Trek begins with a ride to Taluka from Sankri where we had spent the previous night. Jeeps are the only mode of mechanized transportation between these two points. There is no road for the better half of the journey, but that doesn’t stop the drivers from zipping along the treacherous path. It is insane how they zoom around hairpin curves without a second thought. Taluka is smaller than Sankri, but it seemed too modernized to be called a village. In small shops with thatched roofs they were selling all kinds of consumer products-Maggi, soap bars, toffees-but no mineral water bottles. After a cup of tea we heaved our rucksacks and began the real journey.
Har Ki Dun Trekking began with a stretch of cemented track. I remember it quite distinctly because it gave me the (absolutely wrong) impression that the rest of the trek would be similar to the first kilometer. But it would not have meant what it means had it been a trek on a cemented track all the way. It was as if the rocks which ached my soles at night, made an impression on my mind as I gingerly found my way over them.
I had exhausted my energy after the first two or three hours. So I don’t recall much of the scenery. Wherever we went we had mountains on one side and a steep river valley on the other. If you slipped, you would end up in the river. The real question then would be whether you would drown to death or freeze to death or freeze and then drown.
On Day One my emotional state was intimately connected with the track we were walking on. If the track ahead of me was plain, I would feel at ease. If it rose steeply, frustration grew steeply in my mind and I had an existential crisis.
But the moment of reckoning came, ironically, towards the end of the Day One, when we were very close to our destination-Seema. We had been walking for the past six hours and our guest house was nowhere in sight. The night was approaching rapidly as the sun had set beyond the mountains. Of the nine members of our group, four had some lead over the rest five, of which I was one. The five of us had a guide with us. His name was Chaen Singh. He and I were leading the way in the falling darkness. I could barely see beyond ten meters now. The track was a bit tricky so Chaen Singh left my side and went back to help the others. It was then I felt a wave of doubt. As I stood there, miles away from home, disoriented, dependent entirely on the guide, like a blind person is dependent on his stick, I asked myself what the hell am I doing here. I felt vulnerable and suddenly all the horror stories about people getting lost in the woods came rushing to me. To make matters worse I saw a light bobbing up and down in the distance and growing brighter every moment. I was sure it was the panther Sushant mentioned last night. Of all the things my mind could have done, it reminded of a random clip I saw on NGC in which a lioness pounces upon its prey even before it has stopped breathing. Funny how our brain works.
Lucky for me, it wasn’t a man-eating panther. It was just a guy-which makes so much sense since felines are not known to own torches.
When we reached Seema, we were welcomed with hot tea and delicious pakoras. As we sat around the fire and ate, I decided to not to go further. I felt broken in body and spirit. My legs hurt. My back hurt. I had not expected this trek to be this tough. It was so tough! The climb was tough! The ice was tough! The cold was tough!
I told Sushant I won’t go any further. I would spend the next two days here at the guest house at Seema. I didn’t care about what anyone would say or think. I didn’t care if anyone teased me or pulled my leg for it. I simply couldn’t endure this trek any longer. Neither would I complete this trek nor would I go for anymore…EVER!
I had said all these things and more and then repeated it a few times before going to bed.