Day 3, 10 Jun 08
The 5.00am alarm didn’t really start the morning for us. After some discussions we had to cancel the Bhagirathi dip, there was news that a dentist had flowed away in the river’s rage. And we had to meet Himalayan Sherpa to finalize our start for the trek after organising for all the ration and other equipment. It was going to be the last clean toilet/bathroom till the trek ended, so after a cleanup around 10.00am we headed out with our bags with its full weight towards the main town of Uttarkashi about a kilometer away.
The office was a small 2 room place. When we entered we saw Mr. Himalayan Sherpa with another Nepali in the room, which was filled with sacks. He introduced us to ‘Viki’, Vikram Singh, who was gonna be our guide. We all sat and discussed about the trek, the ration, the porters, everything. He had a list of ration ready for us. A kerosene pump was to be repaired, but the kerosene was ready. With the ration, the complete load including utensils and ration would be around 60kg. So he advised us for 3 porters. He advised that if we could manage to stack everything and leave by 1.00pm it’d be good or else he suggested we start the next day. But we determined to start our epic trek. We headed out with the porters to collect the ration. Mallik and Rajo collected the Grocery, while me and Vj got the vegetables in place. In an hour or so we were back in the office with everything on the list in our bags. We head out to see NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering). NIM was just close by but on the hill. We decided that we’ll take a shortcut, a small climb on the hill avoiding the curving roads. The climb showed us what we were into. Within no time all of us were panting. Porters who were leading us to NIM joked on our state.
NIM was typically well funded Government place. With its residential quarters, various training buildings, neatly paved roads, Road signs on place. The place was very well located on hill overlooking the complete Uttarkashi city through the Pine trees. Over there we were greeted by Himalayan Sherpa. He showed us the museum housing various mannequins in trekking, snow-climbing and various local attires. There were many trekking and mountaineering equipments on display. It was then time for food, as we had to leave by 2.00 at max. We had some horrible chowmein at the NIM canteen, which most of us just pushed it down our throats. Viki was there and said that he had arranged for the taxi that’ll drop us at Sangamchatti, the base village for the Dodital Trek. We came back down by 1.30 and started packing our bags on the Maxx jeep. We were asked if we required mattresses and we all denied, we didn’t know that it could be our biggest mistake on the trek. By 1.45 we were moving.
Trek starts at Sangamchatti
Via a curving road along the Bhagirathi river via Gangori, which is a junction to move to Gangotri, we reached Sangamchatti. It was just a small village with 5-6 huts, a govt. rest house, a few ‘restaurants’ and a bridge. When we reached around 2.30 it was raining, we moved into one of the restaurants. Here in Uttarkashi most popular dish is Maggi, followed by Chowmein and Momo. This was our first raod-block for the trek, heavy rains right at the base. Viki said that if the rains didn’t die in another hour, we’ll have to stay here and start the next day. However, it did and we all geared up with our extremely big backpacks and ready to leave by 3.00pm. With a football match style, team hug in a circle, we started off!
Everybody was energetic, everybody walking briskly with their 10kg+ backpacks. The porters had around 20kg load each. The climb was a moderate on man-made path with rocks. But it was rainy and so a little slippery. Within an hour our pace had dropped and we were walking steadily but slowly. Viki was just jumping through the path and moving ahead only to wait for us on the coming turn. Around 4.00 we took our first official stop (which means all stop, rest of the halts are sporadic individual stops). Had some snaps overthere. We met a fellow who too was moving in the same direction as us towards Agora. He worked in some Wildlife company in Delhi which makes videos, photos for Discovery and other such companies. The porters hadn’t reached and we asked Viki to ask them to be swift enough and not take too many unnecessary breaks. We moved ahead after 15 mins or so the next stop was going to be Agora, Viki said that probably we’d need to halt at Agora if we lack on our pace. Through the lovely hills, narrow lanes along the edge of the valleys full of green trees, pines, covered by blue sky, we moved with our shutters flying. Nikhil the obvious one to go off the track for snaps.
Around 5.00pm we reached Agora, which a village on the edge of hill with farming done on terrace fields. It was a lovely place with roads always having a 3rd dimension that of height that changed as we moved on it. By this time we were getting really tired as it was our first trek after a long time and that too in the thinner air as compared to Sahyadris. Viki thought that we could make it to ‘Bebra’ which he pronounced as ‘Debra’ if we move along. Bebra ghat was our first scheduled stop. So after a little break we moved on. I really needed energy, Vj handed me some chocolates. It was starting to get darker with the bright blue sky now turning into a murky blue color. We crossed through a wooden brige built right on top a valley joining 2 mountains along its edge.
The climb was now disappearing into a descent. after an hour from Agora we reached Bebra ghat, which was a small village not more than 10-20 families living along a river stream from the mountains and farming on the terrace lands. There was a small bridge on that stream that lead us to the entry of the Village, where stood a sign, ‘Bebra Gate’. It was actually at this point where we understood its Bebra and not Debra as our guide of Nepali descent mouthed. We found a good little terrace land, where we could make our tents for the nights stay. The tiredness was evident on everyone’s face when I took snaps of everybody resting. Viki was energetic to start working on the tents. Me and Vj tried to help. It took Viki around 15-20 min to setup 3 two-man tents and one 4 man tent for the porters and Viki himself. We rested in the tents, but we were worried about the leeches that we saw and some of them already sticking to Mallik who was freely roaming bare foot on the grass. Around 9.00 or so Viki called us when we were resting in dark tents, wearing our thermal wears for the colder night ahead. As the sweat started drying.. so did our heat in the body. When we were out of the tent for food, we felt like we were in Pune or something in winter. We had been eating Jaggery and peanuts, which Mallik had distributed, but still we wanted hot food. Viki had prepared Dal and Rice. It was tasty but I’d never had my food with only rice. I had to manage. Around 10.00pm we went back to our tents, hoping for a nice sound sleep, unaware of the terror that was awaiting.