Reaching Loharjung : Day 1
We (Satish, Krishna, Sandeep and myself) were in Nainital for two days trying to get acclimatized to the hills before embarking on the trek to Roopkund. I don’t know about acclimatization to the hills but we certainly got acclimatized to the long shrill honks of the taxi drivers on Nainital’s roads. These guys made us Bangaloreans look like heavenly angels strumming on our harp when we take to the roads.
On May 31 early morning we took a taxi from our Hotel in Nainital to Kathgodam Railway station, the other trek members of Indiahikes were coming by the Ranikhet express. We reached the station just in time.
The bus, a blue color Maxicab was waiting for us. After loading our luggage on to the vehicle and exchanging pleasantries with fellow trekkers we were ready to go. Unfortunately three more from our team were yet to come and they were travelling by bus from Delhi, so we checked out the local chai shops. I wonder how these guys with access to such limited ingredients are able to concoction such tasty tea, maybe being on the street adds a separate flavor to the items being prepared there. I’m no street foodie and usually have them when I’m with friends on an outing such as this; nevertheless I try to savor them without getting addicted to them. Finally when we were having our Breakfast at a restaurant which was some 2 Km from the station we got the news that the three have arrived. The driver was in a foul mood by now, first the three people were missing and now the whole group had gone scouting for breakfast without informing him. Nobody bothered to convince him though and quietly got on to the vehicle.
The vehicle meandered through the hills of the Himalayas and puffed up and down through some of the hill stations like Almora and Kausani. The unfolding deep gorges and the thin steak of river flowing down in the valley was really wonderful, the only discomfort was with the heat and the sun. We had a second round of breakfast on a road side dhaba and lunch was in Kausani, again at a pretty humble looking place. The driver gave us a break near the Pindar river and the place was really magical. By now the sun was shrouded with clouds and the whole valley with the Pindar River flowing down below looked stunning. This looked like a perfect beginning to the trip and then the rain started. With our entire luggage packed on to the top of the vehicle we were not sure as to whether we will be left with anything dry. We managed to reach Loharjung by around 6:30 in the evening and luckily none of our bags were wet. The vehicle stopped in front of Patwal lodge, more than a normal lodge it is some kind of an orchard where different kinds of fruits such as apple, cheeku etc are grown and the rooms are spread out among these trees. Ankit was the camp manager of Indiahikes and he gave us a warm welcome. His enthusiasm started rubbing on all of the trekkers as he started telling stories about the place, how he first did the trek and how the things are now etc. We were finally allocated to our rooms which were some 200 meters uphill from the kitchen area. The bathrooms are also located some 200 meters, so it is very important to have your torches with you. After completing the trekking formalities we went to Loharjung to see if we can get hold of the elusive poncho. We came across a general store which had stocked itself with all the trekking gears to cater to the Roopkund trekkers. Unfortunately for us he was out of stock as far as poncho was concerned. We bought 15 rs plastic sheets thanking our stars to have at least found this. It is said that when a man is desperate he is ready to hang on to the last straw of hope and I had become that desperate that day, my last trek in Sarpass saw me getting completely wet, literally to the bones and it is a horrible feeling to start missing some of your important parts in the body. ;). We were able to call back home at only one spot on the street of the Village, this knowledge can be easily obtained by talking to the villagers.
After a good dinner which consisted of Roti and Rice we huddled back to our rooms as the cold had started to take its toll on us. We were chit-chatting in the room when I saw some light peeking up in the horizon, all of us got excited and for the first time in my life I saw the moon rise. Given that the moon was on the higher side of being full, it was a beautiful site. The tri-pods were out and we tried our best to capture the moment, but unfortunately the camera cannot see what the eye sees. The whole valley was lit up with streaming silvery light. Finally we decided to call it a day and snuggled into the sleeping bags provided to us.
Loharjung to Didna: Day 2
The day started with everyone busily sorting out their stuff and deliberating as to what should be carried and what should not be. Naren was having a blast of time as he poked every item in his trek bag to see the value of taking it to the top. Since I had pretty much completed the task in Bangalore itself, I went out to take some pictures of the trees and fruits. The sky was now completely clear and had a shade of dark blue. The weather was perfect and everyone was raring to go.
We were given a snack of pav bread with Jam and were handed a packed lunch of Parota and biscuits. The trek starts along the Curzon trail and takes you down into the valley. The route is a continuous climb down but it still took us close to 2.5-3 hours to reach the bottom of the valley. The river making its way in this valley is known as the Raun baggad and there is an iron bridge that makes the river crossing easy at the bottom. On our way to Raun baggad we get a wonderful view of the Kulling village. My knee joints had by now started complaining since there was no let off from the downhill path. The trail was littered with trees bearing rhodendron flowers and the forest started getting thicker and thicker as we got down. Some places with streams flowing down among the thcikets of green were sights to behold. We passed a small settlement, where we were offered bark juice. Apparantely the juice was made from the bark of a tree. We had a swig of it and it was very refreshing.
People were now asking the guides to stop for breakfast, but the marching orders didn’t stop. We had to reach the Raun baggad bridge before we could settle down for breakfast. Finally the bridge came in sight, Even though the bridge was made of iron, we didn’t find it very impressive as was mentioned in some of the other blogs. I found a dead monkey’s carcass near the bridge probably picked clean recently by the vultures.
We settled down near the river bank and had our breakfast and before starting off filled our water bottles. From this point onwards the trek was a continuous climb upwards. Krishna had talked about a girl in his previous trek, who used to trek very slowly but never used to stop. I had decided to adopt the same strategy for climbing. Since I had done some jogging before coming here, I was decently confident about my fitness. The never ending climb took off and Sandeep and I broke flank with the team and started moving upfront, albeit with a very slow speed but without stopping anywhere except for a swig of water here and there. During our climb up we could see Loharjung village far out in the horizon, we couldn’t believe we had covered so much of a distance. In fact the downhill trek not only took us to the bottom of the valley but also made us cover a lot of distance along the valley as well. The climb-up is pretty vertical though and is littered with only zig-zag upward path.
During our climb our trekking mules which carried the rations for the next camp and also the trek bags of people who were finding it difficult to carry them, passed us. The guy who was herding them decided to take a break and went to a grass patch and slept. I and Sandeep decided to have some fun and starting herding the now peacefully grassing mules along the path. The task was so exciting that it took our mind off from the trek and we had lot of fun and in no time we reached Bedni, the Mule herder had caught up with us by then and he took charge of his animals. Later we got to know that the Mule-herders name was Gabbar singh, thankfully the resemblance ended with the name compared to Sholay’s Gabbar.
The camp was again on a grassy patch and is located in the village of Didna, This village is habitat ed only during the summer season when people come down to farm from Loharjung or Kulling. Even though we had trekked a lot that day, we were more or less at the same altitude as that of Loharjung. We reached the place around 12. Swapnil was the camp leader and he welcomed us into the camp. After drinking the welcome drink we waited for the whole group to join us. Room’s are allocated only after the whole team arrives.
Finally at around 1 we occupied our rooms. The place was like a large dorm with more than 10 beds, the roof was pretty low and I bashed my head a couple of times on to it. The lunch provided here was one of the best during the trek and this is the last spot from where you can call home.
We spent our time after lunch chit-chatting and then decided to explore the village in the evening. The village is pretty big and consisted of neatly maintained houses with concrete paths winding up and down the hill. We came across a village house where a lady was threshing the wheat. Sandeep decided to be gallant and went and asked the lady permission to photograph her doing the job, he was promptly refused. Our Satish who walked in later went in and made friends with the whole family and asked the man of the house permission to photograph the lady doing the threshing job. The permission now was promptly given. Finally after roaming around the hill side for some time the wind started to pick up speed and we hurried back to the camp. We had great time in the camp listening to the stories told by Mullax, an experienced trekker about the various trekking expeditions and the dangerous situations he was involved in. Finally after a dinner in the biting cold we got back into our rooms and slept peacefully pulling over the thick Rajjai. The next day’s trek was to Bedni and tomorrow was considered to be toughest day of the trek with more than 108 zig-zag turns whereas we had done only 57 today.