Reaching Back to Hotel….. we found out that Anna was no more..

“Where is he.?” Giri sir asked me the moment he entered the hotel room… “He was okay when we left the hotel”, Anuj replied.
Every effort taken were in vain, because anna couldn’t make it and that was the saddest part after giving up on summit attempt.
An hour later, Ganesh’s phone got connected and it had a lady say something in tamil..
Though it meant that “the person you are trying to reach is unavailable” for us it meant “The person you are calling is ALIVE and is probably back to Chennai.
That prediction was made by us when she spoke in Tamil.

worried for anna
worried for anna

An hour Later, the hotel manager arrived and he told us that it was difficult for anna to sleep at night and so he headed back to Delhi. Later, anna explained all that happened to him and apologized for putting us in worry. So, after solving the mystery of Missing Anna, it was time to have a look at my darling.. My Nano! We had to leave the keys at the reception as the car was parked in a public parking which was under maintenance. The hotel manager told that he wanted to take a test drive so he had taken her away. When I started the car, I was @#%#$$^&*^%* to find out that the test drive was 108kms long. But that wasn’t the problem, the problem was that the car had started making noise which was horrible. And so, all the plans that we made of visiting Kargill and Dras had to be cancelled. Next day, we dropped Chirag at 6am to IXL airport and returned to the hotel. Giri and anuj were supposed to join us to manali but our nano turned auto-rickshaw didn’t seem to be ready for that tough journey with 4 people. We had 4 days to travel and the first half of day 1 went in fixing the car.

tata-leh

I had noticed the Tata service center on the way to stok and so we went there and got it fixed. To my surprise, they charged us almost nothing maybe because we had got a Nano the way from Rajasthan. Once the car was fixed, I called up Giri and anuj to join us till Manali but they din’t answer the call.
So, all the plan had to be changed and we decided to visit khardung la which was the closest & highest possible place where nano should go 😛 So we took a turn from the market and began our journey of 39kms.

khardung la

“Khardung la” as hyped is the highest motorable pass of the world. we were stopped at first check post and the police didn’t allow to go ahead. After a short discussion he said, “Hum log itne mehnat se raste banate hai aur tum log Nano leke uska kachra kar dete ho!” and also he told us to click a photo at the top with the car or else he won’t allow us to return. Though it made us think again whether to go ahead or not, I couldn’t stop laughing on the way he said. But this wasn’t the first time some one had stopped us from going ahead nor we ever backed off from any road so without thinking much Niraj continued the drive. It was very motivating to see people running and cycling at such heights.

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After the second check post, the road was not built so it was a task for Niraj to drive. And on top of that, every other car tried to overtake us and that was the most irritating part.
On the way, I managed to click few pictures of the car as well as of Stok which could be clearly seen from the pass. Reaching the pass, We were welcomed not by the riders, not even the hippies But by the Indian Army and that was a moment of pride.

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After clicking few pictures, I took the wheel and continued our return journey. Yes! we did show the police our summit photos and made it back to Leh by 2pm. It was too hot to drive and so Sharma ji preferred to continue with the journey rather than halting somewhere and wasting time. And without a second thought, we just took off on the not-so-easy Leh-manali highway. We had no set plan, no idea where we would spend the night, where we were going to stop for dinner, nothing, just drive on that smooth road till Karu and capture the immense beauty of the barren desert in the small eyes for the last time.

@ leh - manali highway

 

We halted in between at thiksey for Lunch, had thupka and continued till Karu. It was 5 when we reached Karu and I saw the Board which showed Pangong Tso and Changla on the left 116kms away. Niraj calculated the number of days left and we decided to go. The road as usual wasn’t that good to cover 116kms in 3hours. Chang la turned out to be the toughest pass of the entire journey.

changla pass

Reaching Chang la, we were greeted by Army men and offered Tea. When asked for name, “Sanket Sharma, hum dono bhai bhai hai.. ” And the look on Niraj’s face as if some one had bursted a balloon in front of his face.. It was funny moment. But then I realized why the army people were so good to us, because our number plate had “RJ” return on it. Having someone from your local place is always a happy thing. And I have that habit of greeting these life-savers where ever I come across them.
It was 7pm when we left Chang la and Niraj was terribly tired and it was getting dark which meant that it was my time to drive. Also, another reason for me to drive was that I showed Niraj few accident vehicles fallen in the Valley which scared him to death.. 😛 Sorry for that Sharma ji.!

me and sharma
(me and sharma)

Driving at night.. that too on curves and driving a Nano is like a water park slide.. smooth.. and fun, especially when you are with a guy who doesn’t have faith in your driving at all and screams on almost every single turn you take and all it does is make you drive faster. We reached Dubruk at around 8 and halted for Tea. Ah! I can never forget that place, it totally felt like I was in some other Country like Kazakhstan or some where up there. To my surprise, the truck drivers who had halted there had a laptop and many pen-drives. I was caught by them and made to transfer songs from laptop to all pen-drives and some other technical stuff. Even though our time was getting wasted, I had no option but to do what they said, because a truck can easily crush a Nano 😛
Somehow, we managed to move out and resumed our journey. Road from Tangtse is super cool as it is totally under BRO. After an hours drive, we came on a junction and had no idea where to go. I found a hotel where a person was sitting inside on a table. I asked Niraj to ask him which was the correct route. Niraj, already scared, went on the door, knocked it, no reply, I could see the whole scenario from the car, pitch dark night, a hut with a big window from which i could see the guy sitting and a green door where niraj was standing and knocking. After getting tired of knocking on the door niraj began to bang the window pane, But that shitty thing din’t move an inch. I realized that something was terribly wrong so I came on the driver’s seat and began the car and asked Niraj to hurry up. We took the road ahead and didn’t stop for few kilometers until we found a police check post and they told us that it was the right way. Relaxed, after that I continued the journey, the skies were never seen so beautiful nor were the silhouette mountains. We were so happy and relaxed that I was ignoring the streams and just rushing through that cold flow of water. Li’l ahead, I saw a milestone which stated Pangong Tso 12 kms. So I drove faster and ran into a stream.. a stream which didn’t seem to get over and before I could realize anything, the whole Nano was sunked in mud. Niraj shouted and stopped me from turning off the car. Neither of us had the balls to get down in that cold water and check what had happened.. but Sharma Ji got down and checked the tyres.

stuck at pangong

With every round that he took around the car his face was pissed more and more. I realized that this time the condition was worse because the moment i opened the door water came in the car and which meant that the entire Tyre was under water. Luckily the exhaust tip was just 4 fingers above the water level. Niraj tried to push the car but all our efforts only made the car go deeper in the sticky mud.
That was the worst scenario of all time because it were just the two of us on Indo-Tibet Border, no one to come for help in 10 kms radius unless an National Emergency was declared. We had eaten up all the sweets given by Bapuji and had nothing left except 6 candy and a super scared friend who couldn’t think anything in that freezing temperature. Why did we decide to visit this creepy lake and again all the invisible fingers pointed at me. But sharma ji were so scared that he had no energy left to scold me. I went all the way back to check what were we into. And i found out that the nullah’s wall was broken and so the water had covered the road. Temperature was falling and there was no point in pushing the car as the exhaust pipe would get inside water. So I asked Niraj to take some stones and put it under the exhaust to prevent water entering in it. After that we got in the car, and convinced each other that this is just like anyother times and that we’ll make it through this too. We tried to sleep but the cold was so much that it was impossible to sleep, so I took off Anna warmers, and pulled over. Luckily, anna had forgotten his bag at the hotel.

stuck-pangong
At 3 am. when I woke up, I opened the door to check the water and to my surprise the water had reduced. That was kinda magical but whatever it was, was a good thing. I woke up Niraj to show that and turned off the car. The next moment i tried to start, it didn’t work and all the smile that Sharma had by looking at water ran away with the flow and he broke into tears. I was laughing at myself because i knew that the car wont start ever again and that it was over. I had no energy left to convince niraj and so i told him to sleep. Poor chap, he dozed off crying and me too. Next, we woke up at 5:30 in the morning and we decided to get help i mean Sharma ji decided to get help and so he took his jacket and went back from where we came. The stream had almost dried up and I saw the reality. But it was so cold, i got back in the car and dozed off. After an hour later I could hear a trucks noise and before i could get up and check, Sharma banged the door and told me to get the rope and carabiners as he had got an uncle for help. We made the setup and he began to pull, It was difficult for him too as the tyre were stuck deep in. but the moment it came off.. he took the car like the Villain takes the hero who is tied to his car in Bollywood movies. He took us for 4 kms and told that the road ahead is pretty good. We reached Pangong at 7 in the morning.
And that was the Pangong Tso, less known for its spectacular beauty and more for the “3 idiots” scene…

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We had the typical maggi breakfast, took few shots and moved ahead to check if we could meet our friends sandy and anurag who were supposed to be there the earlier night. We turned back and headed back to Changla. On the way i came across this,

indo-tibet border
At changla ,our dear army men invited us for lunch and we had a great time there. After all, Sharma ji ki shaan hi kuch alag hai.. 😛

sharma ji with Indian army
While descending Chang la, one of the Enfield’s Himalayan rider pissed me off and thus we got into race.. Luckily Niraj was asleep, so i had full freedom to drive in full swing.. As i got down, the heat and the rage got more and more… And before i could loose it, Niraj woke up and i slowed down. By the time our race ended, we had made it down and i let that Anna riders go.
While having Lunch at karu, we found some Maharashtrians who were amused to see us. They had noticed my “race” and so they started asking me about everything. The funny part was that they called the “Passes” as “ghats” and I was like “some people never change.” That was one hell of a experience, the night we spent, the time at the lake, the mile stone, the army people everything was written. We didn’t miss a day, we lived it. We had 2 days left and so we had no other option but to refill our cans and tank and began our return journey to the land where we came from.. The Land of Rama..

Stok Kangri – A name that always made my eyes pop-out whenever someone told me about it.!

stok kangri
Living up-to my dreams of doing at least 3 himalayan treks in a year, I decided to do Stok as the third one of the season.
Accordingly, we took a road-trip to leh From Jaipur in a Nano.

on the way to leh
on the way to leh

Meeting Chirag after two long years was a treat. Even after staying 2kms close, we never met in Mumbai. So had a lot to talk and share about. Next day morning I was introduced to the team.

chirag on the way to mankormo
(chirag on the way to mankormo)

Giri and Anuj were going to be our guide. Sandesh and Anurag were from Nasik, Chirag and we three idiots (Ganesh Anna, Niraj & me). Being an high altitude trek ,it is recommended to get acclimatize well so we went out for an acclimatization walk. On our Previous trip to leh, we had missed Leh Palace n Shanti Stupa so it was a good decision to visit them.

leh palace

Entering the Leh Palace, first thing that crosses your mind is the “Height”. Wonder how the tiny King stayed in that palace for a lifetime. We walked up the trail and headed to the palace above leh palace. It offers a very good view from the Top. But I was told that Stupa had more scenic view and so we proceeded through the streets of Leh.

streets of lehWalking through the streets of Leh, you realize that everything is so “pretty and cute” there. I mean the kids and the veggie farms.

leh streets
leh streets


Stupa is really a good place to visit, peaceful and a scienic one. We headed down from the stairs and made our way back to our guesthouse through the market. I had never seen the other end of the market and so was surprised to see so many foreigners on the way.

shanti stupa

Post Lunch we were hanging out in the hotel and got our equipment checked for the trek. Evening time was spent in the market to purchase whatever was left out. Also, we had to visit our
beloved over-priced Doctor friend who’s fees made us sick every time. But this time Anna had decided to get the most out of it and thus the moment he asked for Tea, a spontaneous YES! came out from him. After having delicious dinner, we returned to the hotel where Giri and Anuj briefed us about the whole trek.

Day 2 of the trek began where we were supposed to trek upto Camp 2 which was Mankormo at an elevation of 4400mtrs. Trek to Mankormo is a boring one.. with lot of walk.. and morraine.. and the sharp mountain edges..

stok kangri

Somehow I never had that exciting feeling about this trek.. maybe.. because of the hectic drive from Jaipur.. through those killer passes.. though I was totally fit physically. It was a new experience to meet unusual and professional trekkers from all over the globe. I always love to learn something new from everything that I come across.. be it a person.. a path.. a mountain.. etc. We began late but had a good pace so made it by 5pm.

giri crossing river stream
giri crossing river stream

Mankormo is located at a perfect location.. can be rightly said as the “turning point” of the trek. With little headache in everyone’s head, no one was in a mood to setup camp and make arrangements for food. Somehow I gathered energy and helped the cook and Anuj to settle things. It was first night of the trek so it had to be spent out in the open. But then, the “not so excited” mood continued and I hopped back into the sleeping bag and the day ended with sandy’s voice calling me out of tent.

(Milky way seen from mankormo)
(Milky way seen from mankormo)

Day3 of the trek starts with the most idiotic but good thing of the camp site. To use only public washrooms, good and bad at the same time.. good for the environment and bad because it had no doors. So, we had to go in pairs.. with or with our partner in crime.. 😛 After winding up the camp, we headed to the Base Camp of Stok which was 500mtrs higher than Monkormo. A nice hike of 3hours with gradual incline and pretty Marmots welcoming us.. After climbing up the last patch before base camp, It feels like you are on something big and serious mission.

stok kangri base camp

The grandeur of Base camp is just amazing. I had slight headache which went off as I had warm water.. Others.!! were terribly exhausted and I could see the “low oxygen effects”. Everyone went to sleep as soon as the camp was setup. Me, on the other hand.. took out my camera.. & JBL.. and was enjoying the silence and the super wide spread beauty of those Barren Mountains and skies..

summit trail
summit trail

On our back side.. was the gateway to Heaven.. The road to summit of Stok.. I could see people coming one by one and then reaching the campsite by and hour where they were welcomed by their team mates.. Some happy to ‘make it’.. Some.. happy to get ‘back alive’.. and some happy to see them “make-it-back-alive”

blue sheeps
blue sheeps

Post Lunch, I visited the place where Mobile network was there.. It was very touching to see people’s face after talking to their loved ones.. And I still wonder why I lack “that” feeling…

chirag trying to call
chirag trying to call

Anyway.. talking about the trek.. We went to the adjacent peak and almost gained around 5oomtrs which was a very satisfying achievement for me.. and others too..
We sat for a moment.. enjoyed the view, saw the most Famous Khardung La Pass until the weather turned Bad and we made our way back to the camp.

khardung la pass
khardung la pass

Later, that evening during dinner, our guide and cook told us that the weather has remained bad from past two days. But we were too busy with food to think about the weather.
Anna and Sandy had puked earlier so they were skipping food…

bad weather
bad weather at camp

Due to Rains, everyone went in tents and slept.. Me and Niraj were listening to songs and even anna fell asleep in few minutes.. I remember the time on my watch.. 9:35PM and Niraj was telling about his new wife.. I mean his new life.. and we dozed off.
“Machan… please wake up Machan.. I’m not able to breathe..”
That was Anna’s Voice with a severe fear in it.. and I woke up in all my senses the moment I saw him. And Later the discussion went like..

Me : What Happened Anna?

Ganesh : Don’t know Machan.. I’m getting bad dreams…

Me: What kind of dreams machan??

Ganesh : I feel like you are running behind me trying to hold my neck and kill me.. and so I run from you and get into a house where two women are doing something to me..

Me : WHAT!? Why would I do that.? Have some water machan… you might have got suffocated..

The most terrifying moment was when he couldn’t balance himself.. he was getting Hallucinations…. he had lost his balance totally.. Somehow I lifted him, took him out and gave him hot water… made him walk, tried to bring him back to senses and made him familiar with the scenario.. After few minutes he was relaxed and we went back to sleep..
But it didn’t end there.. I could hear him murmuring in sleep and all I heard was.. “Please save me machan.. I don’t want to die.. I have two families to take care of.. I want to get married..”
And the most quick reaction from my tiny brain was a slap.. I woke up Niraj and told that something is seriously wrong with Anna. I went out and knocked on Giri and Anuj’s tent..
Giri asked me what was the matter.. I could figure out that he was in deep sleep.. but I had to inform him and so I told him about ganesh’s body loosing his balance And the reply I got was.. “Left me gir raha hai.?? Toh left me sula do usko..”
And that was the most funniest moment of the whole Trek.. I was laughing out lying on the ground like an idiot.. coz only I knew the reason.. Somehow I controlled my smile.. got back and asked him to give Diamox to Ganesh.. because nothing was possible to do at night.
Giri sir came out and checked with Ganesh.. convinced him that everything will be alright and have a good sleep..

stok kangri
night at stok camp

But things just got worse in the morning and Ganesh couldn’t even get up from the place..
Yesterday I had seen a group of experienced Himalayan doctors in our neighbour camp. So I asked Giri to call them and made them check Ganesh. The moment they checked his Lungs they realized that it was a case of HAPE(High Altitude Pulmonary Adema) in which water starts accumulating in our Lungs..
I have always admired these foreign climbers for their skills and Safety measures, whereas we Indians have that “Chalta hai” atitude which leads to most of accidents..
So they gave some first aid injections to Anna and told us to lower him immediately..
But it was difficult to find a mule so early in the morning. So We were left with no choice but to make a stretcher and lower Anna. Unfortunately, all the money makers organizers were not ready to share a rope for the same..
Looking at the Delay, One of the Doctors scolded us in Dutch and which meant that we had only 1hr to lower him down or else he’ll die.
Hearing his words.. I decided to carry him on back and descend down.. And Me,Giri, anuj and our guide took him to Monkormo..

sick anna at monkormo camp
sick anna at monkormo camp

Being an emergency, we were in our true form.. we descended in and hour and made Anna rest were constantly checking his oxygen level and pulse. But he didn’t feel better and so Anuj,Puran and me decided to take him to Leh.
Giri had asked me to Stop and let anuj and puran do the needful. But Anna used to take my name more number of times than he took of the almighty.. Which left me no choice but to go along with him..
We made it to Stok village by 3PM.. By the time we reached stok… Anna was back in action.. guess the medicines worked well… We took him to leh Hospital as a formality and got him checked.
After visiting Leh Hospital, My love for Leh increased by 100times. To know the reason, get admitted.:P
We were looking at the Peak and could see the change in weather and all it got was “ugly” After skipping two dishes anna had a half parantha and we went back to our hotel.
Now, all I had in mind was whether to attempt the summit in a day or to stay back and wait for the team. Anuj and me had something different after 3days of same food at camp. People were surprised to see me online 2days before the schedule. I asked Anuj whether it was a good decision to climb up or to stay back. He agreed and we went back to sleep.

summit day
summit day mornings

Day 5 of the trek was a big day for me.. as I had decided to do something that was very challenging for me.. But as per my calculations we made it to monrkorma within 1.5hrs and till Base camp in another 1.5hrs… I took 2 hours as it was not that easy for me.. The moment we reached base camps all the dull faces of our team mates bloomed. The reason behind the dull faces was the ‘ugly climate’ which was saw from Leh the other day..
Gaining 1600mtrs in a day had started showing its effect on my body.. AMS.. and I was half dead after an hour.. skipped food.. couldn’t sleep for the summit.. and refused to take Diamox..
We began our summit at 11:34 at midnight.. other groups had started off two hours early and they were pretty ahead of us. Niraj and me shared a single sack which made us tired halfway..

summit trek
(summit trek & glacier view)

We made it somewhere near shoulder of the peak and I decided to return.. So me and niraj returned at 5am.. as I lowered my condition began to get worse.. After every 10 steps I use to sit and puke.. I had no idea why I backed off from that height.. but after looking at myself.. I feel that it was the right decision..! We reached back in our tents at 6:15am and fell asleep.

stok kangri summit
(stok kangri summit)

I could hear sandy’s voice and it was 9:45.. but I preferred to rest than to go out and ask what happened.
So, at 11:30, when i finally woke up, I came to know that Chirag was the only one who summitted and rest whole team had returned.. I was very happy for Chirag to make it to the summit as he wasn’t well during the whole trek. After the summit attempt, no one was interested to stay a minute more at the base camp as it was their 3rd day and the weather wasn’t so pleasing…
But we had to wait because of the mules. All we could do is play cards and enjoy music, drain all the power banks.. and eat pakodas.. 😀

fun time in tents
fun time in tents

Next Day We left for Leh, it was a fun descend.. biding adieu to the mighty Stok.. those tiny marmots.. blue sheeps.. It was like.. I had byhearted the route in those 3times of ascend and descends..

marmots on the trek
marmots on the trek

So, I was enjoying a lot.. skipping stones.. jumping from one boulder to other.. matching giri’s pace and breaking our own records..

chang ma
chang ma

Everyone was pretty swift until i took out JBL and everyone’s pace slowed down.. and people began to dance while walking on their way down.. 😛

Reaching back to Hotel.. we found that Anna was no more..

The trek to Beas Kund is one of the most beautiful short trek in Himachal Pradesh. From Solang Nallah, the route winds through the famous Solang Valley. Solang valley is famous for its ski slopes & Para gliding. On this trek you will see amazing views of lush green meadows,glaciers and snow-capped mountain peaks. The trail goes via Dhundi and Bakarthach to enter the Beas Kund glacier, the birthplace of the River Beas.This is an enjoyable and Moderate level trek. It is recommended for both beginners as well as experienced.

beas9 beaskund

Beas Kund is where the river Beas originates
Beas Kund is where the river Beas originates

Alang Fort (also Alangad) is a fort in Nashik district, Maharashtra, India. It is one of the three forts, the others being Madangad and Kulang, in the Kalsubai range of the Western Ghats. They are the most difficult to reach forts in Nasik District. A dense forest cover make these treks difficult. These three forts are a little neglected due to very heavy rains in the area and a difficult confusing path to the forts.

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The three mountains(forts) of Alang, Madan and Kulang are considered to be the toughest places in the sahyadris for trekking. This is due to the natural wall like formations of the hills with most steep routes, a lot of edge traversing and vertical rock patches to climb on. A perfect mixture for an awesome trek.

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The Western Ghats or Sahyadri is a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, located entirely in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity in the world.It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites – twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.

kalsubai_big lonavala_hill_station Lonavalamh

The expedition to see and photograph the circular rainbow (Indravajra) in Western Ghats took us to Konkan cliff of Harishchandragad. Being one of the geological wonders of Western Ghats, the cliff has amazing structure. It is a vertical precipice with overhang. The overhang is about 10 meters. The height is 3900 feet (1300 meters) above msl. There is a semicircular valley on the western end of the mountain having vertical fall depth of 1200 feet. The horizontal arc length of the cliff top edge is about 1 km. In the pre and post monsoon season, a strange natural phenomenon called as glory or circular rainbow can be seen from this cliff edge. The phenomenon is similar to rainbow. However its scientific principle and structure is entirely different from that of rainbow. The normal rainbow is called as “Indradhanushya” in Marathi. The glory or circular rainbow is called as “Indravajra” in Marathi. In western world the spectacle is named the “spectre of the Brocken” after the peak in the Harz Mountains of Germany, where it is often seen. We will refer it as “Indravajra” in this article here onwards.

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