It all started with a dream, a dream of sharing what I love the most, with the person I love the most – my sunshine boy, my baby – my son!
It has been 6 years and beyond since I started my love affair with the Himalayas. Their call is impossible to ignore and I make the yearly pilgrimage to feel amazed, humbled and grateful in the lap of the mighty mountains.
I wanted to bring my two worlds together. I wanted my boy to walk these tough paths with me, to experience the beauty and the roughness, a life without walls, a life where needs are reduced to the very bare minimum – eat, sleep, walk… and ….I dared to dream up a trek with him…
The dream was not without its share of second thoughts..actually hundreds of them..was he too young to take on a Himalayan trek? Was I pushing him too hard for a dream that might turn out to be entirely mine? What if he hates trekking forever? What if he throws a tantrum in between? What if he hates the trek food? what if….what if…the list continued and yeah I have a very lively imagination too…
But the dream refused to go away and hesitatingly I put across the idea to my trek gang..naaa..my trek family. The response was unexpectedly beautiful! Nagu, was the first one to say that she would come with me and my son on whichever trek I chose! This gave me the courage to move ahead…As time passed, I was undecided between Kedarkantha and Deoriatal Chandrashila (DC), both scenic, about the same altitude – around 12500 feet. Yashu, my trek sister and partner in all treks Himalayan, said she would be willing to do the DC trek and so it was DC and by the end of a week or so, we had a motley gang of eleven people – some experienced trekkers, a few newbies and one eight year old boy! We registered with India Hikes (this is not a sponsored article and the views and opinions are strictly personal.)
Off we went…First stop – Delhi, where both me and my son were showered with love and great food by soul-sista and her wonderful husband! It was a short time but she filled my tummy, my heart and also insisted that I take a much needed nap! Her generosity and love has filled and continues to fill my life from the day I met her and I am ever so grateful.
From there it was a night time train journey to Haridwar and my kid was a champion traveller! He was off like a light bulb the minute he hit the sleeper on the train and Sunil, my brother from another mother 😉 and I took turns sleeping, sitting next to the lil traveller sound asleep and swinging his legs around and trying to play football in his sleep!
At Haridwar , we had the IH vehicles ready to pick us up and off we went on a ten hour journey to Sari, our base camp. Sari is a small scenic village, with houses covered with stone tiled roofs and a single school where you can catch cherubic apple cheeked kids playing around!
We had a hearty dinner and a crash course on trekking form our trek lead Venkat and assistant TL, Umesh. We were introduced to the other participants in our group and had all our questions answered. I could see my son raptly listening to every word uttered and I am sure he had already started learning a lot! Rishi also met up with his trek buddy, a ten year old bubbly, inquisitive, precocious boy – Shreyas. Shreyas and Rishi’s friendship was cemented with the exchange of a scooby (stuff that you tie to the bag zipper – very cool in an 8 year old boy’s world apparently!) and some chocolates!
I was up early at Sari the next morning and managed to catch the sunrise light up the mountain peaks all around into golden tips and also got a glimpse of the summit of Chandrashila – the moon rock! I remember the small mynah like birds and the fat sparrows calling out to their mates….it was such a welcome change from hearing the honk of a lorry the first thing in the morning!
Yummy breakfast later, we left for our next camp – the lovely Deoriatal lake. According to the legends of yore, It is the lake of the gods, the lake where the eldest Pandava answered the questions posed by a yaksha and through a very generous and just choice, managed to save all his brothers. This is a very pretty spot , with undulating meadows and a mirror like lake, placid and deep, reflecting the many peaks – like the Chaukambha, Nandadevi and the Neelkanth in its belly! It was an easy hike to this picnic-y spot and Rishi, my son was able to get his first feel of outdoor camping, sleeping bags and the notorious toilet tents here! He was like a happy pup, rolling around in the meadows and playing with abandon!
He struggled to go to sleep in the unfamiliar surroundings, but after keeping me up for a good part of the night with stories of Nobitha from Doremon, he went to sleep only to wake up full of energy and batteries re-charged!
The second day was what I had been dreading. It was to be a 14 km hike through steep ascents. I was sure that my son was physically fit to do this, but was very skeptical if he had the mental stamina to complete this arduous and taxing climb. But then, we were in trusted hands, Umesh, Bhupi and Pratap from the Indiahikes team, helped him whenever he was about to give up! Umesh, who I suspect is not a great singer, offered to sing for my son as well ;).
We passed through dense rhododendron forests, the floor carpeted with the red rhododendron flowers! Did you know that the rhododendrons change color with altitude??! They became paler as we climbed up, turning a pale pink by the end! The red, low altitude ones are eatable, however, we were warned against eating the pink ones!
Then came the oak forests – with silver/green and brown oaks and the very beautiful Rohini Bugyal (Bhugyals are meadows). My friends Yashu and Sunil helped him cover some more distance with promise of a Frisbee match at the campsite! Bhupi, teased my son about all his non-existent girlfriends and helped him reach till Akash Kamini – a small rivulet with crystal clear water, where we had lunch and rested for almost an hour. Here we cooled our feet, filled our tummy and bottles and headed off to Chopta with a burst of renewed energy!
Chopta campsite was beautiful…huge undulating green meadows, a few abandoned shepherds’ huts, trees surrounding the meadow from all sides and then the majestic mountain peaks all around us! The sunrise and sunsets were definitely beautiful. However, the best part of this campsite was the moon rise for me. From beyond the mountain peaks, the big , friendly yellow moon would rise and shine so bright, that I could walk around in the night with no torch! we were lucky that we camped here on the full moon night and when I got up in the middle of the night, the stars and the moon were such a cool, benevolent presence, calming me and taking away all the worries and tensions of life. Most of us slept well and woke up rejuvenated the next day.
Day 3 was an easy one, we just traipsed around the campsite and trekked a very short distance to what the guides called the view-point – a cliff with amazing views of all the major peaks. Here we rested, talked and the talented few in the team sang songs. We came back by lunch time, had yummy food and oh I forgot to mention…all the food tantrums I expected never really happened…the plate was empty every single time!
Since the next day was the summit day, we were supposed to be up by 3 AM and hence we all had an early night by around 7:30 PM.
Day 4, the much awaited summit climb began at 4:06 AM. we were armed with micro-spikes, water bottles and head torches. This is a gradual , not so difficult ascent on well made roads till the Tungnath temple. Rishi was a champ and managed to be in the lead for the most part of the ascent. Our energy levels were boosted up at the temple with the packed ‘raamdaane ki laddoo’. This was very delicious and I am going to hunt down the recipe for sure!
After Tungnath temple, starts the slightly challenging ascent with roughly hewed roads, in between boulders and a rather dry landscape. the snow-line also starts after the temple and unfortunately we didn’t get much snow and hardly had any use for the micro spikes that we were carrying…
We reached the summit, which has another smallish temple surrounded by a lot of piles of flat stones stacked on top of each other – very much like in our game of lagori! Our guides explained that these were ‘mannats’ – symbolising wishes made in front of the divine.
At the summit we had a lively snow fight and lot of pictures and our lunch which consisted of aloo paranthas. From here it was an easy but long-winded descent till Chopta. Once we reached the campsite, it was time for lunch, games, some more photos, rest and the much awaited certificate distribution.
Rishi and Shreyas both received the spirit of trekking award and this I think would be a memory and a confidence booster that he will carry throughout his life. I had never before seen his face light up that way or seen him do a happy jig!
Then it was some more music, dance and we also learnt the zen like Ghadwali dance, courtesy, Umesh! The trekkers from UK who were part of our team also joined us in dancing to the mad medley of Tamil/Hindi/Ghadwali/English songs!
Next day we headed back to civilisation with memories galore, new friendships sprouting – (Seema, Santosh, Satish, to name a few), old bonds strengthened and a promise made to oneself to keep coming back!
It was back to Sari-Haridwar-Delhi, a small stopover at my friend’s place, good food, love and rest and then a flight back to dear old Bangalore!
Was it the most beautiful, most challenging or the most exciting trek ever….the answer would be ‘NO’, but it was the most memorable one for me!
It was a trek where I was able to bring together two very important aspects of my life – motherhood and trekking and to be able see my son trek with passion and confidence and joy was a gift in itself!!
This is only a part of the story…we will always remain indebted to the cooks, helpers, support staff, the guides, friends and so many others who made this journey possible for us.
Sometimes dreams do come true and a few times, reality ends up being better than what one could have imagined!
Photo courtesy : Thirtharaj B.M , Yashaswini Ramamurthy, Vandhana and Aishwarya.