Onward to Balu ka Gera

In case you missed, read the first part of Hampta Pass Trek : It’s okay to fall, but fall with grace


The most challenging things of a Monsoon trek is not walking wearing a poncho/rain jacket in the day time; but it is getting out of your warm and cozy sleeping bag wearing your jacket, searching for the torch and then making your way towards the toilet tent. And all the while when it’s raining cats and dogs. That’s much much tougher!

8th August, 2016

As the morning mist lifted we were able to see the campsite. Active waterfall adorned the ridges that surrounded us. The stream that flowed by the side of our campsite was gurgling happily. It was the perfect mountain morning call. At one point of time, while sipping a cup of hot coffee, I felt like the mountains were singing to me. It was time to get ready and move to our next campsite: Balu ka Gera.

Jwara-campsite-morning-stream
The stream that flowed by the side of the campsite Jwara. PC : Raghavendra
ridges-Jwara
Mountain ridges that surrounded us. Active waterfalls adorned them, it made my morning and tea all the more picturesque

As we moved forward – clad in rain jacket this time (I have had enough of poncho). Day 2 trek is a small trek of just 4 hours and is an acclimatization walk. This was supposed to prepare us for the next day Pass trek. We started at an altitude of 10,400 ft. and were walk to 11,900 ft.

Although it was a short distance today, this was a trickier path. I started off great in the beginning. My lungs found it easier to breathe. The night’s rest had acclimatized me well. However, as we gained height crossing streams and climbing boulders, I had to stop frequently for breather. But unlike yesterday where I would tread real slow, testing stone’s grip and not trusting my footing, today I had more confidence while stepping on it. I was finally able to tell my brain to stop thinking so much and just take the step ahead, “Jo hoga dekha jaayega”.

And the trek day 2 begins!
And the trek day 2 begins!
Cafe at the altitude of 11,000 ft - Good Love Cafe
Cafe at the altitude of 11,000 ft – Good Love Cafe at Chota Balu ka Gera

The path became further difficult and this time mist came suddenly and was denser. That brought in another fear, if I don’t keep up I might get lost. So I kept pushing myself to walk and ignore the fact that I am getting breathless. Trick here is to make your brain believe that you are not gaining altitude instead put all your focus on walking on the stones. Decide the stone for your step and just move your feet forward. Don’t think about it being a loose rock or making the false step and falling. If it is then at the most you will wet your shoes which is after all bound to happen, no matter how much you try to keep them dry. The best way to handle wet shoes and socks situation is to wear those socks (doesn’t matter whether they are wet or dry) put on your shoes and walk on.

By the time we reached our resting point, I realized two things:

  • You lose track of time in mountains, or atleast I did. It was either day time or night time that I recognized. I would realize that it is noon when we stopped to have our lunch.
  • Second, in the old age I wouldn’t have difficulty adapting to a walking stick when my knees turn weak and are unable to support me.

Once rested we started the walk uphill which kept getting steeper as we gained height. The terrain changed here. The path was filled with Himalayan wild flowers. The ones in pink and yellow made the path more colorful. The rains had filled the air with moist earthy smell. Combine all this with a misty noon and you could picture something as below:

A pitstop en route to Balu ka Gera
En route to Balu ka Gera

I found the last half an hour of second day trek to be the trickiest of all. Walking on boulders and sliding through rocks is alright, even crossing streams is. But jumping on rocks and then walking on the edge of the big boulder all the while when the stream is rushing below and one false step could mean a fall in the flowing stream, that freaked me out. I would confess here, the mountains might be a healer but they are as hell intimidating and scary. They not only bring out the best and worst (both fear and confidence) in you. But help you know yourself, you start getting more comfortable with yourself, your body and most of all helps you know your limits and limitation; and at the same time gives you confidence to stretch yourself to the extreme. To the point of exertion where you know that 1 more step and you will fall down. Right on your knees. Never have I ever felt this vulnerable and confident both at the same time.

One thing about adrenaline rush is that once it gets back to normal, you realize that it was an unnecessary bout of adrenaline. It wasn’t that scary at all.

Finally, as it started to pour heavily we reached our campsite. It was starting to get cold. It’s when you are not trekking that you realize how cold it is in the mountains. The cool breeze would hit you on your face, it will tease your hair playfully and at times a sudden gush of air will raise goosebumps on your arms. This got us getting layered up, quickly. As we walked around the campsite, I was drawn to the rushing stream that came down from the top of the mountain above.

There is something about flowing water that attracts me. There is something soothing about the gurgling sound that it makes. Most of my fellow trekkers were of the same opinion as I. The photographers in our group were having a gala time. As we had reached the place while it was still daylight and Sun had some mercy on us and was peeking through the clouds every now and then.

balu-ka-gera-campsite
The Campsite
Pitched tents at the campsite
Pitched tents at the campsite
Drink lots and lots of water to get acclimatized during the high altitude trek
Drink lots and lots of water to get acclimatized during the high altitude trek

It was peaceful just sitting there. Seeping water to help us acclimatized. Drink lots and lots of water when at the campsite it helps you with adapting to the height. It helps with balancing your system. And adjusting to the altitude. We were advice to drink 2-3 liters of water before we left the campsite and after we reached at our campsite. And trust me it helps. It might become a nuisance during the night but do not let fear of going to the loo in the middle of night make you drink less water. It is a must while at such altitude.

As the daylight faded the sky turned into shades of grey and blue. And it was refreshing to feel the cool breeze flowing. Mountains blending with the midnight blue of the sky. Just when I made my way to the campsite I saw the snow peaks out beyond. It was a small peek but I was delighted nevertheless. After all, snow peaked Himalayan mountains are a must if you are up so close in the Himalayas.

It was going to be a long trek tomorrow. And I had to make a decision. To off-load.

The whole point of trekking is carrying your baggage. When I had signed up for the trek I was particular of the weight of my bag. I had been a bit sceptical when I read that at high altitude even an extra handkerchief can weigh you down. I thought it was little ridiculous however, I had taken heed and carried as light as I can. My rucksack weighed 6.5 kg but after the second day I wasn’t sure I would be able to carry it on the pass. We were to ascent to the height of 14,100 ft and I feared my lungs weren’t strong enough. If anything I was beginning to learn and respect my limitations. So despite wanting to carry the bag all the way to the pass I decided to offload. And because I had wanted to carry the bag all the way of the trek I had not carried a daypack with me. A mistake, obviously. I should have carried it anyway but remember I wanted to carry the bare minimum to the mountains so I hadn’t bothered about it. But luckily for me I had a trek mate who didn’t use his daypack. I have already thanked him for it, even so I feel I need to mention it again here. Thank you Bharath for the bag!

That night it really rained cats and dogs, I mean it just poured and poured the whole night. Promising a difficult weather tomorrow. Although I was more worried about missing out on Chandratal, lest the weather played a spoilsport.

According to the belief, travellers offer prayer to Gods to help them reach their destination safely as they walked through the mountains
According to beliefs, travellers offer prayer to Gods to help them reach their destination safely as they walked through the mountains

Continued… Look Down. Breathe Deeply. Keep Walking 

Random thoughts by the stream

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