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My First Travel Log

Today we share with you some experiences of one of our avid trekker Mahavishnu Balakrishnan

I had always wanted to write a travel log. That’s because every travel brings out a unique storyline. The best part is, you don’t need to think about what you want to write. The story pans out all by itself.

As soon as I had this thought, a couple of questions popped inside my head. When? Where? How?

I wanted this trip to be a solo one, since it would give me the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I also wanted it to be a trek, since it meant interacting and living with people you’ve never met, something I wouldn’t normally do.

After a brief bit of googling, I came across, this 4 day trek in Naggar (Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh). Before I could change my mind, I quickly booked a flight ticket from Chennai to Delhi. Now there was no going back.

I spent the next few weeks planning the rest of my trip, things to take, etc. Winter wear was a must, since there was bound to be a lot of snowfall during this time. Decathlon is the best place if you want to shop your trekking gear. Quality products at the right price.

My journey started on 28th of December. I boarded the flight to Delhi. The flight itself was sparsely populated. There was no one sitting beside me, so I just turned on my music, had the mini lunch that was given and enjoyed my window seat.

The flight arrived before schedule, but my baggage took some time to pop up. I caught an Uber from there to the bus stand, to catch my bus to Manali. Along the way I wanted to test my Hindi with the driver, but we ended up finishing our conversation in English instead.

The bus finally showed up as I ordered my third plate of momos. I loaded my luggage and got settled down. Most of the seats were filled, but the ones around me were still empty.

20 minutes after the start of my journey, a family entered the bus with a lot of commotion. The pace at which they were speaking, I forgot the little Hindi I thought I knew. They filled up all the seats around me. It was like watching a subbed version of an anime without subtitles. I felt cramped for space. The girl who sat beside me though was silent, unlike the rest of her family.

Sensing my discomfort, she initiated the conversation. The general “where you’re from? “, “Why you’re here?”, etc. After talking for sometime, I kept a location alarm and retired to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to see snow all around. I took out my phone to get a snap. The girl beside me wanted to take one too and passed her phone. I just then realised my stop was nearby. I had to get down at Patlikuhal, 20 km before Manali. So I said goodbye and got down from the bus.

That’s when I felt a sample of what was to come. My hands froze in like ten seconds! I quickly caught a cab to the base camp where I was supposed to report. In the cab, I searched my bag for the woollen gloves I cramped somewhere. A sense of relief came only after I wore them.

The base camp was a home stay with a beautiful view. Since I was travelling alone, I had to share my room with two others. My roommates had not arrived yet. I unpacked, got refreshed and went to the balcony to enjoy the view. That’s when I heard a familiar dialect I’ve been missing the past 24 hours.

view from my room at base camp.

Tamil! I heard voices in Tamil not far away. I quickly opened my room and saw 3 guys two rooms away. They saw me too. I asked, “Enna ji Tamil ah?”. That’s all that was needed. They became my gang for the rest of the trip.

That day we had an acclimation walk. In reality it was actually paying fees to visit boring museums and art galleries. We were damn sure the guy taking us got a share of it. So the 4 of us decided to branch out from the group.

Along the way we saw local kids sliding down an ice slope. They had plastic bottles which they used to sit on and slide. When they saw us they gave us the bottles and wanted us to try as well.

We spent some time playing with the kids. when we were returning, we saw a zip line and decided to give it a try as well. Then we saw the rest of the group return and joined them back to the home stay.

Local kids playing on ice.

That evening, me along with one of my friends decided to visit the market. There were two Brazilians who stayed in the room next to mine. They too wanted to explore the locality and decided to join us.

We began our walk to the market. The most surprising fact to the Brazilians about me was the fact I didn’t know Hindi. “ How come you’re in the same country, but don’t speak the same language!”.

That topic lead to a whole bunch of discussions about our culture, theirs, religion and the caste system. The elder brother worked in Gurgaon, while the younger one was visiting him on vacation. The younger brother owned a restaurant back in Brazil. He was only 21. I immediately thought what I did at his age. Bunking college and playing DOTA(not that I regret any of it).

The market turned out to be a total disappointment. It was just a couple of grocery. stores. The Brazilians said they spotted a bakery during our walk in the morning, so we decided to have our evening snack there.

The cakes were delicious.The shopkeeper was what one would call a ‘Peter’( A term for a person who speaks English with an accent). He warned us saying that it’ll be too cold out there in the top during this time and gave us a lot of backpacking advice.

The next day, following his advice, I decided to travel light, and delegated most of my stuff to the luggage that will be delivered at the end of the trek. We assembled in a queue for instructions. Then someone started playing music on their boat speakers and we were off on our trek.

Start of our trek.

As soon as we started, a couple of local dogs started following us. They seemed to know the way and acted as our scouts throughout the trek. The trek itself was not that difficult. Actually, it felt refreshing to sweat in the cold. The only tricky parts were the ones with ice. One girl in my group got a huge bump on her forehead that lasted till the end of the trip.

We made it to the mid camp at Rumsu with ease. We had our lunch and went for another walk around the village. When we crossed paths with a flock of sheep, we had to wait for them to cross, only then could we continue. There were a few places where water trickled down like a mini waterfall. That water though icy cold, was the best one I had ever tasted.

Flock of sheep passing by.

That night the power went off during dinner time. We had to eat with torches in our hands. But the dinner was the best one yet( because we got Gulab Jamuns). The food throughout the trek had exceeded my expectations. The chapatis, dhal, dalia(milk with oats) and vegetables were all good. The foreigners picked up our habit of eating with hands throughout the trip.

But that habit I regretted following there. The reason- We had to wash our hands! That was the most difficult part. The water was icy cold.

Torchlight dinner at Rumsu

We were given sleeping bags for the night. I got to know more about my fellow trekkers , since I had to share the room with seven others. There was this 33 year old guy( he sure didn’t look like it) from Ranchi, who was an experienced trekker. Throughout the night he talked about his camping stories, as we listened with rapt attention.

The next morning we had to leave for the Sterling camp, which was the highest point of our trek. We cleared our luggage and bid farewell to our trek leader.

Leaving Rumsu camp

The trek from this point onwards was a very steep climb. Along the way, we took a break when we saw a lot of snow, to take pictures and throw snow balls at each other.

I was the third person to reach the peak. I was greeted with a round of applause. Mr Ranchi was the first. Not only did he make it first, he was stretching with only thermals on, as I lay exhausted in the snow.

The final camp had snow everywhere with tents in a line. We got settled in, had lunch and started playing. The organisers also planned an event where you climb a hill, sit on a tyre tied to a rope and went sliding down. As soon as you hit the bottom, a patrol dog comes running to lick you.

Sterling camp

It was New Year’s Eve that night. But I felt so tired and cold I retired to sleep early. I woke up at about 4 in the morning. It was so cold inside the tent that I couldn’t sleep anymore. Then I heard footsteps and the dog barking. Someone was awake! I took out my torch and silently left the tent, careful not to wake up my tent mates.

As soon as I opened the tent I saw the dog’s face pop up close to mine. It got a sniff and stepped away after asserting that I was not hostile. The guy who was awake was a friend of Mr Ranchi. We wished each other a Happy New Year and proceeded to the kitchen tent with our torches. There were three things we needed to do.

The first one was to get some warm water. The second was to take it to the toilet tents to attend nature’s call. Then finally, we had to make ourselves warm.

Discovering the toilet tent

We couldn’t find warm water, but we did find a bucket of water in the kitchen tent. We started to move with torch in one hand and bucket in the other.

The toilet tent was downhill, so we had to watch our step in the dark. After a lot of stumbling and careful steps, we arrived at the tent.After completing mission 2, which certainly was relieving, we proceeded to collect some logs that were brought for the campfire held the day before, to make one of our own.

Once the fire was made, we sat there till daylight. The dog wanted to enjoy the warmth as well, as he made himself comfortable near the fire.

Campfire at 4 AM

We had breakfast that morning and had to begin our descent. It was pretty easy getting downhill. We made it to mid camp in less than 5 hours since we took a shortcut. We collected our luggage, bid goodbyes and left for Manali.

My bus to Delhi was late at night. I wandered around with the trek group for sometime. The Tamil guys had their flights the next day too, so they said they’d pick me up in Delhi. When they left for their bus, I had about 3 hours on my clock. I decided it was the best time to shop.

The Manali market was pretty huge. You get all sorts of food and clothes. The problem when buying stuff was that you had to bargain. For example, you want to buy a sweater. The shopkeeper says it’s 700. You ask for 300. He thinks for sometime and gives you the sweater. You are left thinking whether you paid the right price or not.

I had this half price policy. Whatever price they said I asked for half of it. I managed to buy most of the stuff I wanted this way. After shopping enough to satisfy those at home, I went to the cloak room to collect my luggage.

I managed to board the bus on time and soon fell asleep. I didn’t wake up until the conductor came to wake me up. That’s how tired I was.

The Manali market.

I had 10 hours until my flight to Chennai. I planned to meet my friends at Rajiv Chowk and had to take a metro. The Delhi metro was like Ranganathan street. There was rush all around. A queue system was in place near the train doors but no one seemed to follow it. The trains were very frequent though. When one left another showed up within a minute.

My friends picked me up and we spent the rest of the day shopping, trying out street food and visiting places to take pictures. Finally it was time to say goodbye, we shook hands, hugged each other and bid farewell.

I boarded the flight, content. I had lots of questions going into the trip, but it turned out to exceed my expectations. I managed to reach home by midnight.

My mother was still awake. She brought dinner and snatched my phone. She entered the password and began scrolling through the photos.” How was the trip?” She asked. “Good”. I said.“How was the food?Did you eat properly?”.

“It was way better than this”, I said smiling. Of course it was a lie. The food before me will always be the best I ever tasted. But you have to taste others from time to time, just to assert that truth.

You can read the original article on medium here.

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