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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