The morning brought our trek guide Sanju and the promoter of Himalayan EcoTourism (www.himalayanecotourism.com), Stephan Marchal to our hotel. They spoke to us at length about what lay ahead, instructed us on how to manage physical stresses and how to use our equipment. We drove to the starting point after that and started walking towards The Great Himalayan National Park.
A gate regulates the entry to the Great Himalayan National Park, and as we entered our names and signed the old register, we felt like we were in Alice’s Wonderland. We leaped into the park; the physical exhaustion was forgotten, and the Tirthan got even more alluring and wild. We could feel that we were now very close to an unbridled and untouched corner of the earth where nature was still tempestuous and unpredictable.
As evening fell, we saw a pair of mountain deer running full speed in playful abandon at the steepest part of a cliff, a tuft of brown joy, sprightly and happy in each other’s company, oblivious the world around them.
The next day started early; the hike was only four kms long, we had done double that distance the day before. So we began rather enthusiastic and confident of reaching the destination in the next couple of hours. But we realized soon that this was going to be a walk that we will not forget for some time to come. We walked uphill, away from the water – a merciless, unrelenting climb that tested the limits of our determination and strength. We struggled to hike up a 70-degree incline, frequently climbing over boulders three times our size. The children, who we were most worried about jumped and pulled themselves up with the ease that both surprised and inspired us. They made it to the resting points much ahead of us – but what we lacked in agility and stamina, we made up in joy and pride of being the parents of two rather tough mountain goats. The last 3-4 km was a breathtaking walk through a pine forest; the trail cushioned with fallen leaves and soft foliage that doesn’t get to see any sunlight. Myriad shapes and sizes of mushrooms and a hundred Edelweiss that grew out of every woody nook greeted us as we stumbled through an unbelievably high incline that does not even give you a view of the next thing that lies ahead.
We walked back on the third day, already missing the Tirthan and the roaring song it sang to us - tales of love and loss, triumph and disappointments. While the journey was simple for most others on this trip, a single toenail injury made my journey excruciating and slow. As I inched forward, my body refused to move ahead in anticipation of the violent nerve ending shock waves from my toes; I felt the mountains signing to me again, through rustling leaves, helping me move ahead. (Although, Saurabh was convinced that these were the effects of the many painkillers I had popped midway). As I stumbled through the slopes, the buzz of the river encouraged me to take another ten steps ahead, and when the buzz became a roar, I knew we were close to Rolla again, although this time we pitched our tent near the gates of the park, very close to the enchanting Hippo Falls.