India 2009 Part 8

From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India
From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India

Up to the Hills of Periyar

India; October 20th; Day 29; Periyar

After breakfast with George he gets his driver to take us to the bus stop in Kottayam in his auto-rickshaw. We ask around and hop on the Kumily bus which is to take us away from the waterways and up into the hills. It’s a bumpy 4 hour ride and the road gradually rises. In the fields that we pass we first see rubber plantations, then coffee and then tea. The bus is busy but not too bad.

On arrival we cart our gear into the Tourist Office which actually has some information. Five minutes later we are in an auto-rickshaw to the Green View Hostel. The room is fine; we have hot water and we have a terrace. It’s a pity that there is a building site next door but never mind.

We wander back into the town to search out somewhere for lunch. Nothing looks interesting or even safe so we return to Chrissie’s which is just down the road from Green View and seems to be a refuge for travellers seeking normal, e.g. non-Indian, food. We have pasta.

In the afternoon we try to find some more information about the Periyar National Park which is just out of town. We can’t even find the office never mind the information. But after a while we do finally stumble upon it. No point though as it is next to useless. So we decide to walk into the park anyway and see what we can see. It about a 3 or 4km walk which is not too bad and the woods are quite interesting. However when we get down to the park buildings and the lake we find that really nothing is going on. A couple of weeks ago they had an accident here where a boat on the lake sank with the loss of twenty  lives. The park was closed for a while and now it’s re-opened. Nothing is happening however. No boat trips, no hikes and certainly no three day Tiger Trek which is what we were hoping to do. It’s all a bit disappointing.

The lake at the Tiger Reserve at Periyar, Kerala, India
The lake at the Tiger Reserve at Periyar, Kerala, India
Unknown primate at Kumily, Periyar, Kerala, India
Unknown primate at Kumily, Periyar, Kerala, India

We go in the park hotel for a cup of tea and watch the monkeys clambering about the place. Surprisingly quite a few Indian tourists are about but all they seem to want to do is get off the bus, look at the view and get back on the bus. Their is nothing to do here! We take a rickshaw back to town.

Unknown moth at Kumily, Periyar, Kerala, India
Unknown moth at Kumily, Periyar, Kerala, India

In the evening we have dinner at the Green View which is a major disappointment. We sit in a windowless dingy room and have boiled rice with boiled vegetables. We are too listless to do anything in the evening except to go for a desultory walk and confirm to ourselves that not a lot can be done in this town. You can buy spices if you want. The only sign of life is the effort the spice shops make to sell you some cardamon or something.

On the terrace we drink beer and look for football on the TV.

Night Walk in the Tiger Reserve

India; October 21st; Day 30; Periyar

We have breakfast at our hostel. It’s not very good. We idle away the day trying to figure out something to do around here. Not much is the answer. We can’t find anyone offering any trekking or hiking and the mountain bike place has stopped offering the 3 day bike ride we saw in a brochure. It was hoped that we could ride bikes to Munnar but we can’t so we decide that we’ll take a taxi instead. Ir’s only about 10 times the price of the bus but it’s quicker and we’ll be able to stop along the way where we want. In any case it means we are getting out of this place.

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The only thing we can find to do is a night walk through the Periyar Tiger Reserve it starts at 7pm tonight.

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Just down the road from where we are staying we find a good place for lunch. The Coconut Garden. The young boys that are running it seem to be keen and enthusiastic. They don’t even mind serving us beer. We idle away the afternoon reading on the terrace.

At the park gates at shortly before 7pm we watch a couple of boys kicking a football around. We hang around for half-an-hour before our Guide turns up and walks us into the park where we wait some more. Finally at 7.45 an armed guard turns up and we can go. Apparently we need the guard in case we come across tigers. We are given sackcloth bootees to put on underneath our boots. This is our protection against what? We don’t really know. As an added protection the guide puts tobacco dust on our boots too.

Eventually we stumble off into the darkness. We are out walking until about 10pm and see quite a few things; Sambar Deer, Barking Deer (Muntjac), some large Flying Fox Fruit Bats (Dog-faced), which are roosting, and a huge Indian Crested Porcupine. It’s a bit creepy shining our torches through the darkness and glimpsing the creatures of the night but it’s fun. We don’t see any tigers.

When we leave the park we make a half-hearted attempt to find somewhere to eat. But hardly a soul stirs in the sleepy town. So we just go to bed.

Taxi to Munnar

From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India
From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India

India; October 22nd; Day 31; Munnar

To avoid breakfast at the Green View we walk down the street to the Coconut Garden. The young boys had assured that they would be open ay 8. But no one was there. So we strolled back to Chrissie’s and ordered eggs and porridge. The eggs came first!

Our taxi arrives on time and we leave we se the lads from the Coconut Garden. They only laugh when we tell them that they missed our breakfast. The taxi ride takes about four hours as it winds over the hills through tea plantation country. Some of them look very smart with Poinsettia hedges and Tulip trees in flower amongst the tea. The reds and the greens are very striking together.

From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India
From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India

When the road rises over a pass we stop for a photo opportunity. The views are spectacular if a little hazy. We don’t realise it but we will be back here tomorrow morning for a sunrise hike.

From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India
From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India

On arriving in town we cross over the bridge and head for the old town which is separated by about a mile from the new town. We find ourselves a place to stay which is also called Green View. After checking in we wander into town and meander around the market. Because we have organised an early morning hike tomorrow and because Keith has no walking shoes (they were ruined after the Himalayas) we potter around and buy some cheap replacements. Our guide book mentions the High Range Club where you can get a drink. The only problem is you need to look smart. We don’t! In any case we decide to give it a go and take an auto-rickshaw out there. It’s a couple of miles out of town.

Frpm the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India
From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India

When we get there we try and get in but the doorman is not convinced and when he gets the manager it becomes clear that we are not welcome. It’s ironic as this used to be a colonial place for the British only. Indian members have been allowed only since independence in 1947. We are sent on our way and walk back into town.

From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India
From the road from Periyar to Munnar, Kerala, India

All is not lost however as our hostel is civilised enough to sell beer and we sit upstairs on the terrace reading and drinking the ubiquitous Kingfisher. We meet a couple of Aussies and later, in the evening, stroll down to the corner to a canteen style restaurant and have a good meal.

Dawn Hike

Dawn above Munnar, Kerala, India
Dawn above Munnar, Kerala, India

India; October 23rd; Day 32; Munnar

We are up at 5pm to set off on our early morning hike. It’s just me and Keith and a guide. It’s about a 13km jeep ride back to the pass where we came over yesterday and we are dropped off just as the sun begins to rise. I’m a bit disappointed as I would have liked to have been on the top when the sun began to rise. No matter it’s good to be about.

Trek: 4hrs 5mins starting at 6.10
Low: 1784 at 10.15
High: 2281 at 7.46
Descent: 6181m
Ascent: 498

Dawn above Munnar, Kerala, India
Dawn above Munnar, Kerala, India

It takes about 2 hours to reach the top as the sun comes over the ranges behind us. The path is quite clear though we have to scramble up some bare rock faces at times. They are not too steep. Although it’s hazy the views are good all round.

Me and Keith and guide above Munnar, Kerala, India
Me and Keith and guide above Munnar, Kerala, India

At the top our guide produces a flask of coffee, some egg sandwiches and some fruit and we sit in the sun having our breakfast. It’s unfortunate that we have to descend the way we had come but now that the sun is up I am diverted by the many butterflies and dragonflies about. There are also plenty of interesting wild flowers about and we are told that this is quite an unusual micro-climate and ecosystem up here. Whilst at the top we are surprised to see a troop of monkeys clambering over the rocks. We are also privileged to see the Nilgiri Tahr which is endemic to this area. It’s a type of mountain goat a bit like the European Ibex.

Above Munnar, Kerala India
Above Munnar, Kerala India

The descent is very pleasant in the warm sunshine and we take our time. When we reach our starting point our guide telephones for the jeep and whilst we are waiting we walk down the road towards Munnar and enjoy the views over the tea plantations. In retrospect I think we could have walked all the way home through the tea,. But we didn’t and arrived back at the hostel about 11.

We strolled into town to try and get a second breakfast but we didn’t have much luck and ended up having scrambled eggs in a fancy hotel.

Above Munnar, Kerala, India
Above Munnar, Kerala, India

As has become customary we spent the afternoon reading and tried not to start on the Kingfishers too early. We would be leaving Kerala tomorrow and entering Tamil Nadu. This meant that our Kerala Lonely Planet was useless. Fortunately Keith was able to lift an old guide book to South India from the hostels library!

We went to the same place for dinner as it didn’t seem worth the effort to try and find somewhere else. The food here is good anyway even if it’s always chicken.Dawn above Munnar, Kerala, IndiaDawn above Munnar, Kerala, IndiaAbove Munnar, Kerala India

Flower on our dawn walk above  Munnar, Kerala, Indiahouse_20091023_D_049997Flower on our dawn walk above  Munnar, Kerala, India

Flower on our dawn walk above Munnar, Kerala, India
Flower on our dawn walk above Munnar, Kerala, India
Glassy Tiger (Parantica aglea)  on our dawn walk above Munnar, Kerala, India
Glassy Tiger (Parantica aglea) on our dawn walk above Munnar, Kerala, India
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Common Lime Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) on our dawn walk above Munnar, Kerala, India
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Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia) on our dawn walk above Munnar, Kerala, India

Into Tamil Nadu

India; October 24th; Day 33; Mettupalayam

Yesterday we had managed to figure out how to get to the Nilgiri Mountain Railway which runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty. We were aiming for Coonoor which is the stop before Ooty. It would take us two days.

We learnt that a bus left for Coimbatore at 6.30am from the end of the street so we got up early and waited. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to figure out where a bus is going. The front sign is normally in Hindi or Malayam (around here) and the English is invariably on the side of the bus only. We waved down a couple of buses first and then waited some more. The locals who were opening up their stalls assured us we were in the right place. Our bus did arrive and we were treated to a five minute ride into the new town where it stopped and waited for half an hour! Time enough to get a cup of tea.

The six hour ride passed by quite quickly helped by intermittent dozing. The first four hours or so was quite picturesque as we again passed through tea country. More Poinsettias and flowering red Tulip Trees. The last two hours were spent driving along a main highway along a dry dusty valley with cactus and strange trees.

At Coimbatore we had to find another bus to Mettupalayam. This took some effort to figure but eventually we were assured that if we jumped on this local cross-town bus it would take us to the correct bus station. It did. We had a short cramped and dizzy run through the town. At the other end we locate the bus we need and an hour later we arrive in Mettupalayam. Outside the bus station we stagger across the street and find a place to stay. It’s a bit decrepit but the rooms are large and we have a TV. I’m convinced that we can watch Man Utd against Liverpool tonight but it turns out that that is tomorrow. We watch Spurs instead.

For lunch we find ourselves a place to eat which looks very much like a fast food place. Amazingly many of the dishes are served on a banana leaf and eaten with the fingers. We get something else and eat with a knife and fork. It’s not bad.

We do get ourselves outside and walk down to the Railway Station. This is a terminus for the mainline but also the starting point for the mountain railway. We manage to buy Reserve Tickets for 240 rupees for the two of us. The train leaves at 7.30 but we are advised to be there at 6. Its a bit confusing as I think these tickets merely allow us to queue up for the real tickets!

In the evening we wander around a bit. We are not so hungry so when we find that the local grocery store makes and sells pizzas we decide to sit down and stay. The pizza is about as big as a tea saucer. the fresh fruit drinks are good though.  The local wine shop (which is what the off-license is called even though they don’t sell wine) is just around the corner from the hotel. We get some beers and watch TV.

India 2009 Part 6

Snow-Blindness and Dissent

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki

India; October 10th; Day 19; Chauki; 3696m

Trek: 3hrs 33mins starting at 11.00
Low: 3700m at 14.40
High: 4555m at 11.08
Descent: 931m
Ascent: 96m

Woke up before 6 desperate for a pee. Staggered out and staggered back. It’s freezing out there. Half an hour later I went out again to take some photographs. It’s still bitterly cold so I went back to bed with frozen hands. I lay in bed a long time but eventually got up shortly before the sun reached the tents. It seems to be quiet all around the campsite.

Maiali P naar Masar Tal gletcher
The glacier from Marsar Tal
On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
From the camp at Marsar Tal
The campsite at Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
The campsite at Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
The campsite at Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
The campsite at Marsar Tal
The campsite at Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
Breakfast at Marsar Tal
From the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Lateral moraine and glacier from the Marsar Tal campsite

Keith was, unusually, not about and it turns out he had snow blindness and very painful eyes. We later find out that half a dozen of the porters are also afflicted and are in a lot of discomfort. Everyone clubs together to find some eye-drops to help out. We don’t have much but every little helps.

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki
Masar Tal naar Chauki
On the descent to Chauki

All these problems lead to plenty of discussions about how we should proceed. Many of the porters are favouring having a rest day so they can recuperate. Keith however is determined to continue as are all of us.

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki
On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki

It takes a long time for breakfast to be prepared but at least that gives us plenty of time to dry out the tents and our gear. We had a smattering of snow fall during the night. After some discussion it is agreed that the party will split into two and that we, with sufficient porters, will go down to Chauki, whilst the others will take a rest day and come down tomorrow. It’s not clear when we will rejoin one another! In the end this doesn’t happen and everyone comes down to Chauki today. It’s not a long hike today and it will get us down below the snow to a warmer altitude.

Trail to Chauki
On the trail to Chauki
On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki

Keith and I get fed up of hanging around and decide to go. We will take out our own tents and sleeping bags and enough snacks to keep us going. In our haste we forget to switch my clumsy black bag for Keith’s bag which can convert to a rucksack. Keith is carrying the most as we set off and it must be uncomfortable.

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki

It’s 11am when we finally get going along a rocky traverse. After a while the trail becomes difficult to follow and we rely on a few far and between cairns. We are sure of the direction though as we head down into the valley below which seem to have green patches on either side which may be our destination.

Chauki, Uttarakhand, India
On the trail to Chauki

Sometimes the way is earthy and grassy but mostly it’s a rocky scramble. Several times we had to climb down and then out of rocky ravines which are filled with loose stone. It’s dangerous as the stones are easily loosed and then often come bouncing down around us.

We follow a ridge for a while before descending to cross a small river. On the other side we see a trail going up. We try it but it seems to peter out so we abandon it and take a lower route. We find out later that this is the way the porters went. But it made no real difference. Instead we follow another ridge and another path. Ahead we notice a green swathe above a cliff with a glacial river running below. We convince ourselves that this must be Chauki.

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
On the trail to Chauki

The ridge finishes and we descend to cross another stream before climbing up a cliff to grassy meadow above. We don’t think it can be the campsite though as their is no litter or any evidence of fire. Looking back we can’t see anyone following us. We decide to wait here for the others to catch up just in case this is the place or perhaps we should be on the other side of the river!

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
Crossing a stream: Keith with the wrong bag! The pass we had crossed behind us.

After a while we are ‘hallooed’ and we can see the others on a high track in the distance. That’s the trail we ignored. They arrive within half an hour with several porters. They say that Chauki is another hour further down.

Me and Keith then leave, whilst the others take a break, and we take the comfortable grassy trail down the hill. The trail gradually meanders down to the river bed which we follow for a while whilst occasionally going up and down the small cliff on the river’s edge. Eventually we reach a grassy area which is obviously the campsite. It’s filthy with litter and in one area disgusting with human excrement. Extremely unpleasant. The views however are spectacular with huge mountains all around.

On the trail to Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
Following the glacial stream down to Chauki

We laze around until everyone else arrives and set up our tents as the sun disappeared over the horizon.

Again we are having problems with the disposition of the porters. Jim has a meeting with our guide Ajay. They are discussing our route which is supposed to take us over another pass, at 4700m, and another 4 or 5 days trekking to return us to our start point at Malla. The porters are not keen to go in this direction and want to take an escape route which would take us down the valley to Ghuttu; a trek of three days. Ajay is of the opinion that that the recent snow falls would make the pass dangerous and he’s also concerned about the well-being of some of the porters.

We will have to contact the base in New Delhi to inform them where we are so that the bus can pick us up at Ghuttu for the drive back to Delhi via Rishikesh. However we will not be able to make contact until we reach Ghuttu.

At the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19
At the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 19

Sitting by the fire we all get together to discuss the options and consequences. We agree to make the best of a bad job and conclude that we shall not go over the pass to Malla but return to Ghuttu. We take into account that Jan is still suffering from his bad leg and has done incredibly well to get this far. We also realise that many of the new porters that joined us in Kedarnath are under-equipped. Some are still suffering from the after effects of snow-blindness and it’s even more obvious that many of them are not that bothered and have been causing trouble almost every day. It’s a great pity as our first porters were hired in Malla and we had hoped to complete our circular route back to their home. They will have to continue alone from Ghuttu in one direction whilst the Gauri Kund porters will go in the opposite direction. It’s 3 or 4 days travel for each group.

Personally I am disappointed as the high passes are the highlight of the trip and it’s a waste to come all this way and not do it. I really liked the idea of finishing where we started too.

After all these discussion we have dinner in the Mess tent as it begins to snow again. It’ll be cold here tonight but nowhere near as cold as the previous nights.


Preparing to Bivouac

From the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Moraines and hanging glacier from the Chauki campsite

India; October 11th; Day 20; Kalyani; 2714m

Trek: 8hrs 7mins starting at 10.02
Low: 2714m at 18.07
High: 3683m at 10.05
Descent: 1501m
Ascent: 546m

Today was a beautiful walk – if long. And we should have started earlier, but we waited and waited until the sun had reached our tents and dried them off before starting. We had breakfast outside and enjoyed the warmth of the sun. It makes such a difference to everyone’s well-being and mood!

From the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
The campsite at Chauki
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Porters get a breakfast fire going

Before breakfast I had wandered around taking some shots and I was the last to leave the camp when we finally got going.

From the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Lateral moraines and a hanging glacier from the Chauki campsite: I think we were supposed to go up there. Disappointed.
From the campsite at Chauki, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Panorama from the campsite at Chauki

Almost immediately we reached the tree-line. As always the first trees are bent and twisted by the wind and often photogenic. James and I spent so much time messing around with cameras that we missed a fork in a trail and almost went the wrong way.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Jim and Jan on the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Jim and Jan on the trail to Kalyani
On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
A porter waits
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Adriana and porters
Adriana on the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Adriana on the trail
On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
On the trail high above the river
Adriana and Jan on the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Adriana and Jan on the trail to Kalyani

The porters were whistling us from far away and we had to backtrack a bit to find the fork. It wasn’t obvious where this trail was so we just bushwhacked our way across the bush in the general direction of the porters in the distance. We could see that there was a river to cross and Keith and some of the porters were waiting at a very precarious bridge. Keith was patiently waiting so that he could video us crossing the bridge but even then he had to wait longer as James continued to mess around!

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Precarious river crossing

Once on the other side it was quite a stiff climb up the other side and I couldn’t believe how breathless I was. I think it was the lack of porridge for breakfast that made me feel so lacklustre too. Fortunately one of the porters held back to ensure that I didn’t straggle too far nor lose the trail. It was a couple of hours before I felt comfortable. Maybe it was the altitude or maybe it was the disappointment of abandoning the high route.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
River or bridge?

The whole route today was photogenic and I spent a lot of time taking shots. It turned out therefore that I spent much of the day walking alone. It’s a fabulous feeling imagining that you have the wilderness and the world to yourself.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
High above the river on the trail to Kalyani

This first part of the trail was following a river valley down, but the trail itself was traversing high above the river itself. from time to time the trail descended into gullies where we had to cross side-streams and then clamber up the other side. We descended through many woods too. First Birches, then hardwoods, then Rhododendrons and then Bamboos. The shade here was very welcome. Unbelievably we still had some uphill stretches to deal with and some places where we had to scramble over landslips.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
The trail goes down to the river

Eventually the trail descended right down to the river and continued along the river bed. I had glimpsed Keith and James ahead of me a few times and now I saw Keith again. I waved, he waved and then he waited for me to catch up. James was nowhere in sight. We then walked together for the rest of the day.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Looking back at a rainbow in the valley

Soon the trail left the river and climbed the bank. It started gently raining as we passed into the mossy green darkness of a forest Looking back we could see a rainbow. from time to time the trail climbed up to empty meadows before falling back into the woods.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20
Keith tests out another bridge

Once again the trail came back down to the river and we crossed another rickety bridge to a place with a shack and a Temple. Nobody was around. We followed the river bed again for a while before crossing our 3rd bridge of the day The trail then disappeared into the woods again and we spent a little while taking the wrong fork before clambering up to rejoin the proper trail. The trail went on and on and up and down until we began to wonder if we would reach our destination before dark. We were thinking that it starts to get dark about 6 but that we should perhaps think about stopping at 5 so that we could find a place and get a fire prepared. We had no tents or sleeping bags with us.

It’s possible we thought that we’d gone too far or taken a wrong turn. We also thought that James and the Cook and Maneesh were somewhere in front of us.

As the day lengthened we began to keep an eye for likely spots to bivouac for the night and at 5.15 we found the perfect spot. It was just before the fourth bridge, underneath a huge rock with a nice sandy spot beneath. It was next to the main river with plenty of driftwood for fire and also next to a side-stream for fresh water.

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Steve at our impromptu fire

We had enough clothes and food and we had the ability to make fire. Soon enough we had a lovely fire going and a huge pile of driftwood to keep us going through the night. We were just settling down, after about 40 minutes, when Keith was shocked by the sudden appearance of our oldest porter appearing above the rocks behind us. He was wearing his familiar coon-skin hat and was dangling a headless bird in one hand. He was laughing and cackling like mad. He was also amused at our endeavour and told us that the campsite was another hour down the trail.

Reluctantly we got our stuff together and left our fire to burn out in the sand. I’d rather been looking forward to spending a night in the wild, but now we had to finish our walk at the darkness crept in. The last hour was a bit of and up and down slog through a gloomy forest. It was just about dark when we arrived.

Jan and Jim and Adriana were still behind us somewhere as were several of the porters. We managed to set u pour tents in the dark and as soon as it got really dark our guide Ajay got 4 porters together to go back up the trail and find them.

It turned out that they had reached a fork in the trail at about 6 and not being sure of the direction had just sat down and waited. They waited for an hour and a half in the dark before they were found and it wasn’t until 8.30 that they straggled into camp. We of course had been sat around the fire keeping warm

Dinner, though late, was enjoyed by everyone, and all seemed to be in a good mood after our various adventures. This was probably aided by the fact that Jim produced a bottle of Brandy ahead of his birthday tomorrow.


Mystics and no Cake

From the campsite at Kalgani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
The campsite at Kalyani

India; October 12th; Day 21; Rees; 2158m

Trek: 6hrs 15mins starting at 9.28
Low: 2165m at 15.41
High: 2735m at 11.11
Descent: 1079m
Ascent: 537m

Today was mostly a descent through farmland and small villages and the trail was hard and rocky and sore on the feet.

The campsite at Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
The campsite at Kalyani
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Keeping warm at Kalyani

For the first hour I walked with Keith but he left me as he intends to do a double day and get down to Ghuttu. Maneesh will attempt to do this too. The idea is that then they can contact base in Delhi and arrange for our pick up in Ghuttu rather than Malla.

On the trail to Kalyani, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 20At a landslip I meet a road crew who are fixing the trail. It’s here that I meet an old man who is travelling the same way as me. I passed them but later when I stopped in a forest he caught up with me. In exchange for an apple and some chocolate he allowed me to take a few portraits.

A fellow traveller on the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
A fellow traveller on the trail to Rees
On the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Looking back on the trail to Rees
Portraits,  on the way to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Porter portrait, on the way to Rees
Adriana and Jan on the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Adriana and Jan on the trail to Rees
The village of Ganga on the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
The village of Ganga on the trail to Rees

At the small village of Ganga James caught up with me as we walked through the very picturesque and well maintained place. It was very noticeable that it had no litter unlike most villages. The Cook and our guide Ajay also passed us here and I took some shots of them too, though they were very reticent.

On the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Cannabis garden on the way to Rees
Portraits on the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
This chap welcomed us into his home for a cup of tea

Shortly after this James and I came to a small house with a beautifully flowered garden. A child appeared and asked us for sweets and then above our heads a mystic appeared and asked us in for tea. At first we were reluctant but then we changed our minds and went in. Part of the attraction was that I’d noticed some huge cannabis plants interspersed amongst the flowers in his garden. We spent a very pleasant 40 minutes sitting shoeless in his small temple. We talked about India and in particular the development in the Himalayas. Roads, Dams and Forestry. We had our tea and admired his Dahlias, Gladiolus and Margaritas etc. As we left he asked if we had any medicines to spare and I gave him some headache tablets and pain-killers. He then offered to sell us a bag of grass which I purchased for a few rupees. It was no good to me though as I had no cigarette papers and no chance of getting any! I threw the stuff away on returning to Delhi!

Portraits on the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Villager on the way down to Rees
On the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
On the trail to Rees
On the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
On the trail to Rees
On the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
a village on the trail to Rees
On the trail to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Looking down on Rees

James soon left me when we got back on the trail and I spent the rest of the day walking and ambling alone. It was hot and the trail was stony and sore. The trail also went up from time to time and this was annoying as well as tiring. Eventually the trail descended into the small village of Rees where I found James and the porters waiting at a dirty and tired old Rest House. This is where we will stay tonight.

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At dinner we were supposed to have had Jim’s birthday cake but Adriana had given it to the cook to bring out as a surprise but instead he’d accepted it as a gift and presumably shared it out with the Porters! Wonderful. Instead we had baked apples and custard for dessert and some of the brandy that was left from yesterday. Not so bad then.


The Last Leg

On the trail to Ghuttu, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 22
On the trail to Ghuttu

India; October 13th; Day 22; Ghuttu; 1680m

Trek: 2hrs 44mins starting at 7.38
Low: 1657m at 10.18
High: 21458m at 7.38
Descent: 694m
Ascent: 207m

I woke up at about 6 and expected tea around 7. Nothing materialised so I got fed up hanging around and left for Ghuttu before breakfast. In any case I was wondering where Keith was and whether or not he, and Maneesh, had managed to get to Ghuttu yesterday.

The trail was in the shadow of the valley at first as it went down through woods and small meadows. I was a little bit concerned as to whether I was on the right track as the trail was overgrown in many places. I did reach a junction after a while and was then more confident that I was going the right way. In any case I was following the river downstream so I figured it could only be correct. The trail went up and down in farm country until the trail finally came down to the rivers edge.

Jan takes a break on the trail to Ghuttu, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 22
Jan takes a break on the trail to Ghuttu

It was just along here though that I got baulked. They were building a road high above the river and I could hear the diggers above and see huge rocks being toppled down the cliff to the river. I didn’t dare move down stream any further. I could see and hear huge boulders bouncing down, smashing trees on the way, and hurtling into the river. I retreated a little way and found a path climbing the cliff. I started up this but was halted by the screams of the workers above and more rocks bouncing down in my direction. I retreated again and decided to wait for the others to catch up before deciding what to do.

I sat down by the trail and started to read my book when after about half an hour or so a group of lads appeared. I told them what was happening but they seemed confident of getting past. I followed them up the trail I’d abandoned before and they managed to shout up to the workers and get the digger to stop whilst we clambered up.

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Leeches, Delhi Belly and Snow-blindness will do this to you

The last 5km or so was along the new road being built. It was a dull dusty trudge. Looking down I could see the new dam being built. I eventually rolled into town and wound my way back to the Guest House we had stayed in almost two weeks ago. After some wrangling at reception I found the room where Keith and Maneesh were. They had got down to Ghuttu yesterday and managed to contact our base in Delhi. After a brief chat and a long shower we went back into town for breakfast. We managed to find a small shop run by a couple of boys who managed to rustle up an omelette sandwich for us.

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Adriana meets some fellow travellers on the trail to Ghuttu

After a short walk through the town we sat in the sun and had a couple of cokes. It’s still impossible to buy a bottle of water in this place. We then strolled back to the Guest House and whiled away the afternoon waiting for everyone else to come down.

Ghuttu uitdelen tipgelden
The Porters are paid and we give our thanks for their efforts

In the evening, at about 5pm, all the porters came together to collect their tips and receive out thanks. Those from Gauri Kund would have a 2 day walk home from here but those that started with us from the beginning face a 4 day walk home. They would leave the following morning.

The cook made our final dinner of the trip and Jim and I consoled ourselves by finishing off the brandy. It’s hard to believe we’ve come to the end of our trek and it still rankles a bit that we didn’t complete our original route back to Malla. We now face the long drag back to Delhi. At least Keith and I can look forward to continuing our trip to India. We are going to Kerala for a couple of weeks before returning home.


Ajay, our guide, on the way to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Ajay, our guide
Surosh, our cook  on the way to Rees, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 21
Surosh, our cook
Bulbeer, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Bulbeer, one of our porters
Rakesh, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Rakesh, one of our porters
Pram, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Pram, one of our porters
Pankaj,  our youngest porter, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Pankaj, our youngest porter
Shambu, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Shambu, one of our porters
Ramesh, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Ramesh, one of our porters
Atar one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Atar, one of our porters
Sanju, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Sanju, one of our porters
Pardeep, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Pardeep, one of our porters
Neraj, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Neraj, one of our porters
Ramesh, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Ramesh, one of our porters
Bhaee Phador, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Bhaee Phador, one of our porters
Bahagaan, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Bahagaan, one of our porters
Bachan, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Bachan, one of our porters
Naryan, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Naryan, one of our porters
Kushpal, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Kushpal, one of our porters
Gajmohan, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Gajmohan, one of our porters
Janake, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Janake, one of our porters
Bhata, one of our porters, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Bhata, one of our porters
Padam, our oldest porter, at Ghuttu on our last day.
Padam, our oldest porter
India2009TrekRoute
The Trek Route: Malla via Ghuttu and Panwali Kantha to Gaurikund and Kedernath. Then over the top via Vasaki Tal, the Masar Pass and Masar Tal to Chauki. Then down the valley back to Ghuttu.
India2009TrekMap
Another version of the Trek Route: our orginal intention was to go from Kalyani up to Sahastra Tal and return to Mala

 

India 2009 Part 5

In which we climb over the Masar Pass at 5011m above the snow-line. First we leave Kedarnath and climb up to the Vasuki Tal (a lake). The view are spectacular. The next day we aim for another lake: Masar Tal, but we run out of time and camp in the snow just below the pass. It’s dramatic the next day as we struggle over the pass and descend over a glacier to Masar Tal.

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On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16 In the middle foreground is the glacier head at Kedarnath which is revered as the source of the Ganges (one of them anyway!)

India; October 7th; Day 16; Vasuki Tal; 4287m

Trek: 4hrs 35mins starting at 8.57
Low: 3606m at 09.00
High: 4527m at 12.39
Descent: 292m
Ascent: 956m

We have heard this morning that the new porters hired yesterday have gone back down to Gauri Kund and that out guide Ajay has left this morning at 4am to retrieve them or to hire replacements. Nobody has any idea of what happened or why they would have done that. We however are determined to carry on regardless as are the porters we already have. It’s a beautiful morning anyway.

On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
On the trail to Vasuki Tal. Keith gives me a hand crossing this stream.
On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
The distant mountains above Kedarnath
On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
Me and Keith take a breather on the way to Vasuki Tal

Keith and I set off only having a rough idea of where the trail head is, though we know which direction to take. In an attempt to take a short cut we find that we have to cross a stream at a waterfall to reach the trail proper. Keith gives me a hand across and we find the trail which zigzags steeply up to the pass.

On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
Some parts of the trail are well made
On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
The cloud obscures the view

From time to time we look back in an attempt to see if the others are coming the same way. There are many butterflies about; a Clouded Yellow, a Tortoiseshell and many many Fritillaries. the views down to Kedarnath and of the mountains all around are superb. As we climb the Rhododendrons become smaller until we are above the tree-line altogether. Eventually we could spot others on the trail below us and a couple of the porters caught us up.

The trail continued to climb and Keith went on ahead as I slowed down. he was waiting for me at the pass although this turned out not to be the high point. As usual in the afternoons the cloud rolled in and we could no longer see the mountains around us. We then walked to the real pass and surveyed our descent beyond.

On the trail to Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
Vasuki Tal itself

It was a steep descent and I again lingered to take photographs by a small lake. Eventually the lake of Vasuki Tal came into view though I could see no one else or any evidence of where the campsite might be. I walked down to the shore and then presumed that the trail went around the left bank to the far end. I didn’t see anyone else until I was almost on top of them as I crossed the stream leaving the lake on stepping stones.

At Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
Vasuk Tal: now where is the camp site?

We had a long wait here for all our stuff to arrive and unbelievably some of the porters left again to go back and get some more loads. They had no idea if Ajay had been successful in getting more porters or not. It was after dark when Ajay arrived with the new porters. Fortunately our camping gear had arrived before this and we were able to set up camp. It was difficult to find a level spot though and it turned out to be an uncomfortable night for me.

At Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
Setting up camp at Vasuki Tal

 

The campsite at Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 16
Looking down on the camp at Vasuki Tal

About his time it started to hail and snow too so we had dinner inside the Mess tent.

It was a good hike today and it felt good to be back on the trail after two nights in Kedarnath. But we are obviously concerned about the Porter situation. We will see how things are in the morning. You have to think that Ajay walked the 14km down to Gauri Kund and then 14km back up and then did the trail we’ve done too. And the new porters have had a double day, and some of our regular porters went back to fetch more gear and so walked the trail three times! Unbelievable. We will see what the mood is like tomorrow.

Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Cairns at the campsite at Vasuki Tal

India; October 8th; Day 17; Masar Pass; 4899m

Trek: 5hrs 47mins starting at 9.01
Low: 4267m at 09.03
High: 4959m at 13.34
Descent: 116m
Ascent: 721m

Keith and I left first and traversed across a rocky mountainside before bearing right to follow stream. The trail is not very clear but the direction is obvious. Up! After a steep climb we follow another stream before scrambling over a boulder patch.

From the campsite at Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
From the campsite at Vasuki Tal
Keith and James breaking camp at Vasuki Tal whilst Steve's tent is drying
Keith and James breaking camp at Vasuki Tal whilst Steve’s tent is drying
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Jim and Keith breaking camp at Vasuki Tal, with Jan and Steve
Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Reflections at Vasuki Tal
Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Cairns, a lake and a drift of snow
Vasuki Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Packing up camp at Vasuki Tal

 We have reached the snow line now. At the top of this we broke into a snow filled valley and had good views of the mountains all around. As I walked across the pristine snow I slipped and slid down the slope and lost a lens cap. I didn’t notice right then but fortunately I do have a spare.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
On the trail to the Masar Pass
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Looking back to Vasuki Tal as we climb
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
On the trail to the Masar Pass

The way undulated for a while before rising to a point where a group of porters gathered. It transpired that they weren’t sure of the route and were waiting for instructions. It looked to us that the pass lay to the right and Keith and forged on this way (which turned out to be incorrect) until we reached 5000m. We hung around here, not wanting to go out of sight, but we were eventually called back.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Reaching the snow-line
Jim contemplates on the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Jim contemplates on the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
The porters on the trail to the Masar Pass
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
On the trail to the Masar Pass

It was all a bit chaotic. Apparently three porters had defected this morning and in the confusion back at camp Ajay had to organize that some of the remainder would have to do two trips again. It was cold hanging about waiting for everyone to get together but eventually it was decided that we would abandon the attempt at getting to Masar Tal today and camp here in the snow. This was probably just as well as it turned out to be a long and arduous trek the next day.

Camping Maiali P
We’ll have to camp here! Below the Masar Pass.
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Setting up camp below the Masar Pass

We had to pitch our tents on deep snow but at least we found a flat place, although I believe that we were camped right over a frozen stream! The views all around were superb but as usual the clouds rolled in later in the day. It was cold alright but we were well wrapped up.

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Strange plant in the snow
Campsite under the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 17
Campsite under the pass to Marsar Tal
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Steve, Keith and cook having dinner inside

For something to do Keith and I visited the Mess tent where dinner was being prepared and they kindly allowed us to sit in the tent whilst they prepared dinner. Cosy. We had our dinner here whilst the rest had dinner delivered to their tents!

As we tramped back to our tents the snow began to fall. It looks like we night be buried in the stuff tonight but at least we are no danger from avalanches. This is the highest I’ve ever camped but this is what we came for and it’s strangely exciting. We are still concerned about the Porters though.

From the campsite below the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Dawn from the campsite below the pass to Marsar Tal
From the campsite below the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Dawn from the campsite below the pass to Marsar Tal

India; October 9th; Day 18; Masar Tal; 4568m

Trek: 5hrs 47mins starting at 9.01
Low: 4568m at 15.04
High: 5011m at 10.40
Descent: 621m
Ascent: 298m

Woke up at 6,10 this morning after hearing James moving about. We all camped closely together yesterday! I stuck my head out of the tent to see a snowy world and an orange bar on the sunrise horizon. I quickly dressed and grabbed my camera and tripod and clambered out. It was bitterly cold and I only managed a few shots before retreating to my sleeping bag for another hour. It took this long to get my hands and feet warm again!

Camping Maiali P
Camping at the Masar Pass
Camping Maiali P
Dawn at the camping at the Masar Pass
Camping Maiali P
Early morning at the camping at the Masar Pass
The campsite before the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Breaking camp

Fortunately the sun reached our tents early and this warmed us up too as well as drying out the tent itself. As we usually do we had breakfast sitting outside and marveled at the spectacular view all around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
James, Keith, Jim, Adrioan, Jan and Steve having a sunny breakfast at the campsite below the Masar Pass
The campsite before the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Looking back at the campsite before the pass to Marsar Tal
Maiali P naar Masar Tal
Breaking camp below the Masar Pass
Maiali P naar Masar Tal
On the trail over the Masar Pass to Masar Tal

As we were packing up a delegation of porters came down to see us and tell us that they didn’t want to go over the pass. These were mostly the new porters from Kedarnath and Gauri Kund. They are very young too and probably not as experienced as our guys from Malla who have been with us for two weeks or so. We go and see our guide Ajay and persuade them, tell them, that we are continuing. none of us can bear the thought of returning to Kedarnath and this part of the trek is the highlight of the whole trip. Once we are over the pass then it’s clear that they will not want to return this way and will be keener to continue down on the other side.

On the trail to the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to the pass to Marsar Tal
On the trail to the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Keith on the slippery slope above the camp

It turned out though that almost immediately after we were all packed and ready to go that we ran into difficulties. The fresh snow from last night was lying on frozen ice and it made walking up the slightest incline was difficult and dangerous. Keith managed to creep his way up the first slope and helped to plant an ice-axe to which we attached a rope. Everyone was then able to use the rope to assist them upwards. Once we were up here then the trail was easier and mostly just gently undulated up to the pass.

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Using a rope to get up the steep slope
On the trail to the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Looking back
On the trail to the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
James, Jan and Jum making it up the slope
From the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
From the Marsar Pass
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
View from the Masar Pass
On the trail to the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
At least this porter is smiling
At the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Adriana, Keith, Jan and Jim at the Pass – about 5000m

The scenery all around us was gorgeous as we made our way towards the pass at just over 5000m. It had taken us just short of two hours. At the pass we waited for the whole party to get together again before continuing. Our oldest porter produced a bag of coconut pieces as an offering and a blessing. Our new and younger porters now seemed to be in good spirits.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Steve, Jan, Adriana, James, jim and Keith at the Masar Pass with the porters
At the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
The porters take a break at the pass to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18

Almost immediately after we started our descent on the other side we came to paces where we had to use the rope again to help us down. Twice we fixed a line for this and a third time it was so steep we decided to individually belay everyone down one at a time. i went first and was astounded when two porters grabbed the rope and started sliding down. I yelled at them as they were pulling me out of line – I was aiming for what seemed a safe spot – and they let go and slid down, packs and all, so finish sprawled at my feet. We were now on the edge of a snow-covered glacier and we had to cross this to reach the valley side opposite. We have to avoid using the glacier to continue now for fear of crevasses but we have to cross somewhere. The porters seem to have no fear and they stride off across the pristine and glistening snow. I untie myself and follow.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Starting down
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Heading towards the glacier
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Descending to the glacier on the way to Masar Tal

It was a nice easy walk across the glacier and Keith soon caught up with me. He too had had some shenanigans on the belay rope. We heard later that Jim had put his foot down and instructed the porters to behave. It took quite a while for everyone to get down and when I looked back I could see the group huddled at the top of the rope for quite a while.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Hiking above a glacier on the way to Masar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Glacier and mountains
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Looking back
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
This way?
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal

After crossing the glacier the trail traversed along the valley’s edge. The slope was steep and it made progress very slow. It was then that we were surprised to notice another party coming in the opposite direction. That meant we could join up to the trail they had cut (and vice-versa) and save ourselves some work. keith cut some steps in the snow so that we could get up to their traverse. They where an Indian trekking group carrying full packs and several of them seemed to be struggling. A number of packs had been put down and the guides were helping the stragglers across and then going back for the packs. We chatted for a while and then continued on our following the trail they had made.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Looking back at our trail across the glacier

After a brief stop for some lunch we continued as the trail climbed until it finally reached a cliff-edge. The views from here we wonderful and we could see a lake below. Was this Masar Tal? If it was it meant that we would have to go over this cliff and descend to it. I thought perhaps there might be an easier way and advocated waiting for the guide to reach us. The evidence did show though that the group we had just passed had come up this way so after waiting 15 minutes Keith decided to go over.

On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Hiking above a glacier on the way to Masar Tal
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
White-out
On the trail to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
On the trail to Marsar Tal,
Before the descent to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Keith thinking about the descent to Masar Tal below

The trail was very steep and the snow and rocks made it difficult as we followed a route underneath a cliff. Keith got a long way ahead of me but following in his footsteps made it easier for me until the trail became more rocks than snow and I couldn’t see where he’d been. I couldn’t see Keith either. Eventually the trail descended towards the lake which was surrounded by a huge boulder field some of which were as big as houses. It was difficult and dangerous scrambling over these but I did in the end manage to creep along the shoreline and reach the head of the lake. Keith was waiting here and we waited together for everyone else to arrive as we were not sure if the campsite was around here or not. It looked unlikely as it was just a rock field. In time a string of porters could be seen coming down and when they reached us they told us we still had some more to go.

Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
Masar Tal, far below us

We continued descending, first over the rocks and then over earth and grass as we re-crossed the snow-line. When we reached the campsite we started to discuss whether we should press on to Chauki – remember we had lost a day by camping at the pass – but decided that it was too late and we didn’t really know how long it would take the others to reach us.

Before the descent to Marsar Tal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 18
We have to descend the slope on the left to get to Masar Tal below

As we were discussing this another group appeared up the hill and an altercation took place between our porters and their guides about using the camp ground. They even planted poles and placed luggage in some of the tent sites which I subsequently went round and removed! They were trying to persuade us that their was another place just 5 minutes away but after our experience of being moved on the last time I was adamant that we were staying. It seemed that they were trying to pull rank (caste) on our porters but we stood firm. I didn’t believe that there was another place just down the hill (as we would discover the next day).

In the end both parties camped here without any problems.

Eventually everyone dribbled into camp – it had been a long day – and everyone got set up and pitched just as it began snowing. Again we had dinner in our own tents which I find a bit lonely and uncomfortable. Of course it was another early night.

India 2009 Part 2

The Real Trek Begins

So we’d best start with a map to show you where we’re going:

If you’re looking at this directly on the web (as opposed to inside an email) then you can zoom in and out on the map to see where we are. Otherwise visit the map here.

As you know we came up the valley to Malla where we start (and end our trek – on the left side). So start from Malla and follow the red line to the south which takes 4 days to get to Ghuttu. Then follow the rightmost red line to Kedernath via Panwali Kantha which took us 5 days (as we had a rest day at Panwali). We had a rest day at Kedernath too and then continued on the red line to Chauki (where you can see a purple line too). Another 4 days. At Chauki we were supposed to follow the purple line up to the Khatling Glacier and then complete our loop back to Malla. It didn’t pan out that way, as will be explained in due course, but we followed the red line south back to Ghuttu (another 3 days: or 2 for Keith as you’ll find out!).

The lines on the map are straight: naturally our paths weren’t! Google Maps (and maps generally of India) are not detailed enough to show tracks and paths.

India2009TrekInContext
Where we are in the Himalayas
India2009TrekRoute
The Trek Route: Malla via Ghuttu and Panwali Kantha to Gaurikund and Kedernath. Then over the top via Vasaki Tal, the Masar Pass and Masar Tal to Chauki. Then down the valley back to Ghuttu.

India; 26th September; Day 5; Nilara on the Dogadda River; 1711m

Trek; 1hr32min starting at 9.20
Low: 1354m, High: 1692m
Descent: 34m, Ascent 359m

I wake at 5.45am to a warm morning, though the sun has not yet reached into the valley. A drove of several hundred sheep and goats clatter across the footbridge and disappear up the trail. Keith gets up and we sit by the river bank watching the world go by. Two young lads come down and bathe in the river and then another host of goats and sheep come across the footbridge, followed by a small group of mules.

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From the first campsite at Malla, Uttarakhand, India.

Maneesh, our young liaison guide, arrives with our morning tea shortly after 7am. This will become a daily ritual. We then pack down our tents and gear whilst breakfast is prepared. We have cornflakes with hot milk and boiled eggs with toast and tea.

Hay at Malla, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 4.
Hay stooks at Malla

We were ready to leave by 8.30 but it took a long while for the porters to sort themselves out and to get the mules loaded and we didn’t actually get away until 9.20. It didn’t really matter as we only had a short walk today – 1hr40mins – and therefore had plenty of time. I guess it took some time for the porters to agree on who was to carry what and to ensure that the loads were evenly distributed. The mules were carrying the bulky stuff like the food and the fuel as well as the big tents.

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Leaving Malla on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
Leaving Malla on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
Leaving Malla on the trail to Nilara, with Temple below

The trail climbed out of the valley and we went ahead of the porters until we reached a river crossing. The bridge was in two parts. First a huge tree trunk was slung across to a huge boulder in the middle of the river and then two logs, with stones balanced between, went from this rock to the far bank. It was a precarious balancing act to sidle along these to get to the other side particularly when wearing a pack.

Malla naar Nilara, zicht op Lata en Bhagirthi river
Looking down on the temple beside the Bhagirith River at Malla
Malla naar Nilara
Between Malla and Nilara
Nilara, rivier oversteek door muilezels
Mules being taken across the stream at Nilara
Nilara
Porters on the river-bank

We stopped here and waited for the guides to arrive as we were unsure if this was our stop for the night. It didn’t look like it as there was only a small patch of clear beach on the river bank and surely not enough space for us all to camp. However it turned out that this was indeed the spot and the porters claimed the sandy beach spot and we had to go back across the logs and clear a space on the other side.

Keith and I go for a stroll upstream to see what we can see; a few butterflies. When we get back we sit by the river and have some snap whilst watching the huge tadpoles and small fish.

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Common Sailor (Neptis Hylas) on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
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Dark Judy (Abisara fylla) on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
Butterfly on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
Butterfly on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
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Common Lascar (Pantoporia hordonia) on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
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Holly Blue or Hill Hedge Blue (Celastrina argiolus) on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.
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Chocolate Pansy (Junonia iphita) on the trail to Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 5.

When the main body of porters arrive an hour later we find a small clearing in amongst the undergrowth and set up our tents. The only difficulty being that we are on the opposite side of the river from the Mess tent and had to cross and re-cross the river many times!

Later in the afternoon we come down to the river to bathe. It’s icy cold, but we do get in and shower underneath the small waterfalls and swim in the tiny pools. We also washed out some clothes and lay them on the rocks to dry in the sun. Whilst lazing about Maneesh arrives with lemonade and biscuits for us and has managed to carry the tray whilst balancing over the log bridges!

In the afternoon Keith and I go for another walk upstream and this time go a bit further up the forest trail. We see some long-tailed magpies, a small yellow bird and a couple of partridge like things. We also see a large chicken sized bird with a crest. We have a small book about Indian birds with us but it’s not complete.

On our way back we hear some crashing noises in the tree above us and are amazed to see three very large monkeys. They are a silver grey colour with a very long and thick tail which is black at the end. They have very black faces with a fringe of white fur. They turn out to be Common (or Hanuman) Langurs. One of them broke a branch and fell to the floor of the forest before scampering away.

Back at the river bank we collected wood and prepared a fire. I had another wash in the river to freshen up! When I came back to the beach after going to my tent I found that James had lit the fire and had used kerosene! This was against the rules established on our first trip to the Himalayas but he claimed a porter had come over the bridge with a small cup-full when he’d been noticed him getting the fire going!

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Jim, Adriana, Jan, Keith, Steve and James on the trail to Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6.

India; 27th September; Day 6; Belak Khal; 2808m

Trek: 4hrs 14mins starting at 8.52
Low: 1683m at 8.52
High: 2784 at 12.45
Descent: 7m
Ascent: 1107m

During the night Keith discovers that he picked up a leech on his back. Probably from swimming in the river. There is blood all over the place including on his sleeping bag and mat. He’s grossed out and the rest of us check ourselves for any signs. James reckoned he picked one off his foot! Keith remains paranoid about leeches for the rest of the trip but that doesn’t stop him from bathing in the rivers.

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The porters camp and bridge with goats and sheep at Nilara, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6

I lay in bed until Maneesh arrives with the tea at about 7am. From the river I hear a huge commotion going on and when I get down there I see hundreds and hundreds of sheep and goats being shepherded over the river. Most of them are going over the thin log pole bridge but a few try to jump and swim. Their is so much pushing and shoving on the bridge that many leap off into the river and the Shepherd has to wade in and manhandle them onto the bank. It’s pandemonium out there and it takes a good hour for the whole flock to get across and disappear up the trail.

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Shepherds bring a huge flock of sheep and goats to cross the river
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Precarious bridge for animals and us

We break camp and re-cross the bridge for breakfast. The bridge is now lethally slippery but we all manage to tiptoe our way across. Today it’s porridge and an eggs for breakfast. A pattern is emerging; cornflakes and porridge will alternate!

Today will be one long steady climb and we hit the trail shortly before 9am. After a short while we hit a fork and after waiting for a while I go back to camp where the porters are still packing and ask advice. It’s left. All day it’s up and up and up through the forest. There is not much wildlife about; no birds and few butterflies. Not much to photograph either!

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Goats and Sheep crossing the river

After an hour I take a break and after that I dawdled and managed to find one butterfly to shoot. At one point the trail climbed steeply but generally the gradient was kind.

As the trail climbed the forest started to include bamboo. After a while we reached a clutch of Shepherds Huts and sat down to have some lunch. We are given a packed lunch everyday. This is usually a sandwich, an apple, a couple of energy bars, some fruits and nuts and a juice drink. Lying in the dappled shade around us was the sheep and goats that we’d seen earlier this morning at the bridge.

 

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Mules and Muleteer

Pretty soon we were joined by the muleteers and the mules as they sat down and took a break too.

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Blue Admiral (Kaniska canace) on the trail to Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6.
On the trail to Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6.
On the trail to Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6.
Nilara naar Belak Khal, schaapherders en muilezeldrijvers
On the climb to Belak Khali: Shepherds and Muleteers
Belak Khal, bewoner
Child from a village halfway to Belak Khali

Our final climb took another hour and the forest thinned out and we were met by a cool breeze at the pass which had a small village. A local family gave us tea as the children looked on. After waiting here a while we walked over to the campsite close by. The mules had already arrived so we were able to retrieve our gear and put up our tents.

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The campground at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6

We rested and dozed in the afternoon but also took the time to gather some firewood and hang out some washing. Not much chance of it drying though as a mist rolled in.

 

On the trail to Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6.
View of the mountains of the Bunderpunch Range from Belak Khal

After dinner we sat around the blazing fire and burnt everything we had. We also finished off the Jamesons.

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Me and Keith at the campfire at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 6

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Dawn at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7

India; September 28th; Day 7; Bhudar Kedar; 918m

Trek: 6hrs 53mins starting at 8.31
Low: 918m at 18.16
High: 2789m at 8.31
Descent: 3356m
Ascent: 1859m

I’m up at 5.45 to walk up to the ridge behind the campsite to take early morning photographs of the mountains in the distance. I’m a bit too early though and I have time to go back and fetch another camera and to persuade Keith to come too. We hang around for an hour taking shots of the peaks as they are lit by the morning sun.

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Dawn at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7
From the campsite at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
From the campsite at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
Camping Belak Khal
Breakfast at Camp Belak Khal

We pack and have breakfast but I leave half an hour after the others as I wait for the sun to dry my tent before packing it. I take some shots of the village before leaving.

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The village at Belak Khal, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.

The trail descends down through a forest – sometimes the trail is quite steep. After an hour it breaks out into a meadow with fine views into the valley below. We meet a group of Indian hikers who are carrying full packs and doing without porters. It transpires they are doing some kind of Outward Bound course and are all studying at the Civil Service academy in Messoli. We pass and re-pass them all day as we descend and rest in turn.

On the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
On the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.

Eventually Keith and I catch up with the others and after crossing a stream on slippery stones we stop for lunch. Jim is unwell and not eating.

 

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On the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7

We continue the long descent down to a river and a small village. Some stop for char in a dark tea shop but I press on down the trail which is now a rocky road. It’s hot down at this level and the heat is bouncing off the white stone road and this continues for what seems many miles.

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Kids at Bhudar Kedar

The heat bores down on me but we do eventually struggle and straggle into town and find a place to sit in the shade. A small shop sells us Pepsis and water as we wait for the porters to come down and show us where the campsite is.

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On the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.

The mules and muleteers arrive first and we follow them over the bridge and down to the river bank where we set up camp. Keith and I immediately go for a swim. Its cold; very cold, but at the same time refreshing. Keith is hoping the river is flowing too fast for leeches!

From the campsite at Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 8.
From the campsite at Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 8.

It’s a pity but it seems that we are camped on what smells like a toilet ghat. The evidence is all around. It’s tight for space in the campsite and we have to keep fighting off the mules that want to graze around the tents. We also have to fend off a ragbag assortment of small boys who are hanging around. It’s unlikely they will steal anything though.

Dragonfly on the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
Dragonfly on the trail to Bhudar Kedar
Butterfly on the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
Butterfly on the trail to Bhudar Kedar
Caterpillar on the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
Caterpillar on the trail to Bhudar Kedar
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Damselfly on the trail to Bhudar Kedar
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Chocolate Pansy (Junonia iphita) on the trail to Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
Unknown frog  at Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.
Unknown frog at Bhudar Kedar, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 7.

I have another swim when Jim and James and Jan are ready and then sit on the bank having tea and biscuits which Maneesh has brought down.

Budha Kedar
At Bhudha Kedar

Keith and I go for a wander around the small town before dinner and are surprised by the number of shops. We watch a wedding procession go through accompanied by a drummer. The bride is carried in a covered sedan whilst the bridegroom rides behind on a mule.

After dinner we go back into town and go to the barbers for a shave. Keith goes first and I watch the whole palaver. The boy appears to be only 14 years old or so. He spends a long time lathering before putting a new blade in the cut-throat. You actually get a double shave followed by a range of unguents rubbed into the face, then a massage and lastly a pungent aftershave. Keith looks shiny and new. A small crowd of young boys turn up to watch and chatter. After I’ve taken my turn we cough up the 20 rupees each. In the afternoon the young lad had quoted us 5 rupees!

We finished off the evening with a 7Up in the last shop that remained open.


 

India 2009 Part 1

Charity Donations

With a final contribution from another collection made at the Two Sawyers in Woolage Green the total now raised has reached £12,000 which is double our original target. A big thanks to all those at the pub that contributed. A grand effort. We look forward to the time when we can thank them properly with a visit once the restrictions are lifted.20200315_CharityDonations

Meanwhile we’ll keep the charity donations ticking over … because … why not?

Stay In & Stay Safe

Meanwhile as everyone is largely restricted to home and travel & holidays are currently suspended and the plans for the boys cycling trips to the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Belgium) Sportive is cancelled and any plans for a 1000 mile ride to Greece this summer postponed we’ll bring you some notes of older trips to keep you entertained (and me busy).

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LondonNewDelhi
Flight from London to New Delhi

Getting to the Indian Himalayas

We’re kicking off with a hiking tour of the Himalayas that me (Steve) and Keith did in the autumn of 2009 with our friends Adriana, Jim, Jan and James. We spent 3 weeks hiking in the mountains with everyone and then Keith and I went to south India for a look around Kerala and Tamil Nadu states, which included some canoeing (but no cycling).

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The Ghats at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 3

India; 22nd September; Day 1

Kristian arrived at 2am this morning from Manchester with a trailer to pick up an ailing black Morris Minor which he will ransack for parts [this Morris had previously been used by the Aylesham Community]. He has a pale blue Minor of his own! He’ll be leaving for Australia on Friday for a couple of races and some warm winter training. Next season he will be riding for Rapha Condor again.

Keith came up in the morning and we walked around to my Dad’s garage to load the black Morris onto the trailer. Keith drove my Dad’s green Morris around to take the free space in the garage. It started first time after 3 months standing idle. We wondered when it would be driven again.

When the black Morris was loaded and tied down we bade farewell to Kristian as he returned to Manchester. He’ll be back from Australia in the New Year.

An hour later I said goodbye to Mum and Dad and walked down to Keith’s place where we I picked up my bag and we walked down to the station to catch the train to London and on to Heathrow for our flight to New Delhi. Linford, Keith’s son, walked down with us and we said goodbye to him as he left for college at Canterbury.

After struggling through London on the Underground Keith and I arrived at the airport to meet our fellow travellers James, Jim, Adriana and Jan. Keith hadn’t met anyone before and neither of us had met Jan (Adrian’s brother) before. I trekked with Jim, Adriana and James several times in the past including our last trip to the Himalayas in 2005.

As usual I had trouble at the check-in as I wanted my films to be hand-scanned. They refused even after I’d persuaded them to bring the manager down. So all my film went through the scanner and then to cap it all they hand-scanned my photography bag anyway. What a pointless waste of time!

India; 23rd September; Day 2; New Delhi

After an uneventful flight where I read the paper, slept and ate and drank we arrived in New Delhi at 6.30am. I stupidly left my camera bag on the plane and had to rush back to claim it! The cabin crew joked that they were just about to blow it up! Of course my hold luggage was last off the carousel too!

In New Delhi
Taxi driver, Jim and James in a put-put in New Delhi
In New Delhi
The Red Fort, New Delhi
In New Delhi
The India Gate in New Delhi
In New Delhi
Viceroy’s House, New Delhi

We were met by our travel company Himalayan Run and Trek and driven to the Connaught Hotel. In an attempt to avoid jet-lag we then all went for a walk around Connaught Place in the centre of Delhi. In the heat it was chaos though as much of the area is being rebuilt for the Commonwealth Games to be held here in a years time. Also, as is common in large cities in India, we were pestered by strangers trying to be helpful and show us around! We did however manage to change some money into rupees and ended up with huge wads of 100 rupee notes. It’s important to get small denominations as it’ll prove difficult to change larger notes in the villages of the Himalayas. In any case we won’t be needing a great deal of money on the trek.

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Steve at the Railway Muiseum. New Delhi . Trek Day 2

After a brief rest in the hotel Keith and I, in a desperate attempt to fill the time in the afternoon by staying awake, catch an auto-rickshaw to the Delhi Railway Museum. This is a largely outdoor museum where the exhibits sit rusting in the baking heat. Apart from a small gang of schoolkids we were the only visitors. We wander around for a couple of hours and I get my first close look at the iconic Alco WMD2 diesel which is still the mainstay of the Indian Railways.

In the evening we all pile into a taxi and go to the Imperial Hotel for dinner. This is a very posh and very colonial looking place with staff strutting around in sub-military uniforms. Needless to say we were not allowed in the main dining room – some of us were wearing shorts – but we did have a decent meal in the plebs canteen!

India; 24th September; Day 3; Rishikesh

We were up at 4.45am for a quick breakfast at the hotel before getting into the bus to take us to the station. Our own minibus had left last night with our main luggage and would meet us in Haridwar. Instead of a 10 or 12 hour drive we were taking the morning express which would do the journey in 3 and 3/4 hours.

After some confusion at the station – we arrived at the wrong side and then had to drive right around town in heavy traffic – we piled onto the bustling station. I think we have a 1st Class Aircon coach which proves to be pretty comfortable. We are served tea and a second breakfast on our journey.

As the train crawls out of New Delhi we watch as the world awakes in the ghettos and Shanty Towns. As we then speed across the plains we pass mostly farmland and a few scruffy little towns. We see plenty of egrets in the ponds and ditches and also a peacock.

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Train from New Delhi to Haridwar

By 11am we have arrived in Haridwar and we stream out of the station with hordes of other travellers into the square which is also heaving with people. We scramble into our minibus and are re-united with our luggage! It’s only a short 24km ride to Rishikesh where we are to spend the night.

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The short drive from Haridwar to Rishikesh
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A pink Indian Elephant, (Elephas maximus indicus) at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 3.

After checking into our dusty hotel Keith and I decide to go for a walk about town. Even though it’s overcast the day is hot and humid and sweaty. It’s a scruffy place but it’s holy and it sits on the Ganges river. As we wander through the streets we dodge the cows and pigs lying around and try not to get clipped by the traffic. Amazingly we find an elephant and though the minder tries to persuade us to go for a ride we decline but give him a few rupees anyway for the photographs we took. At the river we walk along the ghats, which are empty at the moment, and watch a few people braving a swim in the holy river. The water is icy and a glacial grey/green colour.

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Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 3.

Further down we climb up to a road high above the river and then take some steps down so that we can cross on the suspension bridge. It’s here that we see large troops of what look like Baboons. I think in fact they are Rhesus Macaques. We watch the males as they run around keeping control of their family groups and maintaining their territories.

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The footbidge at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 3.

The bridge turns out to be a pedestrian bridge but this doesn’t prevent the odd cow wandering across – and the cow pats you have to dodge – nor the locals coming across on motorbikes and push bikes. At the other side we walk onto more ghats and watch as devotees place ceremonial platters on the river made of fruit and coconuts and leaves and brightly coloured papers.

The footbidge at Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 3.
The footbridge over the Ganges river at Rishikesh

A small ferry is plying its trade from here and so we return to the other side in a small boat. Once here we find a large, but empty hotel, and have a lunch of lassis, toasted cheese sandwiches and sweet sweet tea in a room overlooking the river. We catch an auto-rickshaw back to our hotel at the other end of town thinking we may take a swim in the swimming-pool before dark. After peering into its limpid and faintly rank green waters we decide against it. In our room we doze and sleep and watch cricket on the TV.

We have dinner in the hotel. It’s all vegetarian and we can get no beers. We will have no meat or beer for the next 20 days.

India; 25th September; Day 4; Malla; 1390m

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The drive from Rishikesh to Malla past the Tehri Dam and Uttarkashi

We left Rishikesh this morning at 6am without breakfast. It was a pleasant warm morning but still overcast as the minibus climbed out of the valley. It did rain a little as we climbed but it soon became clear again as we drove on.

After three hours we pull up for some tea and toast and then stretch our legs in the sunshine. Keith and I stroll down the road thinking the bus can pick us up but we hear some yelling and have to turn back. Apparently the driver had taken a detour to the cafe and was going back the way we’d come!

For a long while the road meandered alongside the Tehri Reservoir until we climbed up over the Tehri Dam itself. The scenery is green and the valleys are wonderfully terraced. We stop for another tea at a cafe overlooking the reservoir and marvel at the emptiness of it all. Not a single boat mars it’s huge surface. I wondered if it was full of fish but then realised that the locals are vegetarian and wouldn’t be interested!

Later we stop at Uttarkashi for lunch. The restaurant is dark and busy and the food is good. We stretch our legs outside as the crowds mill about.

Eventually, at 3pm, after 9 hours on the road we arrive at Latasera just before the tiny village of Malla. We meet our guides and porters and lug our gear a short distance over the footbridge to a field beside the Ganga River. On the path I see a brilliant green black and pink Swallowtail butterfly but failed to get a decent shot.

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The first campsite under the footbridge at Malla, Uttarakhand, India. Trek Day 4.

After setting up camp we stroll along the riverbank and then have a wash in the freezing river. Once the kitchen tent is set up we are brought a cup of tea and later of course we have the first of many dinners prepared by our Chef. The porters have there own kitchen stuff and prepare there own meals. We must have about 15 or 16 porters here and we will gradually get to know them over the next few weeks. We also have 3 muleteers and a team of six mules to carry our stuff. That makes a party of about 25!

Camping Malla
Curious schoolgirls look down on our campsite from the bridge across the Bhagiratha river
Bhagirthi river met dorp Lata
Naag Devta Temple on the Bhagirathi River at Malla from our campsite