Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roopkund Conundrum - Part 2

Day 2:

The trek next day was arduous. Steep climb which seemed never ending. But what brought me down to knees literally was not the terrain but that amazing food item which prevents me from being a pure vegetarian: egg!

We were given couple of orange candies, a made-in-Hyderabad-overly-sweet chocolate, a boiled potato and a boiled egg. On the way up, while Lalit and I happily ate our potatoes and he ate the chocolate happily as well, the egg was saved to be savored later at our 'resting spot', Aully Bugyal. 

'Bugyal' means meadow in the local language and though we were only too delighted to see the vast expanse which pretty much resembled Windows XP default wallpaper (from some angles), the ascent didn't end immediately. Small flowers; blue, red and mostly yellow, formed motifs on the green carpet. Snow capped mountains overlooked the meadow from a distance. The guides were right; reaching the meadow revived us.

After reaching the final resting point where most of our group was already resting, I ate the egg, took some more pictures and tried hand at playing ballgame. Others ate some pistachios and empty shells were retained for later use (which happened to be acting as currency in the game of Teen Patti, another major learning I had on this trek.)

The trek continued through the meadow and was more or less pleasant as steep ascents and descents were substituted by milder ones, we got a new company. Of insects. Big and bold and fucking too many! After getting used to insects sitting on our clothes, backpacks and even goggles, mules and sheep grazing at a distance presented a pretty picture.

We were instructed by the guides to run towards forest in case it rains, abandon our backpacks and sit crouched. I can't express in words how comforting the fact that "sitting in this position would ensure lightening would pass through your bodies but spare your hearts" was. My worry about letting electricity pass through my body without any 'heart-burn' was quickly dispelled by the fact that the forest was not so close that I could take a shelter there if rain came without a warning. Mercifully it never rained and my dilemma of saving myself or my rucksack, as I had a single waterproof poncho was never put to test. The grass was green but not something you would want to walk bare feet. And I am not talking about the ladybugs which were here, there and pretty much everywhere!

After walking a while, my stomach gave first signs of warning. I felt nauseated. A tablet of Digene was followed by another but they proved as effective as PM's austerity measures are in improving fiscal deficit condition. Vomiting sensation kept on increasing and I called Anupam to give me some medicine. The climb had started again and with each step my condition was worsening. I started walking extremely slowly and each step seemed to drain me out. There was nice scenery all around but taking out the camera to shoot anything was the last thing in my mind. I kept on drinking water and finally I vomited. What came out was my latest solid intake. The egg.

I was able to walk again but each new bend which promised to end the day's trek proved to be just another bend, revealing more path to be walked on. Finally when I saw the campsite I felt relieved!

Bedni Bugyal is in sort of a valley surrounded by hills on three sides. The grass is green and coarse and gets lots of natural manure in form of mule, sheep and goat shit. Talking of shit, this was the first camp site, where the loo was not confined to four walls. And though there was no ceramic throne to sit on, the view was exquisite enough to make everyone feel like king (or queen!). However the process got a new name here 'cathole' and a new accessory 'kudali', a small shovel used to dig a small hole in the ground which was to be covered with soil after use. There was a 'toilet tent' meant for ladies but how much they used it, I can't really say. I remember Nishant got really loud cheers from everyone when he took the shovel and started his catwalk to cathole.

The pitch here was better suited for cricket and the boundary was marked by stones, shrubs and a skull. The reduction in oxygen seemed to spur the players to improve their cricketing skills. (Or was it the maggi being sold in the local 'canteen'?) Talking of canteen, the place not only served tea, maggi, egg curry (with potatoes), customized parathas (I saw Mohit bhai giving detailed instructions about how to apply oil and fry it more according to his satisfaction) but also charged cell phones using a solar panel. That there was no mobile signal is something totally irrelevant.

Washing utensils after meals was turning out to be a challenge as the water was freezing cold. Though it didn't get frozen itself, exposing hands to cold water for a few minutes was sufficient to nearly freeze them. Perhaps that was the reason the camp fire was well attended and well appreciated. This was also our first night spent in tents and sleeping bags. These high altitude sleeping bags were pretty comfortable if you could get inside them and they were not smelly or their zips malfunctioning. I am told Shankar spent a major part of his nightc appreciating the intricacies of his sleeping bag.

(To be continued ...)