"Wrapped in a polythene , tucked away safe in my mind, a little goodbye maybe or just a passing smile.."
Day 5 , Rajat and I were humming to the tunes of Coldplay's Yellow followed by Summer of 69 and some popular bollywood numbers , the German Couple were not interested but our Trek guide was constantly giving cheeky smiles like he knew every song but wasn't in the right mood to sing them along. We were sitting at the back of a Government pickup jeep which gave us lift from Kunzum peak at 4551 m height towards Batal Village (3800m) . Kunzum pass marks the start of the beautiful Spiti Valley , we had trekked from Batal to Kunzum Pass , roughly 12 kms to visit a Buddhist Monastery over there.I always wonder how do these people survive in such wintry lands.But the feeling was great , we were low on oxygen throughout the trek and out of 5 of us , only 3 of us could make it to Kunzum pass as two of my buddies had to return back owing to bad blisters on their feet.
Kunzum Temple was a small settlement in a huge snow land consisting of the conventional stupas and a priest humming the holy verses. They were least interested in us , and continued witht their chores. We paid our homage to the sage and decided to leave the place as soon as possible , as we had promised the government jeep that we would return in 5 minutes. We sat in the pickup truck and met Ingo and Toro too , who were German couple living in India for last one year , and earned their income through a Guest house near Manikaran.
We returned to Batal at around 3 in the afternoon , after a breathless trek to Kunzum and then a gifted lift we got from the Government jeep. On our parting , I offered the German couple any help , they just smiled with a big thank you , then we dispersed into our tents we had setup on the night of Day 4. Many of the tourists were stuck at Batal as the roads from Batal to Manali was closed due to a glacier , so they lacked a proper shelter , Rajat gave one of the tourists his sleeping bag , and we all collected some jackets we were not using for the night to the people.This night we were pretty tired and decided to rescind any plans of playing 'Poker In the Candle Light' as we had been doing previous nights.
Prateek along with me used to sleep in one tent , and Rajat, Nikhil and Sumit in the other tent. Before sleeping we used to light a candle to make the tent a bit warmer and comfortable , As the night's sleep slowly grasped me , I had a flashback of all the days we had spent on this Trek , the Day 1 to start with...
Day 1 ( Chattru - 3300 m height)
We boarded a Taxi from Manali to a small Vilage called Chattru and decided to camp their for the night, we were pretty excited about the 17 km trek from Chattru to Chota-Dara which we had to start the next day. Prateek ,Nikhil and myself decided to peel some Onions sitting on the numerous striated rocks that walled our tents. Sumit gave us some handy tips on peeling! , he had most of the wisdom as far as coking was concerned , and was undoubtedly the 'cook of our Trek' !! :P , But the Guide was equally helpful and we came to know about his skills in cooking when he along with Sumit prepared a delicious Rice-Dal meal for the night.It generally goes dark around 6:30 pm there , so we got into our tents quick before the chilly winds could thwart any of our plans. We discussed if the 'food' we had bought was enough to survive for 10 days and decided to buy some Kerosene from the Village Dhaba in case our stoves run out of it.This was our first night , we were excited , eager and fresh.We played Poker for around 2 hours till our eyes gave in , and we went into our tents for our first night at the camp.
Day 2 (Trek from Chattru to Chota-Dara , 17 Kms)
We started at around 10 in the morning after a simple Bread Jam Breakfast. The first few Kms of the trek were damn quick , the 10-15 kg rucksack that each of us carried seemes like a cotton bag for a while .It was after around 5 kms , that Prateek started having itch around his toe area , a sure indication of a future blister. Rajat was the only one who was walking without any problems. Even I started having problems with my feet , with land so barren and full of rocks , its difficult to avoid a blister or two. After around 7-8 kms , we sat for our packed-lunch which was some Chapati's along with Egg Bhurji , the stoppage was a well deserved rest as every inch of cloth on our bodies started seeming like a Kg each. Dragging around 12 Kgs of rucksack for 17 Kms was a mammoth challenge for each one of us, and by the end of it we were all so tired that we were worried for all the days that were to come. I had a severe Knee problem , that I had developed during my Long Distance running practices for BITS Athletics Team in my second year , Prateek had a really ugly blister , Sumit had developed digestion problems and mild fever , Nikhil had general tirednedd and Rajat was the only one looking good.We discussed during the night in our tents whether to start for the Trek the next day or not. I had made it clear , that if my Knee problem continued I won't be able to walk the next morning.Everyone was being pretty hospitable to each other and we decided to see how everyone was behaving the next morning to decided whether to trek for Batal or not.
Day 3 ( Rest Day at Chota-Dara)
As soon as I woke up , my Knee had developed bad pain and Prateek's Blister was looking worse , so we all decided to rest at Chota-Dara for the the day. I applied a lot of 'moov' around my knee joint area and did nothing but rested in the tent for the whole day while others went around the place and clicked some beautiful pictures of the valley at 3500 m above sea level.After a promising day of rest , and all hopes for the next day retsing on me and Prateek , we ate some Rice for the night and rested for the night after a long round of poker :) ..
Day 4 : Trek from Chota-Dara To Batal ( 15 Kms)
We heard that a pickup truck goes every morning to transport labour from Chota Dara to a point where the road from ChotaDara to Batal was blocked which was roughly 8 kms from Chota Dara. So we got ready by 9 in the morning and started waiting for the truck , in the meantime we had a clicking session during which we posed all we could :P , and also clicked a Team pic , consisting of 5 of us , 2 porters and 1 guide.
During the Trek...
The truck had dicthed us , after an hour of waiting , we decided to walk all by ourselves , we were fresh from wounds and were still very fragile. I was all the way hoping my knee troubles wont come back.
After three hours of walking and roughly covering 6 kms , we were lucky to get a vehicle on our way which was going towards the Batal till the point where the road was blocked. So the driver agreed to drop us till that point for 200 bucks , we quickly packed our luggage into the jeep and sat on top of it. This was one of the best moments of the trip. After a day of rest , and sunken hopes , we were back to trekking instead of the bad knee pains ,blisters and running fevers.The journey on top of the jeep was amazing , on my left was a deep valley and I was clinging to the jeep carrier with just one of my hands , it was wild , and next part of the trek was to be more challenging , we were to walk on the snow for a couple of Kms which was majorly the part of the road which was blocked. We were the first trekkers of the season to successfully pass through the frozen snow to reach Batal as all the previous tourists , mostly in vehicles had to return due to road block.
After walking for around an hour in snow , we decided to sit for lunch.Moreover , our feet were damn cold due to cold water seepage into our shoes , thanks to the good sun shine , I was able to dry my shoes , otherwise my feet had felt like a frozen toe kept inside a freezer :P , After much needed rest , we covered the last 5 km stretch non-stop , with me and Sumit leading the rest. I reached Batal 10 mins before everyone else :) , and it was sweet success after all the previous day drama , Batal was a lonely planet with no human around except the Dhaba wala , and a guy from Chandigarh who was stuck there due to road block.
Back to Day 5 ... ( Batal to Kunzum Peak Trek)
We came to know that Chandertal Lake road was blocked due to heavy glaciers on the way , so our guide took us towards Kunzum Peak which was at a higher altitude than Chandertal Lake , now we were trekking towards the Spiti Valley , after walking through almost whole of the Lahaul Valley. Spiti Valley can be easily recognized by barren mountains with no greenery whatsoever , somewhat like the popular Ladakh Landscape. Spiti Valley is known for its devout Buddhist population. So out of 5 of us , Prateek and Nikhil returned half-way as their blisters had made it an utter pain to walk , leaving me , Sumit and Rajat to walk along with the Guide towards the Kunzum Peak.
Here oxygen was a major problem , the shortcuts that Guide provided us with took most of our breath away. I could hardly walk a couple of steps before I had to regain my breath again. Even the feet were giving in , Sumit was also facing breathing problems but the Guide seemed immune to any sort of breathing problems. So very slowly but steadily we moved towards the Kunzum peak which was always visible from far due to the colourful flags that adorned the Buddhist Monastery at the top.But reaching there became a terrible hard work for all of us. Occasionaly , we used to find ourselves stuck inside soft-snow and glue-like mud , sometimes the slope was so steep , we didnt even had time to stop and regain breathing , so through hard and tough , we kept walking.
On reaching Kunzum , we were met at the peak by a Govt. official who was inspecting the roads , and offered us lift back to Batal , it was here we met 'Ingo and Toro' , the German couple who had come from Laso (Spiti) and were stuck at Kunzum , so the Govt. Jeep was a welcome relief! , the German couple then accompanied us all the way back to Manali , taking lifts along with us , I had a healthy talk with them during the trek and came to know they lived a complete nomadic life in india , and next they plan to move to australia...
I opened my eyes and saw myself in the bedroom of a Hotel at Manali , last 7 days were like pure challenge and I again remembered my favourite moment of the trip , Rajat and me humming the tunes of Coldplay's Yellow ...