Monday, November 10, 2014

The Upper Mustang Trek - III

 Click to read Part 1 and Part II

Geeta was in good spirits the next day and we set off on the trek to Syanboche. The trek was expected to be long - some 20+ kilometers - but the saving grace, apparently, was that only the initial leg to Samar was a climb of some 600-700 meters. Thereafter, there was only a height gain of about 100 meters. Since climbing in the early morning was far less taxing, the prospects seemed not too bad.

By this time, Karthikeyan had established himself among the 'fast group'. On the road journey, he was a part of the 'Chennai chatterers', which so vexed the others, BUT, since he had the uncanny ability to say something or the other which extended one of his legs for a royal pull, he must have thought that pushing himself to travel faster was a lesser evil than having his leg lengthened by the sustained efforts of Chandru or me. THAT was a pity since, by the time we hit the tea-houses for lunch or the evening, his abilities as a masseur was usurped by one of the others. Sometimes, a sense of humor can REALLY cost you!

Vinita, though, went her own way. She stayed somewhere between the rushers and the amblers, probably to totally avoid the members of the 'Chennai chatterers', who were split between the two groups. This left Chandru, Sampath, Geeta, Kulendra and myself at the tail of the trek group. Finding that the slower rhythm of the others was tiring us, Chandru and I went some distance at our pace, sat and waited for the others to catch up, then sped up again and, in this manner, we hit Samar somewhere around 11-11.30 AM.

When you see the photographs, you see it outside looking in AND, more often than not, you see the mountains about the size of your palms. When you ARE there - with the ranges of the brown and green mountains rearing all around you with the snow-capped mountain ranges over-topping them from behind; with the deep gorge to your side and a light green river snaking along the course, glistening in the sun; and with vagrant breezes cooling your brow and vanishing, leaving you panting for more - you are dwarfed by the sheer majesty of the mountains AND, unless you are particularly prone to beating yourself up, you feel exalted at being a part of all this beauty. THAT is the joy of trekking for me, a joy that a visit to a Hill station does not provide since jostling crowds drag you back to the mundane, even before you have craned your neck to see the iridescence of the sunlight on the ice-cap of a distant mountain.

In order to take in the view, it is necessary for you to stop to look around. To gawp at the sights while you are trekking could possibly end up with your BECOMING a part of the landscape instead of merely looking at it. Thus it is that you will see trekkers studiously ignoring all the magnificent beauty surrounding them and look raptly at their feet while they are trudging up the mountains. Except, of course, the gifted few who seem to have been equipped with an extra couple of eyes in their feet.

The program for the day seemed too tight for us to be taking too many breaks to take in the view and, thus, we resigned ourselves to enjoying the view in other people's photographs - much like any of you guys - and toiled our way up to Samar. A tea-break later, we wended our way onward to Bhena which was the scheduled lunch-stop.

We had not gone too far from Samar when we realized that the day's trek plan had omitted an insignificant detail. It was, indeed, a fact that we would only need to gain another 100 meters in altitude BUT right in the way of gaining that altitude was a gorge leading us down to the river. Which, in effect, meant that we would have to descend 800 meters and, then, ascend 900 meters to gain that paltry 100 meter altitude. Ye Gods!

Descents are hell on the ankles and knees, so banish all thoughts of coasting down descents, as though you thought we were youngsters riding bikes. By the time we hit the river and were looking with trepidation at the ascent ahead, Geeta and Sampath were in full flow. The sun was beating down on us with all its afternoon fervor and, every time we hit some shade, both of them started discussing with Kulendra the possibility of hiring ponies or a vehicle to complete the rest of the day's trek. On top of it, Geeta started developing a headache, which seemed more and more like heatstroke than AMS. Chandru went on ahead while I stayed behind with the trio to ensure that they did make it to the end.

The climb seemed to get steeper and steeper, till at one point Geeta just could not keep going. We called on a porter to carry her piggyback for the rest of the ascent - some 200 meters or so. Little did she realize how mercilessly she would be ribbed for that. For the rest of the trek/tour, she had to listen to one or the other of us twitting her for still retaining childish interests like riding piggyback but she was a good enough sport not to resent it.

THAT was, by no means the end of the day's trekking or even climbing. Beyond the ascent was a descent that took us to Bhena where we stopped for lunch - a rather later lunch for us. By then it was clear to both Chandru and me that the program as laid out by Ramesh was certainly beyond Geeta and Sampath. Geeta had collapsed again at Bhena and was dozing and Sampath was nursing his back. Chandru and I could, possibly, have completed the program as laid out but it would have been merely trudging from one tea-house to the next, sleeping and waking up to another day of trudging. The idea of trekking for both of us was to soak ourselves in the ambiance of the mountains and not to merely walk till we dropped for the pleasure of coming back and reporting the completion of some prescribed trek. The latter idea sounded too much like work to us and, to anyone knowing either of us, the very idea of work is anathema. Thus it was that Chandru proposed and I concurred that we could let the rest proceed while we went back in small stages, spending time leisurely on the way back.

Till, of course, we were shocked rudely by the fact that the tea-house refused to rent out rooms, leaving us no option but to either go to the day's destination OR return to Samar. Considering that it was 3 PM already, I thought that braving the descent to the gorge when it would likely be dark was not the wisest of things to do and, so, we went ahead reluctantly to Syanpoche.

Only a minor ascent - till THAT lamp-post and then we descend to the tea-house. HOW simple it sounded. On we went, with Chandru vanishing round the bend in jig time. We had not even reached the start of that 20 degree incline to the lamp-post when Geeta was down and out. Kulendra had sought his guides to send back a hired pony but that seemed nowhere near appearing. In desperation, we flagged down a couple of bikers. One of them offered Geeta a lift and we waved her off, expecting to see her again within half an hour at the top of the climb.

You hit the spot, turn and find another endless climb ahead to another lamp-post. You trudge onward endlessly, as it seems, and then you see the tea-houses within a kilometer to your right. The only fly in the ointment is that a gorge separates you, again, BUT, thankfully, you only need to meander down the trail to the left which snakes back to the destination after a good 3-5 kilometer trek. AND, around 7 PM, almost twelve hours since we started the day's trek, we collapse in the tea-house after hearing, thankfully, that Geeta had been ferried all the way by the motorcyclist.

THAT, then, was how we celebrated Diwali this year!

The next day, programs would change.

Photocredits: Fellow-trekkers. None taken by me.


  1. Read all the posts and thoroughly enjoyed them. And there could have been no better way to celebrate Diwali I tell you !

    1. I agree - NOW! THEN it seemed like I was on fire :)

  2. "you are dwarfed by the sheer majesty of the mountains"... that's the beauty of mountains..and I just love it. After reading all three of your posts, my wish to go for a trek has been multiplied by hundred...

  3. Very absorbing accounts spiced with your incomparable humor .I too love the mountains-it is uplifting to see nature's majesty.

  4. Are there more episodes of the Mustang trek coming up? Because I am enjoying this arm chair trekking! Agree with you where smelling the roses along the way are concerned and being a part of the landscape rather than the onlooker. thanks for sharing this account and looking forward to more!

  5. What you said about experiencing the beauty from outside vs. inside the photograph is so true. One truly becomes a part of the landscape when one is there and there is no photograph on earth which can cause the same feeling ! Some memories this !

    1. THAT precisely is what I always felt. Enjoying pics as a substitute is like enjoying a good movie by looking at the posters :)

  6. This Ramesh fella sounds way too fast. I too love to forget myself in the mountains, what I generally dislike about the slow group is their dawdling behind taking pics. And this splitting of groups sounds so nostalgic - Been there done that and would love to be there again soon!

    1. He is - he is 4-5 years older than me but runs ahead like he is a couple of decades younger. Gives you quite an inferiority complex :)