Memoirs of an Himalayan Expedition: Part 1 – Getting There
It started on the 5th of April, 2011. Ankit (brother) and I set out for a long awaited trek in the Himalayas, my 5th such expedition but unique in the sense that this time there were only the 2 of us, not an entire troupe. We had vowed to keep it thread-bare simple as is the spirit of a rugged adventure. The first destination was Delhi. To compensate for the luxury of the Rajdhani (if I knew I had international readers I would said “Radjdhani Train”, sadly I can safely assume that this would suffice) that took us to the Delhi we straightwayheaded to the Gujarati Samaj. There we proceeded to check into the “General Dormitory” at the princely sum of Rs 30 per day. Sharing the dormitory with us were people from all parts of Gujarat but certainly not all walks of life for they seemed to be pre-dominantly Rabarans (cowherds/gypsies/shepherds). As our connecting train to Uttaranchal was at night, we had an entire day to spend in Delhi. As is the spirit of a trek, the thought of brushing and bath never even arose, we simply dumped our haversacks/rucksacks and proceeded to explore the city that is Delhi. The metro station appeared to be nearby. The plan was to catch at least one movie to help us pass along the time. We had brought along with us 7 novels (thats right) but wished to preserve them for desperate times. Since I had visited Delhi a few times previously I was reasonably well-acquainted with the Metro stations. I suggested we head to Rajiv Chowk Station, or Connaught Place (CP), the poshest shopping district in all of Delhi. In retrospect, it was a foolish decision. CP did house 2 cinemas. Sunday afternoon and Delhi’s poshest locality. Suffice to say that we quietly headed back to the metro station. This time to “Vishwavidyalya”, the metro station connecting North Campus, the locality that houses all of the nation’s best Commerce colleges. Here we struck pay-dirt. A typical Delhi character informed us that “Batra Hall” would suit our needs completely. It did.
It was a seedy, shady run-down cinema that was running “Game”. Perfect. Though we arrived at 4 o’clock for a 3 o’clock show we were promptly informed that we needn’t worry, the show had just started. We settled down into wooden seats in a theatre with no AC (obviously) and wondered exactly why theatres were struggling. The movie was terrible of course. We headed back to our dormitory and had dinner in the surprisingly ambient outdoor canteen. Old Delhi railway station was nearby. On the pavements outside the Old Delhi railway station aggressive salesmen advertised their wares. The product? T-Shirts. The price? 5 t-shirts for Rs 100. God bless China. Ranikhet express arrived on time. This was apparently a surprise to everyone as the North Eastern Railway is notorious for running behind schedule. So delighted was the announcer at hearing this unexpected news that she repeated it multiple times, it wasn’t often that she wasn’t apologizing and assuring the public that the authorities were considerably pained by the inconvenience that they had caused.
At 4 a.m. we arrived at Lalkuan, Uttaranchal. Rajpalji, the driver asked us to have tea at the local tea shop and assured us that he would be right over to pick us up. He arrived in his Tata Sumo at 7 a.m. We had both finished a third of our respective novels by then. The car was obviously not private, that would have cost upwards of Rs 4,000. Thus we waited for another hour as it got filled with a motley bunch of characters. By 8 a.m we were off, destination Devall. 250 kilometres of mountain roads. The journey was horrific to say the least. We alternated between sleeping, reading our novels, listening to music and again sleeping. Devall arrived at 4 p.m. From there a connecting jeep to Loharjung, thankfully just 25 kms away. By 6 p.m we had arrived at Loharjung. Altitude: 8,000 feet. Here we were met by Dineshji. Dineshji was the base camp manager of Indiahikes, the trekking company that would lead our march into the Himalayas.
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