My husband, Vasuman, and I decided to go for Indiahikes’ Buran Ghati trek. It was a unique way to celebrate our three month anniversary in the summer. We began our journey with the spirit of this song from the classic The Sound of Music.
Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream
After a bus ride from Delhi to Shimla, we spent the night at my parent’s summer home in Mashobra. We proceeded for the trek early in the morning of June 5th.
After greeting our group of 20 other fellow-trekkers, we began the tempo ride to Janglik village, which was to be the base camp for our trek. The journey, which went from Shimla towards Roharu district, had patches of bad roads but the driver was quite skilled and drove almost like a maniac (vroom-vroom!) throughout the 10 hours of the way. The soppy Bollywood songs that he kept playing on the stereo (while skipping all the happy ones!) helped us get by the journey quite smoothly.
We reached the base camp and had tea. The briefing and tented loos (!) gave us a good idea of what to expect over the following week. The idea of not having a bath for seven whole days was freaking me out a little; nevertheless, we had dinner and slept soundly in a shared accommodation. That night, we saw a completely starlit night sky—a sight you hardly ever get to see in a city! I thought of the lyrics of Don Mc Lean’s Vincent:
Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land
Janglik to Dayara
After breakfast and packing up in the morning, we hit the road. Vasuman has done many treks with Indiahikes before this one. But since this was my first serious (read ‘high-altitude’) trek (I did some cursory trekking in school)—I had offloaded my rucksack, and thank God for that.
Needless to say, I was being super-careful, and following all the instructions our trek leaders and guides were giving us, including having Diamox once a day, keeping my ears and toes covered at all times, and drinking lots and lots of water!
At some point, Vasuman asked me to “notice the beauty”, to which I answered that I would as soon as I was done trying to make sure I was alive!
And noticing the beauty I surely did, as I realized that soon we were away from all of civilization—with no roads, vehicles, houses or even people around us! It was sheer delight to walk in the midst of untouched green carpeted meadows of wild coriander, yellow and lavender Himalayan thimble-weed flowers, walnut, almond and bhojpatra (birch) trees—whose white, paper-like bark was used for writing sacred Sanskrit scriptures and texts in ancient times.
By the time we reached Dayara (our next campsite), we were above the tree line and had only goats, sheep and donkeys as sole companions. The God-sent donkeys are old hands in the hills, skipping and jumping over steep mountains—carrying all our luggage and equipment for us.
Since Vasuman and I were the only couple in our group, we were touched to find out that a tent was allotted (and even pitched!) just for us—while everyone else shared tents in groups of three. So in that sense, it indeed almost felt like the extension of a honeymoon.
That evening, our guide took all of us for an acclimatization walk around Dayara. Even though the sun was out, there was a slight drizzle—the result of which was a beautiful rainbow. Watching it, a song started playing in my head:
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.
Listening to me hum Somewhere over the rainbow, Vasuman heaved a sigh of relief—before I realized it, I was finally starting to enjoy my first (serious) trek.
Dayara to Litham
The next day, we went from Dayara to Litham. By now, we were completely over the initial anxiety and our bodies too had got comfortable with the new food, climate and conditions. We found ourselves walking like champions—laughing, sharing jokes and singing songs along the way.
My antennas were also fully tuned to nature—the gentle rustle of Pabbar river’s water, the lively chirping of birds, the bleating of the sheep, and the thundering of the rain…Later in the evening, we watched sheep grazing from our tent—it was like watching Animal Planet live in front of our eyes!
Litham to Dunda
The next day, we did an excursion from Litham to the Chandranahan waterfalls and three lakes. The terrain was tricky as we scaled a height of 737 feet across a steep mountain. At one point, we were almost hanging on to the edge of a cliff!
Scaling the cliff was a spectacular experience, and we felt exhilarated on reaching the top—it was easy to understand how people who have conquered the Everest must feel like!
Mesmerized by the stunning beauty all around us, I couldn’t help but sing Annie’s Song by John Denver:
You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again
It was drizzling on our way back to the camp, but the rain was light and the walk downhill a lot easier. We had lunch and rested, and a fun round of antakshari followed at the camp in the evening. It continued to rain quite heavily until the wee hours of the next morning.
Dunda to Buran Ghati and river camp site
When we woke up the next day, we found small traces of ice surrounding our tents!
Nevertheless, we packed our stuff and got ready to leave for Dunda. On the way, we met the group from the previous batch returning towards Litham. Everyone was alarmed and wanted to know what had happened. Apparently, due to rain the previous night, there had been snow in the upper reaches of Buran Ghati—which is why the batch before us had been unable to go up to the pass! Sadly, they had to return to Litham, and go all the way back till Janglik.
We soon reached Dunda at 13,350 feet, which was probably the coldest camp until now. Our double layers of inner warmers, thermals and heavy jackets were all out now.
In the evening, we were taught how to use our micro-spikes and gaiters, which we would need for the next day’s ascent.
We ended the day early, as the following morning would start at around 4 am. Everyone crossed their fingers for good weather the following day! I prayed for sunshine in the form of another favourite song by John Denver:
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
River campsite to Munirang
As luck would have it, we woke up to a bright and beautiful day, and were all set to start the trudge to the Buran Ghati pass by 6 am!
In a sense, Buran Ghati is a ‘no man’s land’ as it lies between the Roharu and Kinnaur mountain ranges.
The climb up to 15,000 feet was relatively tough—through steep terrain and patches of slippery snow—but within three hours, everyone made it to the top! The song that instantly rushed to my head was Top of the world by the Carpenters:
Such a feeling is coming over me
There is wonder in ‘most everything I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream
A series of triumphant group pictures and selfies followed over the next couple of minutes—and one of the most surprising and interesting things that happened was that everyone found network (at that height!) on their phones. So naturally, excited calls to near and dear ones was what followed immediately after.
In the meanwhile, our trek leaders and guides were busy mapping our descent down the pass (a distance of almost 1,000 feet) with the help of ropes and other equipment. We would need to tie the rope around us, which they would pull from one end and we would slowly release from our end—till we made the descent up to a certain point. From there, we would simply slide down till we reached a flat surface on the snow.
It was extremely safe, yet exhilarating all at the same time, and as we began rappelling down the sharp slope, we found ourselves screaming and exulting with glee!
Bringing all 20 of us down one by one was a long and laborious task, and I thought that the Indiahikes team would have been bored by the end of it. But they managed to stay absolutely enthusiastic and cheerful throughout.
Once we had reached down, we had a further distance of about 7 kms to cover—through rocks, streams and snow—before we finally reached our last camp, Munirang, at about 7:30 pm. So in all, it turned out to be a 13-and-a-half-hour long day! But every bit of it was worth it…
Munirang to Barua village
On the last morning of our trek, the group congregated and each participant shared his or her experiences of the trek. Each of us was also handed out Buran Ghati fridge magnets as reminders of our great achievement.
Finally, we began descending towards our last destination—Barua village. Going down about 5,000 feet was easier, but still slightly tedious on the knees. Our trek guides also did a heroic job of helping us cross gushing rivers on the way, by physically putting stones as obstructions in the water stream, which we stepped on to move ahead.
Also, one could feel the temperature gradually rising as we kept going lower. Signs of habitation started showing up as we crossed a bridge, a temple and several orchards on the way. Finally, we reached a point from where we could spot a road, vehicles and houses—all of which we saw after a whole week!
On reaching, everyone got into their vehicles, said their goodbyes to each other and left for Shimla. The drive from Barua to Shimla (through the Karcham dam and Rampur against the backdrop of the Kinnaur mountain range was a beauty)—and the road was a pleasure too! Throughout the journey, we were filled with cherished images and memories of a wonderful trek.
I hummed the lyrics of Reach by Gloria Estefan:
Some days are meant to be remembered
Those days we rise above the stars
So I´ll go the distance this time
Seeing more the higher I climb
That the more I believe
All the more that this dream will be mine
Undoubtedly, the best thing about doing a first trek like Buran Ghati was the variety that it offered—meadows, hills, snow, stones, rivers, lakes, streams and waterfalls—it had a little bit of everything!
The first thing we did on reaching home in Mashobra was to have a hot-water bath, which felt heavenly! The thought that struck me then was that this may have been my first trek, but it certainly won’t be the last.
On the very first day, our trek leader had told us that by the end of the trek, we would all transform from being ‘tourists’ to ‘trekkers’. Now, I know what that means.