Time : 6 am | Place: Talli Top | Altitude : 9800 feet
THE morning felt different, after a long time, it really felt different. What had worked as a motivation for the past few weeks to wake up early had been achieved the previous day. The spring in my step was replaced by a mild limp. Sore from day 3, muscles were not responding to my mental command. Somewhere at the back of my mind I knew and even they knew, that summit had happened. It had rained the previous night and our campsite although beautiful, was quite damp. As usual, we were up before the alarm rang. Shoes, ponchos, gloves and wet caps were set out in the sun for drying. The usual urgency in the camp had a lower intensity. It was our final day in the mountains and we knew that soon we would be back in civilization. A dreadful thought.
Trekkers moved from tent to tent checking on fellow trekkers. Some were sore but no one was low in spirit. Sense of achievement was playing strongly on our mind. Soon enough we were relishing delicious breakfast at Talli Top. The chill in the air was persistent and making its presence felt. The sun was out but it didn’t penetrate the thick vegetation overhead. The shade was welcome for most, but posed a problem from others who were attempting to dry their gear. Kitting up, we assembled for our routine briefing session for one final time in the mountains.
It was the day of descend. We were done with Oxymeter readings and health card updating. Lunch was packed and water bottles refilled. The days trek was divided into three segments – an easy to moderated incline through a ridge, a long and mild up and down of meadow walking and a sharp descend into Auli to end the trek. Loading our gear on our backs, we set out in a line admiring the peaks that kept on disappearing behind the trees. Mt. Dronagiri was to our right all through day 4. The view kept improving as we continued our steady incline till we reached the Talli lake. It was a perfect spot to stop and fulfill photography desires. Cameras came out and the shutters began to whirr. Smiles, hugs and laughter filled the otherwise calm and silent air at talli top. Not a soul visible for miles other than us the group had turned into a bunch of grownup kids who insisted on climbing rocks, photobombing each others pictures and singing nursery rhymes in full blast.
The open talli top led us onto a ridge that kept winding around mountains for the next four to five kilometers. The ridge was beautiful to say the least with a very narrow trail that split the mountain slopes into a beautiful mountainside dotted with rhododendrons and small shrubs and a valley that had one of the most stunning views in we had seen in the past few days. It was fun walking on the narrow ridge as each slope appeared tougher than the earlier one just to realize the trail twisted before it turned around the mountain and add the slope ahead was slightly more inclined than what we had just negotiated.
Just as we had negotiated a few kilometers of the twisting broken ridge trail, it opened up into a wonderful meadow that would go ahead to open up further into what is known as the ‘Gorson Bugyal‘. A beautiful place to pause in time and reflect on the past few days of tryst with nature. Up close and really personal with the mountains the voice inside us had grown calm and strong. Thoughts were not having a tiff with each other as they would on any normal day.
All through the trek we had been carrying our Eco Trail bags hooked tightly around our waists. We had collected trash that was littered on our trail from Dhak Village back till Auli. Plastic bottles, bags, wrappers glass bottles and all sorts of man made threats to nature had been quietly picked up and placed into the bags. We emptied our bags each morning at our campsites into designated trash bags and hooked on the Eco Trail bags back to our waists. As we descended towards Auli we saw first signs of civilization – ‘tourists’. Amused by the sight of trekkers a few of them even requested for photographs. Had they known we hadn’t bathed for five days on a trot probably they would have chosen to take pictures with the meadow than us. A brief stop for our final lunch in the wilderness and we were up walking down into the Padiyar forest that separated Auli from the amazing world of mountains and snow capped peaks.
Ringing the bell at the Padiyar Temple in appreciation of a safe trek we slowly descended into a buzzing and brimming with tourist city called Auli. If you check on my dream destinations list in the About Me section of my blog you will find Auli right up there. Destiny brought me to Auli via the mountains that had single handedly beaten Auli in all respects of beauty and picturesqueness. At this point my soul was not willing to mix with the civilized people around us. It kept pulling me back to the mountains where it had found its meaning and answers to many unasked questions. The path that led to the city appeared unnerving. Reluctantly we climbed down into ‘Auli’ to mark an official end to our trek after 4 days of insightful reflections and an introduction to a wonderful group of friends.
Each one of us had created some amazing memories and strong bonds with each other. Coming together from such diverse backgrounds, geographies and age groups we happily bonded, shared food, water, tents, plates, spoons and made fun of each other till we felt like one big family. The evening at Joshimath was a relaxed one with dinner and sweets prepared by our beloved cooks. Trek leader Ankur anchored the evenings proceedings as he dipped a spoon into each ones mind treasures to dish out a dollop of personal experiences that we would take back as a lifetime memory. We shared our thoughts, bought T shirts that said “ Done Kuari Pass at 12559 feet” . Enjoying the night we slipped into our comfortable bedding, which I must admit, I was happily willing to trade for another night in the mountains in a sleeping bag at temperatures dipping below zero degrees.
Back home now as I put this experience down in digital record, I hope the bonds we made and the memories we created, remain fresh in our hearts as we continue with our lives and until we meet on one of our next treks in the mighty Himalayas. This trek would not have been possible without Indiahikes one of the premier trekking organization in the country. Meticulous planning, great trek guides in Ankur, Bhupiji, Khushalji, HP bhaiyya and his kitchen team and the gang – “Special 26“
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