I am seshadri, husband of Mridula. So it is not surprising that I am writing a post on her blog about my trek. I usually trek every year with my family, but this time I was to go alone, so I decided to trek with my old guide and friend Mr. Sohan Singh Bisht (see Kuari Pass). I told him to take me some place which wouldn’t be too easy. And boy this did prove to be one difficult trek to finish.
I equipped myself with a good pair of trekking shoes (salewa) from Stikage in Delhi, shoved the usual gear into a rucksack and was off. Since I was trekking I decided to shed my yuppiness from day 0. Which means taking a bus to the ISBT in Delhi and then another bus to Rishikesh. Bad decision, as it was raining throughout and the summer vacations being peak travel season, there were traffic jams near Haridwar and I reached at 1am after having left at 3pm the same day – a total time of 10 hours!! Travel advice – avoid the road take the train to Rishiskeh.
Was pleasantly surprised to know that buses to Joshimath leave Rishikesh leave every hour from 3am. It’s a good idea to take the earliest bus, because the ride lasts 12 hrs. If you already haven’t been to this side of Uttaranchal then you might be awed by the Alaknanda (joins the Ganges) but a seasoned cynic like me cant help notice the uniform drabness of the shanty towns enroute. You drive via devprayag, rudraprayag, karnaprayag and nandprayag. These are all holy spots where piligrims take a dip in the Ganges. There is very little for the tourist here especially an atheistic one like me. You will find no public toilets on the way. The plentiful eating joints which you will encounter hawk their ‘bathrooms’ along with their parathas. They usually have no running water and the lesser described the better.
Joshimath is the mandatory halt overnight for passengers traveling to Badrinath as the traffic stops after midnight. And all the honking Sumos and Qualis and Innovas full of nauseated passengers are dumped here overnight. The eateries make brisk business and you encounter the same coarse rudeness of the plains from the dhabawallas. All the beautiful people of the hills don’t live at Joshimath, they live in villages above it and beyond.
I met my guide and decided that we’d be off after a day’s rest for me. We loaded up on the rations, as there were no eating joints on the trek route. Ponies do walk this route but since I was only one fella, my guide just brought his pal along and they divided the luggage mostly among themselves. We had to hire a jeep to take us to our starting point some 30kms from Joshimath a place called Ruing.
Day 2 – Decided to rest an extra day at Ruing to gather my strength.
Day 3- The world was at my feet again and off we went to Dronagiri village. The route was steep and green in the middle of thick forests (I always miss the trees for the wood), butterflies, waterfalls and landslides. Standard fare for a seasoned trekker but thankful of the fact. Reached the village after 4-5 hrs of climbing. Dronagiri is a beautiful village hundred’s of years old with a population of about 100. The teenaged kids here were very smartly dressed in jeans and t-shirt and designer shoes. This was clearly the influence of television and plains. The villages here migrate to near Chamoli during winter and all the distractions of the plains are picked up from there. There is no electricity/telephone from Dronagiri.The route to Nandi kund and Canary pass is visible from Dronagiri. See photos.
Day 4- I didn’t sleep that night probably because of the altitude and by morning I was feeling a bit dazed. This day the route to Bagini glacier was to be the longest and I didn’t feel really well when I started off at 9 in the morning. The route climbs over the pass to the left and comes steeply down to the river over which is a concrete bridge. The fury of the river was breathtaking and I spent many spell bound minutes by its bank. The vegetation quickly turned from meadows to boulder ridden rocky terrain. It started to rain by late morning and never let up the entire day. We had to cross the river by jumping over it and since it was getting to late afternoon the current was strong. I am chicken hearted when it comes to skipping over slippery stones, so at my request we undid our shoes and waded into the water. The sensation of near freezing water on your warm and dry feet is pleasurably painful. The pain comes once you leave the water and your feet stings for a few minutes. All the adrenaline rush drained me off whatever energy I had left and from there on it was a slow plod till I reached the camp site at 5 pm, a total walk time of 8 hrs.
What was most beautiful was the passage of mist from down below over you and beyond. It was a continuous cycle that would reveal peaks on either one direction. My raincoat came in handy as a kitchen tent, as it continued to pour well into the night.
Day 5- Still alive. The sky had cleared near Rishi Pahar and my guide said now was the only time to take pics.
I still had to walk up a couple of kilometers to the glacial lake called Rishi Kund before Changbang, Kalhanka came into view. It was a slow and painful trudge right in the morning after a difficult day. I made it though and my guide said I was the first guy in his group who could come make it this far. I am sure the trek isn’t all that difficult, just that the altitude can play havoc with your body.
Just 2 years previously 2 Mexican climbers had perished climbing Changbang and my mind boggled at what they had tried to achieve. The immense massif of Changbang looked so remote and the peak unattainable.
Day 6- Rest day at Bagini glacier, went down to where the river vanished underneath the glacier, it emerges some 2 kms down. My 2 Chinese alkaline cells had run out and I couldn’t get many pictures this day. Strange, how a day passes by in the mountains with any sense of boredom.
Day 8- Back to Ruing and Joshimath.