I woke up with the twittering and chirping of birds and a grand landscape right in front of me. Yes! the morning was unusual. A night, I had already spent sleeping under the starry sky in the deserts of Jaisalmer (An Unforgettable Night in Thar). But mornings in the mountain are always differently astonishing and bestowing. You feel multiple emotions, inner peace, calm, thrilled, excited, energetic at the same time.
Gourab gave a demo on how to dismantle and pack the tents. We carried out in the same way to pack our tents. By the time we got ready and finished our breakfast, the supporting staff was ready to move with all the stuff.
After the stretching session, we left for our next destination which was Abin Kharak, at an elevation of 11,185 ft. Gourab claimed again, “Chadhai Makhan hai” (the ascent is smooth like butter) but by that time everyone was aware of his idea of Makhan… 😀 . Everyone was so excited to be a part of nature and reveal its raw beauty. We crossed dense forests, full of Himalayan cypress, Deodar, Blue pine, Cedar, Oak, Fir and Long leafed pine, etc. but the most prominent were Rhododendron. With the increase in altitude, we also noticed the change in flora. The trees were so grand, dense and old that we found their roots even over the ground.
Rhododendron is a highly invasive introduced species. It possesses various health benefits, such as prevention and treatment of diseases associated with heart, dysentery, diarrhea, detoxification, inflammation, fever, constipation, bronchitis and asthma, etc. It’s fresh juice can be purchased from the locals.
Crossing the dense forests we reached a clearing with a shepherd hut and a flock. I saw the shepherd hut for the first time.
Soon the dense forests started again which after approximately an hour of ascent, opened into a field. To our surprise, there was a ‘Dhaba’ (small eating joint), serving hot tea, coffee, snacks, omelet and Maggi. We had our lunch here and took some rest.
We started uphill again. The flora there was completely different. We didn’t realize it initially but we were walking on a ridge.
After walking a kilometer or two, we reached an opening again. The views were fabulous from there.
Moving steadily, we arrived to open ridge which gradually turned into meadows. We saw tremendous changes in vegetation in just two days. From pine, rhododendron forests to oak, cedar to meadows…
Now, we were trekking on top of the mountain in Ali meadow. The surprise of finding yourself in ‘Ali bugyal’ after trekking through dense forests is invincible. In local language, a meadow is called ‘bugyal’. These alpine meadows grow between 10,500 to 13,000 ft and are always found above the tree-line, so they’re vast open lands with surrealistic vistas composed of high mountains and valleys.
After such a strenuous climb, walking on almost flat meadows was such a treat. I’d heard that every good thing comes to an end but meadows seemed to be endless. My co-trekker, Palash burst into laughter, narrating, “Chota bugyal aaya ek, fir aaya ek bada bugyal, fir aaya aur bada bugyal, bugyal pe bugyal pe bugyal” 😀 (First came a small meadow, then a bigger one, then even bigger meadow, then meadows after meadows). This was obvious because we were walking on the largest meadow in India.
The snowcapped mountains and their cliffs were visible now. We could feel the magical effect of the Himalayas. Just by seeing those mighty mountains, all our tiredness disappeared in a while.
To our relief, we finally reached our base camp at ‘Abin Kharak’ but felt a mild shock, seeing that the campsite was 70- 80 ft below the meadow. This is following the orders of the Hon’ble High Court of Uttarakhand since August 2018, in which camping in meadows is banned.
The winds were very strong so I wore my fleece jacket while others were wearing a balaclava, gloves, etc.
It was around 4 pm when we reached the base camp. At sunset, the sky turned crimson. This duration is photographers’ delight. I too, clicked many pictures although clouds sometimes played spoilsport.
A spectacular show of lights and colours
The temperature fell rapidly after the sunset. We got to know the next morning from Gourab that it dipped to -4 0C at night. The kitchen staff was ready with tea and snacks. Although the ascent was not as tough as the previous day, we had to walk much longer. So, after the stretching session and dinner, we went for a much-needed rest. This marked the end of even longer day 3.