We had chosen this particular trek route mainly because it offered variety in landscape, climate, vegetation and people. It did live up to it. We had started our trek from Mudh (in Spiti): a cold desert at high altitude with zero vegetation, mainly consisting of people from Tibetan origin – mostly Buddhist, towards Kinnaur: moderate elevation with tree covered valleys with majority Hindu population. The change was apparent and there to be seen as the days progressed.
The climate at Muling was ideal for out-door camping, and for a change we were using the right gear in the right climate – here I’m referring to our summer time tent . After a comfortable nights sleep I was up by 6:30 AM, finishing my morning tasks I was onto my camera by 7 AM as the lighting for outdoor photography is best early morning and late evening, i.e. in the slanting rays of the Sun.
The three donkeys we had hired ready to be loaded with their share of the load.
At the same camping site, the previous day, we had met a big trek party – of about 20-30 foreign trekkers with 3-4 guides, doing the same route but in the opposite direction. This trek route according to me is a lot tougher if done from Kinnaur to Spiti, one would have to gain about 1000m elevation per day for two days from Muling to reach Bhabha pass and from there 1000m downhill to reach base camp. The guides were from Shimla and were quite confident to make their party accomplish the arduous journey comfortably.
We started our last days trek by 10:30 AM, the lonely planet guide mentioned it was to be a 4-5 hour day through the forests so we wanted to take it easy.
Now, we had two dogs for company, the other dog joined us as we camped yesterday. At first I had thought that there would be a big dog fight and was getting ready to chase the other dogs (two dogs) away from our frail looking dog, they were sturdy looking mountain dogs, but as it turned out, those dogs were familiar with our ‘trail dog’ and started jumping around in glee as they approached closer. The next day one of those dogs was nowhere to be seen and the other joined us in our trek. This new dog liked to lead and was always found at the head of the trek party. This ‘lead dog’, you will find later lead us into many a trouble.
Our trek route was mainly through thick forest cover, mostly we walked looking at the stumps of those huge fir and spruce trees, with hardly any light filtering down there was a comforting dampness in the surrounding.
It looked like we had been taking the last days trek too easy and maybe the strain from the previous three days of trek was also playing a factor. We had slackened our walking pace, as a result for quite some time our guide and the other trek party of Germans were nowhere to be seen. It was only at around 1:30 PM we realized that we had missed the trail that too only after Corrina told us that she had seen Manoj, the german guide, wave to her 40-45 mins back. She had taken it for a greeting, but his intentions were quite clear – to follow him. After this we decided unanimously to continue in the same route as it would have been hard to exactly find the deviation in the path even if we had headed back. We did some inquiries with some local people, who were busy harvesting, and found out that we could reach Kafnu along this route too, it was at this place we were offered green Apples, the juiciest one I have ever had
He wanted his photo to be taken, he had offered to show us the way to Kafnu but he wanted us to go to his farm first, we were not keen on taking any more diversions, thanked him for his help and proceeded in the guided direction.
A typical Kinnauri house.
After this event, Kyle and party decided (more like realized) that they could not make it in time for 5 PM bus out of Kafnu. They settled for a lunch break, me and Gopal didn’t want to take a break, myself was not at all interested in eating any more bread and was already thinking of having a hot ‘parantha’ meal in Kafnu. So, our trek party split, so also the dogs. We ended up with the ‘lead dog’, the ‘trail dog’ stayed with the Americans.
As we walked along this route we started meeting more and more people. Some not so interested in us, and some very. In fact, at one such encounter we were even invited for lunch (from a house about 100m away, the woman was shouting), but when they realized that we could speak Hindi, we heard only giggles. Further along this route we were invited to spend some time talking with a group of 5 middle-aged women working on the fields. The conversation was so friendly and light-hearted that by the time we took leave of them they were trying to convince us to get married as soon as possible.
Kafnu Dam: Gopal’s father was the material consultant during the construction of this dam, about 24 years back; again, yet another reason we chose this trek route :).
Time: 3:10 PM, Kafnu was sighted, we still had to find a way to climb down to the village. As our ‘lead dog’ was always ahead of us we had thought it knew the way to Kafnu, and we thought all we had to do was follow it. How wrong we were. Not only did it not have any clue, it was leading us to danger many a times. On one such occasion it went running down a path and later came back running at double speed, chased by a young bull, the path was ending in a house, and I think the house employed this guard bull, we started running too.
We were in Kafnu by 4 PM.
Ajay and his sister. This little guy started off by wishing me in Hindi, and when I wished him back he was a bit taken back. He asked to be photographed and struck an attention stance while I took his snap.
After clearing Sonam’s charges (please click here for the details of the trek cost), we checked into the only Hotel in Kafnu, at 300 per day it was a bit costly. After freshening for the first time in 4 days we went for an early dinner. I don’t remember the number of Rotis I devoured with ‘Dal’ and ‘sabji‘. The excellent Lemon Tea needs a special mention here.
We took the 8 AM bus out of Kafnu towards Rampur, our American friends who wanted to take the 5:30 AM bus ended up taking the 7:30 AM bus. From Rampur we took the bus to Shimla. Though the journey offered lovely sights my photography appetite was full and in a tired sort of way was taking in all the sights as we moved towards Shimla. We reached Shimla by 6 PM. As we headed towards the Bus reservation counter, which for some reason is located around 2 kms uphill from the bus stand near the Shimla city center, the same load on our shoulders which we had found un-bearable about 2 weeks back was easily managed. And yet again we met Garish Sood, the same tourist operator who had accommodated us on the Tata Sumo taxi from Shimla to Manali, two weeks back. After booking the tickets for the 10 PM bus to Delhi we had more than 3+ hours to idle away. I had no energy to explore and was lying on a bench in the city centre for about an hour observing the people walking around, my new hobby nowadays when I have nothing to do! Later we dined at a pricey restaurant, ordered a by-two-fried rice and spent time over-hearing our drunk neighbor, Vicky Singh’s conversation. Before boarding our bus to Delhi we met our American friends again as they were leaving to Dharamshala.
Thus my first Himalayan experience comes to an end. I hope that I have made it possible for people who read these posts to experience ‘The Himalaya’ as I experienced it myself, and would consider my effort in publishing these posts more than worthwhile if it inspires even a single person to trek in the Himalaya.
Date: 27th September, 2007