Continued from previous post – “Trip to Auli – Day 4”
I woke up before the alarm went off . That’s because I wanted to use the washroom badly I realized that my entire body was aching but the idea of ski was too much to keep me in bed for long.
We got dressed and spent a little time trying to dry our washed clothes in front of the heater. A hanky that hubby put on the heater despite my pleas came back with burnt stripes of the heater on it.
The taxi was waiting when we came out after breakfast. On the way we saw a few taxis coming downhill with luggage strapped on top. We guessed it could be the tourists from Clifftop leaving. Maybe the Punjabi uncle n aunty were in one of the taxis?
When we reached the trek base, it had started to drizzle, but snow instead of water. It was cute in the sense it fell as snow drops n then became these beautiful water droplets like dew drops
The trek was as tiresome as yesterday. The day was cloudy, none of the views we were able to catch yesterday were visible today. The sun too was hidden behind the clouds. When we reached Gajendar’s shack we saw that a storm was fast approaching from where we had been yesterday.
Guru came to Gajendar’s shack just then, as discussed yesterday, with his team of two members. It was nice to see that he believed in us when we told him yesterday that we’ll ski ‘tomorrow’. He had also brought with him two pairs of ski shoes (each shoe weighing about 2.5 kgs) and helped us into them. The snowfall was getting harder though still a drizzle. So leaving our bag at the shack we went out to the ski area. This ski area (for beginners) was close to the pond and we did not have to trek all the way to where the ITPB trainees were training.
The first lesson was “Darneka nahi” (do not be frightened) followed by how to strap the ski onto your shoes and what posture to maintain on the ski. I was a noisy student but the trainers were so sweet n patient. “Bilkul nahi darna madamji, hum hai na… aapko girne nahi denge”, (Don’t be scared, we’ll not let you fall) they kept telling me as another trainer was saying the same to Ashwin. So I did about three rounds with the trainers pulling the ski. I had to learn to use the brakes by then (make an ‘A’ shape with the ski). If I wasn’t able to, I should fall on my sides, neither front nor back. It wasn’t easy but the next round I applied the brakes properly. Phew! Mentally striking off ‘Ski’ from my “To Do” list, I went to rest.
Ashwin was having trouble applying the brakes and at the same time trying to fall sideways. He did a ‘A’ and a ‘V’ and a ‘A’ and a ‘V’ and then a ‘thud’. That was the end of it. He rested for a while with the hope that it would get better but that was not to be. The trainers helped him to his feet but he couldn’t put weight on his left leg; they were so sweet they that they supported him on either side until he was well enough to walk. One of the trainers offered to get us our own shoes or snow shoes from the shack since walking in heavy ski shoes is a little difficult, especially with the powder snow sticking to the sole upto a few inches. But since we were walking very very slowly we said it was OK and they left. As we were walking to the shack the snowfall got worse – heavy like our Mangalore rains and the temperature fell below 0 degrees I think. Nothing was visible beyond a 100 meters. When it receded a little, there was a snowstorm. The powder snow that fell on the ground was lifted up by the wind and it was like a reverse snowfall (snowfall from the ground) and visibility reduced to a few meters. It pricked like thorns. The ITBP soldiers went past us carrying backpacks and wood. Even in the vast empty ground they walked in a single line. Some of them even stopped to say, “Jaldi jaiye… aise to aap log bimaar padjayenge” (Go fast, u’ll fall ill this way) I mumbled something about hubby’s broken knee. I felt so small making a big deal of a broken knee in front of the soldiers.
When we finally reached the shack we saw 7 people packed in that small space. These guys were aspiring MBA students from Kolkata doing a tour of India – they were just back after touching Patnitop. Auli’s snowfall was “a trailer” compared to Patnitop. Four more people joined in a few minutes later – they were staying at Clifftop and were also doing an India tour on their own. There was also a guy who came on bike from Mumbai to Auli – solo (he was almost done with his smoke and left immediately). The rest of us exchanged stories in the shack over lunch (rajma chawal, some of the Bengalis ordered Maggi and omlet which they shared with us). The latter group showed us pics of deer and elephants from their trip to Corbett National Park.
Gajendar turned out to be an excellent cook. His rajma curry was wonderful and I had never eaten tastier Maggi than this before. Prepared with lots of green chillies, the secret ingredient for this awesome Maggi turned out to be melted snow . Now, don’t get ideas that snow is picked off the ground and melted. He has a big pot placed outside just to accumulate snow which he uses in his cooking. Nice, eh?
Seeing that I was freezing, Gajendar invited me to warm myself at the stove. It felt like heaven. We couldn’t click many pictures at the moment as our camera started to behave weirdly, low temperature being the culprit.
As we waited for the snowfall to recede, we had more visitors – furry ones this time. Some six doggies of which one was blind. Ashwin being a big fan of dogs was all enthu to play with them .
I loved this guy especially – name Sheru. He looked sad and was sitting all by himself in a corner. Guru explained to us that these dogs grow much bigger. Most of Gajendar’s grocery shopping is done by Sheru. All he has to do is strap the grocery list and give him a pat. He runs down to Joshimath and stops at the shop where the owner will have to strap the grocery on him. Hearing this I fell in love with Sheru all the more
We called our taxi and started to the trek base. The 7 Bengali guys also accompanied us.
The entire ski stretch that wasn’t snow-covered yesterday was filled with thick snow. Walking downhill our feet got stuck in the snow as much as 10 inches. I discovered a new way to descend – sit n slide – It was so much fun . It was easier for Ashwin too with his broken knee to slide than to walk. When we reached the base, there was no taxi. The guys offered to drop us at Joshimath but since out taxi was already en route, we declined. So bidding goodbye to the guys, we waited and meanwhile clicked a few photos.
After waiting for more than half an hour we called the taxi again only to know that they were stuck halfway and couldn’t drive further up due to the snow. Ah! We should have gone with those guys. But anyway with no other option left but to walk down we started walking. It was getting dark but it was only 4:00 PM ! Ashwin slipped and fell again on the thin snow on the road – he was walking on the tyre treads that were left by the Bengalis’ taxi. We realized that if we want to keep ourselves on our feet, rather than our bottom, we should walk only on fresh snow. A hundred meters later we met one of our trainers who was also walking downhill. He remembered us well and accompanied us for the rest of the journey to our taxi.
The trainer told us that he, Guru and a few others walk to and from Auli to Joshimath everyday. He told us a lot of things like the people in that speak mainly four languages – Garhwali, Tehri and two other languages which I am not able to recall now . He was telling that there is no government water supply at Clifftop and they had to arrange for water on their own. No wonder they charged 5k – 8k per night stay! We came to know from him that it had not snowed in Joshimath in the last 2 years and this day it did. we couldn’t help but thank our lucky stars – not only did we get to touch snow, but got stuck in snowfall n snowstorm as well. Add to it the fact that it had snowed in Joshimath for the last 2 years, what more could one ask for? But I couldn’t but feel sad for the tourists who had left that morning – they missed everything.
After walking nearly 4 kms we saw our taxi. It was a different driver though. We dropped the trainer at his house on the way, thanked him and continued to our hotel. Tried bargaining a little with the taxi driver because we had walked down a good distance but he did not relent. Back in our room we freshened up and talked for some time – It was all too much to handle in one day
I realized suddenly that both my hands were swollen, God knows how. I was aware that I did not have the strength to pull the zip of the camera pouch at Gajendar’s shack. There was no pain then but now it was more apparent. I could not hold a glass of water even. After freshening up and a round of Moov on his legs and my hands, we crashed. We would have skipped dinner too had Surendar not called for our dinner order. I don’t know what I ate, I simply fell asleep soon after.
End of Day 5.