Misadventures score way over missed adventures

Two months ago, in a rest house surrounded by nothing but woods alone, Vivek and me were arguing whether to continue on our journey or give up.
We had planned an 86 km- in 7 days- uphill-and-downhill-treking-tour from Bageshwar(Basecamp, 950m a.s.l.) to Pindari Glacier(Zero Point, 3353m a.s.l.). We had always known that our rucksacks must contain only, or atleast, 'essentials', that our group should be fairly large, that we should go with some training and lots of information...but we didn't. We had grossly underestimated the conditions. Add to that the fright induced by the locals for we were in the wrong season(it was monsoon and the next week the rest houses were closing), without any guide(we thought that would ruin the sense of adventure), and a bridge had fallen(just pure bad timing). So only two days into it, we were too scared and enervated to continue.
It was around sunset that a man came there with his son to board a room, so we decided to engage in some conversation.
After a formal introduction(the man was a Major, Gorkha Rifles and was addicted to smoking and trekking), I asked "Sir, how is the bridge up there?"
"The regular one has flown with the river and the other is broken. People have put some planks so we used that."
"So its dangerous???" I said raising my eyebrows and anticipating an affirmation.
"A little. Actually a team of researchers studying the glacier is trapped so the planks are for them. They'll close the bridge for repair day after tomorrow i think."
I looked at Vivek with a gaze which said 'we were going right, pal...the trip is off'. Thanks to the Major, it wasn't.
"Are you two going to Pindari?" He inquired for there is one more glacier(Kafni) the path of which separates after that camp.
"No actually, we had planned to but now, we'll return I think. What can we do? I mean its raining heavily and the bridge..." I tried to show that the conditions handicap-ed us but he interrupted as if he knew the content of my arguments were insignificant.
"No, No , No...you must go. Its not that dangerous. I did it with my 12 year old son." That was a point. Though we had learned never to compare ourselves with pahari log, it was a 12 year old kid goddamit! "Even if the bridge is dismantled", he continued, "its worth going till there. See, trekking is about measuring yourself and overcoming your limitations." We told him that we came for trekking just-like-that and had no idea what it was. He probably knew how to bait such first-timers and thus he showed us photographs in his digi. We were simply awed. "When will you get to see the rhodonderons, the oakforests, coniferous trees with ferns allover there trunks...."
"Yeah but sir, we are also a bit ill-equipped." We were in dire needs of assurance so i planned to list out all why-we-shldn't-carry-on-pretexts to him.
"You got your rucksack and trekking shoes and first aid kit?" Vivek nodded in affirmation. "Its a bit windy near the glacier. You have windsheeter?"
We nodded, but this time, in disagreement.
"And rain coats and wollens?"
"Actually he doesn't have a raincoat," I pointed to vivek, smiling for i was supposed to bring one for him and i forgot. We barely had woolens as well but I did not report that. There was already too much a display of foolhardiness for a first meeting.
"Ok. Here, take this windsheeter, i am sorry i have only one, and this umbrella."
We resisted but he convinced us take them and return them after the journey. (The wretched beings we are, we gave the belongings to the rest house keeper in our return journey for safekeeping- there is a story to that.)
The Major gave us a few tips on trekking- the walking styles, rucksack-ing, the usual dos and don'ts. We enquired about resting for we had taken frequent and long breaks which apparently did not help, and so he said, "Never take long breaks, you will find difficult to walk again. Just keep walking slowly, one step at a time. And do not look at the peaks, they can be discouraging. If you feel tired just look back how far and high you have traversed, take a few breaths, drink some water and walk again." Then looking nowhere he added something that i guess his father had told him ," ...and remember always to be humble to the mountains."

Well, we did go ahead. The officials at the bridge wanted us to sign a note saying 'we are responsible for whatever happens to us' if we decided to go further up, which was too much for our taking. But we had some 'treasurable' sights: weird trapezoidal cobwebs, the largest hawk we had ever seen, first ever confrontation with a designer-green mountain snake, huge-huge landslides which were even difficult to picture occurring, and the beautiful, and still, more white than black, night skies.

The reason though why we remember the trip most(yeah vivek, i am speaking on your behalf too) is that the words of Major remain with us deeply entrenched in our memories: Just keep walking slowly, one step at a time. And do not look at the peaks, they can be discouraging...

Our photographs are not in digital form, but you may check out trek-pics here: http://indoexpedition.com/pindaripic.html

Popular Posts