Not having had any sort of physical exercise for nearly a year and having grown sideways in the process, I did not think that my trek to Brahmital was going to be easy. If, from the previous sentence, you thought that I was about to say that, surprisingly, I waltzed up the mountain whistling a pleasant ditty all the way you have another think coming. My experience has been that the only surprises that your body throws up are unpleasant ones. If you have abused your body and expect unpleasant consequences, your body takes great pleasure in proving you right!
Thus it was that I was huffing and puffing on the mild gradient up to the first day’s campsite at Purali. The trek was to Brahmital and the trail cut off from the road to Gangotri from Uttarkashi while there were 32 KMs left to hit Gangotri. For some unknown reason this place was referred to as Suki Top – though there was nothing there for it to be the top of, unless it was supposed to be the pinnacle of happiness.
About half a kilometer down the road there was a small waterfall. Too early for me to feel the urgent need to take a dip. Once we crossed the fall, the gradient started as did my panting. Not really the picture of the veteran trekker, who runs up and down mountains for light relief, but maintaining appearances threatened to blow out my lungs, ribcage and all!
The first day’s trek was only about an hour and a half and we hit the village before I sprawled in an ungainly heap in the middle of the trail pleading to be carried the rest of the way. Purali was a village of some fifty families, who all lived like one family (going by our guide’ description) in the village through summer. Winter, apparently, closed the place down and the entire community shifted to an alternate place near Gangnani, about 20 Kms down the road to Uttarkashi. So, it was not only the kings who had a summer and winter residence! Of course, what was a search for comfort for kings was driven by necessity for the villagers.
The plan, apparently, was to pitch the tents in the compound containing the village temple. The others had, before then, arrived and set up a cricket match with the locals in the playground adjoining the temple. I, however, had issues with the campsite.
The one heart-warming thing about trekking in Uttarakhand is the openhearted friendliness of the locals. It is such a contrast to the regular hill-station experience of finding the local people resentful of your very presence in their area while simultaneously making their living – and even their fortunes, going by the prices they charge – out of you. No matter how friendly the locals, I could hardly see them rejoicing in the morning at the sight of our morning ablutions dotting the streets of their village. Nor, indeed, could I see us trotting a couple of kilometers up the path while nursing full bladders and other such incontinent organs of the body.
So, it was off with the guides in search of a better campsite while my co-trekkers – bar Sriram, who accompanied me – started on their cricket match with gusto. After huffing and puffing for another half and hour, we found a lovely place to camp with the the wonderful sight of the river flowing in a gorge to sate our eyes. Somehow, to me, the sight of places like this give an ineffable feeling of homecoming though the only sight of mountains I had had were the mounds of soil piled up by the coal mine in Neyveli, where I spent my childhood.
The rest of the guys trooped in about an hour later full of post-match commentary. Chandru, whose height must have given the impression of a deadly fast bowler, had apparently bowled the match-winning first over. He single-handedly gave away 25 runs and won the match for the other team, despite last over heroics by Shekhar who hit a six or two but could not overhaul the other team’s score. Dinesh, the architect, and Badri were all amazement at the way the houses in the village were constructed by the ingenious use of loose rubble. We settled in over cups of tea after the camera buffs had shot their photographs.
A veil must necessarily be drawn over the night since, what with snoring and people unaccustomed to the close proximity in tents, there was much tossing and turning with very little sleep. But then, if everything were comfortable trekking could not be classified as an adventure sport, can it?
Disclaimer: Photographs taken by Dineshkumar
Disclaimer: Photographs taken by Dineshkumar