Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day three, Zanskar Trek: Hanupatha to Photaksar

We wake up to the sing-song voice of Yash saying - “SIRJI, CHAI”. After our tent-chai, everything goes like clockwork. Brush, loo, fold sleeping bags, pack the day pack, fill water bottles, pull down the tent, breakfast, pack the lunch box and we are off. We have already started climbing, the path is steep and narrow, and I can feel my t-shirt soaking up my sweat. But in an hour and a half, we have stopped, Rajesh looks worried. We are to wait for the mules to catch up again. Apparently, the horseman was still searching for his mules when we left camp.

An hour goes by while we perch on rocks which overlook the valley. It’s a beautiful sight – undulating mountains ahead, a greenish valley below and a river flowing in between. Ani comments about how in Bangalore we would have been attending yet another weekly meeting time in coopy conference rooms. We feel sorry for our colleagues slaving away indoors while here we are – basking in the sun, high up on a mountain with a gentle breeze almost lulling us into sleep.

We want to see more, but Rajesh does not want to go yet. If the horseman does not find his mules before two in the afternoon, we will have to abort the day. Oh no, I don’t want to climb down and climb back up tomorrow. What a waste. But it’s safer to do so. If we reach the next camp and the mules don’t, we will have to camp under the stars. Without food and temperatures reaching sub-zero in the nights, we might as well call a heli-lift for three almost dying trekkers. So we wait and another hour goes by, yet no sign of the horseman.

Naveen & I, as we wait for the ponies to show up. Pic by Aniruddha Das

Meanwhile, we see a lone walker coming from the opposite direction who when asked tells that two aimless mules were seen at the next camp. Rajesh’s on his feet, tells us to wait there for the horseman and sets off to find the mules. Ani suggests going up the ridge of the mountain behind us to see if we can spot the horseman. I opt stay back claiming to guard our bags (while really I don’t want to trek more than already what awaits us. Ahem, I am reserving my energies). Naveen & Ani get back in an hour though there’s no sight of the horseman yet.

It’s almost one in the afternoon and looks like we might have to abort the day. Dang! As we are having our lunch, the horseman turns up. We tell him about the mules and Rajesh, and he’s off too. We snooze for a while on the rocks. Wake up and still no sight of Rajesh, horseman or the mules. It’s getting a bit chilly up there; Ani suggests we make a bonfire. We go about looking for dry brushwood and soon we have a small fire going.

It’s nearly three in the afternoon now and we spot Rajesh walking towards us. The horseman has found the mules but it’s too late to continue with the trek, even if we are to camp at the base of the next pass. Rajesh leads us back to our Hanupatha camp, disheartened we follow.

Peaks on fire at the Hanupatha camp

The aborted day though ended in the firing up of the peaks… kidding. I meant the sunset was so spectacular that the orange tinge of its descent gave the surrounding peaks a surreal look of being on fire. Nice!

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