Packing in Progress
Sreepad in Action.
Daybreak in the Himalaya is always a wonderful sight. The day starts early here. As we were winding up the hilly road, suddenly we found the distant peaks taking on a golden hue. It was marvellous.
By 7:15 AM we were in Joshimath. I asked Govind Vaishnav to take the vehicle directly to Hotel Nanda Devi. I remembered reading about it in "The Nanda Devi Affair" by Bill Aitken. It is owned by an enterprising HAP called Yashu. We checked out the GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) guest houses before deciding on staying at Nanda Devi. The rooms were basic, but were decent enough for us.
The GMVN tourist information office was closed, being a Sunday. We tried enquiring with the caretaker of the GMVN Guest House, but instead of helping us he immediately gave the visiting card of a package tour company, saying that they are the best !!!
We then decided to approach "Grand Adventures", which had an office in Hotel Nanda Devi itself. There we met Tarender Singh Martolia (Taru) and Dinesh Singh Rana (Dhani). The best thing about them was that they let you do your own thing. They'll just arrange the mules, required permits from the forest office etc.
Dinesh agreed to come with us as the cook. There was an awkward moment when Kannan in his usual style asked him, whether he knows cooking !!!
The route that we had decided earlier was, Auli -> Chitrakanta -> Kuari Pass -> Dakwani -> Surtoli -> Jhenji -> Ramni -> Sutol -> Homkund -> Rupkund -> Bhugubhasa -> Bedni Bugyal -> Ali Bugyal -> Dedana -> Lohajang -> Mundoli. But there was a small hitch. The path from Sutol to Homkund was very narrow and the mules wouldn't be able to traverse it. Moreover, in that path we would have to cross Nandakini at a place where there is no bridge, and this being monsoon the river was at its furious best. Hence we decided on a slightly changed route, viz. , Auli -> Chitrakanta -> Kuari Pass -> Dakwani -> Surtoli -> Jhenji -> Ramni -> Sutol -> Kunol -> Wan -> Bedni Bugyal -> Bhugubhasa -> Rupkund -> Bhugubhasa -> Bedni Bugyal -> Ali Bugyal -> Dedana -> Lohajang -> Mundoli. Taru warned us that the route we were going to take would take us 15 days. But since we all had only limited leave, we had to complete it in 10 days. Again we decided to cross the "bridge" when we come to it.
Dinesh came with Sreepad, Dada and I to take the necessary permits from the forest office. Though it was a Sunday, the forest officer agreed to give us the permit.
The necessary food items were bought from the local market in Joshimath. We had thought of typical South Indian dishes like Upma etc. But since Dinesh did not know how to make it, we decided to leave the decision to him, as to what we should eat along the way.
We had initially ordered two mules, but even after repacking and chucking most of the unwanted things we had packed, the number of luggage pieces did not come down. We then decided to take an extra mule. After a marathon repacking we were ready to hit the trail the next day.