6th August, 2016, 1700 hrs
“What is trekking?”, asked our Trek Leader (TL) Mayank Mathur from IndiaHikes (IH) as we were gathered at “Wildlife Information & Interpretation Centre” in Manali for our briefing of the trek to Hampta Pass tomorrow (7th August 2016). To answer the question, trekking is nothing but walking and breathing. And that’s what we were to do for the next 4 days in the Himalayas for the Hampta Pass trek.
The briefing continued with instructions and etiquette to be followed in the mountains. And of course, the most important part of the trek – Leaving the mountain trails in better conditions through the project called as “Green Trails Project” by IH. We moved forward on how to pack our trek bags and the best practices to follow as a trekker (more on this later). Of all the instructions, there was one that made me feel little at ease – “It’s okay to fall, but fall with grace”. I was going for a Monsoon trek which made me apprehensive of my clumsiness and losing foothold (I have had a little experience of my clumsiness on my first trek to K2S). This was, after all, my first Himalayan trek. But on hearing it, I felt more confident of completing the trek.
We were to be packed, ready and meet at 0700 the next morning at Rambaugh Circle in Manali, from where our journey (read trek) was to begin…
6th August, 2016, 2300 hrs
We (it included me and a fellow trekker – Laavanyaa S) were staying at Hotel Silmog Garden near Buddhist Monastery in Manali (near Mall Road). And despite having packed and repacked 3 times already, I was still anxious as 1. I felt the bag was not well balanced. And trust me this is the most essential part of trekking. Your rucksack needs to be packed intelligently so that you have immediate access to necessary items. And it is well balanced on your shoulders such that you are able to carry it as if it were a part of your body-weight itself. And 2. I kept feeling that I was forgetting something as I usually feel whenever I am going on such trips. But luckily I had not forgotten anything this time around.
Somehow at 2315 I was able to calm my nerves, gave my bag a final look, tighten all the strings so that it gets as compressed as possible and went to get some sleep.
7th August, 2016, 0600 hrs
Dawn of 7th August was one of those mornings where you seem to feel you woke up from sleep in a blink. And what a beautiful morning it was! Waking up to a misty morning and light drizzling is something to look forward to if you are on a Monsoon trek. And Hampta Pass is the place to be for a Monsoon trek enthusiast. Why? You will know soon enough.
As we assembled at the meeting point, anticipating what laid ahead for the day, chatting about trails, making the last few phone calls (well that’s a mandate before going to a no-network zone. I always wondered how people went on vacations before mobile phones were invented. Sometimes I feel I am born in a different and wrong era!) Well, anyway, while we made the calls a kitli by the side of the road was busy making us some nice hot chai. Here’s another mandate. You cannot not have chai in the morning such as the one we were having. At times, it seems to me chaiwaala are the people who spread happiness the most, don’t you think? Imagine how would a drizzly morning or a foggy wintry morning be if there were no chaiwaalas. For me, it would have been incomplete. There are so many stories I have at the kitlis. Stories that I have heard of other people and a few stories of my own. I have had instances where I was blessed by an elderly woman just because I had bought her a cutting!
At 0700, we were all assembled (all 25 of us which was a pleasant surprise as it is quite unusual for everyone to be on time on such occasions), our TL joined us. And by that time we had realized that it was going to be a beautiful day and one hell of a trek! “What a beautiful start to the trek, isn’t it?”, exclaimed our TL and with that, we moved to our hired Sumos which would take us to our first leg of the trek to Jobri. We were to have our breakfast there and from there on our trek would start onwards to our first campsite Jwara.
Driving through 42 hairpin turns, we reached Jobri. As we soaked in our surrounding, we were welcomed with the breakfast of puri sabzi, with yet another hot piping cup of tea.
We had gained over 3075 feet in this drive from Manali to Jobri making our elevation around of 9800 feet.
Continued… Toh Chale to Jwara