My Honeymoon Trip to Kuari pass Pangarchulla Peak Trek with Himalayan Climber
To all those who couldn’t make it and those who wish to go…
“No bird in a cage has ever come to know what the mountain winds feel like, by staring at the free flying birds, wishing that they would fall from the sky!”
It was almost a year to my marriage as I was awaiting a hardbound honeymoon plan from my husband. Would it be a wild vacation in Kenya or a secluded white sand beach holiday in New Zealand? Oh wait, he was probably going to make luxurious love to me among the stark white buildings in Santorini.
Mr mountains-are-calling-me finally dropped a bomb and I could hear my dreams crackling in my heart. The dates blocked and the itinerary was set. It was going to be an action-packed week of climbing risky snow-covered inclines, dizzying, I’m-gonna-fall-off-and-die-anytime roads, no-shower days, open air shitting with tall grass pricking your bum, burnt noses, tanned skin, and potato-infused food—literally all the time.
But it would also mean waking up to bird songs, smelling the dense forest air, witnessing the butterfly ballet, collecting wild flowers, sleeping under the stars, drinking fresh mountain water and playing with lambs and mountain pups. We were going back to the Himalayas… this time to scale the Kuari Pass Pangarchulla Peak Trek summit… simply because that is where our love story began last year. After a backbreaking year, that was supposed to be my ‘break’.
To make me feel better, my enthuse cutlet husband invited our gang of trekkers who readily agreed to tag along. It was going to be a hell of trip with eight nomads. But unfortunately, over a period of two months, most of them dropped out, as quickly as pearls from a string.
Reduced to half, we hung on, praying to God that our trek leader Neeraj Joshi didn’t cancel this long-awaited trip. The spirited Himalayan Climber kept his word and the plan was on. This is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t want to trek with anyone but Neeraj and his team. For me, they’re a family I return to every year to soothe my tired city soul and ebb my stress with frabjous experiences.
Our journey to Joshimath began on a pleasant morning in Haridwar. After resting through the night and binging on Chinese food in Uttarakhand (which wasn’t a great idea after all), it was time for a yearly detox. Of whatever I remember (I kept passing out in between—thanks to the motion sickness tablet), the route was scenic and I was slipped into my Pataka Guddishoes yet again.
The ever flowing Ganges and her tributaries flowed demurely by our side. In Haridwar, she was the sacred Hindu Goddess who facilitated the remission of sins and granted Moksha. Rishikesh, she was the wild girl who refused to be contained. In Rudraprayag, she was the pure-hearted girl-next-door…
After a 10-hour-long drive, we reached Joshimath and checked into Hotel Kamet, a cosy homestay with a comfy bed, mint green walls and a ’90s television. The rest of the evening spent in buying Snickers (because you’ll die if you don’t keep biting into one as you hike), binging on more food like the roadside aloo tikki, pani puri and samosas in Joshimath market and other stuff we’d forgotten to carry along.
A sunny morning greeted us with a 10-kilometre drive to Dhak bend, where our trek began. Brimming with energy, I began ascending like an excited school girl. I came across a gang on village kids who instantly flashed a smile to reveal their crooked, sometimes brown, decayed teeth. Namaste, they said, in a futile attempt to wipe their dripping noses. With no access to the world, these naive hearts seemed untroubled.
All they probably wanted was a toffee, and that somewhat dampened my spirit. I yearned for their pristine, uncluttered soul. Somewhere in the distance, I could see a pretty mountain boy sewing something, a mother vigorously combing her daughter’s hair, a middle-aged woman harvesting wheat in her farm. Her face was full of wrinkles, and in each of those folds lurked an untold worry.
We found our way through the small Dhak village after we were done hugging lambs, patting calves and filling our bottles at a nearby stream. It was past noon and we were only halfway there. The four-kilometre ascend ended early evening. Clutching our ravenous bellies and panting, we greedily gulped down a portion of delicious khichdi cooked by our mountain chef Joshijiand retired to our tents for some rest.
We woke up to an enchanting evening to witness several snow-capped peaks bathed in the golden glow of dusk. The chaos of exotic birds trying to find their families in the fast-approaching dark was music to the ears. The nip in the air steadily translated into a shivering chill. The full moon I witnessed that night was radiant and surreal. Ten times bigger in size, it arose like a diva from behind the glamorous Nanda Devi and watched over us, smiling blissfully.
Day two was a walk through a magical deciduous forest, sparkling stones, gurgling brooks, chirping birds, rustling leaves and crunching twigs. The experience was almost like Narnia, and I truly wish I would be led into this fantasy world where I wouldn’t have to go back to the bustling cosmopolitan. This walk was a little tougher than I thought. While the kaleidoscopic canopy of the towering pines kept me going, the breaks were a little longer this time.
On our way to Khulara, Neeraj helped us identify a host of diverse Himalayan herbs and furnished us with their holistic properties. I kept a piece of the Himalayan birch or bhojpatra used as paper for writing of sacred scriptures as a bookmark. We were told that we would be camping at the end of the tree line.
My exhausted spirit jumped with joy as I finally spotted some snow. On reaching the campsite at Khulara after six long hours, we treated ourselves to a delectable fried-rice-with-dal treat like kings and queens. Later in the evening, Joshiji surprised us with mouth-watering samosas and masala chai as a devastatingly poetic sunset left us spellbound.
True to its name Khulara a vast meadow strewn with natural elements. The Indian Himalayan mountain wind teased the grass, the mule bells chimed gently, the freezing water gushed continuously and a zillion colourful butterflies danced like school kids on a summer holiday. The place reminded me of Roopkund Trek, Bedni Bugyal Trek. The only thing I missed was my gang and the cricket we played back then. I could literally imagine what each of them would do had they been around. The next day was the D-Day, which meant that we had to get adequate rest the night before.
After dinner, I reluctantly zipped myself into the sleeping bag like a living dead body in a coffin, anxious about the insurmountable summit, dreaming about friends and family back home and staring blankly at my dozing husband. A wave of mixed emotions engulfed me and I think I wanted to cry a little. I would have, had the queen of slumber not pulled me close.
We woke up at the crack of dawn. This time, the mountain was calling and we had to go. There was no escape. Neeraj and Joshiji prepped us with crampons and a protein-rich breakfast. Stuffing our bags with chocolate, dryfruits and water, we set off at seven. Neeraj had already given us a realistic idea about the steep seven-hour-long hike. What we hadn’t anticipated was that it was going to be in five feet of snow.
I almost gave up in the first hour. Like brisk ants on a fluffy cotton candy, the three men with me hoppe, skipped and jumped along, I was left back, disappoint. I tried playing Ziddi Dil and Chak De India in my heavy head, but those tracks didn’t help either. When I was almost on the verge of giving up, it was Joshiji who held my hand like a tough master and push me to go ahead. I took two steps and rested for half a minute. At that speed, I wouldn’t even make it to Kuari pass; the Pangarchulla peak seemed like an unconquerable dream.
I really don’t know how, but I managed to scale the Kuari Pass Pangarchulla Peak trekking trail. Kuari Pass pangarchulla peak trek is one of the best winter trek in Uttarakhand Himalaya. I dropped my bag and surrendered my body in the snow. Like a gingerbread man, I lay flat on the serene white snow, staring at a sky strewn with fluffy clouds.
All I wanted to do was to lay there till a snow storm would swallow me up. If only my partners would allow me to do so! In seconds they pulled up and dragged me towards the summit. This time, making sure not to leave me behind. Neeraj had given us a 1 pm cut-off time, since the snow would start melting thereafter, making the decent challenging.
Of course I cried like a dear one had passed away, of course I took my breaks, of course I cursed my husband for honeymoon-duping me, but those three hours taught me what 27 years of my life did not. They taught me never to look back, never to stop but most importantly, they taught me how to never lose focus.
I was slow as a snail, but my fierce determination kept me going. I can’t, in words, express what an incredible feeling it is when you get to the top. It is an achievement that can never be compare to getting a by-line or owning a car. With the heavenly Himalayas by your side, nothing can and will ever go wrong.
I was by then use to the butt-numbing snow. I sat there adoring the stunning 360-degree view of the colossal Garhwal peaks like Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Kamet, Abi Gamini, Hathi Parbat, Dronagiri, Trishuli, Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghunti and many more. It was a painting that had come to life. It was a dream that had come true. A reward I would never get chugging beer on an island, lazying on a hammock. This was my achievement that no one could ever take away.
After clicking a bunch of photos, we began our way downwards laughing, tripping, gliding and rolling in the snow. Those white sheets that once intimidat me were now the best friends I could fall back on. We got back to the base camp in just three hours. Exuding a one-of-a-kind swag, Joshiji was preparing some steaming noodles. Following that, I wrapped my body in an ice-cold towel, changed and crashed, unable to resolve the mystery of what fired me all the way up to the summit.
The Kuari Pass Pangarchulla Peak Trek had come to a breath-taking end and it was time to bid goodbye to the mountains and forests, my maiden house. The fourth day comprised a 10-kilometre decent through dense oak and rhododendron, pretty little villages and potato and wheat farms.
We began consoling ourselves with a virtual itinerary for our next trek, while gathering flowers and sipping pure water from soul-nourishing khuds. I wondered I could wait for another year before these mountains cradled me again. Just after I crossed the Vishnugad-Tapovan Hydro Power Station, I came across empty packets of chips and chocolate wrappers dumped all over the foothills.
The toffee-demanding kids gathered around me once more, vigorously scratching their heads, demanding chocolates. But this time, I was too angry to give them any. Angry because their naivety bruised by commercialisation and lack of knowledge. A little away from our starting point, I heard cars honking and I felt a little shattered. More so, because all four of us instantly sank into our phones, like strangers before we embarked on this incredible journey.
After four days of being on our toes and sleeping on slanting grounds, the four of us walked headstrong down the last bit of nature’s red carpet like those men in action movies. Our faces our mirrors, rugged, unmasked, each reflecting an enchanting tale. Squeezing ourselves into a roaring jeep with echoes of laughter, we headed to Joshimath, with memories that would last us till eternity.
Written By- Priya