Day 4 (Trek Day 2)
Ready for the climb
The second day starts early.
That is how it is in the Himalaya. A long day and a short night. Upto 7:30 PM there would be light and then after a short night, the Sun would rise again by 5:30 AM. The wonders of the Himalaya never cease for novices like us.
An old man had come to the camp in the morning. He wanted medicines for fever. The people there know that the expedition parties generally take lots of medicines with them. We gave him some Paracetamol tablets.
After a light breakfast of dal-khichdi, Dinesh prepared lunch-packets of the same thing for all of us. We loaded the mules and set off by 9:00 AM.
Sanjeev and I were bringing up the rear. On the way, just above Gorson Top, we met the same old man who had taken the medicines from us. He surreptitiously tried to sell us a small ball of charas aka marijuana for Rs. 50/-. We declined and proceeded.
The mules were literally running up the slope. Kaka and Bhagat ran with them. It was obviously very difficult for our "plainsman legs" to keep pace with them. Nevertheless, Dada, Kannan and Chandan were doing an admirably good job. Most of the time they were only about 15-30 minutes behind them, while we were a good 1 hour behind. Dinesh was almost always with us.
After about an hour and a half we reached a point ahead of which the mules cannot pass. It was decided that Kaka and Bhagat would take the mules through the other side of the mountain, while we would brave the landscape and go along the shorter route. Since they had better pace than us, we would probably meet around the same time.
The route though shorter was very dangerous. It was a steep drop on the left side and vertical rock face on the right. The path itself was not more than 2 feet wide. There was no way, loaded mules could pass through.
Urged by Dinesh we clinged on to the rocks and slowly moved ahead in a single file. The path twisted and turned according to the contours of the mountain-side and was seemingly never-ending.
Finally after what seemed like ages, we reached the other side of the mountain. Kaka and Bhagat had not yet reached. So we sat and waited. Dinesh pointed out Chitrakanta, a meadow on top of the mountain ahead, our destination for the day.
Dinesh set out to look for Kaka and the mules. After about half an hour we could see all of them coming down the slope of a ridge.
We continued on and finally reached Chitrakanta by 1:25 PM. We finished our lunch packets there. Our supporting staff was amazed at our speed. They had counted on reaching Chitrakanta by 5:00 PM at the most. Since we were doing things double quick, we decided to proceed to Gairgarh.
This time the path was slightly better, though no less precarious. Thick mist acompanied us all the way. At one particularly narrow point, the pony Raja got wedged between the rocks. Kaka and Bhagat had to really labour hard to free him.
After crossing a major ridge, Kaka pointed out the Kuari Pass to us. It was atleast 8 days walk ahead. Our hearts sank when he pointed out Gairgarh. Just beneath Kuari Pass !!! Almost 6 hours walk.
Another ridge and already Kaka and gang was 2 hours ahead of us. They were literally running with the mules. Sometime later we could see the kitchen tent already up at Gairgarh. Kaka was doing things in style.
On the way we met a lone shepherd perched on a rock. He asked Sreepad to take a picture of him. Sreepad obliged. Dada stood next to him and a picture was taken. He then gave us his address and asked us to send it to him by mail !!!
By the time Sanjeev and I reached the camp, it was 5:30 PM. The tents were already pitched. Dinesh came running with hot tea. And we braced ourselves for a long cold night.