Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day four, Zanskar Trek: Hanupatha to Photaksar (again)

Today we start early, having set into our schedules comfortably. The path starts climbing, we pass our little rock beds (yesterday they had served us well) and start traversing across the mountains, following the river down in the valley. We are walking upstream; despite our climb, the valley narrows out, the river levels up to our path and we can see the pass looming ahead of us.

It is going to be a steep climb but before we do that there’s a small bridge to cross. The river has narrowed down to a forceful stream, and the bridge across it is nothing but a few planks nailed together. A fall in the stream won’t be a good idea at all. But it still is the sturdiest one that we have come across so far. Rajesh asks if I need any help. Nada.

Climb to SirsiLa

I progress slowly over the sharp climb; Ani & Naveen are little ahead of me. It’s getting chillier as we scale the altitude and there are sharp drops along our path. Suddenly the path levels out on a plateau and there’s a small chai shop ahead. It just so bizarre to see a chai shop whose roof is an old, discarded parachute but the cheerful face of the stall owner tells me it’s not so insane after all. Apparently this is the ‘basecamp,’ but we are not to stop. The climb continues; I can see our cook, his assistant and mules climbing on the steep, muddy path snaking up the mountainside. It’s a short climb and in an hour we are on top of SirsiLa at 15,615 ft. Whoopeee! I just can’t stop myself from breaking into a small jig, whoop and run around! Neither can Naveen! It just feels unbelievable that after all my nervousness, we made it past a pass.

On top of SirsiLa (15,615 ft)

Before the climb down, Rajesh warns, “Thoda steep hai”. Argh, I didn’t realise how steep until I am on the 60 degree decline. Takes us an hour to get down and it’s almost 2 in the afternoon. Lunch boxes out, munch on sandwich, a bite of the staple hard-boiled egg, boiled potato and watch the marmots scamp from hole to hole.

Back on our feet, it takes us another two hours to reach camp. We hop over a smallish canal of a mountain stream when we see a mountain in the backdrop. The peak looks like its flicking the middle finger and we burst our laughing. Ani portends it’s an ominous sign from the mountains, especially since I made light of the day’s trek and said it was rather easy. Ha, ha.

It’s only four but already getting chilly though the hot soup waiting for us in the kitchen tent made up for it. Mmmm! To top that the cook tells us that dinner will be a surprise. Can’t wait! Meanwhile, back in the tent, we freshen up. I continue with the story of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. We have been entertaining ourselves over the past few evenings with stories of Harry Potter. Don’t ask why.

We are in for a treat for dinner. They baked pizzas and a cake for us! Brilliant! At 13,610 ft in Photaksar, a pizza and cake was more than food.

Pizza & Mashed Potatoes. Feast for the kings here. Pic by Aniruddha Das

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