In case you missed, read the first part of Hampta Pass Trek : It’s okay to fall, but fall with grace
While we had our breakfast and waited for our lunch to get ready, there was just one thing I had my eyes for, miles and miles of rolling mountains. They were endlessly green, dotted with Pine trees. As the mist started to settle over the mountains we started our trek towards our first campsite – Jwara.
The first hour of the trek seems a haze to me, now. We walked up the mountain through the forest of Pines and passing through the silver Birch tree. These were the only two kinds of trees I recognized. Rains were not making the path any easier. It was all slushy and muddy. Your trek pole is your best friend here. I, for one, was holding onto mine very dearly.
Half an hour into the ascent and I was starting to doubt myself and my decision of going for the trek. All the self-doubt started taking root in my head. Walking in a poncho is not easy and it becomes all the more difficult to take steps with all the buzzing in your head. But then, they go all away when you have this view in front of you after the first one hour of the trek.
As we continued to walk, Rani Nallah kept us company with all her gushing and rushing. We continued walking up the mountains, but there always seemed to be yet another one towering above us. We knew then we would soon be walking up on it too. That’s when it hit me suddenly – I am gaining altitude. The realization makes you short of breathe. All you need to remember at this point, is take in deep breathe and exhale as if you are blowing out a candle. And keep walking.
As we left the forest trail which was the only forest we encountered in the whole trek, it opened to the grasslands of Chikha. And the path was full of Himalayan wild flowers, wild mushrooms, and stones and boulders. And then there was this small bridge over the Rani Nallah that we had to cross to begin our valley trek.
The mountains looked intimidating from here on making the contrast in terrain quite visible. The path was rugged and tough. And it was still slushy, strewn with pebbles and small boulders. It was taxing to walk up the mountains with the rain lashing continuously. By now I was leading the pack from behind. It was only the thought of taking a pitstop that kept me walking, which was never so in my case. It was Chetram ji, one of our guide, who kept on encouraging me to walk on. ‘Ho jaayega. Aram aram se chalo bas abhi 10 hi minute mein rukna’. And let me tell you this 10 minutes on mountains and coming from guides can vary widely. Many of us had the same feeling whenever we heard bas 10 minutes coming from Chetram ji. Just when I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk any further, lo and behold, I saw the yellow tent, pitched in the distance. This meant one thing, resting area is just few metres away.
The lunch and rest did energise me. I was in the front for sometime and then I was back to where I started before lunch. The path had started to get tricky. Crossing streams, climbing the rocks had me hyperventilating soon again. I had joined Chetram bhai again.
There is this thing about humans. We tend to overthink, and in situation such as the one I was in we start thinking what others are thinking. Are they judging me for slowing down the whole group? Whenever I saw the group waiting for me to join them so that we can move forward, I dreaded to see the relief or something that would make my thoughts a reality. But to my pleasant surprise, they would cheer me on. There was not a person left during the complete trek to whom I had not requested to help me with taking out my water bottle. But that was not all, they always waited for me to take the sip and kept the bottle back in my bag so that I could carry on walking. Well, when you have fellow trekkers like them, how couldn’t you not but complete the trek.
Check out this video captured by Bharath R while we crossed one tricky waterfall on the first day:
But this was not all. The highlight of the first day is river crossing. We made a human chain to cross the crazy Rani Nallah. Wading through waist-high cold river with your feet turning numb slowly, your big toe fending for the stone to put your next step on all you would wish for is to feel your feet again. One good thing about the river crossing was our pants that had gone muddy through the day were nicely washed now. Even the shoes, although I would have preferred the muddy dry shoes than the clean damp one I had now.
As we started walking again suddenly the path became plain and Hallelujah! I saw tents, this time orange ones along with the yellow one. We had reached Jwara at around 5.30 PM.
Once we reached, we were advice to dry up and come to the dinner tent. We were welcomed to Bhajiyas and chai surrounded by mist and mountains and the stream flowing by! Till the time I reached the campsite I was not aware of how much the mountain air affects you. Having Bhajias and chai at the the altitude of 11,000 feet is something that I am not going to forget.
The temperature can drop suddenly and it gets chilly as the dusk sets in. The weather is fickle up there. But there’s one thing I learnt about mountains. They can be harsh on you making it difficult for you to take even one step further, but accept them, breathe them in more and they heal your lungs pretty soon. They are huge, harsh and even difficult but its their toughness that teaches you to be humble and gentle too. They are a healer in true sense.
One good thing about Monsoon trek is, you get to witness waterfalls. It had turned misty by the time we reached Jwara, the mountains were hidden but they stood towering above us. As the sky began to change its color and the mist started to thicken a little more. We got inside our sleeping bag (after of course a hearty meal complete with dessert and Bournvita) anticipating the second day of trek. It was supposed to be a shorter trek than it was on the first day as we expected to have lunch at our campsite itself.
Continued… Onward to Balu ka Gera