Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Great Kashmir Lakes trek - II



There is nothing that frightens me more than to go on a trek and have people exclaim, 'Oh! You are a veteran trekker!" Somehow, human beings seem wired to try to live up to the billing. What with finding balancing myself more difficult than standing an egg on its edge and with blowing like a bellows from the very first step on an incline, I cut a pretty sorry picture of a 'veteran trekker' and the unsightly blush that covers my face, due to all that slipping, slithering and blowing, is really no help. So, you can understand how I felt when I got accosted as a 'You are one of the tough trekkers' by Arpita. Veteran was bad enough...tough?? What would I have to do to live up to that?

After napping for four hours, holding in nausea for the next 3 hours till we hit the base camp, breaking fast on the food arranged by Dushyant - who was the local India Hikes coordinator - and hooking up with Vaisakh and his team, who would guide us on the trek, we were off. I, as usual, was doing my celebrated imitation of a steam engine right from the start but THAT was no help to the others, since they had to ascend on their own steam.

Weather plays such an important role in making a trek easy or difficult. With a drizzle going, the path had turned to slush and we were slipping half a foot for every foot climbed. On a more than usually slippery turn, Vinod slipped and, in trying to break his fall, dislocated his shoulder. The joint was pushed back in but the pain was so intense that he had to carry it in a sling. So, back he went...or THAT would have been the result with anyone else. Vinod?? Forget dropping out of the trek, he was not even willing to drop off his day pack on someone else. So NOW you know the sort of madcaps I trek with.

Of course, being Vinod's friend, I showed my sympathy for him by slipping and falling myself in the same spot. (AND dislocating my shoulder? No, thanks, not even I am THAT sympathetic.) Onwards we went, puffing and panting (I speak for myself, of course) till we hit a dhabha. The dhabha, where I was inspired to imitate Salman Khan by shedding my T-Shirt in full view.

To be sure, Salman would not have liked to own up to my physique, much like I would not like to own up to the things he - oops...his driver, bodyguard, nanny etc - is said to have done. AND, no, I was not under any illusion that my upper torso was something for women to swoon over - unless they swooned because they could not stand the sight. The problem was a maddening itch, possibly caused by something that had got into me when I tried to 'sympathize' with Vinod. All that I found, though, were rashes here and there with no sight of the culprit causing them. Eventually, and thankfully, the itching subsided.

Up and away, again. Thanks to the fact that we could not acclimatize overnight - because of the change in schedule enforced by the aftermath of Wani's killing - and the lack of sleep, quite a few of the trekkers were making heavy weather of the trek. Rammohan was throwing up everything that went in, despite having hydrated himself at the start. (Another of those nuts...he still kept up with us, despite the nausea and the splitting headache). I, the eternal believer in Electral (and the one who needs it the most, considering how much I sweat), was, as usual, carrying a bottle of water mixed with Electral and forced him to drink it, thanks to which he threw up once again. By the end of the day, he was fresh and healthy, which, of course, I attribute to the Electral I forced down his throat!



Trekking in Kashmir throws up all the challenges of trekking on a daily basis. In addition to the ascents on inclines, you end up descending also on the same day - thanks to the fact that every day, we went up to close to 13k feet and, then, ending up camping at somewhere around 11500 feet. You walk over snow drifts, you jump across boulders and, even, cross fast-flowing streams on a slippery path of stones. It is fun to do all that, not least because you get to see such wonderful sights en route (When you stop to take it in, of course. If you tried it WHILE you were trekking...) And, no, pics are not a substitute. To see the pics of those rolling green valleys, those lovely carpets of flowers, those rearing mountains, the gushing River Sind and to think you have had the experience is to assume that you have had the joy of eating by looking at the pic of food on Facebook. There is a vast difference between looking AT some natural beauty and being in the midst of it.

We camped on day 1 at Table Top. Rammohan, Shekhar and I shared a tent. Both Mohan and I believed in giving the world audible evidence of the fact that we are asleep, when we are asleep - what a cousin calls 'sound' sleepers - and, thus, there are no prizes for guessing who could not sleep soundly in our tent.

The next day, we started climbing up to Nichnai pass. Strangely for me, I was needing to take a break after every 10 steps (I know! It is your opinion that I do my trekking on the back of some-one else, sort of like the people who go walking in their SUVs. Malicious propaganda, I tell you!). By the time we hit Nichnai pass, I had a splitting headache to add to my woes. Around then is when it struck me that I had been so busy telling other people to hydrate themselves, on the previous day, that I had not found the time to do it myself. I downed my bottle of Electral and suddenly found that the trek was not as bad as it seemed, after all. Not even slipping and falling twice while descending down a snow-drift, changed my mind.



Around the time we reached a long field of boulders to cross, my headache intensified. Skipping lunch, due to the dehydration-induced nausea, was probably not the wisest of decisions but, then, I have very seldom been accused of wisdom. Arpita, who was then trekking ahead of me, was finding the boulders difficult going and, in the normal course, I'd have been helping her across them. (Yeah! Yeah! Being called a veteran trekker does do something to me). The way I was feeling, though, I could hardly help myself and I rushed on ahead.

By the time I hit the campsite, I was feeling ready to lie down and die. Vaisakh was all agog getting people to climb up a small hillock to take in the Vishnusar lake but I begged off.

After a snooze, I took a walk around the campsite, turned awkwardly, slipped on some slush and fell. Nothing new about it for me but this time the muscles of my right leg were strained badly and I could not bend my knee. Unfortunately, the rest day planned for the next day was rescheduled because it looked like rainy days were ahead and Vaisakh did not want to take a chance. An unbending knee may be the sign of a proud man but it is also a sign of a man who cannot skip over boulders.

I decided to take the call on turning back or continuing on the trek after a night's sleep. Well...there WAS no night's sleep with the pain keeping me awake almost all night, except for a few minutes of dozing now and then.



I did climb - if one can call dragging one foot behind you as climbing - up to see the Vishnusar lake. Shekhar, who had had enough of pushing himself, decided to turn back with me. THAT, then, ended the High Altitude trek. The saga of the High Altitude Horse Ride still remains to unfold.

Part I
Part III
Pics : Rammohan, Neha and Maulik Shah

14 comments:

  1. Lovely account. Felt like I was walking in step with ye. Except of course one needs to actually be there to enjoy it. And the way you throw away those one liners (sympathetic injuries indeed) makes it so entertaining - more than just a travelogue.

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  2. Interesting account, Suresh in your usual style. And this time breathtaking pictures too, eh?

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    1. Not taken by me, as you would know by now :)

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    2. Super Suresh. Fantastic account. Hope you are in fine fettle now.

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    3. Thanks Ravi! Almost completely normal now - just minor niggle in the leg

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  3. oh my god!!! that's such a beautiful account...no, no, not the injury part, I'm sympathising with Vinod's dislocated shoulder, your nausea, the invisible itch bug, and injury..i meant the will to keep going in spite of everything...awesome pictures too!

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    1. The pictures are to other people's credit. Trekking is not something you choose to do if the will to keep going is lacking :)

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  4. Meryl D'SouzaAugust 2, 2016 at 6:30 PM

    Great post uncle suresh ! Thank you for sharing. Also the last picture is taken by me. :)

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    1. Thanks Meryl! I attributed the pic credits based on who SENT the pics to me :)

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  5. Beautiful pics and humorous account.

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    1. My co-trekkers deserve the credit for the pics; I have to take the responsibility for the account :)

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  6. READING about all this is fun,but you trekkers are a masochistic lot I think.

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    1. The rewards - the beauty, serenity, tranquility of the places AND the bonding with the trek group - are worth it; not when you strain your knee and return half-way through, of course :)

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