Guest post : Originally written in gujarati by Jay, translated by me..
Photographs : By Nigam and Jay.
Part 3 begins :
As we finished breakfast and set off again on the Chadar our support staff got busy winding up the camp. In no time they finished and over took us whilst we we walked soaking the surroundings around and clicking photographs. Our Guide didn’t think we would encounter any water today and so our gum boots were sent off with the support staff and as it had to happen, we encountered our first challenge with water. The chadar was broken and about 4-5 steps were to go through water and without gum boots that was a task. However, the benefits of being light came handy as Tashi lifted me and Nigam on his back and parked us on the other side. Then he tossed his gum boots to Glenn and we over came this hurdle rather easily.
Our destination today was Deep Yokgma, Yokgma in local language means lower and whilst we are on it let me also tell you Gongma means upper. On this second day we realised how blissful the sun is in this cold weather. Whilst we began walking towards Zanskar on the Chadar there is a stiff headwind that all trekkers face. Apart from the inners and sweaters and overcoats you also have to cover your ears, nose and face. The river freezes in this cold wind so you can well imagine what would happen to your ears & nose. Here is a sample pic of the snow that formed even on the eye lashes if you would move without goggles.
Day 2 was actually the day where we walked a large part in the shade and our walk was bereft of sun. Whilst walking to our Lunch spot we for the first time on day two encountered a scene that will stay in etched in my memory for life. We came across one of the most amazing sights of a frozen water fall. It looked like some snow/ice sculptor had carved out his fantasy. Watching streams of water frozen in mid air was an unbelievable experience. Words fail me to describe how amazing and unbelievable it looked. Here are a couple of pictures :
For a while that spectacular sight made us forget about the cold and filled our hearts with warm joy. After watching it enough and clicking it to hearts content we started walking again and in a little while we saw another sight that warmed our hearts on this extremely cold days. It was the sight of our support staff in a sunny spot with smoke rising from where they stood! In no time I had hot black tea in my hands and a lunch of hot macroni with Tuna flakes “Masha-Allah” we pronounced!
Continuing on after lunch walking on the Chadar at one point my friend Nigam’s foot fell in the water as the Chadar broke away and his socks got wet. Our guide advised Nigam to keep walking to keep the foot warm and that the sock would dry out eventually. However, Einstein at that moment decided to enter Nigam’s soul and so when Nigam after walking a lot had left us all behind thought that since I am carrying an extra pair, why not change it so he quickly dropped his bag off and set about changing his socks, in the process at some point he put his bare foot on the ice and it stuck!! Yes, it stuck enough that he had to stand up and pull and whilst it did come off, he felt as if some skin came off his feet!!! Luckily for him, it was just a feeling and nothing like that happened. The feet were so numb he couldn’t even make out at that point. When we reached him our guide Tashi told him that he was lucky skin did not come off. In such a situation when the feet or skin gets stuck its wise to pour water on the area and then remove it or else it could prove fatal. A lesson was learnt that day!
Since it was terribly cold this day we walked less and were happy to spot of support staff had set up camp in a sunny area. We reached there and started soaking the sun when Nigam decided to dry out his wet socks in the sun on a rock. After a while when we actually lifted those socks they looked like they had consumed Viagra! Here is how they became stiff, the water in the socks had frozen!
After our customary black tea we spent time chit chatting with our support staff and interacting with them around the kitchen stove. Talking to these people is always such a humbling experience for me, when I hear of the life these people live and the hardships they face and how yet after all that their spirits are so cheerful and they approach life with such gusto. The little things that irritate us city blokes in so many ordinary situations makes me feel so ordinary in comparison. The dinner had a little surprise apart from the normal, I got my favourite papad alongside the soup and it made my day! I thanked my lucky stars, what else but some wonderful luck to find myself in this pristine, little explored India on the bed of a frozen river with my childhood buddy under a sky that had so so so many stars we couldn’t believe if the sky was real!!!
On the second night as well we also learnt what a marvel the human body is, plus the fact that the sleeping bags were so superbly warm, both me and Nigam refused hot water bags while sleeping. Acclimatization had actually happened
Next day our destination was Nerak Pullu, Pullu in Ladakhi means hut. Our guide sent one member of our support staff early in the morning to reach Nerak and book a hut for us for the night. Apparently these days so many people come to Chadar that all the huts get booked and hence you have to reach there early or spend the night in tents. Whilst walking on the Chadar we met a few groups and some of them had actually sent their man a day earlier to book the huts. Walking on the Chadar today also told us a lot of people had already walked as the Chadar was disturbed and broken at many places due to traffic of humans. Luckily our guide made sure we wore gum boots from the morning this day. We crossed water at quite a few places at one point we reached a point where our guide’s feet went in so deep that water entered his gum boots and he stopped us all immediately and tried to find a way poking his stick about. We tried to offer our suggestions and help as much as we could, however, admist all this somehow fear and panic set in. Trying to climb a rock off the Chadar Nigam’s leg slipped and he fell in the water and not just his gum boots but his pants upto the thigh got wet!!!!
How we combatted this situation and how Nigam felt…. in the next episode!