Friday, 30 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Dog Run (Day #3)

Caution: The first paragraph may disgust some readers. Reader discretion advised.

The horror of horrors, three hours into the ride, once the rickety bus started snaking through the high mountain curves, the scenery dimmed in my eyes. Suddenly, I couldn't wait for the journey to end. Nausea took over and I placed myself strategically by the window for the rest of the bus ride. My lively co-passengers slowly melted away from my notice. It was a kind of a temporary self-quarantine. By the time we reached Dhaula by around 5 pm, I had mastered the art of setting myself up by a bus window for a good vomit trajectory, polished my skill of doing so without causing any widespread disgust. Uh, ah. ow.

First Base 
We alighted at Dhaula and waited for the organizers to arrange for the jeeps to take us to the base camp. A few members petted and pampered the local dogs. The dogs all flowing hair, bushy tailed, fearless and robust. The mountain air perked me up, by the time we boarded the jeeps, the towering oaks, pines, a river flowing to the left and a steady drizzle brought me home to the trip again.

Dog Run
Something out of the ordinary also occurred on the way to our first camp. One of the local dogs began chasing our vehicles in one steady, strong run. This was no casual chase. The dog kept up with the vehicle's speed and moved to a sprint, tirelessly. After almost five kilometers did the dog cease at a settlement, more out of instinct and curiosity it seemed, or perhaps in catching a delicious aroma. It was one extraordinary run, a touch of the predatory in it, riveting to the eye.

It was still raining when we reached our first camp, post a 30-minute ride. Rain, not a good sign for the trip, if not ominous. Tea was served from a smoky kettle, hot fried snacks served as we watched the drops mingle with the wild green below.

A cell phone grab of the dog run

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: The Journey Begins (Day #3)


We were 22 on the bus from Dehradun to Dhaula that morning, apart from the local guides and the driver.

We passed the Indian Military Academy with the cadets in full uniform, amidst a parade to our right. The remnants of the small-town that this part of Dehradun seemed to be was swiftly left behind.

But the journey really began when the road became precarious and we steadily gained height. A river roared way down below us. Trees, always a balm in vision. The mountains appeared, looming, not gigantic, but green, forested and beautiful. Anytime I looked to the left, the tires were inches away from a free fall.

The journey began when the danger and uncertainty became apparent.

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Chair Car Blues (Day #2)

Next Episode: The bus from Dehradun 

The Story So Far...

Sunday: The NINE board the train to Delhi with ONE trek leader. We indulge in idling, small talk, sleep, sweat, rain, cards, guessing games and songs from a Bluetooth speaker (Aaj jaane ki zid na karo and other hits). Our group includes a champion sleeper and lover of economics, restless boxer and potential writer, 16-year-old veteran Himalayan trekker, rookie trekker, teacher, doctor-to-be. software engineer, girls, blah, blah, blah.

Monday: Morning rain brings respite.The NINE alight at Delhi, a bit late, but on schedule to catch the train to Dehradun. 

Still Monday
Barring four people, who are to join us at Dehradun, the rest of us met up at the concerned platform. The organizers have booked a chair car compartment for the 9-hour journey.

The thing about chair car compartments is, suddenly, there is nothing much to do. You may well be in your drawing room. Each to their own. Of course, you can move about the passage to the main entrance. After some time, potato chips and other packed snacks get passed and munched on. Selfies and group photo sessions follow.

Though I have grabbed a coveted window seat again, there is not a single splendid view. I don't know if it happens to other first-time Himalayan trekkers. We expect to see mountains everywhere, anywhere we can set eyes on. It's like your first day jogging. You sweat, you pant, get home and almost involuntarily check in the mirror if your stomach has magically receded into a six-pack.

Dehradun, At Last 
Afternoon turns to evening and evening to dusk. The train finally crawls to Dehradun Station sometime beyond 10.30 pm.We amble, bags in tow, in a single line, first for a late dinner at a little eatery and then to the reserved hotel. Rooms are allocated on a sharing basis. It's nice to spread out on the bed, after a long day's journey. We are not to sleep on a bed or bath again for over a week. Dehradun is bearably cool, comfortable, quiet and mosquito-free for a good night's rest. There's still a day's travel between us and the first camp.

The wonders of the English language evident on the bus inscriptions

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: The Window Seat (Day #2)

A train journey can be an ultimate joy even at the fag end of an Indian summer in a second class sleeper compartment. But only, and only if you happen to reserve the window seat. Many sibling wars have been fought over window seats. But you don't fight for it with people you have just met. It would have been devilishly awkward to do so.

Happily, the trek organizers had numerous reservations on the train. Window seats were thus readily available. With that 'main impediment' solved for me, the journey began.Though the train crawled to New Delhi station about half-an-hour behind schedule the next afternoon, it was mostly a joyful ride.

New friendships, card games, dumb charades and other frivolities were indulged in. There were nine of us were on the train to Delhi, the remaining 12 were to join us on the Delhi-Dehradun train.

Meanwhile, please join me in paying tribute to those simple, intelligent people who created three simple train travel joys - the barred window, the four compartment doors and that ultimate breezy bliss - the window seat... 

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Rupin Pass Trek May-June 2017: Pune (Day #1)

On that particular, clear-skied Sunday at the Pune Railway Station premises, this single pole of floodlights stood tall, hovering and unblinking in vision.

Way below, a collected sight of bulky backpacks, protruding water bottles, people dressed largely in track pants and t-shirts. The train to Delhi was running late by an hour. Early introductions, teeny weeny bits of wisdom and initial getting-to-know-each-other jokes are exchanged. A sample,"You can keep the backpack down now, the train is yet to arrive." That's right. Why am I bloody carrying it while we are just standing and conversing here? That's similar to a scene I often witness at my colony, men absent-mindedly step out of their homes wearing their helmets. I place my backpack among the heap of others. It is a sight. Like it was the first day at school for the backpacks or something, and they were getting to know each other, awkwardly, innocently.

Meanwhile, I take this picture. It is only after returning from the trip that I gauge its significance. An unwitting hint at elements we encounter the next fortnight. Heights, expanse, open skies, and mountains making midgets of us all...