in Central India for most of my life, this remote northern mountainous region practically never existed for me. This place was my first introduction to the Himalayas. Although the village was small and scarcely populated, one could find several things to learn about and explore. Though most of the locals weren't formally educated, they were not short of courteousness. The manner in which they revered Mother Earth was something one must definitely appreciate.
Covering Chika, Balu Ka Ghera, Shia Ghoru and other smaller places on the way, we moved towards our target, Humta village. Finding our way through the 4 ft snow was a little difficult, but the group spirit made it possible. We would slide, bruise our knees and relentlessly climb back again. It was more of self-learning and experimenting that worked. The early morning sun shone brightly as I got a clear view of the spherical rainbow surrounding the sun. It was magical. I was actually experiencing things that I had only read and heard about.
While descending, we were to halt at Spiti. Spiti Valley is well-known for its beauty and was one of the reasons I opted for this trek. The horses in the valley walked around royally. The lush green mountains, flora and fauna, echoing rivers made it a perfect painter’s inspiration. Accompanying us, the Himalayan Mastiff was an expert climber and sharper than the city breds. The dogs were with us till the end of our journey.
The Chandra Taal lake was the final spot in our itinerary. Reflections on the crystal-clear water surface seemed to emphasize the importance of introspection. I sat there for a while enjoying the symphony of migratory birds. The colourful prayer flags swung along with the breeze creating a soothing disturbance over the mild ripples underneath. I could stay there all my life and surely, the mountains would have lessons to teach every single day.
During and after the trek, there was an unmindful change in my attitude towards people and everyday life. Worries no longer seemed to make me sulk. My frivolous miseries hardly mattered in front of the herculean ranges. Interacting and conversing with strangers became easier. The climb is a test to one's determination and patience. It teaches us to balance our emotions and use the mind effectively. I left from home with no aim, objective or motive but returned with plenty of them. There were no names on the Himalayan map when I left but I returned with more than 50 must-visit places and loads of self-confidence.
No book or traveller would be able to describe the Himalayan experience fairly. One would fall short of adjectives. To me, it appeared like a great saint meditating calmly; detached yet one with the cosmos. It is strong, absolutely pure; yet ego-less.