After almost two years off biking, the last event was the complete Ladakh-Spiti circuit back in July 2016, it finally was time to get to the ‘refresh’ button. Picking an offbeat destination was never a problem and with my favorite getaway, the Garhwali Himalayas, I kept resuming the saddle.
On the weekend of Republic day, I narrowed down on the Kuari Pass trek, remembering the promise made by Rana Ji - my Joshimath friend that I would join him on the trek.
The news is that it had snowed heavily in Joshimath and the highlands since the last two days, adding spice to the adventure I was looking for. I went down on the itinerary below after a few rounds of discussion with my guide Ashish:
(26.01.): Head to Joshimath – my ultimate destination for the day. Leave Delhi by 25th midnight; reach Haridwar by 5 A.M.
I left Delhi on the 25th minute, as it was planned but I knew little about what lay before I took the exit from Ghaziabad. Fog–dense fog surrounded the roads so far that two meters of visibility became a rigid task. It took me two hours to finally traverse Meerut, I kept pushing at the lower speed I have ever had on my Thunderbird.
I know that I am a nutcase rider but the fog volume made me even think if this pushed me too foolhardy. The most daring thing I’ve ever done in my life must be riding through this blind fog with the heart in the mouth. However, the challenges are all the more special. Fortunately, when I got to the Meerut Toll exit, the density decreased a little. But I was so drunk in my entire robe, including my helmet, as if I were just having a full bath. Haridwar reached by 6 am in the morning; the delay, thanks to the persistent fog.
Day 1 went through a bubble with a few stops, the longer at Srinagar where I captured in her full grace the evergreen river Alaknanda. My Joshimath base station wasn’t far away, and I reached it by six at night. My ever-smiling friend Ranaji had been waiting for me with arms open and supported me with his friend Ashish, my guide, and he broke the news that, as a result of some urgent work in Pandukehswar, he could not accompany me on the tour. That being the case, I had a good night’s sleep with Ashish to buy rations for the trek.
At 8:30 am I was up and about with all the excitement about the next trek. Ashish told me we’re going to patch up with a few guided trekkers. Hira – your chief guide gave us a ride to the village of Dhak, our base for this tour.
The long stony climb starts in Dhak and the beautiful Nanda Devi and Donagiri peaks in the background start hiking from 10: 30 in the morning.
I was the slowest hiking tourist and took longer breaks to get me breathed or to photograph frequently. City life and a long walking break made me out of form, but I kept stepping behind my Ashish guide, believing that the will was more powerful than physical ability.
In the morning we begin walking by 9:30 am. Our guides told us it’s easy for us since this is a 6-km trek from Gulling to Talli and within 3-4 hours we’re there.
Top at 2 in the noon, we reach Talli with the sun hiding behind the tree line. The campsite had been almost empty at the start of the season. Only another Mumbai group had two camps and came back after an attempt on the crossing.
The last day of the trek dawned – from Talli, 10 AM in the morning we set off through the sparkling snow and golden hued trees. At 5 am, my colleagues left to try a climb up the snow-capped peak of Pangarchulla. The other guide Girish took the path swiftly. In an hour of walking we came across the ice field of Chitrakantha, presenting me with pictorial frames, what with all the pristine snow and the old Deodar and Cedar trees standing solidly above the snow.
Girish pointed out to me that we will walk about one kilometer ahead of jhandhedhar till the top in the foreground. The Pangarchula peaks are visible in the background. I hoped my fellow riders would do it up to the top, and now I would come back to the base.