Some fun under the Sun

We had thought that the difficult part of the trek was over. I was preparing myself for an easy walk through the Spiti Valley.

Before starting I asked the guide how much time it would take for us to reach Mudh He haw..hummed for a few mins and said that 3 hours ought to be enough. Well, I looked around.

All I could see was an endless desert hemmed in on all sides by mountains with a river flowing through a deep gash in the valley.

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We started off on our “short trek”.

The Sun started growing in intensity in the sky. The air was thin and dry and utterly devoid of moisture.

The trail was initially strewn with a lot of rocks.

We kept walking….

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and walking…

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and walking. The Sun was now at its prime in the noontime sky and beat down on us mercilessly. We came across a rushing stream that was unexpectedly deep and rapid.

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We walked a few kms towards the mountains until we found a glacier and walked across it.

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By the time we reached a meadow in the afternoon and plopped down on the soft wet grass for a bite to eat, we were pretty hungry and thirsty.

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I took of my shoes and walked on the soft grass while wallowing in memories of the greenery of Kinnaur and the shade of the trees on the other side of the mountains.

After eating and sitting around looking at the flocks of sheep grazing around us I asked our guide how much more of our “easy trek” was remaining. I wasn’t surprised when he told me 3 hours again. I stuffed my legs into my dry hard shoes again and we all started once more on the dusty trail.

It seemed liked we were walking on Mars or at least somewhere that was not on earth.

The barren land, the mountains bearing the tear marks of glaciers with their strange mineral-derived colors, the gorge in the valley that stretched far into the distance and the trail winding and weaving its way along the side of the mountains.

We kept walking…

I fell into a rhythm. My breathing, my steps my gaze and my thoughts all fell into lock-step. I am a guy who enjoys movement and the continuous rhythmic motion was deeply soothing for me.

By afternoon, signs of civilization started appearing. Pieces of smooth stone with prayers inscribed on them, artificial ponds, farms and electric poles in the distance.

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Finally, we could see the village of Mudh in the distance. Nestled in a crook in the mountains, flanked on both sides by glaciers and standing like a sentinel over the lush green paddy fields under it. It was a pleasing sight.

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After a final trek up the slopes towards the village along stone paths cutting a way through the fields we got into the village and then into a small tea-shop.

I kept drinking water until I suddenly started sweating profusely. After sitting down I had fresh omelettes and tea until I felt the haze start to lift from my mind and felt alert and active again.

We got into the hired vehicle which would take us to Dhankar where we would be halting for the night. But, not before we saw a couple of monasteries along the way.

After a week of sleeping inside a sleeping bag in a tent, the hostel attached to the Dhankar monastery was a pleasant change.

No big treks for the next 2 days! But, going over the plans inside my head, I had a feeling that things were going to be no less exciting…

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Treading on ice

When I woke up from my short and fitful sleep it was still very early. The Sun had barely risen and it was still very chilly outside. I coaxed myself out of my warm and cosy sleeping bag and out into the open. It was a glorious morning.

I stretched my limbs and breathed in the cold, sharp morning air. I felt the chill spread into my chest and suddenly, I felt very awake.

After breakfast we started on our short trek to the last camp below the pass. It was called Kharo. It is the last campsite below the snow-line and the one from which we would start the next day to cross the pass and descend into Spiti valley.

As we started on our trek, our guide pointed out a distant meandering stream and casually said that we would have to cross it to get to the other side.

I was thinking, “Yeah, so what? We have crossed so many streams”. But, as we started walking towards it I realized that this was one stream that I wouldn’t be hopping and skipping over in a hurry. The waters were flowing rapidly and there seemed to be treacherous gaps and sharp rocks lurking under the rushing planes of water. We walked up and down the stream looking for a place to cross it.

Eventually, our dependable guide found us a stretch where the waters were relatively shallow and spread out. I took off my shoes and waded into the water after him.

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Well, the next couple of minutes were a truly illuminating period for me. The water was ice-melt from a glacier just above us and it was only a few degrees above freezing. As I stepped onto the sharp pebbles and rocks with the water gushing over my feet I suddenly felt a sharp jab of pain in my legs. I desperately rushed to cross the stream behind my guide who somehow seemed to be completely unaffected by the brutal chill of the water made worse by the unsteady rocks and gushing water.

159-IMG_8676 As I stepped out of the water and jumped about a bit to get some feeling in my legs I felt the heat of the Sun soothe my feet and that immediately calmed me down. I sat down to let my legs dry before putting on my shoes.

I waited for some time as one by one all the guys caught up. As I was waiting there at the bend that would take us away from the valley, I turned around and gazed one last time at the magnificent valley that had hosted us the previous day.
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It would be the last time during the trip that I would be able to look upon such verdant beauty made complete by the streams and glaciers with the towering snow-capped peaks watching over it all… it was indeed a magnificent sight.

I turned back and started walking towards the mountains. The grass started growing sparser. The Sun beat down harshly and patches of dirty white ice started appearing along the trail.

After a short trek we reached the campsite.

After putting up the tents I jumped in to escape from the harsh elements. This was the worst of all the places we camped at during the entire trip.

The air was thin, the Sun beat down mercilessly and the air made our noses bleed. Inside the tent it was alternately baking hot and freezing cold as the Sun played hide and seek behind the clouds. Some of the guys came down with pounding headaches. I spent most of that day reading inside the tent and venturing out only to eat and wash myself.

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The next day was the one I had been waiting for all along. For the first time in my life I would get to walk on solid ice and be surrounded by the stuff while trekking across a pass separating a lush green valley and a spectacular dessert.

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As I and KP loaded up, tightened our straps and filled our bottles with electrolyte we discussed what it would be like. We started soon and after a couple of hours of determined climbing we came onto the first big glacier. I looked ahead and saw the guide walk over it as if nothing had really changed.

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So, I too followed suit and stepped onto the ice and walked on confidently. But, immediately I realized that something was not right. My shoes started sliding and slipping as I pushed off with my toes.

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Very soon it had become impossible to walk normally and I was struggling. After a couple of falls the guide turned back and told me to wedge my toes into the ice with every step to prevent my feet from sliding about. I tried it and it worked!

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So, I was again walking smoothly and enjoying the view around me. But, then I came to some rocks and suddenly my leg plunged through some thin ice into a hollow. That shook me up pretty badly.

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Having your feet disappear under you when trekking on ice is not a pleasant experience. My one friend then explained to me that the rocks get heated by the sun and cause the ice surrounding them to become soft and unstable and advised me against walking too close to them.

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So, we went on like that. Through that unreal landscape… through blinding white ice, heading for the gap in the mountains,  breathing hard and taking controlled steps while keeping a wary eye out for rocks sticking out through the ice.

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It was with a sense of relief that I gingerly stepped onto the ice near the edge of a glacier and hopped onto steady land. Each time, hoping that I wouldn’t have to step onto another glacier again. Only to be faced with the next one within a few metres.

It looked like my reluctance to walk on flaky, soft and slippery ice was going to get beaten out of me that day. After a long time spent trudging through the ice the top was finally in sight. After another breathless lunge at the peak we were finally there… and it felt strange to be there.

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One one side was the green Kinnaur valley. Standing on the lip of pass turning to the other side one could see the vast, surreal and intimidating bareness of the Spiti valley. The claw marks that the glaciers had ripped into the mountains on their way down, the mineral patterns, the river flowing through a gorge in the valley, an endless desert speckled with green meadows here and there….

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It was shocking to see two such vastly different ecosystems at the same time. After spending some time at the top we started on our way down.

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Going down steep icy slopes can be either very dignified and difficult or easy and fun depending on the type of guy you are and the chill-resistance-rating of your butt.

Those black specks in the ice are guys sliding down

Those black specks in the ice are guys sliding down

After a long time spent jamming my leg into the ice and gingerly walking behind the guide, I finally gave up and just jumped onto the ice and slid down the rest of the way!

Well, there were few occasions in life that were more fun.

The rest  of the guys followed suit and we had a swell time.

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But, some of them didn’t have waterproof pants like me and their behinds paid the price for it.

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This is how people walk when their behinds are sore

The rest of the way was all big, big boulders and rocks and after that some more rocks interspersed with stretches of ice and ice-melt. The ice-melt was converging into a stream.

A crevasse formed by a fissure in the glacier

A crevasse formed by a fissure in the glacier

We had lunch at a spot somewhere along the way. Most of the other guys were having pounding head-aches. I was feeling nauseated from lack of water and food. I ate something and drank the ice-cold water from the stream with great difficulty and felt better soon.

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The long trek to our campsite

After several more kilometers of trekking we finally came to the campsite and settled in for the night!

What a day it had been! Every bit as exciting as I had hoped it would be. Next day’s adventures in another post!

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Bhabha Pass Trek – Mulling to Kharo

This was day 2 of the trek I had gone on with the Bangalore Ascenders and my friend KP. The previous night was the first time I had slept in a tent. We had our sleeping bags which I had borrowed from Texins(TI’s club for its employees) and a sleeping mat. That bag was not designed for the temperatures we were in. So, we had to use a lot of extra warm clothing to stay cozy. On top of the cold, it was also raining heavily throughout the night.

The insides of the tent were moist and dripping in the morning. But, I was comfortable thanks to my awesome all-weather jacket.

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In the morning, I had a breakfast of eggs, rotis and a lot of butter and jam. I am a very hungry guy. My usual breakfast is 4 eggs, some rava idlis/poha/dosa, juice, 2 bananas and coffee. It was not reasonable to eat or expect to eat so much when trekking with limited food provisions. So, I ate a lot of butter as it usually makes me feel very full and satisfied for a while.

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After that we packed our tents and got ready to start. I was wondering what the landscape would look like that day. The previous day, we had been walking along and crossing streams, going through perfect little copses of trees and were almost all the time in the shade of the mountains and the trees.

Once we started my body warmed up a bit and I started really enjoying the feel of the cold, fresh mountain air in my nostrils and the brisk walk.

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The trail was much more rocky and steep than the previous day. It snaked its way through several little passes and kept on climbing. Eventually, the trees started disappearing.

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We could see that we were surrounded by immense snow-capped peaks on all sides. We had crossed the tree line and we could see vast meadows in the distance where the shepherds grazed their animals.

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The trek for that day was a short-one and we were expected to reach the campsite well before noon. So, we wanted to go as slowly as possible so that we could really enjoy the landscape and the walk.

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After the initial climb we eventually started to go down the hills.

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In no time we reached the meadows that we had seen in the distance.

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It was a heavenly place.

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When we got there after crossing some rather tricky streams the weather was just perfect.

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The Sun was shining bright and there was just enough cloud cover to diffuse the heat and spread a pleasant glow all over the place.

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I was looking forward to a relaxed evening of roaming about in the sun and reading in the open.

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But then I learned that predicting weather in the mountains is a tricky thing. Just when I was starting to take things easy, the sky suddenly darkened and big heavy blobs of water started splashing down on my cheeks. I rushed to help put up the tents.

Just when we had finished putting them up the rain started coming down in torrents. I dived into my tent and waited for the rain to let up a bit.

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After an hour spent holed up in the tent, the rain eventually stopped and we got out. The rest of the evening was spent munching stuff, having little chats, roaming about, washing myself and some clothes in the streams nearby and of course reading!

In the night we had a nice hot dinner of soup, rice, roti, dal and sabji.

After snuggling into my sleeping bag for the night, I was thinking about the day past, committing the various experiences to memory and wondering what the next day would be like. Would the landscape be less green? Would there be ice? How would the Sun be like?

As I started thinking more and more I felt that I simply wanted to somehow get through the night and get started again the next day!

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The next day didn’t disappoint…

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Someshwara: Kudlu Water-falls

On one Friday evening(in March), as I was wrapping up the day’s work, I felt a sudden urge to go somewhere. It was such a strong one that I decided that no matter what the obstacles I simply had to do it!

It was past 9 by then and it would have been tough to book a bus ticket and catch the bus that same day. So, I thought that driving would be a better option. I called up a friend of mine(Sarat) and asked for his car for the weekend. He agreed to lend it to me and also decided to accompany us on the trip. Before that I had spent a few minutes thinking about where to go. I had zeroed in on Agumbe. I had already been there once. But, the last time we went there we could not do one particular trek that I badly wanted to do.

After deciding on the place and mode of transportation, I called up my friends and told them about the plan asked whether they wanted to join me. Renjith and Gobind agreed to come. So, that evening after a lot of frenzied running around, we all set off for Agumbe by around 11. It was 380 kms to Agumbe and after an overnight drive, we arrived there by about 7 in the morning.

None of us had a clue about the route and the roads were more or less deserted. So, it was google maps all the way! We made  a lot of mistakes and had to travel some extra distance but we still managed to make it to Agumbe in time for breakfast. After freshening up we went to the Police Station to ask for permission to trek to Barkhana Falls. Not the view point, but the actual falls.

But we were in for a bit of bad luck, well, sort of… On that particular weekend there was a naxal combing operation in progress by armed policemen and they informed us that there simply was no way we could do the trek that day, I was a little disappointed as I had seen all the other places in Agumbe and this was the main attraction as far as I was concerned.

But, the policemen were real nice and after seeing our situation, they suggested that we visit the Kudlu Waterfalls near Someshwara and told us that the visit would be well worth the effort. So, we decided to take the advice and go there. It was convenient for us as we had the car with us.

We packed some Avalakki from Kasturi Akka Mane and left for the place by around 12. After getting there we parked our car at the start of the trail and from there we started  walking. Initially, we were mostly just walking through mud roads and we could see a few villages on the way. The sun was high up and the walk was pretty tiring.

But, after around 2kms we reached tree cover.

From then on, the walk was really enjoyable! The dense vegetation gave us good shade and the air was cool and fresh. I was really weary from driving the whole night and running around for the permission. But all that weariness slowly started disappearing as we walked along the peaceful trail.


After a while, we met a guy who seemed to be collecting some forest produce who helped us find the right trail and led us up to the water falls.

It was such a strange feeling when we got there. As we watched the water falling in a misty threads from the height forming a natural shower in a crystal clear pool of water, we immediately forgot the fact that we were tired and I was suddenly all excited and hyper-active. After lazing around for a while we jumped into the pool!

It was a little shocking at first as the water was rather colder than we expected it to be and I spent the first few seconds helplessly hyper-ventilating. But, then I just dipped my head under the water and let the cold take over. After playing in the pool for a while, we walked around it and got to right under the waterfall. The fluctuating wind kept pushing it back and forth. So, we stood at a spot and waited for the piercing fury to strike us.

Soon enough the waterfall moved to our spot and for a few minutes we were treated to a sensation that was both strange and exhilarating! The water struck us with great force everywhere and it was both painful and soothing and when it was right above us, for a few seconds, I felt a kind of absolute peace and complete isolation! Maybe this place could make a buddha given the right kind of raw material!

After that we spend some more time doing this…

and that.


When the sun had lost its edge, we started on our way back.

That night we all had dinner at Kasturi Akka’s place and I had a kind of sleep that felt a lot like how I had imagined death to be.

The next day the trek was still a no-go. Besides Gobind had some urgent work at his office. So, we decided to restrict ourselves to visiting Jogi-gundi falls which was close by and after that we set off for Bangalore. We got back by nightfall.

All-in-all, a trip that went not-at-all like I had planned it. But, still an enjoyable one. Nowadays, my planning is going from bad to worse. Hope my friends had a good time!

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