Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hampta part 2 - Chika to Balu ka Ghera

Link to previous part: Reaching First camp at Chika

Woke up around 5 AM in the morning, feeling refreshed. One might easily mistake it as after 6 AM in the south. We even pulled the prank on sleepy Sathesh, saying it is after 7 in the morning when it around 6 AM :P 

Speaking of facilities, there were two tents for toilet, which the guides shifted around as needed. Some of us used the tents while others sought natural locations. Since the water was too cold, we had to use paper (I feel this detail should be explicitly added in things to carry, wasn't a problem though - some had brought rolls and kitchen facility had paper napkins)

Including another group, we were about 20-25 trekkers at this camp. So, whoever needed could get hot water - for brushing, drinking or even warming fingers (Pro-tip: carry water bottle to handle boiling water, very useful)

It was a bright morning, with the occasional white cloud decorating clear blue sky. We got busy clicking photos and at 6 AM as informed previous night, we got black tea. Served in steel mugs, so used for warming fingers as well :P

Around 7:20 AM, after we had packed our backpacks and sleeping bags, some of us helped in packing tents. They were to be carried along with other baggages to next camp. After warm up exercises, it was time for sumptuous breakfast - bread (with butter, jam, honey, omelette  as per preference), wheat dalia and tea.

With sun shining brightly, we took out our sunglasses and suncaps (or used hanky). All the time chit-chatting this and that - Kirti remembered my fascination for macro shots of flowers and insects from Mullayanagiri trek. Coincidence perhaps, but we had insects joining us on our trek that day - on track pants, t-shirts and even fingers. I obliged by taking their snaps :P

Vivek taught us a better way to tie shoelaces, pretty similar as shown in video below. It was certainly way better than simple tying - rest of the trek was more comfortable in those large and heavy shoes - thanks a lot dude :)

After plenty of photography, we were on our way few minutes past 8:30 AM. The other group had all opted for mules to carry theirs bags and pretty much were ahead of us throughout the trek. Three in our group had opted too (guides had carried their bags previous day) and those who hadn't brought trekking poles got sturdy wooden sticks for support. Along with Shyam and Sandeep, two more local guides were leading us to next camp.

First up was yet another river crossing - smaller in length and breadth compared to one we crossed previous day. Felt nervous crossing again :D :-/ Path was more much uneven, strewn with cobbles and boulders and sometimes narrow and skirting close to the Beas river. Naturally, our pace was slow as well. Had to be careful of excreta from goats, sheep, dogs, mules too.


We weren't pressed for time though. Paced comfortably, took snaps (solo, with trek mates, with animals, etc) and rested when needed - occasionally guides sweeping at back end of trek asked us to move on. It gave me ample time to spot and click macro shots as well :)

We could see many more of those thin stream and waterfalls compared to previous day. About an hour later, we came across one on our path. We filled our water bottles and freshened our faces while more adventurous ones like Ishan took a splash to cool their heads too. Shortly afterwards, we had to make way for mules going back (for supplies I think)

Then on, we had to cross more of those streams going on to join the river. While the river flow was steady, at places with big enough boulders, we were presented with gushing waterfall like flow - a sight to behold and wonder what it is like during heavy rains.

Around 10:30 AM, we took one of the longer breaks. By then the other group were so far ahead of us to be not visible. We shared snacks around - dates, peanut sweets, amla, almonds, etc (thanks everybody, much needed). My new specs and sun-glasses on top of it was getting too tight for comfort, was such a relief to be not wearing them for few minutes. 

Ten minutes of trek later, we caught up with everybody ahead. It was time for main attraction of the day - crossing Rani Naala on bare foot, mostly with help of guides and group members. Despite the merry sun, the water was chill. Guides first asked us to remove shoes and give it to them so that they could safely throw to the other side of crossing (few did it on their own anyway :P). Tying the shoes together before throwing or slinging over neck is a good option. While Shyam jumped around stones with ease, we had to wade knee deep flowing river, take care of uneven rock under and balance our backpacks too. A simple trick is to relax and allow your body to adjust.

It took more than half an hour for everybody to cross, dry their feet, put on shoes and start trekking again. The snow capped mountain ranges were much closer now and looming directly ahead. Around 11:30 AM, we took another of those long breaks. It was a wide grassy valley with yellow flowers here and there. And a large shop with solar power. While some bought noodles, most of us preferred another round of snacks - highlight being Navadarshanam healthy sweet(wheat, jaggery, cardamom, peanut, seasame seeds - but no oil/ghee/sugar). Very tasty, thanks Veena ji (I bought a pack two days ago from Namdhari store and finished already :P)

With such a nice background all around, someone suggested doing some action to get a good profile picture. Ishan and Vivek did some acrobatics while I did a head-stand :D Others took to normal poses like sleeping blissfully, looking far, etc

Kirti had a mild cold, so I suggested she take spoonful of honey I was carrying. Afterwards, I tried having some myself directly from bottle - bad idea. Spilled a bit and had to use few plastic bags to securely wrap around before keeping it in backpack. Predictably didn't take it out again during the trek :P Sathesh had dry lips by then and cracking, while Srikanth had his knee pain flare up - got massaging tips from Veena ji.

White clouds with hint of gray clouds adorned the peaks, we could feel drop in temperature as well. Guides weren't that helpful in giving us estimate of how far yet to next camp - probably purposefully :P Onwards we marched on series of slow winding hills, the river to our right now and looming mountains on either side.

After an hour, yep you guessed it, another long break. We passed more streams on our way and waterfalls were more commonly seen. With large boulders on the path, another opportunity to click pics with cloudy sky and snowy peaks in the background.  

Mules carrying our bags and tents and supplies crossed us before we started the final stretch. Shortly, we were again level with river and soon enough sea of blue tents were visible. Overhead was largely blue sky, grayish clouds hanging overs mountains on either side. Finally, few minutes to 2 PM, we reached the camp. We helped again to set up tents, had to be quick as it had started drizzling a bit and dark clouds were moving in. There were tents already put up for previous batch and part of our group who had reached earlier than us.

We gathered inside a large tent for lunch - vegetable rice and pickle. Delicious, but a bit undercooked in bottom half of large cooking vessel. And then we quickly went to our tents to tide out the rain (and catch some sleep as well). Few had to stay back in lunch tent itself (Sathesh, next time eat faster :P)

We were pretty comfortable inside the tent, safe from heavy rain. I took notes again before lying down. About two hours later, weather had already changed - sun shining through white clouds, patch of blue sky visible here and there, gray ones lurking around. Rain water had already run out to join the river (I suspect small ditches marked out by guides helped too) and humidity was perceptible. Sun and clouds struggled on for quite a while, giving us many a picturesque moments.

Around 5:30 PM, we had tea and chit-chatted a while (along with an IISc prof and his friend) before deciding to go on a stroll (had to cross river again :P).  Some trekkers were returning from their trip to Hampta peak - apparently rain played havoc and some gave a delirious account of it. One guy said he was lucky to find a cave to bide his time. We were already dismayed that we weren't going to go beyond Hampta to other side and visit the beautiful Chandra Taal, but go back to Manali the same way we came up. These accounts put real fear in us and we hoped that rain would stay away again while we trekked tomorrow.

Anyway, except Pushkar (who wasn't feeling good and still resting) we went ahead a bit, with frozen snow meeting and guarding over the river just few steps away. Srikanth and Ishan went ahead to have a taste of that frozen snow, while we headed back around 6:25 PM as it was getting quite gloomy. Guess what, 20 minutes later, sun broke through for a final show, painting the mountains golden. We jumped about for acrobatic shots, courtesy Monisha's mobile camera. Srikanth experimented with selfies and a fellow trekker agreed to patiently take our group pics. 

Day light lingered about half an hour past 7 PM. Sandeep joined us in our conversations, introducing a pulse oximeter he was carrying. Naturally we lined up for tests - for some reason, the device didn't register mine on first attempt. After bit of hand warming, it worked the second time (and next day it didn't work only for me, despite three attempts :-/)

Half moon shone through after sun had finally called it a day. Dinner was roti-sabzi, rice-dal and topped with kheer. Tasty again :) :) BTC organizers as well our guides had lengthy discussion for next day's trek - we found it hard to follow all the resolutions, key take away points were to start early and pack a small bag with necessary items like heavy jacket for cold and poncho for rain. Despite afternoon's rest, we went to bed early again - I felt quite cold during the night, despite wearing warm cloths and cozy sleeping bag. So, yet another wonderful day in the Himalayas - but went to sleep with trepidation.

Link to remaining parts:

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