Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Early morning walk and jog at Cubbon park - 10 July, 2016

Another attempt to make jogging a habit. Not ambitious this time, but trying to start small. To be consistent, instead of aiming for glory. And what better way to start again than with BTC and Cubbon park as location?

Meeting time 6:25 AM and meeting point the entrance gate near Cubbon part metro station. No problem, if one gets up early enough to catch the 6 AM metro starting from either Byappanahalli or Mysuru road.

About 10 of us came in metro from Byappanahalli side and got chatting. At meeting point, we waited 5-10 more minutes for everybody to come. Signed our attendance forms. Organizers Pavan and Gaurav gave an outline for the event - first up walk around the Cubbon park (also helps newbies to get to know the path), then jog around the park on same route followed by stretching exercises.

So, walking first. But hold on, no leisure walking. Brisk walk it is. Although we were a large group (around 25), we soon thinned as per our pace. When you can talk without discomfort, that is a good pace to maintain. And helps passing time, without brooding on length of walk. Being monsoon season, it was cloudy, cooler morning and pleasant to walk despite sweating. Overnight rain meant the muddy walking/jogging track was slimy here and there. 

Image credit: wikimedia

Most of us finished the walking round in about 45 minutes and assembled near Queen Victoria's statue. The public restrooms spaced around the park were useful. There was one nearby here as well.

Before starting our jogging, our organizers stressed again to go at your own comfortable pace. And to assemble at the entrance gate near metro station (i.e the meetup point for event). Some of us had water before starting out (thanks to those who were carrying water and shared with us)

Predictably, we were even more spread out during jogging. I just had one simple aim - jog without stopping and finish the run. And I did it, except for those iron bridges where I preferred to walk instead. Took about 40 minutes, not much difference compared to brisk walk :P But the last kilometer or so was very demanding. And tempting to give up and walk.

The park was crowded with people everywhere. Most people walking, jogging and running. A few cyclists, skaters, some playing badminton, cricket, etc. And probably some slack lining. Some were feeding fishes in the dirty looking pond as well as birds in nearby clearing. There were stalls here and there, selling water and fruit drinks,  vegetables, fruits, pot plants, etc. 

It started drizzling as we neared meeting point. So we met inside a veranda nearby, seemingly built for just this purpose :P Gaurav led the way with stretching exercises, from head to toes. Phew, they seemed more difficult than the 10 KM walking and jogging. And they informed that it was shortened for lack of space and continuing drizzle :P

After that, we moved out despite the drizzle for laughter and clapping exercises (needed bigger space). We then introduced ourselves along with feedback on the event. It was good to know that many were regulars and there were a few suggestions given as well. One particular suggestion to run on roads instead of muddy trail in rainy season was countered with the fact that running on road wasn't good for knees.

We took group picture before dispersing. Some teamed up to go for breakfast, some went to have fruit bowl or sugarcane juice, while the rest took leave, having somewhere else to go or long distance to their stays.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hampta part 5 - Manali, Solang Valley

Link to previous parts

We reached our stay (The Winterfell Lodge) around 4 PM. As we were only 9 members now, we rented 3 rooms and cancelled the fourth one. We kept our bags and ventured out again - for late lunch. We chose an almost empty place, about 5 minutes walk from our stay.

For some reason, I was getting increasingly grumpy since we started back from Jobra - probably mind and soul didn't want to leave the mountains, probably the traffic and all the waiting did it. It didn't help that a person was smoking nearby (not restricted in that place) or that I had to settle for rice sprinkled with lemon, salt and pepper :P Not the first time I wished that my body didn't have an aversion to cheese, butter milk, curd, etc. After more than an hour, we had to wait a bit more as organizers were diligent in catching Rs 1000/- (deliberate?) calculation error in bill.

After going back, we took our time for a pleasing hot water bath. While waiting for our turn, we took to seeing photos, discussions, admiring local kids playing nearby and skilled workers weaving. Some time after 8 PM, we went out for a longish stroll to Manu temple. There was a light drizzle about. Few guys had already gone ahead and met us on the way.

About 150m from the temple, a helpful signboard pointed the way. Which lead to Kirti's master planning of trekking to Solang valley (11 KM from that point) early next morning. Some of us (including yours truly) were up for it.

The temple visit was serene. We sat inside for a while too. After coming out, we got into prolonged discussion with locals. Seemed very nice and answered our queries patiently (the trek plan was vehemently opposed and eventually dropped :P)

We bought bananas on the way (some of us ate a few on the spot) and continued window shopping. Some stopped by to get their first taste of Lychee juice in Manali. It was well past 9 PM by then and the streets started stinking from all the smoke. I couldn't bear the suffocation for long, got our room key from Ishan and left. They gave me the remaining bananas to take to room. I played soothing melodious songs back in room while catching up with notes, falling asleep now and then. Vivek called from the place they were having dinner to ask if I needed parcel, which I declined - because I wasn't that hungry and it was too late already.

Woke up sometime around 5 AM. Got ready and woke up others. We were planning to leave by 6 AM. Got delayed a bit. We checked out, but left our bags with caretakers. Small day bags those who preferred. With my second battery running very low, I left it behind - a day to enjoy without worrying about all the nice photos I might miss :P

We had tea/coffee/snacks at a nearby shop, thankfully open this early in the morning. A dog was doggedly following us. We gave few biscuits, which it lazily ate and then followed us till quite far on our route to Hadimba temple. Lot more crowd here. One of them shamelessly ordered around whomever he could catch to take his photo - this way, that way, different angle and so on.

After taking few pics ourselves, we went on to Gatothkach temple (a huge tree, a bell, some horns and prayer materials). On the way, everybody pitched in with their Mahabharat knowledge to recall Hadimba and Gatothkach stories.

On the way back, we got to see Yaks and spent some time seeing the Manali map. After asking around for directions, we then headed towards Manali bus stand (thanks to Kirpedia for noting we were going wrong way). We walked about 2 KM, seeing Manali at its peaceful rest. And lots of Delhi public school buses.

Mall road was largely empty at this hour. For breakfast, we were lucky to choose this Punjabi Pranthe hotel. It was empty at that hour. We ordered every variety of Pranthe. And when they came, everybody laid their hands and finished in a jiffy. They were quite big, so one of them is enough - but how could we stop eating more of these tasty ones. We also ordered juice and lassi as per preference. All this goodness for very cheap price too (for ex: one Aloo Pranthe for grand total of Rs 30)

Sathesh and Suman joined us at the bus stand. Loaded with green apples and forest plums but not quite ripe yet. Suhash had come too with them to see off. We were just a bit late and missed the only morning bus to Solang valley. So Monisha and Srikanth went to arrange for private transport. While waiting, we saw couple of cyclists on their way to Leh.

Sathesh and Suman hadn't had breakfast yet - I was suggesting Pranthe selling like biscuits near the bus stand entrance. But by then, our transport was ready and we went out. The tempo traveller was right fit for our 11 member group. Quite costly though. About an hour later (couldn't get any game going, just some discussions, playing songs on mobile, etc) we reached Solang.

First up - breakfast stop for those two. They were full of stories on how difficult the climb to village had been, visit to temple, celebrating Sathesh's birthday by distributing sweets to villagers and so on. As he wasn't with us during the night, he got birthday bumps here instead. Too many and painful I suppose. What an odd way to wish someone on his birthday - some fun is okay, not this trend of painful beating :-/ And then we joked that he would have to treat us for lunch later :P

We had dropped the idea of river rafting on Sandeep's information during Hampta trek itself. So, with great expectations we went to see about ropeway and paragliding. So very expensive! Very short paragliding one was Rs 900, the one from up higher and longer duration was Rs 3000. Ropeway was Rs 600. Some of us first timers though didn't want to regret later and so on hopped on to ropeway.

Long queue. And slow moving. The cabins were filled mostly based on groups rather than capacity. So sometimes there were 8-10 going and sometimes just 4. We weren't complaining. Five of (Sathesh, Vivek, Srikanth, Pushkar and yours truly) got one for ourselves. We could take as many pics we wanted, different poses, shouting, etc.

The ropeway itself was boring excepting the engineering aspect. And the wonderful view we got as we went higher. And gave us second thoughts on having rejected the Rs 3000 paragliding - they were just starting and we didn't realize just how high they were jumping off from before seeing it from ropeway.

The tickets were valid for down trip for some long time. There were restaurants at the top. People lazying around. Kids playing. We decided quickly to go see paragliding take off, which was about 5-10 minutes walk. We met the same guy who had informed us of the price at base :P He was the co-ordinator there, communicating with everybody - us potential customers, people just come to watch, people already registered at the counter below, with pilots and so on.

We were informed that we would have to pay Rs 2400 each to have a go. Comes to same price we were told before, counting Rs 600 for ropeway. It didn't take long for us to bite and booked for all five of us. We didn't have cash to pay for all us, but the co-ordinator agreed to be paid at base (where others in our group could lend us). We had to wait as pilots had to be called in from base for us. Few others too joined the fray, succumbing to temptation like us.

Meanwhile we watched others take off. Pilots and their helpers would wait for wind to be favorable and then take off. Usually 2-4 would have lined up at different places near the cliff and go one after the other. Most of the take-offs looked pretty scary. The pilot and customer would take a running start before jumping - the thing is wind would get too strong to have much control on your running. The best take-offs we observed was when customers would just lift their legs asap and let the pilot do all the work! (despite instructions to the contrary)

Our turn finally came. Pushkar went first, carrying all the cash we had. The co-ordinator instructed the pilot to collect the combined fee at base. Came to know later that Pushkar got lucky to get a 10 minute ride :P Sometimes wind forces the pilots to change direction or go higher than planned and results in circuitous return. The other three got their chance as well soon enough. Sathesh (carrying Ishan's camera) and Vivek took video from take-off to landing.

I had to wait some time for a pilot to turn up. My take-off was smooth as I lifted my legs asap like I saw others doing. The initial few moments had that weird feeling similar to what we get during flight take-off. I let out a cry of joy, just for the sake of it :P Soon it was calm, just gliding high above with a bird's eye view. Wind and pilot's maneuver would give 360 degrees view as well. Snow clad mountains in the distance, huge white clouds adorning them, vehicles on winding roads, our companion Beas river, construction activities, the ropeway, etc

Mine was about 5 minutes of airtime only. The quick turns before landing gave that weird feeling again and just like that it was all over. Though it was too costly, I had no regrets. It was worth experiencing paragliding for the first time, especially the high vantage view.

Back at the crowded base, our group had caused few rifts trying to get dressed in traditional outfits. It worked out well eventually. It was getting hot out there, but everybody gamely put on the dresses. And spent awful amount of time taking photos - group pics, individual, this pose, that pose, with wig, dancing about, laughing, photo-bombing and so on. So much fun and laughter therapy. We thanked the local ladies, paid them and started our way back to Manali. On the way back, we five gave our heroic accounts. The two videos taken by Sathesh and Vivek were shared around.

Again traffic jam at old Manali - we just gave up and got down to walk. The first place we tried didn't suit us. The next one offered river view, with lot less of smoke. I quite enjoyed the various veg dishes this time. Adjudging by how much others ate, they were quite liking it too.

We then walked to our lodge, got our bags and freshened up. Thanked the staff, bid goodbye to Renok for everything and were on our way to Manali bus stand again. We walked, our last bit of hiking for the trip. Stopped on the way to buy some dry fruits and sweets. On Mall road, some bought sweet box, in various fruit flavors. We met those two gujjus again and chatted. With time running out to catch the bus, Kirti hurried to buy eggless cake (so that everybody can eat) to celebrate Sathesh's birthday on the way.

Same bus, same conductor, same seats. Except we were starting in evening, four hours earlier than we had started from Delhi. A while after we left Manali, Ishan got his camera out to record video with everybody telling about our trekking experience. It blew to 15 minute 6 seconds video, riddled with some deliberate false statements :P. Monisha and Srikanth decided to follow it up with official feedback, while it was fresh in our minds. At Kullu, we celebrated Sathesh's birthday again with cake cutting. 

Getting carried away with our talk, we were loud enough for other passengers to complain about us. So after feedback had ended (in which I suspect the passengers were interested too) we  stopped talking as whole team. Some talked as quietly as possible with neighbours while some just continued to enjoy the scenery. Those who had missed the big tunnel while arriving (were sleeping) got a surprise to see it now. In some villages/town, fairs were in full swing - too many people, too many shops. That slowed our progress as well.

Around 11 PM, bus finally stopped for dinner. Some of us had been sleeping and didn't bother getting up. Some went ahead to have something to eat, while others just bought water bottles. Early morning we stopped for freshening up. Despite knowing we were on time to reach Delhi by 9 AM, the last few hours seemed to stretch forever.

At ISBT, Monisha gave our certificates back (she had kindly agreed to keep it safely and avoid folds until then). Inside the terminal, we took final group pics and bid goodbye to those catching flight in morning and afternoon (they decided to spend time in airport instead of roaming in Delhi heat)

Rest of us waited a long time for restroom cleaning to finish, only to be told it will take another hour or so and to use the one downstairs instead! Many were waiting in that restroom, so only some found relief (I had stomach trouble, very thankful to get opportunity).

We planned to go visit Akshardham. Got info how to reach and went to metro station just outside. After getting tickets, the remaining used the restroom facilities at the station. The heat was already beginning to show its effect - frequently needed to hydrate and sweating a lot. We had to change twice to reach our destination. Too much crowd in one of the connecting station - but so good to see people lined up in queue and it was easier to get in than expected at first glance.

Outside, it had become quite unbearable for us. After going a short way in wrong direction and taking break in shade, we went the right way. And one of our problems was solved very well - breakfast. There was Haldirams, just under the metro. And we were lucky to reach within happy hours (upto 11:30 AM). Got idli, poori, sandwich, etc cheaply. Dosas and coffee at normal prices were expensive. But everything very tasty and satiating. Air conditioned, sprawling complex, good water (to also fill our bottles), restroom, newspaper, etc. We took our time eating and relaxing a bit after.

Then, back in sweltering heat to reach Akshardham. Could get an idea how big it was from outside. After security check up, we went in to sit inside canteen. Too crowded and long queue to cloak room. Nagur and I were okay to stay back looking after the bags while Srikanth, Vivek, Sathesh and Suman went in. We had to frequently shift our bags closer as people came and went. We weren't tempted by the tasty looking samosas and other eateries - thanks to sumptuous breakfast. We were quite sleepy though.

The four of them came just as we were getting restless. Since phones are not allowed inside, we couldn't call them too. Another 3 different metro rides later, we reached Aerocity. Let go first feeder bus as it was too crowded. The next one took about 20 minutes to start. We were getting a bit nervous now and everybody did a web-check in to save time. Needn't have bothered as we got SMS and calls (after someone had got intimation from Google) that our flight was delayed. Suman, whose flight was scheduled before ours had already been delayed beyond our time.

Again, getting boarding pass and clearing security didn't take much time. My stomach trouble was continuing, so I went to relive again. Others went to enjoy lounge facility (for certain Visa/Mastercard holders) for Rs 2 each. Mine didn't qualify and so I went to wait near boarding gate. Sathesh apparently called my name (didn't hear) and then called my number (couldn't connect). I later found that he had tried to call my other mobile, which was left back at Bengaluru :P

I did have my energy bars still saved up for emergency. I wasn't that hungry, but ate one anyway. The flight had been delayed even further. Finally, around 5:20 PM, we were on our way back. Flight was boring again, except for some turbulent passages. A kid diagonally opposite to us was trying his best to litter and break things. There was no masala/tomato flavored chips this time as well, so Vivek bought the plain salted ones. He had his kindle of course for time pass, while I dwelled on wonderful week gone by.

June 11 to June 18, 2016 will stay for long time in memory. A week is long enough time to build life long friendship. More than the trek and beauty of Himalayas, the little beautiful moments we shared takes the icing on cake.

PS: This little fellow hitched a ride in my bag all the way from Hampta to my room

All in all, my 5+ years old Canon Powershot SX130 IS was good enough to take 1248 pictures with two sets of battery, and juice still left for few more had I needed.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hampta part 4 - Balu ka Ghera to Jobra

Link to previous parts

Now that the difficult part was behind us and mostly downhill trek here on, we had plenty of time on our hands. Most of us woke up early again though - thanks to raucous of 50 or so trekkers who had come and camped the previous evening. Apparently, many of them just went back instead of climbing on to Hampta peak. Those who were up for the task, woke very early and were on their way around 4:30 AM. That and a dog barking very close to our tents woke us up.

After freshening up, those awake loitered near the kitchen, in a chatty mood. Forefront to the cause was Kirti (honoured the title of Kirpedia few days back in our team's WhatsApp group). No matter the topic or travel place, she had some information to add. Often getting stuck trying to recall name of something or a place - for ex: she took us all the way to Australia to narrow down to the term IMAX. And then Sathesh hit back with punch dialogues, spontaneous and funny :D They traded punches many more times from then on, giving us good laughter therapy :P

Image credit: flickr

Don't remember how it came about, but I got one of my Electral pack (oral rehydration solution) out to be used by some team members - either digestion trouble or just as energy drink. Was so satisfying to hear later that it helped them and we used the remaining packet next day as well. Moral of the story - carry Electral pack for outdoor events :) Also forgot to mention in previous parts, Ishan had got pack of Glucon D - helpful throughout our trekking days. And Vivek had got bunch of energy chocolates/bar.

It was a cloudy day but by now we were used to the mountain chill and pollution free air. Our team members had largely recovered from AMS too. I was stoked and felt lucky to manage well in these conditions. A simple advise - let your organizers and local guides (they are well versed about it) know if you feel any kind of sickness at high altitudes.

After few parting snaps, we bid good bye to Balu ka Ghera and were on our way back to Chika. It was around 9:25 AM, sun completely hiding but throwing a small arc of faint rainbow. Our constant companion - the Beas river seemed to be flowing with more water than previous days.

Spot the bird - part 1
Our pace was brisk and breaks were minimal. We didn't mind filling water from the cold river and taking a sip. In an hour or so, we reached the tent shop. With fog contributing to drop in temperature, we hurried on to cross Rani Naala.

Spot the bird - part 2

Even the sight of river seemed to suggest how cold it was. Like before, we removed our shoes and threw them to other side (again guides took responsibility to throw, but one nearly fell into river :P). It took few seconds to get used to the cold and once relaxed, crossing was easy enough.

Our brisk pace continued and around noon we caught up with the other trekking group who had left earlier than us. Those of us in front took to stopping often to let their larger group to move on. 15 minutes past noon, our blue tents became visible, presenting a beautiful view of fog and grey clouds adorned peaks either side. The waterfall nearby Chika camp seemed to be gushing in joy in this wonderful weather.
Scary crossing - innit?
Some of us inadvertently took a particularly awful path filled with too much of sheep/goat/mule/dog excreta. It was time again for nervous river crossing and sigh of relief as I made it past without incident. And then we waited until few members of our team took time to reach. Meanwhile, some trekkers part of our Renok group decided to continue on towards Jobra instead of staying back at Chika (after they had lunch, of course).

Spot the bee
With so much time left in the day, I wanted to go back to Manali same day as well - to give us time for river rafting, para-gliding and visit some places. Once everybody had arrived, we had a brief discussion and decided to stay back in Chika, amidst the mountains instead. It proved to be one of the best decisions on many counts ;)

We had a relaxed lunch, all smiles and chit chatting. It was vegetable rice and pickle again, but a notch tastier than the one we had at Balu ka Ghera. Despite a bit undercooked in the bottom half of cooking vessel :P

After satiating our hunger, we went for a spell of calming river therapy. That is, we fooled about on rocks, taking pics, making fun of each other, and so on. We goaded Ishan to keep up his promise of taking a dip in this cold river. He was more than happy and inspired by him, Srikanth and Sathesh joined the fray as well. For posterity, we took snaps and videos of them submerging themselves.

If you recall, Vijay had dropped out last minute. And was supposed to get Uno cards. Now we had time to kill and no cards to play. Turns out, it was all for greater good. It started out as just a time pass exercise and then blew-up so much so that we were left wanting for time.

We picked an empty tent and somehow all 11 of us fitted in. We had to adjust all the time for that extra stretch. Anyway, we asked Nagur to say a few words (most silent guy in our team). It took a while to get it going - after Kirti overwhelmed him with topics to speak on, we went one by one. As time passed, we refined topics to speak on. Like talk about your native, schooling, college, job, hobbies, interesting stories, etc. Might seem like just an extended intro session - but it was more than that. Accustomed to each other for past five days, we weren't shy. Out came things we probably tell only to close friends, or not even them.

It was like we had opened a portal to another world. It didn't matter that it was raining outside. Or that other trekkers were moving around. Or what the time was. We had some snacks shared around to keep hunger at bay. After few had spoken out, each turn kept taking longer time as we found more topics to discuss or something discussed at great length - for ex: review of book that you read again and again for the inspiration it gives you. I got very emotional when my turn came - spoke about how mugging helped me get good grades, how I came to choose ECE, job, sabbatical, part-time teaching, etc. 

Around 5 PM, we had to break our discussion. Rain had stopped and we agreed to assist our guides in collecting wood from nearby forest. The rain, clouds and fog combined to put together a spectacular show - surreal landscapes all around. The stream from waterfall had turned muddy and its meeting with clear Beas river against the cloud/fog covered mountains background was a sight to behold for eternity.

Guides and some of us then trekked a short way up the nearby hill for collecting wood. Sheep/Goats were grazing further up, with more of them coming up. The guides took to scouting for sticks and branches to carry. We helped to gather/throw them and carry as much we could to the camp. Wasn't the easiest task, carrying uneven sticks, no rope to tie them together - plus uneven hilly trek. But that didn't deter the guides from carrying large number of sticks or heavy branches.

Marking at Chika camp
Sathesh's favorite pair of trees

Had tea/soup on returning. And continued on with our discussions - first by the kitchen tents and then back to our single tent mode. We tried our best to get good sitting position, but there is only so much one can do to fit 11 people in a tent meant for at max 3 people to sleep in :P Be it friends, known members from previous trekkers or ones meeting first time on this trip - we all got to know some surprising aspect. Be it an interesting hobby they have or  personal views. Everybody has just too many facets. Probably the flow we were in, we could have easily spoken another day long :)

Shyam came by to ensure we all got our sleeping bags and to inform plans for dinner and bonfire. Meanwhile, another batch had arrived from Jobra. They had their dinner first by the dining tent. We were by the kitchen tent, in warm clothes and scarves and gloves but still drawing close to bonfire for warmth. Apart from fire, we had our torches (for going to tent, river, etc) and battery powered lamp for light.

Cooks were in earnest preparation of special dinner for us, while Shyam, Sandeep and occasionally other local guides/cook joined us. We tried to sing songs, Hindi/Tamil/Kannada/Bengali/etc - somehow we were struggling to remember lyrics. Sometime after 10 PM, we helped ourselves to a delicious treat - Rice/Roti/Dal/Paneer/Aloo-Peas.  

Shyam and co gave us amazing performance. Shyam's modulation was top notch - be it popular Hindi songs or leading the way with their folk songs. There was drum music as well, played on an empty water can. We were taught a few steps of folk dance - an open ended go merry around the fire (somewhat similar to Garba) We soon found it to be too demanding :P Some of us started leaving around 11 PM to catch sleep while others stayed around till midnight. A magical day coming to an end at last, like all good or bad things tend to.

It rained again during the night and early morning. For once, we could sleep well past dawn. Still how long could you hold nature call :P After 7 AM, rain had relented to just a drizzle. The new batch of trekkers were all getting ready, having breakfast, strapping themselves in raincoats and ponchos. Kirti donated her poncho while I gave away the extra flimsy plastic poncho I had brought as back up for Sathesh. Kirti also found someone to one-up her in long chattering :P so much so that she had to be rescued :D :D

We had our own discussions going, while having tea and bread (those who were too hungry to wait for breakfast). The new batch of trekkers were finally on their way, but leaving behind a trail of garbage. We let them know to avoid littering and use the garbage bags provided by guides. They received some pep talk from guides as well and they did clean up before going on their way.

Breakfast topped everything we had so far - channa masala and something. As far as I can tell from online search, it was Babru (urad dal stuffed pooris) The cooks took special care for couple of trekkers, who do not eat vegetables grown under the soil like potato and onion. Those two, coming from Gujarat, readily shared a pack of Khakhra with us and mingled well with our team for rest of the trip.

Spot the bird - part 3
We saw a bird searching for fish in the river by submerging itself and coming out in another place. It was fascinating to see how the bird tackled the swiftly moving river - at first we had a suspicion that perhaps something was wrong with the bird. Monisha had seen one similar previous evening as well. Too bad, none had camera or phone nearby to capture the scene.

Slight drizzle was still on. Kirti requested Ishan to lend his book (Rain in the Mountains that he brought for the trip to read in best possible setting) - not sure if she was serious, but as she started reading aloud, we joined and did our best to distract.

Finally, few minutes to 10:30 AM, everybody gathered around - from guides and cook to us trekkers. Shyam again gave an eloquent speech, humbly asking sorry for inconvenience due to large number of trekkers at Balu ka Ghera. On our part, we thanked all the guides and cook whole-heartedly and tipped them for their service. Shyam, Sandeep and 1-2 other guides were to accompany us to Jobra. We took group pictures before starting our final trek amidst the beautiful Himalayas.

Like yesterday evening, fog and clouds painted a heavenly landscape. We got cozy in thermals and heavy jacket. Some covered their backpacks against possible rain and few got their ponchos out when drizzle got just a bit heavy on the way (but stopped soon). Electral fans had a sip or two today as well, leaving the rest of packet with me.

Half an hour of brisk trek later, we reached the river crossing.  - last of it, phew. A local was measuring the bridge (not sure for what purpose). About half of us had reached and crossed the bridge. Then a large herd of sheep, coming from Jobra side lined up to cross to the other side - neatly waiting for their turn to come. The other half of our group had stopped for a 20 minute break near the river.

Meanwhile, we seated ourselves near the tent shop, chilling and taking a spree of photos. Took another groupie before starting again. Shortly, we were amidst the forest track, surrounded by tall trees and large boulders here and there. One particular location was ideal for another groupie. It was like we were trying our best to prolong the trek.

At noon, Vivek and I stopped to wait for those behind (same place where we had tasty Pranthes first day of trek). Others in front had probably reached camp at Jobra by then. Nobody seemed to be around the tents pitched there. I filled my water bottler from free flowing tap near the tents. Added the remaining Electral and shared with Vivek. Rain had stopped completely and it was getting warmer. So it was a welcome instant energy drink. Also changed warm thermals to comfortable t-shirt instead.

Having helped themselves to plenty of photos and fun, the rest of our group came ambling. And some of them promptly stopped for a break instead of continuing :P As a feeble show of protest, I declined their photo request, while Monisha and Veena joined us on the last bit of trek left. Near the proper river bridge, all the rain had made the ground slimy and we had to be careful from slipping.

By 12:45 PM, everybody had assembled by the tea shop at Jobra camp. We had to wait an hour before our vehicles arrived to take us back to Manali. But spending an hour is nothing when there are interesting things to see/discuss. Sandeep and Shyam distributed certificates for finishing the trek (yay! thanks Renok).

Spot the birds - part 4

We had tea/coffee to quieten our hunger a bit. And then, there were birds to capture. Cute local kids (with their permission) to pamper with biscuits and click photos with. Young sheep and pups to play with and take snaps with. Some had lengthy discussions with guides, exchanging contacts for future use.

Spot the sparrows - part 5


After the vehicles arrived, our bags were arranged on luggage carrier above, as the guides were coming too with us to Manali. The many hair-pin bends meant it was slow going until crossing the check post. We freshened up a bit at Renok's storage shop, some had coffee and those who had left some luggage got it back. I took to capturing green apples, sparrows, members busy on their mobile phones, insects, flowers and so on. 

An hour later (thanks to big traffic jam on the way to old Manali) we reached our stay. Suman and Sathesh had decided to spend more time in the Himalayas and went with guide Suhash to his village. Rest of trip's events to be concluded in next part ;)

Link to remaining parts: 

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