We all dream of that picturesque place that is far away from our city, where we don’t have to worry about emails, phone calls and daily tasks. We would just want to enjoy a peaceful day looking at mountains, valleys and rivers and breathe fresh unpolluted air. The Roopkund trek was the best choice I had made, and apparently it was the same for 21 other people that week.
Driving on a very bumpy road for more than 9 hours in a Volvo bus from Delhi to Kathgodam, I was beginning to feel dizzy and nauseous. I was contemplating for most of the time, am I really going to enjoy this? My domestic flight got delayed and I missed my train. I was the only foreigner in the bus and no one understood English. I had to use my sign language skills for most of the time, and a bit of Hindi I learned in my business trip the week before in Chennai. Finally we got to Kathgodam and I felt more relaxed as I was meeting my fellow hikers. We all were easily identifiable even at 5am in the morning with our stuffed backpacks and strapped trekking poles. After getting introduced to each other we went for another 9 hour trip to the Lohajung base camp. We chit chatted for a long time on that trip but in the end we had to give up to sleep. That was really difficult with the roller coaster ride as we called it, the drivers were masterfully trying to make their way through the mountain curves and get to the base camp on time.
Arriving to the base camp, I realized that I was the only foreigner in the whole group. Surprisingly, this was a very good thing. Everyone was very interested in getting to know me and I felt more at ease in conversations. The conversation would always start with a question: “So, where exactly is Lebanon?”. I loved how the trekkers were keenly interested in my country which made me elaborate some more about it. I was also starting to get to know the Indian way of hospitality and caretaking. Everyone was so kind and I was amazed how much people shared their belongings and helped each other all through the trek. Furthermore I loved how knowledgeable everyone was about most of the subjects. I remember that first night I discussed Lebanese and Indian politics, Bollywood movies and the best places to visit in India. I remember the trekkers mentioned more than 20 different places I should visit in India that I lost count in the end. Later on that first night we met Dinesh and the rest of the guides from Indiahikes team, got briefed on the whole trek and went to bed early to had a head start for the next morning.
Mornings were my best part of the day. Everyone would be very quiet as we would indulge in a very warm cup of tea and look at the scenery around us trying to grasp as much of it before we hear Dinesh shouting ‘ajow ajow’ or ‘chale chalow’. I don’t know if I wrote the words correctly that is how they sounded to me every time Dinesh said them, and believe me he shouted them a lot of time! During the day, we would walk for 5 to 7 hours. The difficult part during the first 3 days was that we were going uphill very fast. We were singing tunes at some times to remind ourselves that we should be having fun while trekking. During breaks our organizers would pass around fruit, nuts and most of the time delicious cream biscuits in green wraps, these became the highlight of the breaks during the trek. Each day we would arrive to our destination in the afternoon to find that the Indiahikes team had already installed the tents and cooked a delicious meal for us. The rest of the afternoon would include playing cricket or volleyball and when it was very cold, a game of Bluff in the warmth of our Alpine tents with a warm cup of Tchay in our hands. In some camps we were able to set a campfire and the team was split in two. A singing game would then be played. Listening to the songs was definitely a nice experience. In other times we would throw our guesses on the constellations in the night sky, at that altitude it was the clearest sky I’ve ever seen in my life. The last night in the trek was definitely one of the best experiences, every group sang a song common to their own place. The Gujarati dance was definitely unique to me and I also loved the Himalayans when they sang their own songs.
One week after this trek and it all seems like it was a dream to me. This was my first visit to India but I’m already making plans for going back. I now have very close friends in each major city of India. The hardest part of the trek was saying goodbye to each other at the train station as every trekker took his/her own way back home. Finally I want to thank Indiahikes for giving us this unique opportunity, without them I wouldn’t have had this unique cultural and environmental experience. Going back to India is not an option anymore, I have a very long list of places my new friends advised and I cannot turn them down…