Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventure in High Mountains

The trek promised of adventure from the very beginning….only we never read the signs. For me it was an ill-gotten holiday and by the time I was ready to leave for Chandigarh, Jayesh declared that the team of some 10-12 trekkers had now dwindled down to just 5 guys and me.

Trouble started on our jeep ride from Manali to Kibber. A rocky ride led us to a gateway in the middle of nowhere, welcoming us to Spiti. Nature, as if taking cue from this, also made its presence felt. Just as we crossed the gate, our heads throbbed painfully due to the lack of oxygen in air. And by the time we reached Kibber, the starting point of the 9days trek to Tso Moriri in Ladakh, my condition was so severe that I had made up my mind to abandon the trek.

Acclimatization day: Jayesh puked. I mean Jayesh puked! If that could happen to him, then I didn’t think I had any chance.

Day 1: Bright and fresh with no headaches. Trek begins. Down and up a valley under a hot open sky. It was a long walk to the green Thaltak meadow, our camp. When M didn’t reach even after an hour we panicked. A guide was sent and M came back lips parched, white and dry. He was dehydrated.

Day 2: We took it slow and steady. Just as we neared the base camp of ParangLa Pass at 17500ft, we spied ominous dark clouds on the horizon.

Day 3: The dreaded 1000ft+ climb to cross the Pass. Taking even 10 steps was an effort. Our breathing was labored and headaches returned with a vengeance. Jayesh was struck and had to be carried over by a mule. It took us 4 hours to reach the pass. But when we did, it was to see the most breathtaking sight ever…..a sweeping panorama of snow-covered peaks. We camped at the base of a glacier.

Day 4: We had overslept due to exhaustion. It was 9 in the morning by the time we got ready to cross the stream which was by this time in full flow. M tried to cross but was swept off by the current. The guide grabbed him at the nick of time and hauled him to the other side. This left us with only one option….climbing the slippery glacier and then crossing over to the other side. We held on to a rope, jumped crevasses and gushing rivulets and rappelled down the other side and greeted M like a long lost brother.

Day 5: We got ready at 5 in the morning to cross the river again. The water was bone numbing cold and I lost sensation of legs within minutes. It was then I realized how easily M could have become hypothermic. It was hours of walking and I was on the verge of panic before sensation on my feet returned. The cloud which was hovering in the background caught up with us forcing us to camp in a hurry.

Day 6: We woke up to hysterical laughter from the other tent and peeped outside to see a horrendous sight. What we hadn’t realized was that we had camped in a trough and it had rained the whole night. Now the whole area had become mud slush and our belongings were floating in it. Rain played hide and seek with us as we hurried along the trail fearing mudslides. We went to sleep while a lone wolf howled in the distance.

Day 7: The clouds fleeted in and out. A mare and her filly grazed freely on a grassy knoll. An aggressive looking Changpa shepherd crossed us with his flock of hundreds of sheep carrying rice in pouches on their backs. We camped at Norbu Sumdo, the last site before crossing over to Ruphsu Valley. The wind was howling but it didn’t deter the boys from playing cricket with a rolled up plastic ball. While everybody settled in for the night, I stayed outside gazing up at the trillions of stars and the Milky Way so prominent in the sky. I felt humble and tiny in front of God’s amazing creation.

Day 8: It was a glorious day. The clouds were gone leaving the mountains sprinkled with fresh snow and the sky a deep shade of blue. We had to cross the river one final time before entering the valley. This we did by huddling together to fortify ourselves against the current. A long agonizing walk over a dry, pebbled river bed took us to the exquisite Tso-Moriri…our destination. A herd of kiangs grazed nearby. The Lake mesmerized us as it changed colors along with the sun. From sparkling blue, to sea-green, grey and then back to blue-green again. The water fed by the freshly melting glacier was as clear as glass and the lake appeared divine and mystical.

Day 9: The last day’s walk was a long 24kms along the lake’s shore. Ducks waded in the lake creating the tiniest ripples, clouds gathered and then blew away like a film in fast forward mode creating the most amazing patterns on ground, strong winds pushed us about and yet we walked silently – awe struck by the unimaginable beauty. My left leg was cramped from hip to feet but Korzok, our final destination never seemed nearer. At one point, tired, cramped and dirty I gave in to my feminine urges and cried shamelessly.
We were almost at break point when we reached Korzok in the evening to loud cheers.

Back in Leh, as I scrubbed off 10 days of dirt and grime I was overwhelmed by a desire to go back again. To the barren mountains and snow covered peaks, the beautiful pristine lake, the freedom of the Changpa nomad and the mare grazing on knoll, the cry of a lone wolf and a star studded sky. The hardships and adventure at every turn had enhanced our experience further showing us the reality that is nature….in its full glory.

I had lost a drastic 9 kilos on this trek but in return I gained an experience which can never be repeated anywhere in the world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

All i want is a Roof Somewhere

On popular trekking routes, groups of tents huddled together are quite a common sight at points designated as night halts. Amongst my happy memories of sleeping in a tent is one of discovering my favourite mountain orchestra at Tsokha, a small settlement at about 10000 ft on the route to Dzongri in Sikkim (you can read about this trek here, here and here) . Playing to a musical score set by the forbidding mountains, the wind swooshed and whistled aggressively down the peaks onto the meadow where we were camped; this was offset by the reassuring, gentle tinkle of bells tied around the necks of pack-ponies as they grazed.

Tents are striking from an aesthetic viewpoint - whether the peaks are covered with shades of summer brown, monsoon green or winter white, the bright orange- yellow – purple tents add a dash of colour and their compact shape makes for a neat picture. However, the low roof and compact size tend to make them a bit claustrophobic and difficult to move about in, especially for someone with a large build, i.e. yours truly.

I would much rather sleep out in the open in a sleeping bag - weather permitting, of course, with the wind on my face, gazing at the starry sky and giggling my way to sleep as my companions come up with non-zodiac descriptions of the stars. Never to be forgotten is one young gentleman’s description of two unusually bright and prominent stars of a constellation as ‘Aunty Sharma’s (pause here for effect)…………..earrings’ and the reactions it evoked, half the group cackling with glee and the other more – astronomically - inclined half wincing at the sacrilegious intrusion on their discussion.

While tents, sleeping bags and caves such as the one in Harishchandragad are all a welcome change from mundane city life and have an adventurous element to them, it is on the Himalayan treks that one really gets to experience the entire range of shelters possible.

While trekking with Odati from an altitude of 12000 ft to that of 14000 ft in Arunachal Pradesh (read Anusha’s description of the trek here), we stayed in log huts made by the GREF - General Reserve Engineering Force. Like the BRO (Border Roads Organisation), these corps, unnoticed and unsung, are responsible for building much of the basic infrastructure in the border areas. When they work in remote areas for a short span of time, they often build log huts to stay in. Two of these, in Nagajiji and Dhonk chi phoo, were a boon to us - it was raining and snowing intermittently at both places and the charm of such weather fades very soon if you are directly exposed to it. Having a GREF hut implies not just thick wooden logs between the elements and yourself, but also a roof high above your head that allows you to stand up straight, enough room for 6-8 people to spread out their things comfortably and the added bonus of a log fire to warm you up. Truly the answer to the wish for a room somewhere !

‘All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the cold night air,
Lots of chocolates for me to eat
Lots of coal making lots of heat,
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet,
Aow, wouldn’t it be lovely ? ’
(with apologies to Ms. Eliza Doolittle)

(The GREF hut at Dhonk Chi Phoo)

Each GREF hut has its own unique features that you discover only when you enter. The one we stayed in at Nagajiji was big enough to have contained two Bombay-ishtyle 1BHKs in it. There was a big central fireplace near which we huddled to make the most of the warmth, even stretching our frozen feet out dangerously close to the flames. Around the fireplace were poles on which we tied strings and dried all our wet clothes, thus ending up smelling of wood-smoke for the next few days. The GREF hut in Dhonk chi phoo was as big as the one in Nagajiji but had a wall dividing it into two halves, almost like a planned conservative zenana-mardana divide. The wall even had tiny holes that enabled conversations across it !

In the same mountains but at a lower altitude of 10000 feet, we spent a night at a village called Lubrang near the Bhutan border. After a refreshing walk on a path overhung with rhododendron flowers, we arrived fully satiated and satisfied with the trip, prepared to spend the night in a corner of one of the villager’s houses. We were totally stunned when the village headman, who was our guide, invited us to stay in the village Gompa (Buddhist monastery or place of worship). I initially thought I must have misunderstood him, until one of my companions actually spread out his sleeping bag and went to sleep, right inside the sanctum ! In his defense, I must mention that he was unwell and suffering from fever and a bad cold. (As an aside, consider what a title that would make for a book – ‘I snored at the feet of the Buddha’, a bit blasphemous, but definitely attention grabbing!)

(Pictures of the entrance to the Gompa at Lubrang - don't miss our shoes outside the door and the tea kettle kept nearby, also the amazing prayer wheel to the right)

There was something awe-inspiring about us mere mortals being permitted to close our eyes, not in devotion but in slumber, in the presence of divinity. Never had I imagined I would sleep in such a beautiful place, guarded by a statue of the Buddha, surrounded by walls with beautiful paintings and shelves filled with religious items ! The generosity of the village in offering us such hospitality proved that the clich├ęd ‘atithi devo bhava’ is still practiced in some areas.

Another trek, another shelter – a home stay at village Tolma (altitude approximately 10,000 feet) in the Garhwal Himalayas. Here we stayed in simple rooms in the villager’s houses, the normalcy of it reassuring after an arduous walk in a snow-storm the previous day. Tolma village is defined by Dronagiri mountain in the foreground. T he immensity of the mountain dominates the horizon as it looms over the village like a majestic-but-moody guardian, and the village huddles gratefully-but-carefully by its foot. The early morning has the mountain at its gentlest as the rays of the sun warm its cold visage and a snow plume languidly wafts off its peak. It was lovely to wake up, step out of the room and see a white snow plume stretched out across the blue sky, especially when I knew I had the option of retiring to the sanctuary of the room and snuggling under thick quilts the minute I felt too cold.

The beauty of Tolma was not limited to Dronagiri’s majesty, or the quilts that protected us from Dronagiri’s largesse of icy cool wind blowing off snowy slopes, it was also in the bucket of warm water each of us got for a bath in the makeshift bathroom, and in the nice clean loo that the villagers had constructed specifically for tourists to use. After five days in the wilderness without the pleasures of even basic plumbing, it was a close run thing between Dronagiri and the amenities when it came to deciding which sight gave one more happiness ! Dronagiri eventually won, but only just; quite a typical reaction towards the end of the trek !

No matter how much I relish the experience, after some days of the harsher, more basic existence, my city-bred spoilt side comes rushing to the fore and demands attention. While I love the mountains, I am also used to many amenities of Life in a Metro and start longing for them. Then it’s only the shelter provided by the grimy building where I reside in my dirty polluted Mumbai that I want. As they say, ‘There’s no place like Home’. Amen.

By Zen
(you can read more posts by Zeb at http://entropymuse.blogspot.com)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spectre of Brocken

Nature has its own way of letting itself be, unaffected by us mortal's doings. Sometimes enough care is taken so that we do carry anything back from it, but only spectacular memories. Some events, when revisited, spur your imagination to think “Why was I not allowed to capture the moment to show it to others?” But such is the power of nature and such are some memories; very personal experiences, very vivid memories, images so strong that even after years they refuse to fade away even a wee bit.Add Image

I still feel the chill, still remember the panorama, see the sun break over the horizon behind a thick cluster of clouds, glistening up the tip of Mt. Khanchendzonga – the first of the 8000ers (there are 14 peaks in the world that stand above 8000mtrs) to grace the spectacle.

“Sir, Chai”, he says knocking at our doors holding out two steel cup full of freshly brewed chai and a bowl of popcorn. Popcorn! So early in the morning? Heck, what an idea! But who cares? I illuminate my digital watch, it reads 03:00 am. The date, 23rd May 2000. We zip out of our sleeping bags, initially reluctantly, but fire up immediately after the hot cup of chai. Setting out at 0315Hrs in the freezing cold is unacceptable. But we have taken so much efforts to be here, to see a spectacle unfold in front of our eyes. Through frosted ground we take about 45 minutes to get to the top as others too make their way up. We realise, that dawn there will not be more than a handful of us who will be privy to the drama of nature. Poor others sleepy souls, they will never see this!
The horizon lightens up slowly with a golden hue, anticipation rides high. A brilliant glow appears on the eastern horizon and with spontaneity the sun heads out for a new day. On the western horizon the gloomy, grey Khanchendzonga responds with equal enthusiasm transforming itself into a wonderful spectacle. The summit assumes a vermillion tinge, slowly changing into yellow and then golden. Early in the dawn, nature knows how to announce the best and the top!

All our fingers are on the shutter switch and we get into frenzy; absorbed in capturing every single moment, record the progress of the sun and the light as it progresses over all the summits, marching over the broad flanks of the mountains. We almost ignore the fact that this moment is for us to savour. We want to take this home to show others… some of whom may return here to take more shutters back for others to see. Now, the alternation of such a panorama between the view finder and real eyes seems like a fading idea. Maybe, if we had not taken our cameras, the real views would have embedded in our souls more strongly, that those pictures on the film tend to dilute our imagination today.

Little do we realise that, on our first visit here unguided by any advise or experience, we expose ourselves to shiver and frostbite. The thermometer reads minus 5. The views cast a warm blanket over us. It is so easy to ignore the chill and the waft against such a spectacle. I instantly knew I was hooked. Almost as a family, many summiteers here huddle and queue for a group photo, the warmth of the group extending to the hearts. Its been almost an hour that we stood there, changing views, films and cameras. Between the 2 of us we shoot 150 pics of this marvel. Everyone leaves.

We are the last to descend. Even our guide left for the chores of the day. It’s only two of us now slowly making our way down! The sun is lodged well behind our backs at a perfect angle. With the monsoons on its beck, the valley below is brimming with clouds, almost touching out feet. Elation draws upon us. The eye is still transfixed at the horizon panning across the snow clad massifs of the Goddess of Five Elements. We enter a tuft of cloud, thin enough, that we can see the path and the valley below, thick enough to caress our faces.

Suddenly our eyes catch the shadowy characters walking alongside us. It’s enigmatic. We trace the shadows back to our own feet. The sun behind has cast own shadows on the clouds below. We trace it up to an unbelievable sight. There is a rainbow that appears around our own shadow, a halo! We are ecstatic, ‘unbelievable’ we say! It’s heavenly! There are no words to describe the view, miracle and feeling. Are we on cloud nine, are we in seventh heaven? We don’t know. We pull out our cameras again.
Click….clack…clack. The film does not move. Oops! No film left. My friend clicks! Clack again! He is exhausted of film too. Do we have extra… frisk ourselves for more and return with a handful of retracted films in their cartridges - memories of dawn’s tryst imprisoned in a tiny dark cell, captured for all those dear friends back in the plains. We wished that there was at least one film that teased its tongue out! Or at least one shot left. Frustration!

This was the moment. We decide that we will stay till the sight does, not taking our eyes off even for the distraction of a shutterbug. We are no more disturbed, we are at peace with ourselves. We were our own gods for about 5 minutes till the clouds grew thinner again, exposing the thicket of juniper below. We move on, we wonder ‘why did this happen to us?’ We thought that for all our endurance and efforts, nature chose us minus our paraphernalia. The captured views were for the others; the experience our very own. Was it a coincidence? No, I believe. It was designed such by nature! Such is its power. That was our moment of glory.

We return back home. Everyone loves the pics; we have no way to describe what we experienced. “Maybe, if you go there, you will see it too.” We leave it at that.

Rrrrringg… “Hey my friend. How are you? Do you remember our shadows we saw in the clouds with a colourful halo around us, at Dzongri? It’s called the ‘Spectre of Brocken’”. I conclude!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Time after Time

There’s something about the Himalayas – once you’ve been there, you keep going back. It starts with a gentle tug at your soul at first and tugs on till the time you are overcome with this mad desire to leave everything just to be among the cold mountains. They say that you can’t go to the Himalayas till the mountains call you – that the journey plans you and not the other way round. For me the real journeys have been the four treks that I have done at high altitude….where you can be with the mountains up close and personal. My fifth call is yet to come and I am sorely missing every aspect of the journey…….

It starts from the time you tell your boss that you Have to take a 20 days break and he gives you the go-ahead. The list of things that needs to be carried is by now printed on your mind and with each passing day you strike off the things that you already have. One week prior to the d-day you write down the important things you need to buy. When you finally take out your backpack and put the first film roll in your camera, you know you are ready to go. The mind makes a quick check on the job, family and friends’ front tying up all loose ends. On the d-day the mind finally shuts itself tight…life in the city is forgotten and the journey takes over.

The journey to meet the rest of the group is done with growing anticipation and excitement. You meet the group and the instant bonhomie of like minded people makes you feel at home among strangers. When you reach the Himalayan destination - the base of your trek you fill in lungful of the fresh mountain air, feel the cold crisp air on your skin and slowly start to feel alive after a long long time. There’s a strange excitement on the first day of the trek. Everybody is quiet and quickly gets ready early in the morning. Initially you love the walk, slowly taking in the beauty around. By lunch you can only feel the tremendous pain in your legs. The second day you hobble on your still paining legs and curse yourself for coming for the trek. By the third day, the pain is still there but you do not feel it any longer and you keep walking…. till the time you reach ‘that’ point…where your heart starts to beat the rhythm of nature and life.

Then you know the reason why you came here and why you choose to come here every year…the peace and quiet, the snow covered mountains at an arm’s distance, the bone cutting cold winds, the mesmerizing silence, the freezing water which opens every nerve cell in your body, the tiny exquisite mountain flower, the bluest sky and the wispy clouds and the echoing calls of the birds high above.

Away from the city you finally realize what real beauty or life is. This is where you rid yourself of the false city skin and get in touch with you…the real you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Standing Still - Time, You & Them

Right at the top of Nane Ghat hill, feeling the wind on my face, I smile to myself. A mirth that bubbles from inside erupts into a sudden guffaw and I look around to ensure nobody is watching me. The silliness of myself laughing alone amuses me further and I chortle with my laughter. It takes me quite a while to settle down following which I head to the shelter- a cave to join my friends. The time on my watch says 7.30 AM. What laughter clubs across the cities attempt to force within a person, I managed with ease sitting atop the hill all by myself.

All my city life, time has been the real taskmaster. In early childhood, mom would say-”Wake up! Time to get up! ”. At school, teacher would admonish “You are late; you better come in time”. As I grew up, my mind rebukes me with thoughts, like “If I am late, I will miss this bus (or miss that train)”. Again in my office, “Time Management Skill” is an important soft skill that any HR manager insists upon. Needless to say, the concerns and pressure related to time has always increased as one grew up. A constant battle to be ahead of time, takes the centre-stage in one’s life and one gets automatically programmed to be “rushed” mentally.

Belying this approach, the villager’s take on time is refreshing. In many a trek, when we approach the locals to confirm the time required to reach the destination, it is amusing to find that their concept of time is so different. Thus, one may hear the destination to be about 2 hours away and yet after walking that much another local will again convincingly project the destination to be another 2 hours further. For the villager the “two hours” represents an achievable target; a close-by destination that can be done in less than half a day rather than time calculated based on distance and average walking speeds.

Sitting atop the hill by myself, reflecting on contrasting lifestyles, I am amused by anomalies in my lifestyle. For the villagers, the sun represents the watch by which they tune their activities for the day. On reflection even we, coming from the city, also ultimately end up letting the sun determine our activities for the day during the trek. The watch becomes a mere representation of time and does not signify a threat. (In the city confines, the watch becomes a threat where the time display makes us feel short on time & very rushed).

The typical urbanite like me feels that sleeping till late in the morning is a luxury and should be done on a holiday or vacation. Yet here I am, on a holiday trip, awake by 6 AM & still feeling amazingly refreshed with no complaints. My mood would have been different had I been woken up at 6 AM in my house during a holiday! (grumpy me!). On a trek, living in the wild, the natural coolness and crispiness of the air combined with the lights of dawn makes one very contended to wake up without complaints in order to bask & feel the warm rays of sun massage every sinew of the body. Again, to hike further or explore (which happens in several trek), makes more sense during the wee hours of dawn. This way, one does not tire as much as one may feel while exploring in the afternoon with the sun beating down harshly. Likewise, in the evening, thanks to an encompassing darkness all-round, one ends up cooking early. Many-a-times eating dinner is an early affair (often as early as 7.30- 8 PM), followed by plain discussions until sleep time. (One might go for a tea or coffee in the night), Doctors have always recommended early dinner and plain rest before sleep which finds few takers in the hustle-bustle of a city. Yet, here in the trek, the body clock adjusts beautifully to the rising and setting of the sun accordingly as one retires early for the night automatically.

We often hear the adage “Time stands still”. The significance only hits us strongly when we are able to watch the sunshine or sunset peacefully. It is the direct contrast to the rushed feeling we are used to, that makes the passiveness of watching a sunrise or sunset even more striking. The peace within, comes from the temporary tuning of the body clock to the universal clock (represented by the sun) and ends up making a lasting impression. Now we know why sunrise and sunsets are so beautiful in the outdoors!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Prabalgad - Sayadris

There had been a storm warning declared in Bombay the day we visited Prabalgad two years ago; incessant heavy rain had caused flooding during the preceding days and even more rain was expected. As we left early in the morning, we looked at the grey overcast skies and felt like brave adventurers. “I may be a corporate slave chained to a desk from Monday to Friday, but just take a look at what daring death-defying deeds I attempt over the weekend !” One would think we were climbing Everest without oxygen or crossing the ocean in a coracle from the frissons of excitement running through some of us.

Thankfully, Prabalgad is a great trek and does not disappoint charged-up weekend trekkers. It has lush, green, refreshing vegetation – the number of trees and bushes and their varying shades of deep green somehow seem better than many of the other routes in the Sahayadris. There are hills playing hide-and-seek in the mist and streams to splash across on the route. As bonus points to your enthusiastic spirit, halfway up, there is a nice grassy meadow that makes a natural break-for-lunch spot. It is really picturesque as the center patch is grassy and surrounded by a perimeter of trees that sway gently in even a mild breeze.

The climb is pitched at just the right level of difficulty, it does not feel easy but is not too tough either - even a family with a kid did it. Best of all, the first 15 to 20 minutes walk is over a flat area, which gives sufficient time for all one’s muscles to stretch and limber up in preparation for the climb ahead. Given that it is a bit of a long and strenuous trek , such a beginning is a blessing. I definitely prefer such treks to ones, albeit easier climbs, where you begin climbing right at the start. The Prabalgad way, in the beginning, your enjoyment of the scenery and the surroundings is unhindered by panting or wondering when it will end and why you punish yourself like this on a regular basis. On the contrary, in Prabalgad you are raring to go and fully charged when the long climb begins.

Apart from the thicker, more lush vegetation and the conveniently arranged topography, there is definitely something else that is strange about Prabalgad – it’s the very atmosphere. It’s the only trek where five people among the group ended up with the soles of their shoes ripped off, and it isn’t even one of those treks that have uneven terrain and sharp rocks. It’s the only trek I have been on where we were accompanied by two local villagers who disturbed the peace and quiet with squabbles over the correct route throughout and held a diametrically opposite viewpoint on every twist and turn of the path. Not only was each obstinate about establishing that he, and only he, knew the correct path, they were resolute about ‘guiding’ us and refused to go away.

It is also is the only trek I have been on twice, but not made it to the top even once. The first time in Prabalgad, we got lost, came across a lovely waterfall in the afternoon and called a halt there. Away to one end, there was a kind of broad shelf where one could stand with the water pouring over – a lot of people washed their tiredness away by standing under the waterfall and getting a good back massage. The second time in Prabalgad we had almost reached the top, but the last bit of the path had been washed away due to incessant rain. Both times, however, we thoroughly enjoyed the trek and didn’t regret not completing it.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Joys of Hiking - Bonding Through Hiking

When I trekked for the first time my group was a size 19! i.e. myself & 18 strangers bound towards a common destination! It was a 3 nights 4 days trek to Vasota vide Sholapur train. By the end of the trek, we had exchanged each other’s name & numbers & continued to be in touch for almost 4-5 years! Today 15 years hence, at-least 3 from that group of 18 are dear to me and we are still in regular touch despite the changing priorities of life. As far as other members are concerned, if we do happen to bump into each other, there still exists a glow and warmth in recollecting the lovely time spent. Old smiles simply return. Nothing exemplifies human BONDING better than experiencing a trek together. It is my experience that during treks especially one that involves spending several nights together one ends up bonding on an inner level. Reasons for same could be several. I will run my theory here.

One reason is sharing of pains in reaching the peak. One has to undergo an arduous trek to reach the camping point for the night and every person realizes that the other person has also worked equally hard to reach that point. This brings an affinity and respect for the other individual that overcomes any other dislikes in individual traits. (Every other negative fades in face of this respect). You may only want to help fellow hikers to make it to the top no matter what your state of mind or body. Celebration is in the company and not self. With a trek there are no weakling, everyone who reaches the camping point is a winner whether he arrived first or last.

Another reason for bonding is that in the trek, the entire group is isolated from the society at large (especially in Himalayan treks). In short, you form a society of your own in the wild. This makes you a responsible group and an empowered individual where you sense the importance of your choices & the possible repercussion directly. You have the right to plunder nature or live in harmony with it. You make a deliberate & conscious choice of functioning in harmony with nature by adhering to regulations of cleanliness, avoiding pollution of all kinds and co-operating with each other to face the whims & wraths of nature. You need each other’s help and support to ensure safety and thus every person’s presence becomes relevant. Nature becomes your backbone and you automatically learn to respect it. Thus one feels helpless and powerful at the same time-helpless, every time nature’s fury in rains or snow forces group to be united; powerful, every time you contribute to the group co-operation movement (you realize the relevance & need of your contribution instinctively) or when as a group one is able to withstand the might of nature.

Another 2 reasons that I have identified is that as one treks, at an individual level one ends up knowing more about oneself. Hitherto unknown vista is opened and the individual feels alive and more vibrant. This state by itself has several reasons for it’s presence. At the primitive core, each human starts linking this sense of high to the presence of the company in which he or she arrived to that state. Hence a heightened state of bonding is the result.

Finally, while trekking and plodding with every passing day of trek each individual finds oneself unable to maintain the false composure that would otherwise be seen in the regular society. In other words, every person finds his or her idiosyncrasy exposed. Each person who finds out that he is still accepted by the group despite his or her exposed idiosyncrasies is unwittingly relieved at being accepted for what he or she actually is and not for what he or she normally projects in the society. Due to this acceptance, the bonding occurs at a deeper level which is felt at the instinctual level.

Bonding can happen anywhere and everywhere. Yet, it is really beautiful in a trek when one is in the lap of mother nature. The after-effect never ceases to bring a glow even when one is back in concrete confines of society.

Love, warmth and respect are earned mostly in trying and not necessarily in succeeding. Having learnt that, success is what others bring to you as long as you keep at it.