A memorable trek
Dr P Ravi Shankar
It was a rather cloudy February morning in Pokhara. The time was 6:30 am and I was in a taxi along with my student and good friend, Bimantha and my irrepressible colleague, Ashustosh rattling towards Dubey’s house at Deep Heights. After sorting out our belongings, talking to some of our dear students (who were planning to be ‘footloose’ till they could touch snow) and packing the beverages (both hard and soft) we settled down for the long cab ride to Nayapul. As the taxi wound up and down the serpentine roads, the view to the north was hazy and cloudy.
We joined our students (the ‘footloose’ group) and also another bunch (who were enroute to Ghorepani via Ghandruk) at Nayapul. Dubey was rather sad at the prospect of missing out on the company of the ‘fair sex’ but could not do much about it as Ashutosh is allergic to girls, especially when it comes to tramping around the hills. The long walk through the never ending Syauli Bazaar and the long climb up the stone staircases of Gurung country were exacting their toll! Our ‘footloose’ students had disappeared far, far ahead! The air was sultry and Ashutosh, as usual had stripped down to his jeans. The hills on the other side of the Modi Khola were enveloped in clouds rising up from the river. The sudden drop in temperature prematurely ended and Ashutosh’s striptease and the rest of the climb was accomplished in more ‘modest’ apparel.
The long climb up to the ‘Himalaya lodge’ must surely be the most tiring part of the trek. You are in Ghandruk, the legs are tired, the mind is empty and visions of a soft bed and piping hot food fill your inner eye but you have to slog up to your chosen abode. We were soaked to the skin and it was a pleasure to discard the rain sodden clothes for drier ones. It was past five in the evening and our ‘gang’ had whiled away the better part of the day doing a five-hour trek. I ordered ‘dal-bhaat-tarkari’ for the four of us and the ‘dai’ asked me, “Sir, when would you like your dinner to be served?” He received the shock of his life when we informed him that we were ordering lunch and not dinner!
The Himalaya lodge run by Gurung (an ex-British Gurkha) is a splendid place to stay and is a Kerr and Downey resort. The apple pie was quite delicious and despite my philosophy of avoiding exotic western foods I succumbed to the temptation. The next morning was bright and sunny and the village of Kond (the Gurung name for Ghandruk) lay bathed in warm sunshine. The Himal to the north were covered by a screen of clouds and the Annapurnas were seen in bits and pieces. Ashutosh was fiddling around with his ‘tripod’ trying to record a ‘slice of paradise’ for posterity. It was around 11 and the sun was high in the sky as we set off towards Chomrong. We began the long ascent to Khimrong danda. At the top we met an ‘interesting’ old lady who made ‘kaalo chiya’ for us and then posed for a photograph with a cigarette dangling between her lips!
The long descent to one of the tributary streams of the Kimrong Khola was tough on the knees. Dubey was out of breath and sat down on the ‘inviting’ rock ledge. Unfortunately for him, a thorn was strategically placed on the lookout for a victim. Dubey sprang up like a rocket. During the rest of the trek he was heard humming the hit song “Kaanta Laaga”!
The road was long, the climb steep but luckily it was cloudy. We were suffering increasingly from mountaineer’s foot- reluctance to put one in front of the other! Subesh (our student from Janakpur) was keeping us company as we crawled towards Chomrong. Just before entering Chomrong we ran into the ‘footloose’ gang. These guys had run up to ‘Himalaya hotel’ far, far into ABC country and were returning to Ghandruk.
The evening was spent discussing various topics under the sun with a Dutchman and his Korean girlfriend. The next morning Bimantha and Ashutosh as usual were fiddling with the ‘tripod’ in the inky predawn blackness. The mountains were crystal clear. The ridge joining Dakshin and Hiunchuli was magnificent and Macchapucchare was seen in its true fishtail aspect. The long trail to Sinuwa was seen winding around yonder hill. The ‘Himalayas’ were magnificent, the rooms were inviting, the food was sumptuous but we had miles to go before we could sleep. We had to be back by nightfall in pulsating Pokhara. With a heavy heart we set off carefully descending towards Jhinu. Dubey was limping and the pain showed in his face; but there was sunshine and laughter in his soul and he was heard singing the trademark song “Kaanta Laaga”!