The next day’s trek was supposed to be about four hours to the next campsite at Gujjar Hut. The local guide, Pradeep, had a different name for the place – Panchbilli. What those five cats were supposed to signify is lost in the mists of time. I shall stick to the latter name, however, since the Uttarakhand area is awash with Gujjar Huts since any place where the shepherds took shelter seems to have acquired that name.
Either the second day’s trek was easier or my body had become accustomed to being pushed. Easier is the more likely explanation, since the initial part was a mild incline with long stretches of level trail. The vistas around were phenomenal and, given that the footing was not treacherous, one could take in the view without fearing the possibility of becoming a permanent addition to the gorge below.
We hit another waterfall and had to cross over. Watching people trying to navigate their way from rock to rock - arms akimbo and doing all sorts of weird African dances – can be hilarious….once you are safely across, of course! Once across, there was again a steep ascent and, further down, the worst nightmare for trekkers – steps!
These were not your regular staircase style steps but steps made of the rocky outface with varying heights and some loose embedded stones. In the normal course on a trek one finds one’s lungs and thighs tested on ascents and knees and ankles on descents. When it comes to ascending steps, all four get strained. Give me any day a trail where I can pace my steps to suit myself instead of having to climb a half-foot high step one moment and find myself faced with one thrice the height the next.
Eventually this stretch too was done and we lolled around on the grasslands munching snacks and waiting for the porters to catch up. Once they did we trekked the rest of the distance to the next campsite. This was to be home for the next two nights, since we were to trek up to Brahmital on the morrow and return to the same camp.
The goddess of Brahmital, apparently, was very choosy about who visited her and, according to the guide, you could travel up to her abode only if she chose to let you do so. Women, for some unknown reason, were said to set off inclement weather if they visited the place. Also, one could make a wish and toss a coin into the pool. If the coin skipped off the water your wish would come true but if it sank you would, in astrological euphemism, face difficulties in achieving your wish. The guide also said that this was the first trekking party to that site though the shepherd who came along later in the day claimed that he had seen a couple of other groups there.
What was not too encouraging was the path that the guide indicated for the next day’s trek. It seemed too steep and promised to be a back-breaker. That, however, was for the morrow. Meanwhile we settled down to a game of bridge where I did my inept best to keep from rupturing my friendship with my partner Chandru with the brilliance of my play.The river rolled by in the gorge below singing its incessant lullaby.
Disclaimer: All photos in this post are by Hari Sethuraman.