Today is an easy day with only five hours of walking but am already quaking from self-doubts. While checking out of the hotel in Leh, a naysayer of a cashier had looked at me in astonishment when I told him of our Lamayaru to Padum trek. The conversation went something like this –
Cashier: “Toh aap trekking karenge”
Cashier: “Acchi baat he. Kahan par?”
Me: “Lamayaru se Padum”
Cashier (astonished): “Aap kar sakoge?”
Me (puzzled): “Karne ke liye hi aaye hain…”
Cashier: “Bahoot mushkil he. Aap kar sakoge”
Me (pissed off): “Haan kyun nahin?!”
Cashier (doubtful): “Achcha…”
Me (trying to escape quickly): “Thanks…” To myself - “… for nothing”
On top of PrinkitiLa pass (12,240 ft). Pic by Aniruddha Das
But my confidence is shaken and I send imploring looks to my friends and guide to help boost my confidence. Alas, there’s not much that they can do. We take off soon and in two hours we are at the base of the first pass, PrinkitiLa Pass which at 12,240 ft is the smallest of our climbs. But it tells us what to expect – huff-puff slow progress for me, Naveen’s form is taking shape while Ani’s being his usual android self, showing no inclination to tire at all (what does he eat?!).
We are accompanied by a rat pack of Czech adventurers. They are a motley group – two are struggling with their gear, two alpha-males are competing with each other and others are keeping a sensible but fast pace. Annoyingly, one of the alpha males even drops his bag to run up a hill on our path kicking up dust. We can even hear the hum of his footsteps. Soon the whole group overtakes us, though we do spot them again – ahem, skinny dipping in a cold, glacier-fed river. Nuts!
We are at Wanla by mid-afternoon but there’s no sight of our tent. Rajesh (our guide) tells that we have to learn to setup our tents. There’s no mistake of the message here, I think groaning inwardly. What about days when we are so dog-tired that breathing will seem like a chore? Will we still have to setup our tents? Nevertheless, the tent is up soon but it’s too hot to settle inside. I can feel the sun setting up his burn factory on my epidermis which makes me quite grumpy. To make matters worse, the boys want to go up to the river and Naveen is entertaining some strange ideas about jumping into the river. After a quick and easy wash (easy because unlike in other camps, the water is not sub-zero and I don’t have to do gymnastics to just wash my face), we saunter around, take pictures, have many cups of tea and relax.