|From NIM, Uttarkashi|
“I’M IN MY PRIME, THERE’S NO GOAL TOO FAR / NO MOUNTAIN TOO HIGH,” says a quote from Wilma Rudolf, displayed on the campus of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) at Uttarkashi in the Uttarakhand state of India.
Uttarkashi was the base camp of our Himalayan trekking simply because our tour manager has a resort in that place. The resort consists of permanent tents which look like temporary ones. The look is important. We live in a world that gives much importance to looks. The hospitality, however, was of 5-star standard. The resort can indeed boast of a high standard. My students were happy with the facilities provided there. They love appearances. Illusions are real at the age of 16 or 17.
|Our bus backtracked from here|
What I wanted, however, was the rough trekking and the challenge it would provide to my aging body. We started our journey from the star-class resort in Uttarkashi toward Gangotri by the two buses that we had hired from Delhi. One of the buses could not cross the narrow, rugged road in the mountains. Our tour manager ordered for three Tata Sumos in its place and we continued the journey, and reached Gangotri by early evening.
The trekking began on Wednesday morning after breakfast. Our journey from Delhi had started on Sunday at 10.30 pm. We had already travelled 500 km by bus– from our school to Gangotri.
We were given packed lunch. There was a roll of toilet tissue delivered along with the lunch packet. “You’ll need this at Bhojbasa, our halt tonight,” said the tour manager as his men distributed the tissue rolls. I had not imagined how much it would come in handy when I thrust the roll into my rucksack.
Bhojbasa is 18 km from Gangotri, at a height of about 12,000 feet from MSL. We started ascending the trail after breakfast. It was not a difficult walk, in fact. If you walk at a steady pace, trekking of this sort is not very arduous. You should have a mind that thinks that you are still in your prime even if you are not. The mind works miracles. The body is an illusion.
I found the trek interesting. In fact, I could have reached Bhojbasa in about 3 hours. But I took about 5 hours because I was bringing up the rear. I reached along with the last group of students. But I wanted to prove to myself something. So I continued to climb after leaving all the students safely in the temporary tents set up by our tour manager and his assistants. I was glad to get the company of an equally spirited colleague, Mr S K Sharma. We walked together toward Gomukh. Gomukh is just 4 km from Bhojbasa. We walked and talked – both casually. And we covered 3 km easily. We would have reached Gomukh easily had it not been for the darkness that was setting in.
The next morning we took our students to Gomukh. In spite of the assurance given by two teachers who had crossed 50 years in age and had climbed three-quarters of the distance the previous evening, most students refused to climb any further than Bhojbasa. One-third of the students chose to make the ascent.
Real climbing has no short cuts. But how many people actually want to climb REALLY? We live in a world of short cuts.
Bhojbasa might have dispirited the students to some extent, especially since they have been used to extremely easy life since their birth. Bhojbasa greeted us with freezing winds. It was with much difficulty that we managed to put up the tents fighting against the wind and the frozen fingers. A few students started vomiting due to the unfamiliar atmosphere. Quite many had headache. I too had a headache. The revolt in my stomach was quite palpable too. There were no toilets in Bhojbasa. “The whole area is open to you,” said one of the waiters in the sick-looking “tourist home.” The roll of toilet tissue gasped for breath in my rucksack. I chose to ascend the mountain further rather than pull out the tissue roll.
A policeman came after Mr Sharma and me. He had to make sure that we were not terrorists going at the odd hour toward Gomukh!
Perhaps, what Gomukh needs is not a police force, but a set of toilets so that trekkers and pilgrims won’t desecrate the holy place in the morning. I would suggest that the Uttarakhand government should construct some kind of accommodation in Bhojbasa and also restrict the number of trekkers and pilgrims. The Himalayas deserve that at the least.
|At NIM, Uttarkashi|