To begin with, Saurkundi was not the trek I had in mind. I had seen pictures of Ladakh somewhere and ever since I wanted to go there. It was only after trekking with Adventura that I thought it was actually possible. But then in December of 2008 I found out that October to December was the best time to go Ladakh. Also on one of the Adventura treks, I heard about Sar Pass [actually Kedar mentioned it at least 20 times]. From all that I heard, Sar Pass was a must do trek. When I later asked Vishalda if we could go to Sar Pass he told me that they were already planning a trip to Saurkundi Pass, a trek very similar to Sar Pass, and were about to announce it. I said I was in. Little did I know what I was getting into...
Train to Delhi:
About 2 months later, we boarded a train to Delhi. I was travelling by a train after about 15 years! Yeah. Last time I was 8 years old when I had travelled by a train. As expected, the train ride was fun [very very hot though]. We had a few army men for company and they had taught me ‘rummy’ by the time the train reached Delhi. Ramesh and Siddharth were in a different compartment and rarely did they come out of their compartment. Later I discovered that there was a particularly pretty girl there and both these guys were busy talking to her. I still don’t understand how I did not notice her after going there so many times! L
We reached Delhi at about 10:30 am. From there everybody headed to Gujarathi Samaj where we were supposed to stay till the evening. Meanwhile I took an auto to Kashmiri Gate to meet Sudhiranna. From there we took the metro to Kannhaiah Nagar, to Sudhiranna’s house. By evening Sudhiranna dropped me to Gujarathi Samaj.
Bus to Babeli:
Got a bus to Kullu right from Gujarathi Samaj. After an overnight journey we reached Babeli, our base camp, 7 kms from Kullu. There were about 15-20 tents pitched with a shamiyana at one end and rest rooms at the other. There was Beas river flowing across the road. All in all, it was a nice place with pleasant weather. We had 3 days of acclimatization. On the first day we had the whole day to ourselves. There was nothing planned; this was a rest day. We settled into our tents and by evening we headed to kullu for some last minute shopping. Everything I had brought from Bangalore ranging from hunter shoes to thermals was available in Kullu for about half the price. So much for coming well prepared.
Kullu is nice place and surprisingly it was exactly how i thought it would be. We branched out to finish with our shopping and since I already had almost everything i needed, i strolled around for a while. I went to the Gurudwara then to a small tea shop[it was already getting cold]. The shop was pretty small with walls completely covered with yellowing newspapers. And there was some old hindi song playing in the back ground. The valley, the cold weather, the hot tea and the music; it was just perfect! It is amazing how music can add so much to the mood.
Along with us there were a bunch of college kids from ‘LNUP’ who had this trek as a part of their curriculum. And more of them arrived that evening. At night there was camp fire, YHAI style [Youth Hostel Association of India], i.e. a few bulbs instead of fire, in the interest of protecting the environment of course. At camp fire there were supposed to be entertainment programs performed. And as an incentive the camp officials would give us hot Bournvita at the end. The incentive is quite a big one considering that the temperature reaches below 10° celsius at night and we have to sleep in tents. We were not worried about coming up with performances since the LNUP guys were more than happy to perform. On the first day, among other things there was a ‘Mauritius Dance’ by LNUP student. There was this guy who provided music with a cup and spoon and a girl who would dance to it. It was awesome.
Day 2 started with early morning exercise. Then we had to do the acclimatization walk. We started from base camp and climbed a nearby mountain to reach a temple and from there on moved to the peak. At the temple we got a look at the stone slabs that are used as roofing. It was just an easy climb with a few photo ops on the way. And that was all for the day. By evening we were free again. And again we were out strolling around. There were some good hotels around the base camp. Not the luxurious ones, but those small ones that are usually found in small towns. Evening programs included a play on Ramayan. Jatayu and Laxman used to smoke beedi, Ram was happy that Ravan had kidnapped sita and Ravan was begging Ram to take her back. Hats off to the guy who came up with the idea. There was also a dance performance.
Day 3 sounded very interesting with Rock climbing and rappling scheduled. But we had a fair idea of what it was going to be like since Kedar had already told us. The rock for rapelling was on the slopes of a mountain behind our base camp. A short walk and we were there. As expected it was a rock of about 20 feet. After the initial instructions it was a long wait for our turn since only one person could go at a time. Finally when my turn came i was done in under 30 secs!
After lunch we went to a similar rock somewhere nearby and had to again wait for our turn to do the 30 secs of climbing! So, the whole day we were actively involved for about 1 minute! As usual we went out to eat. By now we knew what was good in each hotel. One for masala papad, one for tupka and one for pakoda. We packed our bags for the trek, locked up our extra luggage and were good to go.
Day 4: Destination Segli
After a bus ride to the starting point the trek finally began. We were all geared up and rearing to go. But before long we all had to stop for a break. And then again. It was more resting than walking. We were making our way through a villages and pine forest. Unlike western ghats, there was almost no under growth here and walking on the soft ground of fallen pine leaves was very pleasant. By noon we reached a place where there was a small yellow tent where you could get a juice of some local flower, tea, eggs or Maggie. The guide asked us to rest there for 2 hrs since we were quite close to the next camp and the camp leader would not allow us in until 3:30. This hardly qualified as a trek since we were resting most of the time. Vishalda was restless. He said we could cover the whole trek easily in less than half the time. There was no reason why we could not. But we had to stick to the schedule. So we went along. Reached Segli camp at about 4 pm. The camp there was set up in an apple orchard. There was very little space around since the tenst were set up on a very steep slope. There were 2 steps made into the mountain each wide enough to hold a tent and a narrow walk way. When i opened the flap of the tent towards the valley it was sheer slope from the very edge of the tent! Quite a view it had with a valley and mountains on either side. There were a couple of houses close by. I went in to charge my batteries in one of them. This house also had the old hindi songs playing. It is then that i realised that they were all listening to radio! That is why there were these songs playing in the tea shop in Kullu and all the village homes that we passed by. Having lived in Bangalore radio to me was FM which played the latest songs. Back home in karkala where we had no FM, i used to listen to music on my comp or on a CD player. I had completely forgotten about ‘All India Radio’!
The yellow tent with maggie and eggs was there at the camp site. After some tea I went around exploring the place for a while. Now that we had climbed higher, the view around was getting better. The snow capped mountains were around us and the fading light brought some amazing colours to the scene. I was wondering what would it be like at the top. That night the camp fire was in the dark with our battery operated torches as the only source of light.