Views from the trekking
Tunnel going out in the National park
The beginning of the trek
Tree near the path
Shugar village in the distance
In the evening we found a very nice glade smelling of herbs. In the morning we wake up facing very big waterfall.
The waterfall in the distance
We decide to leave some of our thing with the people from the village – these are books, clothes and everything else we won’t need for the trek. We also want to buy provisions in the village because we presume that there won’t be many resources going up the river. It turns out that buying food is not so easy task. After we repeat the word rice (in Hindi) like ten times the people finally understand what we want and open the shop-warehouse. Everything is brought here with mules so there are not many different products. Anyway we buy dough, onion, lentils, potatoes, cooking oil, instant noodles and biscuits. This will be our food for the next few days.
Now our rucksacks are light and we start going up. The path is still magical and the trees are so big that three people can’t enclose one even if they stretch their arms around one. The sound of falling water could be heard all the time. From time to time there are fallen trees on the path – maybe after a storm.
Fallen tree on the pathway
After three hours we reach Maror Village. The local people are building a temple. A young boy who lives in one of the towns down in the valley and speaks English tells us that this is the last village in the Valley of Sainj River and after this village the path is impenetrable. When we pass by Maror we stop at glade and start cooking and making chapatas (flat bread). A shepherd sees us and starts laughing at the way we do the chapatas. At the end he can’t resist it and comes to us to make the bread himself. Maybe he wanted to save himself the view of two clumsy foreigners kneading dough.
We are being taught how to make chapatas (flat bread)
Late in the afternoon we start climbing again. The problem is that we didn’t have much time to explore the region in details and we have no idea where the path leads. We have only a very rough map of the state Himachal Pradesh where we can see that there is a path but nothing more. An hour later the path disappears and we start walking on big rocks, boulders, landslides and bushes.
Obstacles on the road
After some time we see a group of local people coming behind us. They are three men wearing huge backpacks made of cement sack and two women. The locals are wearing rubber boots but they walk much faster than we do. Luckily they make breaks before the hardest parts of the track and like this we can follow them and not lose the path. In the evening we join them and enter the forest together. We call them “tribals” (from tribes) because they look like indigenous people – we want to iterate that this term is not negative at all : )
So these tribals are really strange to us. The women are dressed with wool blankets, have enormous earrings and wool head cloths. The men have colorful fezes (caps) on their heads and smoke cigarettes which they roll with some leaves from the forest and tie them with thread. They teach us how to light a huge fire for under a minute – but have in mind this works only at pine forests.
The also show us how to cook their traditional meal which is boiled pasta called sidhu. We stay around the fire all the evening together but the communication was not going really well because they don’t speak any English and we know just a few words in Hindi. In addition the language these people speak is Nahari and not Hindi. We really want to know where are they going and why they started this difficult trek since there are no more villages in this direction. But they just respond with an abrupt “yes” to every question we ask them and that is all. They didn’t bring tents with them so they just lied around the fire and fell asleep.
Camping with the “tribals”
When we wake up in the morning our friends the “tribals” had already long gone. We packed and started climbing. The path gradually becomes very narrow Indian track that is quite difficult to walk on.
On top of this it starts raining. After an hour we reach a small building that looks like a shelter. It is situated on an enormous pasture and it is called Parkachi. This is the last human presence.
The Parkachi Shelter
We continue walking for an hour but it keeps raining. At the end we are forced to hide under a saint-tree-temple and we light a small fire to warm ourselves. Suddenly we see some mountaineers coming our way – it turns out that most of them are forest rangers. They speak English and they give us a lot of information. They say that the lake we plan to go to is at the end of the trek. Which is not pleasant surprise to us because we had already imagined that we would pitch our tent next to it on its green shore with Himalayan ibexes and snow leopards running around us. In fact the lake is dry and is surrounded by huge chunks of ice and snow. In addition it is not an hour of easy walking away but a four hour hardcore climbing.
Hidden from the rain
The people from the forestry enterprise are stunned that we don’t have a guide with us (we had noticed this reaction already with the people from the villages down). When we tell them we also don’t have permissions they feel faint. We have to pay 5 $ per person per day (400 rupees) in order to stay at the national park. But we are three days walking distance away from civilization and it is raining so they can’t write us permissions. We tell them that when we go down we will pay. Then we make a strategy how to pass by the observation points unnoticed. In our opinion the mountain belongs to all the people and it is a shame to be asked to pay in order to visit it.
We can’t go on today so we pitch our tent. We hold back from camping around sacred trees.
Weather looks good for the day and in spite of the disheartening description of the forest guards about the snow up we continue climbing. Our provisions are running low so we eat gypsy pasry (bread with cooking oil and salt). We hide our rucksacks behind a boulder and we go up for an hour walk – or we think so. Half an hour later we reach the snow. It is quite hard and one can walk on it even with sandals (that is our equipment). The only problem is it is slippery.
And we continue walking with sandals on ice 🙂
We have to pass many obstacles which is time and effort costly. The problem is that one can easily fall in the nearby river. We continue climbing slowly and after I don’t know how many hours we reach Rakti Sar – The Blood Lake.
We are close to Rakti Sar
Rakti Sar 4600 m. above sea level
The scenery is like not of this world. The forests are long gone and one has the feeling that this place is unreal and is created only to be seen and then disappears. We see the dry bank of the river Rakti Sar and a sanctuary that consists of three posts wrapped with cloth. Now we understand that the “tribals” we met earlier were actually pilgrims coming here to worship this place. We people are amazing creatures!
The sanctuary the pilgrims came to visit
After we crossed the iced river we saw a track that looked like a shortcut going down. We hadn’t taken any food with us and we were hungry and freezing. Three hours later we arrived back at our rucksacks and then we went down to the shelter Parkachi where there was dry food – because no fire equals to no food now for us. It was already dark when we managed to boil the instant noodles. For us now this was the most delicious food we had ever eaten in our lives. And like this the presumed one-hour easy walk turned into 8 hour hard trekking.
Today history repeats itself. Gypsy pasty, all day walking even after sun-set until we reach Sugar Village where is the rest of our luggage. We ate again at night and again instant noodles. At least we are much lower and it is not so cold at night.
We converse between the two of us that this is probably the hardest trekking we have ever made, mainly because of the lack of food (except dough in its variations). We have only time to eat in the morning and late at night. While we walk we don’t eat because usually there is no time to rest. All this is accompanied by other “extras” like falling on the rocks, scratching ourselves on thorns and nettle, taking out ticks… BUT the trekking was totally worth it. The only thing we regret is not seeing any wild animals, except birds, actually many kinds of birds.
Views on our way down
In the late afternoon we pass through Maror Village and there is some kind of local festivity in it. All people wear flowers on their heads and carry statue of god Brahma. The people are giving the deity food and are performing other kinds of strange rituals. They are playing drums also. It looks like they are not very happy that we are here and watching their ceremonies. They don’t want to be photographed and we hurriedly leave the place because we don’t want to intrude though it is so very interesting.
Being “hardcore” traveler is sometimes as hard and tiring as going to a work. All day long you go up winding paths, always careful not to fall in the nearby roaring river, you look up the landslides in order not to be killed by some falling boulder or landmass. You look at astounding sceneries with eyes wide open. When it gets dark you have to look for a place to pitch your tent and you are really hungry and feel cold. Many times you have to light fire with damp wood and prepare and bake bread and/or other meal. And in the end you lie to sleep but you can’t because you are too tired and you are like blinded by the amazing views and pictures from all that you have seen during the day.
Last day of the trek – we have to go down to Neuli. We have a plan to go there after 5 in the afternoon in order to go unnoticed if there are some forest guards. The last part of the trek is quite pleasant and easy and in no time we reach the dam walls. The first truck that stops us takes us directly to the main road to Manali – these are 40 km. It is late at night and the driver leaves us on the road and around us we don’t see any place suitable to pitch our tent.
We are next to a tunnel and we decide to cross it and find a place to sleep on the other side. As all of you know hitchhiking in the dark in a tunnel is not a premise for great success – the drivers don’t see you and there is not enough space to stop. But we are in India and a truck full of garbage stops at the end. They put us at the back on the garbage pile and we are off. Thanks God they took us because it results that the tunnel is 3 km. long and inside it is very noisy.We are knee deep in litter but we are happy. The truck leaves us close to Bajora Village. We see a small flat place covered with grass and we pitch our tent. We eat what we hope are the last noodles for now and can’t wait to fill our bellies tomorrow with mango fruits.