Hampta Pass

The trek to Jwara triggered a brilliant blend of emotions in us. On one hand there were the sharp pangs of nervousness hitting us – we weren’t prepared for this! What were we even doing here? – and on the other hand, we were awestruck by the picture – perfect scenes right in front our eyes; the lush meadow, the grazing horses, the stream of cold, clear water running through the expanse of green grass… we were in heaven. Through all this, we were feeling extremely grateful for the sparse exercise routine we had taken to in the anticipation of this trek through the,  Hampta Pass for if not for that, we would not have been able to keep up with the rest of the group up the slippery, snow covered boulders. This was our first time seeing and being around snow and the first time we felt it in our hands, we nearly started crying right there in front of everyone! Then came the time to actually cross the Rani Nallah and we had the time of our lives crossing the river, holding on to the rope suspended for assistance for dear life, our teeth chattering as the icy water hit us. The adrenaline rush was like never before.

The first night was the hardest. No reminder required of the fact that this was our first time staying in a tent or even just camping in general. This, coupled with the disproportionate amount of exercise during the day, and the rapidly decreasing level of oxygen left us with aches throughout our body and sleeplessness plagued us. Looking back on it, the only thing that kept us calm through that first night was the breathtaking sight of the stars which instilled in us a deep sense of peace, the knowledge that the world is a big, big place of which we are a tiny part.

The next day was the trek to Balu ka Ghera. This day was much calmer for us, maybe because we now had an idea of what to expect, or maybe because it really was a comparatively slower paced day of the trek. One thing is for sure though; this was, in a way, the most peaceful day of the trek for us. The gradual incline made possible conversation minimal, and we were all lost in our own thoughts, taking in the beautiful vista of the hampta valley, the mossy smell of the forest, the sharp, cold wind on our faces, the even pace of our breathing. The hot meals awaiting us at every possible interval made us appreciate food in a way which would have made Freud proud.

The following day was the hardest of the trek. We were to climb – I repeat, climb and not trek – to Shea Goru. While our trek leader was, by far, the most amazing man we will ever have the fortune to meet, that day he got a lot of curses aimed at him, muttered under our breath. We were here for a vacation, thank you very much. Why must we go through all of this? What goes up must come down, and naturally the climb was followed by an equally sharp descent. The night that followed was reminiscent of our first night of the trek, with the now familiar aches all over our body. Looking back on it, this was the day that had the greatest impact on us. Forced to go beyond our comfort zone, with nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other, tears of regret and fatigue glinting in our eyes, we were now ready for anything that life had planned for us.

The final leg of the trek was to Chhatru and (fingers crossed) to the Chandratal lake. This was an amusing day as the trek to Chhatru led us through a section of loose stones and often wet mud. We were literally slipping and sliding and holding on to each other just for the fun of it! Of course, nothing could have prepared us for the grand finale of the trip – the Chandratal lake. The sight of the magnificent lake, surrounded by the snowy peaks was so overwhelming that we forgot how to breathe. The clear blue water, sparkling in the sunlight, with a rainbow appearing every now and then, was so beautiful that it hurt to look at.

The drive back to Manali passed by in a blur. We were quiet as we took in the view, the fact that our trek was now over registering with us. We watched the buildings of Manali grow bigger and bigger… Nothing had changed, and yet, for us, everything was different.

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