The Bagini glacier Trek

If you’re looking for a trek that’s challenging but with great views and beautiful campsites with personality, then the Bagini trek is for you. What’s more you can claim to have trekked up to a glacier & at a fair altitude too.

  • Facts: Altitude gained – 4400 mts approx
  • Difficulty level: Moderate Total kms to trek – 44 kms
  • Pre Monsoon Season:- April last week to June end and in post monsoon Season:- September 2nd week to Nov first week.
    April to June day time 15C to 20C and night 7C to -2C Sept – Oct, day time 15C to 10C and night 5C to -5C

We undertook the Bagini trek, the year after our trek to EBC i.e in May 2015. For all of us in the group, Bagini would be a new route and destination altogether.

We didn’t expect the trek to be a tough one, but let me let the cat out of the bag right away that we were in for a surprise. Bagini is a moderate to tough trek with daily 7-8 hours of walking required and not on easy terrain.

So here’s what makes bagini a great trek to undertake –

  • great views of the Nanda Devi, Dunagiri and the Hathi Ghoda peaks, the Rishi Parbat, Hardeol, Dunagiri .
  • beautiful campsites – a meadow, one right next to the river, one inside an abandoned village and another right off the glacier
  • challenging your fitness levels – moderate to tough – walking through boulders and the river bed
  • snow possibilities – on the glacier and during our crossing to Dunagiri
  • spotting a glacier
  • pine forests
  • landslide region for some adventure along with snow crossing (which is scary initially till one gets used to it)
  • staying & exploring the deserted Dunagiri village (without a soul around)
  • A side trip to Auli with the most awesome views from the top – possibly the 2nd best I’ve seen this far.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to read further and complete this lengthy but informative blog now 🙂

We were a group of 7, equally divided between first time trekkers and experienced ones. Vikas, myself and Rahul had trekked earlier; while Poonam, Sushant, Basav and Girija were first timers. Vikas had undertaken numerous treks before this one – Gangotri, Pangarchulla, Dodti Tal etc to name a few.

So as goes for most treks in Uttarakhand, we drove the whole day from Rishikesh to reach Joshimath around evening. We checked into a basic but comfy hotel and relaxed. It was slightly chilly and we needed light jackets to keep out the cold. After we freshened up, we went to the nearby dhaba for chai and snacks and called it a day.

Day 1

We woke up at 6 am and departed by our mini van around 7 am. About 20 mins into the drive, we saw the beautiful Nanda Devi loom up and stopped for pictures. We knew it would be a long day with numerous stops given the sights around. However, suddenly about an hour into the drive, we had to necessarily stop as there had been a landslide a little further down and the road was being paved. No one knew how long it would take and so we disembarked. Luckily for us, an Army unit was on its way to the last village near the China border called Mana, and they had to stop as well. The next couple of hours were spent chatting away with the commander of the group, a Capt Rana as young as 27 (younger than all of us). The road was cleared and another hour later, we reached the road head – called Jhumma, from where we had a light trek (of about an hour to Ruing village). We reached Ruing around 3 pm. We’d had packed lunch on the way, so everyone including the staff was free. Luckily for us, we had fun setting up tents and helping the staff. My first hand at tent setting. 🙂

Ruing village was 200 mts further and we camped on the open ground just before the village. It was just across the river and on the other side was the road leading to the last village near the China border – to where the Army unit was headed. The clearing was peaceful and picturesque with mountains around, a river flowing down and pine trees everywhere. In fact, to me Ruing was one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve stayed in. There were no villagers in the village here & it was a different feeling all together.

Here’s a pic

ruing-campsite

Day 2

Ruing to Dunagiri (3610 mts)

A beautiful stretch that has it all. As one starts from Ruing, the pine forests make for a comfortable and enjoyable trek. There are waterfalls that one crosses, one can also trace the path to Dharanasi (Kanari Khal) pass on the hill across and there are pretty rhododendrons in bloom to make it a colourful and sweet walk. Another interesting part on this stretch is the snow crossing. At a number of places the snow has not melted out and one is required to cross about 10-15 meters of snow under which the trail is completely hidden. On these stretches the snow lies like a blanket over the hillside so basically its steep and a missed or slipped step can cause serious injury as well as a majjor slide or tumble downhill. I must confess that I was terrified when I came across the first such crossing (there were about 3-4 of them) fearing a missed step. Our guide Rawat though was pretty experienced and moreso a ski instructor and helped us safely across. He also showed us how to glissade down these with trekking poles. The remaining ones I crossed over with a lot more confidence actually enjoying the last one 🙂

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However about a couple of hours into the trek as we come to the end of one hill and cross over the the other mountain, it’s clear that this hill has started disintegrating and the soil is loose. Here we enter the hill leading onto Dunagiri , the last village before Bagini. Dunagiri is situated at a height of 3800 mts and is pretty high. It’s also a village where the inhabitants do not worship Lord Hanuman as they believe that he had pulled out half the Dronagiri peak to carry the sanjeevani to Laxman.

Coming back to the trek, this is a slightly risky stretch with the trail at a number of places becoming narrow as well as the gravel loose. Plus there are tricky stretches where one has to manouver to get around or under rocks to stay on course. This stretch of loose gravel and the landslide region takes about 45 mins to cover and it is advised that breaks here be few or nil and the region is crossed over as quickly as possible.

Our trials didn’t end here, just as we finished this stretch exhausted due to our quickened pace, we saw the Dunagiri village ahead of us. The challenge was the 3 km concrete stretch leading to the village. Tired and exhausted that we were it really was quite an effort to reach our camp at the other end of the village near the village water tank and school. This was marked out as the camp site due to access to constructed toilets as well as the availablibty of pipe water flowing from the river. The village site to me was mesmerising. Staying in cities as we do, there are seldom occasions where one can witness dwellings totally un0inhabited and abandonded. It was like a ghost village – some 50-60 huts and houses including the village temple at the top; all empty as if for ages. Waiting silently or maybe not waiting at all. Some doors locked, a lot of others unlocked. Scarce belongings. Apart from our group there was not a soul in the village.

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That evening after reaching around 4 pm, the group had chai, freshened up and rested in the tents for a while. It was windy and chilly and we were all totally fatigued. After an hour of rest, we decided to explore the village. We made our way to the temple on top – paid our respects to the Goddess there who’s had been covered. Looked around and were aghast to discover the carcass of a yak in one of the houses. It didn’t look like it had been there too long, maybe a few days at best. The body totally intact. It seemed like it had missed a step and fallen through the wooden floor onto the level below. A lot of houses in the hills are made on 2 levels.

Our tents had been pitched in an open patch near the school biolding and the organising team decided to sleep in one school room which was open. I learnt that day that tents are warmer than concrete houses with window iin the hills; as tents are wind proof and its possible to trap the heat (body heat inside). That night I found it a little difficult to sleep given the the feeling of sleeping in an abandonded village seemed eerie to me. After a while, exhaustion took over and thankfully I slept well.

Day 3 – Dunagiri to Bagini camp (4484 mts)

We departed around 8.30 am from Dunagiri and after about an hour and half and a small stretch of river crossing and some difficult boulder ascending arrived at Laungatuli. Its a beautiful spot right next to the river with a flat patch to pitch tents. We relaxed here for a while. Refilled our water bottles and took a short break as we’d been told that our camp for the night would be just off the glacier and it was a long walk up the river along the boulder strewn path. I’m sure those of you who’ve walked on river beds know exactly how painful it is to walk along river beds where you have to be careful of your footing at every step and where walking and stretching up boulders and rocks takes considerable effort. Its almost twice the work compared to walking on flat ground. At Dunagiri we were at a height of 3610 mtrs or so and as we started ascending, the altitude as well as the long walk started taking its toll on us. Thus, with numerous breaks we reached the bagini campsite at 4 pm in the afternoon. One of our friends was suffering from slight AMS and was terribly nausiactic. The rest of us had had 2 full days of challenging trekking at a fairly high altitude. The initial plan had been to start for the chang-bang base camp the same night at 2 am. Reach the base camp by morning, spend a few hours and return back. Given the exhaustion each of us felt, we decided to drop the idea of proceeding to the chang-bang base camp and spend the night resting. We were to decide whether we would spend the next night going up to the base camp. However, considering that we had carried limited provisions and an extra night would crunch the return journey, we decided to return back the next day.

The long trek up the river bed

Bagini Base Camp & Views

 

Day 4 – Return to Laugatuli (retrace your steps)

The trek back to Laungatuli took only an hour and half,  and we’d barely reached the camp when the weather turned and to our delight it began to snow. It snowed for an hour and half and it brought down the temperature suddenly. The snow got us moving out to click pictures and experience it falling softly. Hot chai and pakoris followed and so did loads of gupshup. That night however was the chilliest of all nights – temperatures falling to sub zero considering that we were right next to the river as well, and we discovered a layer of frozen snow over our tents in the morning.  Despite most of us having slept poorly the night before, spirits were high in the morning as the sun shone. The heavy trekking had been done and descending we all knew would be easy.

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Day 5 – Laungatuli to Dunagiri – Today’s walk would be an easy 45 min to an hour’s walk and so we spent another 2 hours walking up the other side of the hill leading to the Kanari Khal pass route. We returned after a couple of hours, having sighted enough Monals (birds common in the hills) to have had our fill. We camped at the same spot next to the school building in Dunagiri village. The place seemed familiar suddenly. Funny how even the most inhospitable places, seem comfortable once you’re familiar with them 🙂

Day 6- Dunagiri to Ruing & then Auli

We camped another night at Ruing, though it was possible to trek straight back to Joshimath the next day. I’m certain it was the beauty of the Ruing campsite that made us stay over. That night was the night for celebration. The Jack Daniel was opened, a cake baked, cut and devoured over music and chatter.

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All in all, it was a well rewarding trek (also considering that I lost a couple of inches in the process) 😉 , with wonderful views and good enough to challenge the body.

 

My first encounter with Everest

img_1789-3I remember my first sighting of Everest so vividly, even though I’m writing this after a few months. That morning we started from Namche towards Tengbouche and after the short climb out of Namche and onto the main hill about 1 hour into the trek, we spotted Everest. There she was – in reality and not dreams, with her pyramidal top smoking!

It was an overwhelming moment for me. Never in my dreams or my growing years had I ever imagined, I’d see this Goddess of a mountain in reality. Yes, she inspired awe even when I had read about her in my geography text books, but I had never thought I’d witness her grandeur in person. Even when I had signed up for the trek (more to give company to my husband who was keen on undertaking the trek), I’d never once thought of the summit and maybe that’s why this sudden vision was so important, this moment so big!

It was an amazing sight. There at a distance, across a few hills, stood the world’s tallest mountain. She had inspired so many climbers in such different ways. Far, yet so near (as never before). It took me a moment to realise the enormity of this moment. And she looked beautiful, there behind the Lhotse peak, with her unmistakable pyramid peak. Adding to her beauty was the stream of clouds that gave her the look of having a smoking top – almost like a mountain alive, beckoning us into her folds. Just like a house with a smoking chimney beckons to weary travellers in the cold.

As I stood there looking upon her reverentially, I felt grateful to fate for having brought me here to experience this moment. I think this moment was as big for me as the moment I reached EBC (about which I have talked in a previous blog, that you can read here). She was something to be astounded by. At a height of 29,029 ft where airplanes fly, she stood tall overlooking the world. Solitary yet strong with jet winds for company for years and years to come.

Here’s an impromptu poem that’s just gushing out on its own –

I stand here now, as I have been for years, centuries.
Towering above the world, with only a few friends for company – Lhotse, Nuptse, Choy-yu & Makalu.
Solitary and strong with jet winds for company, while sometimes silent in pure contemplation.
The blue skies, sun and moon shining their light on me,
By the day I’m a brilliant ring leader with swirling clouds that dance around; or storms that rage and astound.
By night, I transform into a magical, glittering phantasmal beauty, with a veil of stars on my head.
I look down upon those who come into my folds, for them the future is untold.
But it is I who know and decide, who’ll perish and who shall stand on the roof of the world.

 ————————————————————–

If any of you can take 15 days off from your busy schedules, the EBC trek is worth undertaking. For me, it was the start of my love affair with mountains and hills; a different way of life for sure. My holidays are mostly treks as against the touristy ones I only did earlier. I’m fitter, more in touch with nature and spirituality I think.  Life beckoned and I heard it 🙂

 

 

Love like Children

Children see positivity in everything. No emotion is coloured by negative thoughts nor is an action judged as motivated and questioned . It’s beautiful to witness this purity of thought. When one brings another a toy or a sweet; they accept it readily and lovingly. And then we grow up and there comes about a change. Where, when and how, I don’t know. Maybe we are taught at times to be wary of people, to not accept gifts from others without reason, not to be too trusting and loving – because we fear being hurt. But what love is that where you haven’t invested enough emotionally, so you aren’t scarred even a bit when things don’t work out?

We move away from home for higher education and then our jobs. How we forget those who once were essential to our existence. I know of people who don’t get to see their parents for years. It’s so easy to forget and be ungrateful. Then there are relatives we loved as children. We played with those uncles and aunts. Then comes a time when we drift apart. There are times when we meet briefly and when we do, we use our minds to judge them, we start looking for changes, we start questioning motives. We’re suspicious when people are nice to us! Why can’t our thoughts be pure. Why can’t we love them as we did when we were children? Let’s teach ourselves to be more trusting, loving and giving especially to the people who loved us once but are far away now.

I remember my maternal great grandmother who I loved as a child. She lived with us for a couple of years and went back to our native place later. She’d tell us magical stories, give us food and love. I even remember her piercing my ears and then attending to the wound until it healed. Didn’t see much of her later as I grew up. We’d go to our native place only for the summer vacation. Those couple of months were wonderful though and she’d shower us with affection. She passed away quite a few years back and I couldn’t see her before that. I had heard she’d become totally blind a couple of years before her death. I regret not having made the trip to see her. To have been around and near her. To have told her that I loved her and that she had made my childhood years special.

Intricacy = magic

Kandarpa Hathi Home

This Patachitra painting was done by an artist on the broad guidelines that I wanted a black and white kandarpa Hathi. In Hindu mythology, the kandarpa hathi means the erotic vehicle of love (the elephant – the hathi) that the Gopis (female cowherds) make during raasleela with Lord Krishna. You can read more about the Kandarpa theme and feast your eyes of some more such works here

Anyway, back to the painting. When she (the artist) finally finished it and handed it over to me, I was pleased with it; however, what I wasn’t prepared for was my continuing delight with it as time progressed. Every time I would gaze at the painting, I would discover something new in it. At first it was the pleated hair on the last Gopi making the elephant’s tail, then it was the ‘odhani'(scarf) of the gopi forming the head of the elephant. Then how the Gopis interlocked in each others embrace – they seemed happy and non competing – in some sort of a trance, dancing & swaying to some unearthly music only heard by them. In fact, mythology has it that during the rasleelas each gopi felt Krishna was dancing only beside her.

Look at the painting closely. The temple structure, the pillars and the double border of the painting -isn’t there so much beauty in the details that it’s magical? Can you spot more stories in this painting? Would love to hear about it. 🙂

 

 

Let’s Face it

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Photo taken at Ayutthaya, Bangkok 

People don’t disbelieve me when I tell them that I visited Ayutthaya, the erstwhile capital of Thailand only after I saw a picture of Buddha’s face mired by these roots in a travel brochure. Here’s my very own picture of the same spot. Isn’t it mesmerizing?

Apparently, when the temples there were damaged due to the Burmese attack on Ayutthaya somewhere in the 16th century, a lot of statues were destroyed and somehow this head came to rest between the roots of this Banyan tree and has been there since. Ayuthaya (which is a World Heritage site) is a must visit if you are travelling to Thailand.

Post in response to the photo challenge – Face

Scratch the surface

IMG_20160719_123932 (2)Scratch the surface –
What am I on the surface?
What am I a little further down? How do I know that?
When I’m angered, put in a discomforting situation, how do I react?
What are my secrets? What do they tell about me?
Am I always me or do I sometimes put up an act?

Layers of human nature
Oh so many of them,
Outwardly, my face with make-up,
my behaviour in society and inside my home,
further inwards within myself – my fears, my jealousies, my loves – all concealed.

So many emotions – that of anger and confusion,
Of greed and jealousy, and sometimes of loneliness.
But I choose not to show. I try and hide it beneath layers of work & play.
I love you but not totally. I love you because of my guilt, my compulsions, my duties.

Layers of make up – why do I need it? Am I not pretty enough?
Do I need to conceal my flaws?
Flaws, says who? A sprinkling of freckles, a distribution of moles & warts;
Why can’t I show the world who I am, I retort.
My true face, my true self? This is how I am without the sheath,
Does my face really matter? Or does the person/soul underneath?
Why have the perfect nose or the perfect pout? Why not the slim line that I have for a mouth?
Does it betray my rigidity? Why betray and conceal?
Why not change it? Smile a little and appeal.
But the truth is prettiness is loved and liked. Beauty of the body is.
So I will try to fit the norm.
Conceal and change it until I know not who I am.
Fear drives me.

When will I be able to break through these layers & breathe out fully, deeply and to my heart’s content.
When will I live on the surface, to show my true emotions and not be ashamed of them.

Written in response to the Daily post challenge –  Layers

 

Mother knows best

 

Mother & child applique (2)

‘Be independent, no matter what’ – This is what my mom once told me and it has stayed with me since then. I know there’s now no novelty in this piece of advice but the first time that someone hears and absorbs it, it registers as important.

She belongs to another generation where women did not have the freedom they have today. Not many were educated and most were confined to their homes and activities of cooking, cleaning ,sewing etc. My mom chose to work after her marriage to my dad. My dad also had humble beginnings but what characterizes him is his broad-mindedness. His determination to build a better life for himself and others. I know my mother’s income also helped things move along at home, but that wasn’t the reason she worked. She worked because she didn’t want to be dependent on others for anything. Be it on my dad for finances to run the house, or to buy that piece of jewellery she liked or go out somewhere or organise transportation or anything for that matter. She told me a story of how once she waited for my dad to send the car to her for an errand she had to make. The car didn’t come on time and she got delayed, frustrated that the work wasn’t done and that lead to her taking a pledge of being independent no matter what. She ventured out more and more – took buses and trains, travelled on her own, bought what she liked (sensibly of course) and things were so much better. Not just for her but for my dad as well.

I wish all women understand this. That somewhere love becomes tinged with contrary emotions if we do not have the capability to fend for ourselves. We feel tied down (physically & emotionally) and possibly let down if we are not independent.

Make life happy by living freely and by giving yourself that freedom – Become independent.