Saturday, June 04, 2016

Deoriatal Chandrashila

Its 2 am in the morning and I can see some moonlight reflection from inside the tent roof. It’s not cloudy I think to myself as I slide out of the sleeping bag. My son is still in deep sleep. My wife stirs a little and asks me the time. Today is summit day.
This is our second Himalayan trek - Deoriatal Chandrashila through Indiahikes. We hope to start in the dark with our headlights at 3:00 am and trek  past Tunganath temple to climb Chandrashila in time to catch the first rays of sunrise light up Chaukhamba and Kedar dome. Will we ?

We -  are a team of 23 people in this group spanning a wide age group. Aarush, a bubbly 8 year old having the wisdom of a 70 year old to Brahmanand Sharma, a 70 year young man with the enthusiasm of an 8 year old. All of us have bonded and become family during the past 5 days. We have been through hail and storm (well not quite the storm) on the first day. Hauled our bags and run for the forest rest house shelter abandoning our tents. We have spent that night holed up in a room 10 apiece and warmed up to each other in the cold of the morning. Shared chores and washed up after meals and looked up for each other’s missing items. Trekked up Jandi top which was part of the aborted 2nd day trek of Rohini Bugyal and played together while sharing notes of our personal lives. We have been through thick and thin of the trails surrounding Deoriatal and Bhrujgali in Chopta. Explored Bhrujgali meadows and forests while the children played. Most of us were first time trekkers and adjusted remarkably to the ways of life that a stay in wilderness brings. The biggest change was the toilet tents and the soil flush. The sleeping bags were warm and cosy but the washing of the dishes in the biting cold needed some mental courage.  But yes, we have had fun amidst all the undoing of city life habits. And we were in for more fun as I, lazily, made my way out of the tent. The other tents had stirred too while our faithful support group must have been up long back to make us our breakfast.

We hastily got ready as Vyshak, our trek leader rallied us around to start at 3:00 am. Fortunately we had some moonlight as 23 of us synced up to march with headlights on. It was different from trekking during the day. The only thing visible was the ground beneath our feet and the silhouettes of the mountain and trees. The occasional cracking of radio set broke the night silence.
Soon we reached the paved road to Tunganath from Chopta. Now we were sure of the footing but not the gradient. The darkness helped as it hid the climb and distance left. Soon our eyes got accustomed to the lack of light and I could switch off my headlight. We passed small tapris and settlements stirring to start the morning for pilgrims coming in and finally reached the Tunganath temple. This was the end of the paved road and the trail past this temple winded up to the top. The faster members had moved ahead. We were as strong as the weakest member of our group as we labored up. The heart was beating faster than ever, the breathing was shallow as 12083 ft altitude loomed ahead. A bell and a small stack of stones for a temple top with a flag suddenly came into sight. We had done it. 

When you want something the universe conspires to help you achieve it - Varma, my friend and fellow trekker aptly quoted Paul Coehlo . He could not have summed this up better. 

The universe in this case was undoubtedly Indiahikes and its fantastic support team. Vyshak Nair our indefatigable, charismatic Trek leader who had his hands full with inclement weather and first time trekkers. Manoj, the local guide, full of anecdotes and riddles enthralled us with stories of Deoriatal and Badrinath. Dhansingh, who was the liason guy at Sari came to Deoriatal with additional ponchos and was always in touch on the walkietalkie. I could sense his concern for little Aarush as I heard his voice over the radioset during summit, enquiring with Manoj about the kid's well being. The kitchen team was fantastic, backing us up with simple, delicious food, packed lunches or waking up at midnight during summit day to cook our breakfast. During the 1st day rain washout they had to move the kitchen from the tents into the rest house and cook us food. They did all of this with a smile, ever courteous, obliging to our constant requests of warm water in the wee hours of all mornings. The ginger water and lemon tea was something that I yearn for back in the city. 

And I yearn for more, dreaming of the mountains, the birds, the meadows, the people, the moments ... 

"We do not remember days, we remember moments" - Cesare Pavese

- some moments in pics are here ,  birding moments are here


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