(To Hemkunt, Valley Of Flowers & Auli-II)
Nothing rejuvenates me fuller than a sound sleep. And if this is succeeded by a healthy breakfast, I will shame a mule for the day's work. At Joshimath, the sleep in our cramped, smelly room worked as a natural steroid. I woke up so fresh that when it came to walk up, for the first time in my trekking career, a concretized trek (Sikh devotees had made smart pathways to Hemkunt), I was leading the pack by several paces. Right from the onset, when we posed before a hanging bridge, I beat my co-walkers by yards. Quite a solace since four years back, Sukriti (nine years younger to me) had kept Gautam and I at a lengthy bay while climbing up to Nag Tibba .
My will to keep ahead worked well for other tired souls too. I fixed a place for our lunch, spelled out a menu and moved backward to see how far behind were my trek-mates. It tickled my ego that inspite of being the eldest in the pack, I was ready to run to and fro to keep the flock like a shepherd.
Irritants were many. Sukriti like always was fussy about the menu. In the plains, she wants nothing except muttar-mushroom and in the hills she would sift tomato skins in her plate and make a pile of wrinkled refuse. An ideal pupil for Bubbles who can work her appetite at whatever she could find — from Maggie to dal-chawal.
Weather became the next irritant. While till lunch, it had been a cool uphill walk, thereto the weather began to whistle… in no time the drizzle turned into a chilly rainstorm. We covered ourselves with the Rs10-rainsheet, a plastic sack with one-side slit, and ploughed on. I still led the pack, with a 500-ml coke spiked with rum for instant energy and warmth. A young wolf-pack from Punjab stayed on my tail, badgering me, like the drizzle, about my co-trekkers. Some of them thought Supriya to be a German (where else may a 5’10” fair woman belong to?) and Suku an American (I am sure they meant a Latino). If rum weren’t there, I could have... grrrr.
Late afternoon, it was Bubbles' turn to cause pain. Inspite of being tired and hungry (more hungry than tired) she refused to ride a pony, delaying in turn the whole five. It was only after a few harsh words on her hassled being that Damyanti Ji agreed to mount a horseback; her business skills still trying to steal my larger sack on the horse.
Being on four legs, Bubbles was the first to reach the spot, a Helipad before Ghangaria, where we had decided to camp. However, considering the lack of dry clothes and firewood, we decided to stay at a dhaba, where we could dry our clothes and get a meal without doing the chores. The bottle of rum came out and all five of shooed off the cold and fatigue.
Either for the rum or a roof, our bunch was fit as fiddle in the morning to deal with the rest of our journey.
(The trip to Valley of Flowers & Hemkunt plus our race to Joshimath-Delhi is next)