Friday, January 22, 2010

Day Five: Photaksar to Stayang via SenggeLa Pass

Rajesh has already warned us. Today will be a very long and tough day. We’ll climb up to the highest altitude on this trek today and then quickly climb down. In short all the altitude variations could hit us despite taking medication. It was Ani’s brainwave to take Diamox which helps counter altitude sickness. Altitude can really create havoc on your system. Headache, mood swings, fatigue… you’ll want to be a teenager instead.

Nevertheless, after a trip to the loo wading which involved walking through ankle deep muck I am ready to take off. We walk past verdant barley fields of Photaksar and its village perched on the plateau above the river. There cannot be a more serendipitous moment. The village sits prettily at the bottom of the Photang valley surrounded by snow capped mountains and the feeling is of walking within a bowl of choc sundae topped with cream frosting. The sun’s still climbing the skies and as light filters through the crags of the mountains, I feel like Alice in Wonderland.

The path here on starts climbing and continues till after two hours we are on top of BumitseLa Pass at 14,430 ft. From here we can see the snowline of SenggeLa Pass. Rajesh wickedly lets us know that it will take only six hours to get there. Groan. The path climbs, levels off, descends, climbs up again; goes past charming mountain streams,lazily grazing yaks, marshy slushes and towering snow capped mountains. The sky is a brazen cobalt blue.

Ah if only I can continue in the same vein. It’s getting mind numbingly tiring. We have been walking for six hours now and there’s no sight of the basecamp of the pass even. The altitude is making things worse. Every step is an effort. Gah@%^@! It takes us an hour more to reach basecamp. Ani’s reached already but the three of us are exhausted and irritated, minor unmentionable skirmishes follow. Luckily, we remember it with laughter later.

The climb starts again and Rajesh decides to accompany me. Can’t complain, it’s actually reassuring. Traverse the mountains on sane-zig zag paths while Naveen follows Ani’s lead to take the insane-zig zag path. It’s shorter and steeper. It takes an hour more but we are there and the view is breathtaking. We can see all the way to SirsirLa. Hugs and congratulations follow. Ta da!

The day’s walk is not done yet. We have three more hours to go. Down we go. It’s precarious in phases, though shrubs of violet keep us company. In a while, we spot the campsite. But why is Rajesh standing past it and waving his hands. My stomach falls to my knees. That’s not our campsite is what he’s trying to tell us and more importantly to hurry. It’s already four and getting chilly. We need to reach our camp by six latest.

Ani and I are leading. We set a brisk pace; the well-laid out path traverses high over the mountains, almost near the ridge which means a panoramic view of the valleys & terraced fields of the Yulchung village. Is that where we camp for the night? If so, we have a long, long way to go! Think my numbed legs cannot comprehend that but they seem to have a life of their own. They are on auto mode, even if I were to stop them, they may not. Help!!! I am grateful for the wide, stone paved path though the wind is beginning to pick up and it isn’t warm. I pull on my gloves.

It’s six and just when I despair aloud about a non-existent camp, we spot it just across the bend sheltered within the curve of a mountain wall. I carry my frozen self straight to the kitchen tent. I haven’t been happier to reach our camp. Warm noodle soup makes me feel human again.

Boy, today was some day.

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