Now I know what you’re thinking, no showers, no hotels, no hot water, no Wi-Fi (shock horror). But let me tell you this, hiking in the Himalayas will change your life. If you’d like to know more on the three things I learnt when trekking the Himalayas, click here.
If you’re still hung up on the whole roughing it aspect, do what we did and choose a trekking company that offers a level of comfort. We chose Bikat Adventures who provided three guides, two cooks and a team of mules to carry our non-personal luggage, such as the tents and sleeping bags and the campsites were set up ahead of us. We enjoyed 3 course meals, morning yoga and evening stretches, endless sweet ginger tea, cakes and a packed lunch every day that included fruit and chocolate bars. We even had two toilet tents!
Day 1: Trek to Tali Forest Camp (11,031 ft.)
The trek began with an easy walk along dusty trails to Tugashi village. Greeted by mountain villagers, we watched as an old man sat sawing wood and were shown how they made flour by channelling the power from glacier water to pound the wheat. Further on we spotted rice fields until the terrain changed as we entered an oak forest, which opened up every now and then to beautiful surroundings.
Naively, I assumed Bikat Adventures would ease us into the trek, but actually the first day was by far the hardest. Despite considering myself to have a relatively good level of fitness, I’m not going to lie, the last couple of hours were pretty tough. The sun had gone in, the temperature had dropped and we were on a steady ascent smattered with snow. It was a case of head down and focus on reaching the Tali Campsite.
My tactic of reaching camp fast backfired unfortunately, and I developed the dreaded altitude sickness. In serious cases, you must descent, but I’m told the most common cure is to drink plenty and eat plenty. Our Captain ushered me into the cooking tent to stay warm and the cook passes me a clove of raw garlic to which I stared blankly back at him. He gestured that I must eat it. Now I’m not one to ever need to be told twice to eat or drink more but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I did as I was told and chewed on two cloves washed down with ginger tea. Just when I think it’s all over, the cook hands me another. All I can say is, my poor poor boyfriend, because god did I reek. I mean, I absolutely stank of garlic from every pore.
To top it all off, after feeling quite smug that I’d overcome altitude sickness AND successfully navigated the toilet tent in the snow, ice and dead of night, one loose step and I fell into the poo pit. I kid you not.
Over and out for Day One.
Day 2 Tali Forest Camp to Kuari Pass to Tali Forest Camp. (11,031 ft. to 12,516 ft to 11,031 ft.)
You can’t help but wake up with a massive grin on your face. Plus it’s Christmas Day!!!
We hike to reach the Kuari Top today which takes around 5 hours even though it’s only 700 meters from our campsite. Needless to say, it’s steep.
With our Santa hats on, walking up and down snow slopes, we come across our first stream of glacier water. There’s something incredible about being able to drink fresh water running off a glacier.
We reach the Kuari Pass at lunchtime, the mountaintop we’d been aiming and anticipating for and we weren’t disappointed. Named by Lord Curzon in 1905, Kuari Pass means “door way” and this is because you can see the peaks of Garhwal Himalayas, the twin peaks of Nanda Devi, Dronagiri, Hathi Ghodi Parvat, Pangarchulla, Chaukhamba and Neelkanth peaks. It’s almost unfathomable that the collision of two plates, the Indian and Eurasian Plates, 50 million years ago has caused this landscape to form. The feeling of being on top of the world is undeniable and we had to pinch ourselves that we’re lucky enough to spend our Christmas Day here.
Reluctantly pried away from the view, it was time to retrace our steps back to the campsite. With everyone in festive good spirits, we sat chatting by the campfire reliving our experience that day and hearing the tales of other treks from our guides.
It was our final night’s sleep nestled in nothing but snow and nature, listening to the jangle of donkey bells.
Ok, so I might have made the camping experience sound slightly more appealing than it actually was. In reality, it was a restless sleep in -7 degrees and I had every item of clothing on, including my bobble hat. Plus my towel over my sleeping bag. Plus my water bottle filled with hot water. Believe me, you dread that moment in the middle of the night when you need to shimmy out of your cocoon and squat your bare ass outside. I blame the Thai blood in me, as boy did I feel the cold!
Day 3 Tali Forest Camp to Auli. (11,031 ft. to 10,003 ft.)
This for me was the best day as the views and mix of terrain was majestic. Saying goodbye to our campsite we hiked to our first stop, Tali Lake which gave us clear views of the highest mountain in India, Nanda Devi.
Minus the Poo Gate Saga, today was also one of the funniest. There was a lot of falling on ass. Mainly because the powdery blanket of snow that stretched over endless wide open meadows were just begging for snowball fights, snowman building and gazing up at the clear sky when making snow angels.
By late afternoon, we reached Auli which was where our hike ended. As we sat outside a café soaking up the last of the sun, a mixture of elation and sadness rushed through me; elation of how much we had achieved and seen and a bond that had grown in our group through experiencing those things together. At the same time a feeling of sadness knowing our bubble of solitude was about to be burst soon by phones ringing, car horns honking and kids screaming. Ah, back to reality.