My Baby Steps into the World of Trekking

Author: 
Shriprakash Rao

Shriprakash Rao attended St. Xavier's School, Jaipur where he was a sports enthusiast, with particular emphasis on cricket and basket ball. He was also a good short-distance swimmer.

Rao joined the Department of Customs and Central Excise as Inspector, and retired as Additional Commissioner in 2015. He traveled to many nations as a trade negotiator for the Central Government on several occasions for various trade agreements.

Rao is an avid adventurer who has under taken trekking expeditions across Himalayas in India and Nepal. He fancies his visit to Iceland to see the Northern Lights to be the crown jewel of his travels. He is a keen photographer while traveling.

Rao loves driving and has under taken many long drives across India, initially on his motor cycle and later on by car. He is an avid reader and a movie buff, especially of classic westerns.

Rao presently lives in Jaipur with his wife.

In 1985, I along with my friends, Roger and DC, went on a mountain trek to Nepal.

We boarded the Jaipur-Lucknow-Gorakhpur train, excited but apprehensive of the unknown. The journey took us twenty four hours. It was tiring and eventful but I shall leave it out for some other time.

We reached Gorakhpur mid-afternoon and made our way to the border town of Nautanwa. We were excited about crossing the border but were surprised at the casual way crossing was being handled at the border. Even though it was about five in the evening, the Customs office was crowded with traders and transporters who were coming or going from Nepal.

My introduction as a Customs officer from Jaipur just got me a gruff nod, a tired smile and a near cold very sweet tea from the officer immersed in his work. We crossed over at Sanuli to Bhairawa on the Nepal side. It was really exciting to be in a foreign country (though Nepal is hardly foreign for Indians) for the first time. After we checked into the best hotel in town (which left much to be desired in comparison to hotels back home).

 
Tatopani village at the deepest point in gorge of Kali Gandaki river.

Tatopani village at the deepest point in gorge of Kali Gandaki river.

 

I rushed to the roof to catch my first glimpse of the mountains. Much to my disappointment and also was chided by the owner that mountains were actually very far in Nepal (it was actually a day’s journey away, I realized later).

Next day, very early morning we boarded a ramshackle bus (which made Rajasthan Roadways buses look like princely travel) to Pokhara. The day was spent traveling on a dusty, back-breaking road, which seemed like never to end. After about eight hours of arduous journey, we finally reached Pokhara at about three in the afternoon.

[pokhra twon with the mountain]

Based on short listing in Lonely Planet book, we made our way to hotel Tragopan (still there as per Trip Advisor). It was a lovely hotel and we had a room on the third floor. After dumping our rucksacks on the bed, we rushed to the balcony to catch a glimpse of the mountains.

What, I saw, is still like a fresh picture in my mind? A tall mountain with snow, covered in clouds (it’s peak was not visible) stood in front of my eyes. I was mesmerized and spell bound. I had not seen such tall mountains in life, except in movies and magazines.

Roger called me for tea but I just could not tear myself away from the magic in front of my eyes. I was spell bound and speechless. I later on learnt that it was Mt. Machapuchare-the fish tail mountain. I was finally dragged away from the wondrous sight as we had to a plan for our trek for the next day.

 
Mt. Machapuchare

Mt. Machapuchare

 

After a sumptuous lunch, we set out to look for a trekking agency to hire trekking equipment (tent, sleeping bags etc.), porter, guide and other camping material. Walking down the main road of Pokhara was very different from the mall roads of Shimla or Nainital (only two, I had seen till then).

 
Roger and Rao on a bridge.

Roger and I on a bridge.

 

There foreigners in large numbers and foreign made goods (Chinese) were freely available all over. We in would scramble to make seizure of such products in Jaipur. It was also fun to see that our good old rupee could run a little longer than back home.

We could not stop ourselves from buying a few things (jeans and umbrella-like the one Jeeves has). The search for trekking agency finally ended an hour later after finalizing all our requirements.

 
Roger playing chess with the locals.

Roger playing chess with the locals.

 

My friend, DC (the banker) had casually taken over the financial aspect of the trek, with Roger and me meekly falling in line. With much, nothing to do we decided to take a boating trip on the very big Pokhara Lake as it promised good views (‘of all kinds’. I later on learnt much to delight of my friends).

By this time, it was six pm and clouds had gone. Mt. Machapuchare and other mountains were standing in all glory. The boatman (a Gurung) who had in the meanwhile learnt of our impending trek, told us that we were in store for many a such views in the coming days.

 
DC, Roger and Rao on the mountain top.

DC, Roger and I on the mountain top.

 

A small foot note: During our boating trip we spoke to our boatman on many issues in India and Nepal. I casually mentioned that the King (it was King Birendra at that time) was doing so much for his subjects. He immediately stopped rowing. He glared at me and let out choicest of expletives. He told us that the King is getting the best of both worlds, from India and China, while the poor suffered and clamped up. Was this the harbinger of things to come? After all, we were in 1985.

We just shut up and went back to our hotel.

The trek began. On day 1 we were supposed to go up to Thikedunga, a distance of about 15 kms from Pokhara. We covered the first six-seven kilometers in an overcrowded jeep to Nayapul. It was afternoon when we got down to starting our trek (of course after the last bottle of chilled beer) to Thikedunga. We could see the town of Pokhara and mountains in a distance from the ridge.

It was hot and sun beating down on my head. I suddenly realized sun is sharper at higher and rarified atmosphere than in plains. When I pulled my rucksack, weighing about 12 kgs., on to my back it felt heavier than it used to be back home. I groaned, cursed myself and all in general to have agreed to join this trip.

Roger and DC helped and encouraged me. I could see Roger puffing along but walking ably on the track. The sun continued to beat upon us and we struggled uphill. The first hour was terrible and in fact, many a times a thought to quit and go back home came to the fore. But the thought of shame kept me going. After much, huffing and puffing, cursing we finally reached Thikedunga at about 5 pm.

Thikedunga was small, village, with some tea houses (which are what small hotels on trekking routes are called in Nepal, even today), a few tea shops, village headman etc. An hour was spent looking for a suitable camping site. When we finally pitched our three man tent, we kept our bags in the safe custody of our porter/guide and went on tour of the village. For a city-bred person like me, this was like fairy tale-the green valley, terraced fields, yaks grazing, thick forest, tall mountains, men/women with heavy grazed faces etc. Happily we trudged back to our campsite to cook our dinner.

 
Camping tent.

Camping tent.

 

We lit our stove and put the cooker (surprise! surprise!) to make dal and rice. The lesson in our science classes that it takes longer to cook on heights was really experienced that day. After a light meal, we decided to call it a day. I crept into my sleeping bag (it had got cool by then) and slept on the hard, uneven ground, which though I could feel through the soft rubber sheet floor. I lay on it and gazed through the window on my side. Gentle breeze was blowing; I could see stars bright in the sky and felt like touching them with my hands. Suddenly, the sky lit up with thunder and lightening. For a second, my heart stopped for what seemed an eternity and the mountains were framed in a photo taken by the Lord.

I loved everything about the track, our simple meals and the lovely countryside.

Today, after 35 years at 65, I still climb, trek all over and look at Mother Nature with awe and feel humbled to thank Him for all that he has given us. Next spring 2021, I had planned for a trek to Everest Base Camp to hang my boots finally, but it now appears to be a distant dream.

But God willing I will.

Comments

Bhaisahab,
I am surprised by experience of tracking.
Keep writing about it. It gives us the feeling as if we are too tracking with you.
Remarkable writing experiences of past and future dreams.
By the way I have touched Mt Everest and base camp by heart via small aircraft trip from Kathmandu.
Best wishes for the future trips.
Regards
Vijai

Keep on trekking!

Thanks for the encouragement

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