It was the month of October, 2013. It marked my fourth month in the national capital. I had been a bit disappointed by Delhi in terms of food, people and art it had to offer. I later realized that I could not make judgments about the city unless I had met different people (people not from my college or locality) and covered the entire city. Despite the rigor which MBA had subjected me to, I never felt anything close to challenging (except for DMM, i.e. Decision Making Models, where I had to save my ass after scoring the lowest internals among 180 students). It was during this time that I came across a trekking event organized by my friend Suman. I registered for it because I wanted to escape boredom and not out of any uncontrollable fascination for Mountains.
About Indrahar Pass: Ever been to Dharamshala or Mcleodganj and witnessed those snowcapped mountains? Indrahar Pass is located right there on one of those mountains at an altitude of 4,342 metres (14,245 ft) above mean sea level and forms the border between Kangra and Chamba districts. This high altitude mountain pass is located on the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. The trek gets slightly difficult on the last part when it requires climbing boulders, but the breathtaking views of ManiMahesh kailash and the Pir Panjal range from the top compensate for these efforts.
Indrahar pass is a very popular trekking route that is usually accessed from Dharamshala or Mcleodganj. Located at an altitude of 4,342 metres (14,245 ft) above mean sea level, it forms the border between Kangra and Chamba districts of Himachal Pradesh. The Indrahara Pass trek is considered a moderate to difficult trek. The trekking trail passes through the popular camping ground of Triund, Laka Got, and Lahesh Caves. Popular camping stops are Triund at 2,842 metres and Lahesh Caves at 3,475 metres. For all the effort required to get to the pass, the spectacular views more than compensate for it. the stunning Dhauladhars of Himalayas form a backdrop of the trail for the most part of the trek.
Flora and Fauna: Wild Goat, Monal, bear (rare), dense forests of Deodar and Rhododendron, alpine flowers on the grassy ridges.
Starting point: Galu Devi temple situated near Dharamkot village is the last motorable location for this trek. This temple can be reached on foot or by hiring a vehicle from Mcleodganj as well as Bhagsu. The trail from Bhagsu is steeper. Bhagsu Nag has its own attractions, including the very famous Bhagsu Nag temple which has existed over 5,100 years. The very famous Shiva café is located near the Bhagsu fall. This is a pretty ordinary waterfall, but the café is a nice place to have hot beverages and a light chat with fellow travellers.
The trek was going to start from Bhagsu Nag near Dharamshala and end at Indrahar Pass. We left on a Friday night and we were expected to return by Tuesday morning.
Day 1- 11th Oct, 2013 (Friday):
I boarded a tempo traveler from Connaught Place in Delhi and saw 12 odd strangers to accompany me. I had met Suman and Geetanjali once at CCD. I happened to meet Sunanda an hour before meeting the other strangers since we both had to board the same metro. I was more excited than bothered among so many strangers. We left Delhi at 9:30 PM and had our dinner at Sukhdev’s Dhaba in Murthal. The journey was tiring and I had become friends with 3 people by now. The person sitting next to me was Akshay. I was really comfortable in his presence because he spoke fewer words than me.
Day 2-12th Oct, Saturday :
The road was not really good and I was completely awake for most of the journey. Moreover, a girl’s Whatsapp notifications prevented me from catching even a decent nap. I remember falling asleep around 4 AM. Someone wakes me up in the morning. I am not bothered to know about the time; I get down, brush my teeth and enjoy morning tea at some place called Kinnu. We continue our journey and I prefer to remain awake and not miss the beautiful landscape that had welcomed us with a faint shower.
We reached our hotel at Bhagsu around 11 AM. After getting fresh and telling my parents not to expect any communication for the next 3 days, I headed straight to the breakfast where I was joined by 4 new faces- Harry, Pradeep, Rohit and Gill. We exchanged greetings and then I ate like an animal before hibernating (I had stopped counting after 6 Paranthas). Porters could not be arranged and so we kept our luggage in the traveler and then started the trek at 1:30 PM with essentials, sleeping bags, etc. I was walking a bit faster relative to others, except those new 4 strangers. I soon realized they were supposed to guide us upto the Indrahara Pass. The entire group of 17 had split into 4 different groups and my group had lost its way initially, but we soon managed to meet other groups at a common point.
I bonded well with Anshul and Akshay, because of cigarettes and camera respectively. I am not a good photographer myself, but I have a decent knowledge of photography. We meet other members at the ‘magic café’ which is supposedly the oldest Indian chai shop. At there, I also met a childhood friend who had come from Gurgaon for camping in Triund.
The trek got steeper after this point and I wanted to reach the top as early as possible, just because I was enjoying the physical drill. We encountered really beautiful clouds on our way.
I registered the images in my mind while those with a camera clicked some beautiful shots. I increased my speed beyond this point and left everyone behind. I took out my player and played the ‘metal’ playlist. I reached the top at 5:30 PM alone and had the best moment of my life on seeing the mighty Dhauladhars suddenly appearing in front of me.
I saw two people waving hands at me. They were Rohit and Gil. I was the third person to reach at Triund. I went inside a chai hop and played Guitar to kill time. It was almost an hour now and the weather was chilly. There was no sign of other members and these two had gone to make some arrangements for the night and later help others in reaching the top since it was dark now. I was then joined by Anshul and Akshay around 6:30 and within next 20 min everyone had arrived. We head to a forest department’s guest house, have bonfire and sips of old monk to combat the cold weather accompanied with rain. I had a good time chatting with strangers and Harry and I become friends instantaneously when he plays Led Zep tracks on his mobile. We finish our booze and come inside the guest house for dinner. It’s a bliss to have hot Rajma chawal served at this altitude amidst cold weather. I talked to Prachi (a lawyer) over general lawyers’ stuff and soon everyone was in their sleeping bags.
Day 3- 13th Oct, Sunday:
Sun rose from the mountains and I preferred warmth of my sleeping bag over the scenery. I woke up quite late and I still felt sleepy. I tried to freshen up and the chilled water brought my all senses alive, though the areas it touched were mometarily numb. We had our morning tea and decided to click a group photograph.
3 people turned back from Triund thinking that the trek was too demanding. We were 14 now. We started our trek for Laka, which usually takes 2 hours from Triund, to reach the Snow Line café. Suman had a leg cramp and she made the wise decision of not going beyond Laka. Few more people decided not to accompany us any further. I had a good chat with Harry and Pradip just after our lunch. It drizzles for few minutes and then we started our trek to reach the Lahesh caves at Ilaka. It took us around 3.5 hours and we reached the caves before 6 in the evening. At an altitude of 3,475 metres I could not see even the faintest light coming from the town of Dharamshala. It was a full-moon night and the moonlit hills appeared too beautiful to seem real. It was time to meet the Old monk. Harry sings a Pahadi song. I liked the tune and memorised it right there. Altitude sickness had affected 2 people by now and they lay inside the caves. We were then joined by the other members. The night was harsh. I could not sleep the entire night. There was snowfall on the mountains and the negative temperature was unbearable, especially because of those chilly winds.
Day 4, 14th Oct (Monday):
Akshay was running a high temperature and Anshul had to board his return bus. They decided to return from Lahesh. Remaining 9 people marched towards the Indrahar Pass. This was the toughest part of the trek. There is no definite route and the path is really steep. One can easily feel effects of altitude when you gasp after every step. Fresh snow had shown after first strenuous hour.
The trek was scary at several points where a slip would mean death on the rocks. It was more dangerous for me considering my sub-grade sports shoes. I was feeling scared and exhausted, I could not walk more. We walked for few more minutes and then Geetanjali decided to return, she was accompanied by Pradeep. This was a tough moment for me, on one side I had a chance to climb this high altitude mountain pass, where I had wanted to be for the last 3 days, on the other side I had a chance to descend comfortably. I made a choice that differentiated me from all those people who visit hill stations and just take a sigh on seeing tall mountains. I shall cherish this decision throughout my life. We were now only 7. You can see the 2 of us climbing those steep rocks.
The trek got the toughest just 200 metres away from destination. I could not move but Harry kept pushing me. I saw that everyone else was struggling. I could see Prachi, the only girl there, moving ahead despite a bad health. I was now all motivated to reach the top. I stopped at a turn for rest and Harry almost dragged me from there in excitement.
Woohoo! We had reached the pass!
We reached there around 1:30 PM. After taking a rest for 20 min, we started moving back to Lahesh. The view from Indrahar on the Chamba side was spectacular.
I was running high temperature and I asked harry to consider me as an 85 Kg baggage that couldn’t move on its own. He helped me a lot during the initial steep part. I later discovered a technique of ‘ass climbing’ to descend from the rocks! We started reaching Lahesh by the evening and it was terrifying to see 3 of us missing. Geetanjali, Pradeep and Gill had not made it to the caves yet. The first two did not even intend to reach upto Indrahara. I was too tired to move outside the caves and Harry took my torch and started shouting on mountains for them. I could listen a few other voices, but if I stepped out then I would be fourth one gone missing. It was completely dark and those 3 arrived by 10 PM. We had cup noodles. We were supposed to descend upto Dharamshala the same day, but we could not send a message to Suman since there was no signal. By that time half of McGleodganj knew that 7 people were missing on the hills.
Day 5: 15th Oct, Tuesday:
Next morning Gill’s phone miraculously received a message from Suman and we conveyed her our status. We started descending down with our tired bodies. It was dark before we could reach Dharamkot. We descended the mountain using torch light and I saw Suman waiting for us with cars to take us down. I can’t really tell if this was the best moment of my life or seeing the Dhauladhars for the first time. We all tried to make ourselves look human and then boarded the tempo traveller for Delhi.
Indrahar was the first trek of my life. It had broken me mentally and physically. I could not open my eyes fully. I had a minor frostnip on my nose. I lay my head on the seat of the traveller, looked outside at the moonlit Dhauladhars for one last time and realized that I had done something big as a first time trekker.
It was the second week of August in 2014. Independence Day was approaching and I was all excited because of the accompanying weekend. 4 days of vacation is a big thing for an MBA college. This looked like a clear sign of getting away from Delhi and experiencing freedom from the hectic MBA life. I asked my roommate about his plans, but he denied any interest since he had recently come from a trek near Kasol. I ask other guys on my floor and everyone seemed to have his own problems- ranging from constipation to monetary constraints. I was all determined for a trek as visiting a hill station with an ‘all guys’ gang didn’t make any sense to me. Everybody had money for the latter, although both these plans would cost the same. I thought if I fail to convince a single guy for the trek, then my purpose of studying the marketing course stands defeated. I finally manage the guy from my neighbouring room who was equally bored. Now the question was where we are going to trek! I ring my friend Pushker who had recently opened a trekking company near Manali. He told me that they are going for an expedition to Bhrigu Lake. I Googled the place and found it to be a high altitude lake located over 14,000 ft.
So finally we are 2 guys in a Volvo owned by ‘Fauji travels’ travelling from Delhi towards Manali. The journey was never ending with several road blockages in the rainy season. For a moment all those worries from our parents’ side seemed reasonable, but then we decided not to think much of it. We finally cover the supposedly 14 hour journey in 24 hour to reach Patli Kul, where Pushker has arranged a cab for us to reach Rumsu.
The car stops at the entrance of Rumsu village, where we walk in the dark for around 500m and reach the cottage house/resort owned by the company. The cottage is fairly new and the fresh smell of wood was really pleasant. The actual owner of this cottage goes by the name Subhash and he made every effort to inflate our belly from his food. Considering we had to start our trek the next morning, we decided to upset Subhash ji instead of our stomachs.
We woke up quite early in the next morning. The cottage looked more beautiful than the night before. I saw beautiful apple orchards in front of my eyes, plucked an apple and bit it with that cracking sound, quite similar to what you might have heard in the Vico Vajradanti advertisement that featured a couple near waterfall.
Meanwhile Pushker explained me the concept behind his company Kailash Rath. The aim of this company is to promote the experience of trekking among Indians. The treks are conducted at really cheap prices and the profit is used to develop the Rumsu village. I liked their approach and I was convinced that they are different from the plethora of money making trekking companies that exist today. Even the walking sticks used during the trek are manufactured by the locals and can be purchased for less 300 INR compared to the market price of 800INR. The guides available with them are certified and have an experience of over 15 years with the YHAI.
I saw a beautiful view inside as well as outside the cottage. I roam around the area and then decide to take out the borrowed camera from my borrowed bag and click some pictures.
At this point, the comfort of cottage had provided the much needed refreshment from that tiring journey. We have a light breakfast and then board the hired cab to reach Manali. Let me tell you guys something about the Bhrigu Lake.
Bhrigu Lake is a high altitude Himalayan lake located at an elevation of around 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) in Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. It is located to the east of Rohtang Pass and is non-motorable. It can be reached by trekking either from the Vashishth temple, which is famous for its hot water springs, which is close to the town of Manali or from Gulaba village. Actually there is no settlement in Gulaba and is an area of the Pir Panjal mountain range. It is named after Maharishi Bhrigu.
Legend has it that the sage used to mediate near the lake and hence it has been rendered sacred; the locals believe that due to this the lake never freezes completely.
Starting point: The trek for Bhrigu Lake can be approached either from the Gulaba Village or Vashishtha. The path from Vashishtha is steeper, less scenic and has lesser spots for camping. Gulaba is accessible from the highway between Manali and Rohtang Pass.
Trek duration:4-5 hours
We stretch a bit and then start our trek. I have trekked over 14,000 ft altitude before and along the steep trails, but I had never expected the starting portion of the trek itself to be so steep. We kept walking and after an hour so we felt completely drained out. We ask the Guide to take a break and open the carton full of snacks and protein bars for us. Right at this moment, we saw some dark clouds passing below us. The guide said we need not worry as they are flowing along a different direction. We pack the carton again and ignore the clouds. We were all charged with the energy and trekked really well for next 30 minutes. There was a lot of greenery around us and the bright flowers were all around.
We paused a bit for clicking beautiful pictures and then saw the clouds taking a 90 degree turn to approach us.
Rains are the last thing one would like to encounter while trekking on a mountain. It derails the speed, demotivates first timers as well as the experienced ones, lowers the temperature by 2-3 degrees in less than an hour and if it makes your bag wet, that would spoil the entire trek for you. There were 4 of us on this trekking expedition, accompanied by 1 guide and 2 porters cum cooks. None of us knew how the exact route looked like since it was a part of an expedition and not an organized trek. When the clouds approached we increased our speed, and then the rains happened. We were running now, trying hard to locate a trail beneath those streams of water. We were wearing rain jackets, the bag was waterproof and we had even kept our clothes inside plastic bags before putting them in the bag. Pushker and I didn’t realize that we were much ahead than rest of the people. Within few more minutes we saw our camping spot. The porters arrived immediately and we set our tent. We have our dinner and everyone fell asleep by 10.
Today was going to be a tough day. The first part of the trek involved climbing through a very steep section, visible in this pic.
We have our breakfast followed by the morning tea. The porters were busy in packing the entire stuff and washing dishes. I decided to play Guitar for them.
We start afresh for our journey. The steep climb was exhausting, but what tired us more was the sight of another similar steep section. We climb that too, meet some other Guide on the way and we were directed to a very steep mountain that required us to step on several rocks for climbing it. Assuming it to be the last portion of the trek, we were all determined to cover it. We encountered a few glaciers before climbing it. Once we reach the top, we have this this painful realization that we have come the wrong way. The view was nevertheless breathtakingly beautiful.
We tried descending this mountain, failed on this path and then descended it along the same way we had climbed it. We kept moving and had realized by now that the lake was located behind a huge snow Glacier. We needed to climb a different mountain for this. The effects of high altitude had started showing on one of the guys and he suffered mild headache. We had to get behind this huge glacier.
Every one showed their grit and we climbed this portion. We were welcomed with our first view of the lake and now it required only few minutes for us to reach there.
We trek further and finally reach the lake. I didn’t want to miss the holy dip inside this sacred lake, although I was terrified of the cold water.
We spent few minutes at the lake and then decided to descend towards the route that would take us to Vashistha the next day. Camping is not allowed near the lake, so we descended around 400 metres to reach the spot that looked perfect for camping.
The morning welcomed us with a bright sunlight. We were happy with the way our trek had turned out. Our camp site looked beautiful and couldn’t help myself clicking a pic.
We later started descending towards Vashistha. The trail was quite muddy and I slept almost 10 times during the descent, more so because I was running down since I had to catch a bus the same evening. I could see several flowers on both sides of the trail. Our guide said that we were lucky to be trekking in August and these would not be visible during the latter half of October. We made a quick descent towards Vashishtha and reached down within 3-4 hours. The place is famous for its Vashishtha temple and its natural hot water spring, which is claimed to have healing properties.
In retrospect, we did realize there was a mistake from the guide who misguided us. That made the entire 50 Km trek to be around 78 Km for us, but we got to see a few unexplored sites along the misguided path and that made all the difference to our experience. It’s always better to look at as many beautiful things as you can, get mesmerized more, get to walk more and learn to appreciate nature’s magnificence.
Once my feet touched the grounds of human settlement, the painful realization of living in Delhi struck me. If only I could change certain things, but I will always continue to find some time for myself and keep running to the Himalayas.
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