With FIGURATIVELY a lot on my plate to deal with, I’ve decided that the best thing to do is to LITERALLY run away from those for a while. To kedarkantha precisely.
But that group message intended for someone else magnetically pulled me onto an adventure for a lifetime. To pull things shorter, I was added to an unknown group intended for the Kedarkantha trek by someone unknown mistakenly.
Well, to give you guys some spoilers, that SOMEONE is none other than 4 world record holder and the world’s youngest mountaineer, Jaahnavi Sriperembuduru.
A train through India’s heart
On 21st of December 2017, I’ve spent the wee hours dropping my sister at the airport for her flight and rushing back home and leaving immediately for this adventure. I met the team I was travelling with on the platform.
Jaahnavi Sriperembuduru is also the CEO of JanJay Adventures( the organization which facilitated the kedarkantha trek) which she runs along with Dr Krishna, her father. Dr Krishna is an interesting, energetic and always on the move mountaineer about whom we will discuss in the further episodes.
The train pulled o the platform onwards through 8 states to the National Capital in about 24 hours. While the train journey itself was a bit uneventful until it became bitterly cold and chilly during the night. Everyone had their bedding distributed to them but I remember waking up with two rugs atop me.
Turns out the supplies manager of my coach, Praveen anna threw in an extra rug on me as he saw me shiver during the night. While we were inching towards Delhi, he finally got respite from his chores and I finally got a chance to thank him and tried to buy him some tea. But he insisted on paying for it too. Coach supplies managers are often non-permanent railway employees with ill pay-checks. IRCTC is known for its irregularities in its service graphs but its people like Praveen anna that I feel end up pulling up the standards of IRCTC.
The train was long.LITERALLY
Throughout the journey, I’ve managed to make friends with a couple of college gang on vacation and a totally introvert Indian Soldier. Pawan Bhayya is a sports player for the Indian army travelling after his training in Hyderabad. He had his priorities set in not talking to anyone during the journey. But soon after we got down, he knew I needed help and took it upon himself to navigate me through the metropolis.
The Capital, a hot day and a cold night:
We managed to find a rickshaw to the metro, a metro and another metro later, we arrived at the Kashmiri Gate ISBT. All this while, whoever we encountered always referred to Pawan Bhayya as Pailwan(wrestler). Upon inquiring further, he showed me his right ear lobe which was intriguingly twisted into a small lump as if it been pressed using a cloth iron.
He explained further that this disfigurement was due to constant dhangals he’s participated and that distinguishes him from the normal populace. After making sure I will find a bus to Dehradun, he went on his way.
A wise man would trust but verify but a smart man will trust and be cautious at the same time. That is pretty much solo travelling #101. I have always had ample help during my travels because I knew when and how to trust someone. This might also be referenced again when I mention I had the help of a complete stranger for obtaining a new sim card when mine was no longer operational. But more on that soon.
When I got down in Dehradun it was dark and 10 pm. A kind Dooni family of 3 who just got down the bus saw me talk the rickshawala the directions to my hotel. Now they knew 200 rupees for that was too much but not me. They were kind enough to let me share a ride with them while they dropped me near my destination and went on their way.
I still have to reach a small village called Saankri and start my trek to Kedarkantha peak from there.
To the Himalayas through Heavy Hills
The next morning when we started to the village of Sankri in a traveller tempo. We briefly stopped for breakfast at a small eatery called “The Mountain View Restaurant” in Mussoorie. Throughout the trip, I’ve had many a great view of the Himalayan mountains which surrounded me all the time day in and day out.
During our stay in the tents and during the trek up and down, we were surrounded by the snow-capped mountains. But that view right there behind that small roadside hill perched restaurant was profound.
The trip to Sankri was nauseatic. My stomach and my head wanted to move physically in the opposite directions which resulted in me being half passed out most of the time.
Amidst what I could grasp from my brief conscious moments, I saw that we were moving through the rocky mountain terrain and through all these were many villages. These villages were perching onto the hills. What’s more intriguing about these self-sustaining hamlets is their concept of roads and transportation.
Village, Hamlets and a unique concept for streets:
For instance, the entirety of a village would be a single road which can be the main road or anything. Then you would find houses, shops and other buildings built on either side of this road. To be more exact, the Pahadi are extremely economic in their physical space and use any small space between establishments as passageways.
You would stumble upon a small opening underneath a building or a staircase THROUGH a building which in their comprehension is a street or a road on itself. The same was evident even in the village of Sankri/Sour too.
Looking at the hamlets’ whizz past our vehicle, all I could think of was how these small villages are. Physically disconnected from the country in an aesthetic sense.
A Chilly Evening For A Busy Market
We reached Sankri/Sour by sundown and were soon shown to our lodging. We were to start our Kedarkantha trek from the next morning. Our hosts were a charming and warm lot. Much like every other local, I’ve ever encountered during the duration of my trip. We were staying in their home as homestay guests.
I spent the rest of the evening on the little market street of Saankri for some gear which I forgot to bring along for this Kedarkantha trek. I’d say double check and buy your gear from the cities before you begin your trek. Because anything bought at such destinations will always be pricey and of poor quality.
Nightfall-Temperature Drop, Bon Fire, NOT Kedarkantha
The night was a colourful one involving the locals singing and dancing around in a circle called as some Nrithya( I curse my goldfish memory). We got a glimpse of Mountains on fire, burning in a symmetrical and linear fashion as if they were burning in a specific path. This turns out was a controlled fire meant to clean old grass and give way for the new one to grow.
The next morning was a quick tea and paratha breakfast one where I got a breathtaking view of the mountains. I was sipping tea after gearing up and mentally preparing my mount to those snow caps when it took me just a question and an answer to learn that what lay in front of my eyes was not the Kedarkantha mountain but that of the Har Ki Dun peak