Saturday, 24 May 2008

Sar-Pass Trek Moments

Starting Point: Banglore
Destination: Sar Pass (Bangalore - Delhi - Kalka - Shimla - Manali - Kasol - Sar Pass - Kasol - Delhi - Bangalore)
Distance : Almost 2600kms
Conveyance: Train (Bangalore - Delhi - Kalka - Shimla) and (Delhi - Bangalore)
Bus (Shimla - Manali - Kasol ) and (Kasol - Kullu - Delhi)
Highlights: Sar Pass (13, 800ft in the Shivaliks), white water rafting at Phirdi (near Kullu), Manikaran, Rohtang Pass, Solan Valley and Delhi (Birla Mandir, Jantar Mantar, Qutub Minar, Louts Temple / Bahai Temple, India gate, Rashtrapati Bhavan etc)
Date: March 31 '08 to May 19 '08
Approx cost: Rs 9000/-
[The following is an account of our trek, a travelogue to put it otherwise. In case you are looking for some serious trekking tips, you'll find them here]

2nd December 2007. We were walking back leisurely, down the mountain slopes of Mt. Thadiyandamol having made it to the top. The common feeling was that we'd been on a couple of treks in and around Karnataka but there had to been one really big one to cap it all. It would have to be somewhere in N.India, if possible in the Himalayas; probably once our graduation was complete. Fast forward 5 months to 31st April. Yashwantpur Railway Station. The day had arrived. We were going on a trek to Sar Pass situated at 13,800ft in the Shivaliks. The 8 of us were eagerly waiting to get onboard the Sampark Kranti: Ajay, Akella, Ashish, Sagar, Sanjay, Shappa, Sharath (Ajay's brother) and myself. All the preparations were complete and the wait was finally over. It had all begun...
[Though I initially set out giving a detailed account of the whole trip, I realised it was futile. One because it would be so long and boring to read. And secondly, it would serve no purpose. So, here are some of the highs and memorable points of the trek...

Snug Socks
The day before we were to leave, we'd all gone to Shivajinagar to shop. We'd bought the all too essential thermals, Hunter shoes, rucksack (it's still just a bag!) and other smaller items like woolen gloves and monkey caps at an army store here. Sagar joined us late. So when it was his turn to try out the shoes, he sat wiggling his toes wearing just a pair of woolen socks. When asked to try out the shoes, he replied "Wait, I just wanna see if the socks size is right first." [Is that how you define a social retard? I'd definitely say YES]

Enter, The Chakkamaster
As it turned out, Ashish was a hit among the transsexuals(हिजडाs), earning him the title of The Chakkamaster. He was so badly extorted (and harassed in more than one way) by the visiting shemales that the sound of a clap would send him scurrying to the restroom or elsewhere. It was definitely a 'touching' experience dude. Oops!! [They never really came back despite those extra 10 bucks you paid them, did they!?]

The Himalayan Queen
We had taken the Kalka-Shimla Himalayan Queen. Its a beautiful route. As the train slowly winds upwards along the mountain sides, splendid views unfold. A honeymoon couple in our coach couldn't have cared less about the scenery. They were busy putting each of the (long dark) tunnels to good use! Here are some interesting facts I found.

The Kalka-Shimla Railway built to connect, the summer capital of India in 1903 at an altitude of 2076 meters offers a panoramic feast to experience the grandeur of the picturesque Himalayas from the shivalik foot hills at Kalka to several important points such as Dharampur, Solan, Kandaghat, Taradevi, Barog, Salogra, Summerhill, Shimla and beyond up to the silvery snow line near the towering peaks.
Kalka-Shimla-Railway runs through 102 tunnels, some of which have hoary tales to tell. For instance, the longest tunnel at Barog, named after the engineer in charge of construction, bears the blood of it's creator who apparently committed suicide after making a mistake in laying the alignment.
This tunnel is 1143.61 meters long and remained the second longest tunnel on Indian Railways for a long time. It is a straight tunnel, passing through fissured sand stone.
Another tunnel at Taradevi, cutting through a hill on the peak of which is a famous temple, tells of the local superstition of the day that the Goddess would never permit it's construction. When construction was half through, great excitement arose from reported sightings of a huge serpent in the tunnel that had emerged to stop the work. Anti climatically the reptile turned out be a long iron pipe running along the tunnel to convey fresh air.

Fire Fire, Camp Fire
YHAI has this tradition of conducting "campfires"(which is a misnomer thanks to their no-fire/burning wood policy) every evening before retiring to bed. Though intended to be a mixed bag of talks, songs and dramas promoting national integration, it usually nothing but a string of n songs sung in m languages.
Intending to break the monotony at the base camp, we came up with an almost offhand skit. Stupid would an understatement and flop would be an incomplete description of this skit. It involved an interview of celebrities like Rajani, Laalu, AB Vajpayee and Shatrugan Sinha [With Shaktiman spinning in to drop words of wisdom ... 'Sorry Shaktimaan' ] visting the camp. Shappa playing Shatrugan was the worst performer who could not deliver anything more than "KHAMOSH!!". What a pity. An intermediate commercial featured a hutch commercial with Sagar playing the pug. As it turned out, the next day a guy curiously enquired.... "वह hutch का ad तो समाज मैं आया... पर उस आदमी के पीछे वह दूसरा लड़का ऐसे ऐसे करके (pointing to Sagar, demonstrating crawling) क्या कर रहा था?".
A number of exquisite regional songs were sung during the course of the entire trek as a part of campfire, (the lyrics of hit ones being even discussed on the google groups). The "Maharahstra Maaza..." song was so very feared/loathed (my humble apologies to all the मठ्ठाs) due to its innumerable recitals that a mention of the song would send the crowd into a frenzy! The "campfires" however were memorable, particularly the last one of SP-6 at Bandhak Thach which went on and on with junta singing every imaginable Hindi song to prevent the gathering from ending. What followed after dispersing is only known to a limited (male) population. [Grinnn] Had we really had the luxury of an actual fire in each of the higher camps, the joys that we'd have got would have been unparalleled.

Señor Sanjay
Owing to his elderly looks (thanks to his peppered hair mainly) Sanjay was regarded as the "Senior Member". So much so that he was even asked "अंकल, time क्या हुआ?" once at the base camp. As he himself admits, working his charm on the fairer sex has never been one of his specialities (nor has writing a test to get an LL). Only bearing witness to the point is this incident that happend one morning as we coming back after our exercise. As Sanjay, Ashish and I walked up to this store in Kasol market, the fervent Ashish made the mistake of asking a bunch of girls standing at the door (who belonged to the previous group of our very own Sar-Pass trek) if woolen gloves were available. Oops! Sanjay stepped in [smart!] introducing the three of us. Well... the reply? She said, "Sorry. We are from SP-5 !!". I never said he was trying to hit on her! Anyway, every cloud has a silver lining. Sanjay did get a complement compliment on the concluding day from that he didn't look all that aged. He was only more mature! Now Sanjay uncle, that is some reason to cheer up...

Sagar's sheke moment
Sagar, who's coined our all time favourite word sheke ( actually meaning stilfling or sultry in kannada but used to refer to uncomfortable/ unbearable/ awkward instances ) was in the middle of the ultimate sheke himself. On the day we came back from the trek to the base camp, Meetaji proposed eating out at one of the many fancy restaurants in Kasol. As a matter of their names are fancy like for example Namasteji Dhaba, Gipsy(!) and Free Kasol (Shappa's type) and many others that I could not even read. They claimed to serve varied cusines, half of which were not even spelt right on their boards. We chose a decent looking place and ordered Israeli dishes ... Pita with Thina, Shakshuka etc, veg lapha yada yada. In the meantime, one of the girls, Tanvi, bought a chocolate cake for the birthday girl in our group, Gritika, who had had to settle for a dung cake in the morning at our camp site in Bandak Thach. On our return to the base camp following the dinner that evening, as the girls eagerly prepared to surprise Gritika by presenting her the cake at the camp fire. As we all sat at the back pretending to listen to yet another fellow crooning up front , the all too eager Sagar stopped Tanvi as she was walking past us, unaware that even Gritika the birthday girl was with her! Presuming that the girls were planning on having a private party in their tents and that the party was even over, he asked out aloud, "Is any of the chocolate cake still left !?", to which Gritika turned around puzzled demanding, "What cake !!?" Sagar's ultimate sheke moment! Man!! Poor guy had a nice time trying to apologize when she came around later to distrubute the cake. [Dude... that piece of cake was definitely not worth the sheke, was it!?]

Of tiffs and titles
One of the interesting turnouts of having 8 people going on an extended vacation trip were the constant bickerings. The star cast included Shappa as the lead star, with Ashish , myself and Sagar playing sidekicks. There wasn't a day without a spat. Notable highs include Shappa holding Ashish by the neck in the Kullu bus station (which I was unfortunate enough to not witness), Ashish awarding me the title of an 'arrogant snob' on the lawns of the Red Fort for commenting on him and the Sagar-Ashish spat early one morning in the Sampark Kranti with Sagar declaring Ashish as 'the biggest opportunist he'd ever met', all obviously followed by awkward silences and the following round of loud audible sighs. Also worth a mention are the innumerble rebukes dished out by the owner of non-braned slippers to the elite owners of branded slippers (read Reebok) for wearing their slippers when having to visit privy. Needless to say, this was an endless source of entertainment to spectators of these squabbles. Well, I remarked on these constant bickerings... No wonder dates go well, but when it comes to marriges... thats when all the trouble begins.

Speaking of titles, by the end of our trip. Almost every one had an alias. You've already been introduced to The Chakkamaster. He's also known as 'The Elitist' for his pseudo distinction, or what is colloquially referred to as 'level'. Sagar goes by the name 'Sheke Master' / 'Sheke Raja' in honour of the term sheke coined by him. There is of course our very own 'Senior Member'. In addition to these, there is 'Kela' aka 'Banena' (mind the spelling) aka 'Jaadu'; the first two nicks derived from his name and the third from his outfit resembling the alien from KMG. Its my pleasure to introduce to you 'The Kuchh Master', so named to honour his impeccable talent to kachh on almost any topic under the sun. Jokes apart, he's our travel guide and source of all necessary information. The notorious Shappa is fondly referred to as 'CET No. 1' and 'ಕೋಣ' owing to his physique and beautifully sculpted features. He was christened Shappu/Sharanappu in Kalka due to the uncanny resemblance of his paunch with that of Appu, the railway gaurd. Sharath remained Sheru. As for me, 'The Cashier' or 'The Accountant', I had some (what I like to call) controversial names. They shall hence not be posted until proven otherwise. [Sorry guys! Out here MY decision is final and binding...]

Hits and misses
Given the existence of ladies in the groups, happenings were inevitable. Gossips, theories, conspiracy theories... they were all there. Ashish got to an early start, trying hard to get into the groove with the acclamatisation walk itself. It was a great script. Not surprisingly and not unlike the never ending Hindi soaps, the story went on and on and on and but nothing happened... albeit that there used to numerous monologues during the treks and a few rare dialogues. I'll let you know if the last episode is anywhere in sight and the tale gets anywhere near an ending. I myself was accused of puttax-ing a particular somebody, which I vehemently denied saying that it was just mutual friendship and nothing more. Well well... I shall stop here. I hope my critics rest in peace. Our very own CET No.1 had his moments with an entire bevy from Shimoga who just would not have enough of his shall I say, 'all-round' personality. They were full of adoration fand adulation for our hero, especially during the evening tea when they always surrounded him and enquired about the things not known to me. [... ... But Shappa is an honourable man... ...]

Rooftop Rides
The first time it happened was when we had to take a bus from Bhuntar to Kasol, our base camp. We were 8 in number, each one having atleast 2 bulky pieces of luggages. The bus conductor on seeing us asked us to get on top. We were more than happy to oblige. The ride was exhilarating. Not only that, it gave us an opportunity no shutterbug would want to miss. However we were asked to get down midway when seats were vacated in the bus. While the rest patiently got down the ladder, Sagar and I found an easy way down, by leaping off the bus to a nearby building and then taking the stairs down! On reaching the base camp we realized that rooftop rides to the base camp were almost the norm. Damn!

Next was the journey from the base camp to Unch Dar - the starting point of our trek. As all the 53 members of SP-6 waited for a bus, the 8 of us spoke in hushed voices as to what the best algo would be to get to the top first. A bus soon arrived and almost everybody went for the top!! It turned out that the bus would not go to Unch Dhar and hence everyone's evil motive was now exposed. The intentions were now an open secret and it was a open competition. The next bus that came along was the right bus. The driver was smart and brought the bus to a halt 50m ahead of where the crowd was waiting, triggering a mad dash. I made it first to the ladder and the roof, with Sagar (and a dog which was at his heels) coming in a close second. Within no time, the whole roof was packed to capacity. No points for guesssing how the ride went. Sitting up front on the roof of a bus is like sitting in a ship's crows nest. The difference being that we have to look out for live wires and branches rather than ice bergs or oncoming ships. No matter what, it was indeed a joy ride.

When mother nature beckoned...
One of the of challanges of the expedition (more than the trek itself) was answering nature's calls. Compounding the problem of inexistence of potties was the necessity of having to use toilet paper. And hence the anxiety in anticipation of the first experince was harrowing to most. Topping the list was Ashish, whose worst fears came out true. Details have to be censored. His plight became an endless source of entertainment to us. The rest of us answered mother nature's calls without any untoward incidents. By the end of the trek, we were all adept at this newly acquired art. All said and done, the return to base camp and use of "modern facilites" was a feeling of joy and relief beyond words. Water at last!! [Passing thought: Aren't guy's lucky ?]

Hygiene... The elusive word
Hygiene is a myth out there in those heights. Going without a bath for 8 days!? Uggh! Can't even dare to imagine that here. But out there it doesn't seem like an issue. The temperature is always in the single digits, sometimes sub-zero. The water comes from nearby streams and more often than not it is at 0°C. So any chores like brushing teeth or washing dishes lead numb, dead finger tips - temporary, of course. Many an intelligent beings deviced innovative solutions like skipping the rituals of brushing and washing dishes before and/or after eating. Black filthy hands and unkempt finger nails, greasy oil-coated dishes and unwashed glasses were not uncommon. Worse still, the day we crossed over Sar Pass, we suffered massive sun burns. We were badly tanned and in a couple of days the skin was peeling off. We were a mess. Shruti told me, "Arrey I have not seen myself in a mirror for a week now. I feel like a guy!". Such was the plight. One of the first things we did on getting back to base camp was see our battered faces in the mirror. What a gory sight !

Night Life
In the higher camps up in the mountains, there is no electricity. So bedtime was as early as 8:00pm. But we people, so used to retiring to bed in the wee hours of the day found it a tad difficult to follow. So we'd usually spend time discussing stuff, cracking jokes or in the worst case singing in the comforts of our sleeping bags which got warmer and cosier with time, until almost everyone was asleep or pretended to sleep. The latter case is of specific interest because when it came to joke sessions, it was not uncommon for a sleeping back in some corner of the tent to suddenly start trembling.
Again mention worthy is our hero, Ashish who had a particular aversion to ghost stories and the like. This was exploited to the fullest extent possible by the 3 Gujjus who shared the tent with us in the initial days and then the Matthas. The Gujjus made sure that our hero was ragged when they left and the Matthas joined us, in order to satisy the mathematics of tent sharing. One particular incident of interest here is the day the Matthas first joined us. As the Gujjus had informed them beforehand, they made it a point to discuss spirits and ghosts after lights out. But after Ashish's angry retorts, they continued in Marathi. After about 5 mins poor little Ashish was heard telling Sagar, "Dude, those $@#$!@$$ are discussing in Marathi. My mother tongue is Konkani and I can fully comprehend what these people are discussing!".
Shappa on the other hand commendably made constructive use of these off hours. He discussed and got some extremely precious lessons from one of the Gujjus (who was married) on how to deal with his ... umm... life. Well the inputs to the combinatorial circuit has been given. We are all waiting for the outputs. [Hey don't forget to send us the invitations!]

Never miss an opportunity
In north India, the single best thing is the tasty tea that they
make anywhere and everywhere. And up in the Himalayas at near and sub zero temperatures, there is nothing better than a cup to hot tea and a pack of biscuits (read Parle-G) to pep one up. Tea-aholic Shappa never missed an opportunity to have a cup of his favourite beverage anywhere. From tea-stalls on railway stations to shops at our tea-points during the trek, he's graced every other tea making shop with his benevolence. Tea was unlimited always at all camps, which brings us to the next logical conclusion - Shappa enjoyed the trek thoroughly.

There was never a dearth of breathtaking sceneries. Ever. As time passes, each scenery changes from one glorious form to another. Never still. Never monotonous. Changing direction of sight was like switching channels. While sipping onto a cup of hot tea, all one had to do was sit back and watch as the clouds languidly moved from one peak to another, spelling magic with the sun rays filtering through. Its just beyond words... Just get there and watch it yourself!


Logik said...

But Shappa is a honourable man.
Yes indeed.

And a genuine doubt. How do you get your images to align so well?. And with a line of text between two opp.aligned images too. Dude. HOW?

And Shrutheeee was ur nickname, was it? . Have I added sufficient e's. Help yourself to some more.

Ashish hates horror stories. Damn. I wish I knew that when I was his roomie.

That sheke moment, takes the cake man. Pun intended, I guess.

nice review, and kewl pics.

Rakesh Babu G R said...

The next step in the series of treks can be China and Tibet. "From heaven's lake" is an excellent travelogue(set in this area) written by Vikram Seth. Hope we can go there next.

Logik said...

@ Takal: Any particular reasons for choosing Tibet?.. Trying to emigrate is it?

vk said...

@Logik, Takal

I knew that was coming Tux.. But this soon...!?

Anonymous said...

@logik: you are lucky that ur comment somehow passed the screening.

@takaal: tibet??? china??? gr8
ok, tell me, ur purpose is not trek, u have some other plans ?

Well, some facts. The term "shekhe" was not coined by me, it was extensively used by my cousin, and I picked it up. So, I dont know its origin.

I hate shaktimaan.

The himalayan queen deserved more fun than data.

Hits and misses: Yea, people accept it, you are all social retards. I am not alone.

Shappa and his tea: Does tea-drinker sound cool? If it does not , tell shappa, he will stop drinking tea.

P.S. Ah great, you finally kept razavi incident secret.

Logik said...

@sagar: I think vk believes in "right to opinion", "constructive criticism". I too had a doubt whether it'd pass, especially since he made a slight reference to it in the post, that it'd not be mentioned at any costs.
Shappa is still "one-tea". Maybe after he gets married he'll stop. Sorry, a lame, kannada pun.

Rakesh Babu G R said...

Logik is cunning. He praises the author profusely, and slips in what he wants.

The awesome book by Vikram Seth made me want to go(and come back) to China and Tibet.

Actually, if we could pull off the trip, it will be great.

Logik said...

@ takal: Yes. I'm a cunning linguist

Hashish said...

@VK : Nice post...commemorative..but too many deviations from truth. Death to Chakkas...[and remove tht controversial pic man...i was not trying to "line-odi"]

@Logik: some work at Ittiam...And of ghost stories...dream on bit8h..And no ur not a cunning linguist.

@Takaal: I knew it...u marxist chingi....

@Evil: U rock dude.

Hashish said...

I miss Sar Pass days...Damn...

vk said...

Don't fret.. We can do it again!

Naveen said...

Good post dude.. enjoyed :)
came in here to know more abt the trek before going next month.
Yes, I've registered for Sarpass'09!

Thanks for it..

vk said...

Thanks buddy! Hope you have a wonderful trek.
In case you missed, check this post out. There are some useful trekking tips for your Sar Pass trek..

Anonymous said...

really nice post. . Good that you didn't make it a really long post. I would have slept off half way thru. :) . . wonderful pics. . and this world is a really small place. . Sanjay happens to be my school mate. and sad, still his intellectual looks didnt get him a gal :) and btw I rem CET no 1, all the newspaper headlines and Ntse classes. . and btw sorry . . I had to correct. .
Sanjay did get a *complement* on
Should be compliment!

VK said...

Well, all this was well over a year ago. We've planned another trek to the Himalayas this winter. We'll see how much Senor Sanjay's has succeeded in honing his skills in the meantime :D

Thanks for pointing out. Frankly, its nice when someone cares enough to point out instead of just smirking and moving on :)

Shwetha said...

yeah Darjeeling one rite. . he told me abt that. . But cant book day way too in advance. . But wil b exciting. . I cant go :( Enjoy maadi :) in the meantime hope senor gets a senorita. . :p . Bah! He will kill me if he sees this. .

VK said...


And ya.. Don't worry. I'll make sure that he sees this :P

Shwetha said...

*Dalhousie. . Slip of keyboard. :D. . Darjeeling du overu. . Check this and sorry for filling unnec comments. . Last one this :P