Rupin Pass was different and magical for so many reasons. Though this was not the first time I was trekking in the Himalayas but this was definitely the longest time I spent on a trek. The adventures at Rupin Valley were unique and one of a kind. It would be quite safe to say that this has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. And, at the same time it has been extremely rewarding and enriching.
I have already written two long posts on my experience but there are few more small stories, ignoring which is leaving me with a sense of incompletion.
So, here they go.
My Sore Ankle – I had a painful ankle all through the trek. I literally limped through the valley, up to the Pass. It started with the ankle bones rubbing against the shoe making it difficult to walk. This was resolved to a large extent when our guide, Rup Mohan, along with help from a trekmate placed a padding of cotton and taped it tightly to my feet. However, the ankle bone on the inner side of the right foot continued hurting and the cotton padding wasn’t helping. This got temporarily resolved when I loosened my shoe laces, though it caused me to trip and fall twice during the journey. Most of the time, I was in great pain while walking with my shoes on.
I tried everything that people suggested, hot water salt therapy, rubbing almond oil, some ankle exercises and even bizarre outlandish ideas like putting stones on either side of the ankle bone to keep it away from the shoes. Nothing helped. Desperate, I even thought of cutting off the ankle high of my shoe!
At Lower Waterfall (Dhanderas Thatch), Bhupender, our Trek Leader suggested cold water therapy by dipping my feet onto the cold glacial water of Rupin. My ankles went numb and provided some short term relief. Thereafter he wrapped a crepe bandage, folded my socks to provide additional cushioning, and loosened my shoe laces. That’s how I managed the rest of the trek. An uncalled for situation, that partially robbed me of few joyous and carefree moments.
The Milky Way – It was 3 AM in the morning, the final day when were up to go to Rupin Pass. We were trying to gather our courage to step out in the freezing cold. My tentmate stepped out first and called out to me to look at the sky. That was incentive enough to brave the chill and step out and it was mesmerizing. I always had a keen desire to see the Milky Way and there it was brilliantly illuminating a part of the sky. I couldn’t be happier.
The New-Born Lamb – Shepherds with their herd of furry sheep and bushy sheep dogs is a common sight at Rupin Valley. After all, this is a shepherd’s trail and they move their herds to greener pastures and back. Once, a shepherd came along carrying a tiny lamb while the rest of his herd followed. I chatted with him, clicked his picture and asked if I could hold the lamb. He handed over the lamb and I could feel it’s heart thumping rather loudly. Upon asking if something was wrong, I got to know that the lamb was just two hours old and was still trying to adjust to the surrounding environment. I was jubilant. The feeling of holding a new born lamb was extraordinary – something I won’t forget for the rest of my life.
Being Superstitious – On seven days of the trek I wore the same set of clothes. For some reason I got superstitious as everyday was turning out to be great. I didn’t want to upset the rhythm and decided to wear the same clothes. I must have been stinking but who cares!
The 24th Man – One of the young engineers from VIT did not register with IndiaHikes on time but was keen to trek with his friends. So, he came along carrying his own tent, stove and other requirements. Thus, he was part of the group even while not being part of it. I remember us gathering around when he was pitching his tent for the first time like kids in a roadside magic show waiting to see what unfolds.
The Narrow Escape – A trekmate went exploring Dhanderas Thatch with his camera and while chasing a rainbow slipped and fell into the ice cold Rupin River. Thankfully he was safe except for a twisted ankle.
The Momo Fight – The greedy fight one evening at Udaknal campsite as people pounced upon the limited momos is surely something we’ll remember for a long time.
Anxious Moments of Oxymeter Readings – Every evening, our Trek Leader would summon us to measure our Oxygen level and anything below 80 would mean we need to descend. To maintain the level and ensure not being hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), we had to gulp down 6 L. of water per day, not like everyone complied though.
The Trek Anthem – Our trek leader had a trek anthem that could charge up everyone like an instant shot of black coffee. It constituted a series of meaningless rhyming words that we uttered synchronously. Needless to say it was a lot of fun.
Fun Games – I always thought playing games on a trek is a sheer waste of time and mostly stay away from them. I’d rather soak in nature’s beauty all around me, something which I will not get in the city. This time I surprised myself by participating in many a game, played by the team. Company matters! Games like ‘Non-stop Nonsense’ was a lot of fun.
Perfect Weather – The perfect weather at the trek was nothing short of a miracle. Every day, except one, was bright and sunny with clear blue skies. It rained one day but was just a light shower that lasted only for 2-3 hours. Oh, there were sporadic light showers the next day too, but that was our rest day. Even at the Pass, we were greeted by a sunny morning with no wind. It was as though Mother Nature had conspired with the mountains to have us experience a blissful trek. I had read of snowfalls, heavy rains, hailstorms, and gusty winds at least one day during the trek in most blogs I went through. None of it happened for us.
Wonderful Company – Nature is, nature was, and nature will be but it’s only with good fortune that you land up with a great company too.
You are spending 9 days out in the wilderness experiencing the same hardships and the same exhilaration. Literally everything you do out there, you do as a team and often times these are people you have just met. Everyone is bound by one common goal and it only gets easier when you have easy going people with you. And, in a large group seamless camaraderie in a short period of time is rare.
A big shout out to all the fantastic people who played a big role in all the precious memories I now have.
The VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology) guys Sachin, Animesh, Rishi, Vikrant, Sid, Surjo, and Paarsh your exuberance and cheerfulness made everything so lively.
The ‘Gujju’ trio, Anuj, Viraj, and Naitik, you laughed at yourselves and made us laugh too.
The three men from Chennai, Durai Sir, Sunder, and Nedu, you were an inspiration to us all.
The Bangalore trio, Rishu, Avi, and Sameer, you were the easygoing and the totally cool guys.
Now for the solo ones.
Darshan Sir, your determination enthused us.
Harsh, the solo ‘Gujju’, you were there for everyone and your gait made me fear that you might fall into the valley.
Vineet your enthusiasm for climbing every mountain on your way was contagious.
Sri, my buddy in drinking gallons of water and always fiercely guarding your first position until you became a victim of ‘gender inequality’!
Nayantara, your innocent laughter and warm hugs reassured.
Rajiv, my partner for the rejuvenating black tea breaks with mint, ginger, etc and also some of the most fascinating conversations was with you.
Sangy, my cool tentmate and partner in crime, you made life so easy.
And, I remained the self-declared official garbage collector of the group.
Now for the most important people, people from IndiaHikes.
Our Trek Leader Bhupender, those enriching conversations I had with you sharing our love and respect for the Himalayas and all the care you displayed to fix my ankle.
Rup Mohan, you kept us on our toes always and awed us with your ease in every kind of terrain.
Robin, an epitome of patience and all the fun I had with you trying to click the perfect selfies.
Nitin, you were such excellent company as we trailed on the last day enjoying every bit of nature’s gifts and of course your tenacity to catch up with us even with that 20Kg backpack.