There was a ridge i had been looking at since a long time now.It was always there,visible in distance.I had to cover that distance and get to the top of the pass.I was walking, panting and huffing.Still,the gap between me and the pass was not getting any smaller.I had had other people walking briskly in front of me but soon they had gone way too ahead for me to catch up with them.I wasn’t afraid because the trail was so well marked and there did not seem any chance(turns,bifurcations) for me to get lost.But I had been walking for 2.5 hours now and waiting for everyone to stop for a nice break so that i can catch my breath again.
And that’s when it hit me on the face.The realization-that this was not a trek like any of my previous ones,where i would be accompanied by my family,family friends and other kids my age,guides and porters.There I was,with Kullu and his team of 4 locals from Kibber and the khuttewala(donkey minder) from Lullum which was the starting point of the trek.So there would be no periodic breaks to rest oneself,click pictures and munch on chivda.Once we leave one camp,we would most probably not stop untill the next campsite arrives.And everyone would be walking quite fast.All of this meant that i could very well say goodbye to my “breaks” dream and would do better to just keep walking and try to steady by heartbeats the same time.I don’t know why this things had not occurred to me before! Ohkayyyy,alright….i said to myself and went about the task at hand(reaching the pass)cuz i did not seem to have any other option.
So yes,it was day 8 and I had begun the trek for which i had come to Spiti with Kullu.We would be trekking for the next 7 days in Lingti valley area of Spiti.The primary objective of this trek was a blue sheep survey(secondary being collection of scat samples of snow leoprds) and that’s what Kullu and his team come to Lingti valley for every year.I was lucky that this year,Kullu had let me join in the survey(well my field is different and i wasn’t going to be part of the survey team) because i had desperately wanted to do a tough trek in the Himalayas and Kullu had said i could tag along!Wwe were going to use high quality tents and sleeping bags and other equipment during the course of the trek.We had 3 donkeys with us to carry the loads so that we would have only a small sack on our backs while trekking.
FOr the first day of the trek,we were to reach the campsite at Kibri(4000m).After a couple of hours’ walk from Lullum,we climbed up the ridge and landed at the pass.I thought the hardest part of the climb for the day was over.But i was wrong.We climbed down the other side of the pass and took the turn along Lingti river to go toward Kibri.But the path was frequently blocked by the increased water level of the river water.So Kullu had to take out the “Wading Suit” from his pack.With this waterproof suit on,he would cross the icy cold river water(knee length at the maximum but not so easy to cross due to the need to keep ourselves and the luggage dry and warm and due also to its forceful flow).He would then also carry others on his back where the width of the basin was small enough to allow such physically demanding endeavors.The donkeys needed to be shoved and pulled to coarse them into crossing the river water.The guys did all the hard work as i just watched and clicked shamelessly from a distance.I was already too tired to help in any big way.We crossed like this a couple more times.On one occasion,when it was Rinchen’s turn to carry people across,i opted to take the suit myself and cross instead of trusting his feet placement ,which seemed a little wobbly in the dark waters.I put on the suit and yes,it was perfectly dry inside even in the middle of the water.Beside me,Lufzang and earlier Lama,had crossed the same water with bare feet and folded pants!
It was approaching dark and we were still 2 more hours away from Kibri.The walk that day was frequently obstructed by small river crossings which took a lot of time,forcing us to take detours to avoid the water and so on.It seemed to stretch forever.Finally,around 9 p.m,,we reached Kibri in the torchlights and here again,Kullu and the guys pointed out a fresh snow leopard pug mark in the path.We immediately scanned the mountain side along which we had been walking and to our delight,the eyes of the blue sheep shone in the torch light!The snow leopard could very well be in the same area as us but we couldn’t spot him.The donkeys were unloaded.Lamaji,Rinchin,Lufzang,Lamaji(2) and Tenzing set about the cooking part.I and Kullu wasted no time in lying down flat on our sleeping mattresses.Half an hour later,i had hot soup in my hand(god bless those Spiti people for their kindness) and khichadi for dinner.That night was beautiful.The mountain across us was brimming with beauty in the moonlight of 10 p.m.Behind,Shijibang peak,another beauty of the area,was obscuring the moon from showing up .
At 4000m,in the middle July in Spiti,we needed no tents for sleeping into.We all lied down on the mattresses and slept off in to our warm sleeping bags.