Continuing from part V…
The morning of May 13th was very pleasant. It was actually sunny. Many enthusiastic people were throwing snowballs at each others. It was great fun to watch people dressed in colourful clothes playing on the snow’s white background. We were thinking about visiting the Pisu Top to get the supplies down. But it started snowing around 10 in the morning, so we cancelled that plan. Nothing much happened on that day. Chandanwadi also have sarais like at Pisu Top. We slept in them for the night. Since we were sleeping almost touching each other, we didn’t feel very cold during the night.
Gharpure woke us up on the 14th morning. Everyday, he used to wake up early, before everyone, and then wake others up. And then he would wait their till everybody actually woke up and stood on their feet.
Today, the weather was very nice. We decided to get all the supplies down from the Pisu Top today. Just put my hand in my pant pocket and took it back out in shock. My wallet containing Rs. 152/- and receipts / bills for about 500-600 Rs. was missing. I reported that to Gharpure. Also told others to look for it.
Soon we started for Pisu Top. There were 31 of us. Initially Sandeep was leading. But he had trouble since he didn’t have goggles, so I took the lead. In about an hour, we reached Pisu Top camp. Everyone was asked to carry their own empty sacks. They filled the sacks with as much of the loose stuff in them as possible. All the boxes and tents were given to the porters and we started moving down. Halfway down, an unsporting guy dropped his stuff and a heavy raincoat on my shoulder and ran down. I some how continued with the heavy load till the camp. As I was nearing the camp, Pai saw me and he came forward to pick some of my load.
Moru kept his luggage and went up again to fetch more stuff. He has as much stamina as a horse. He is very good natured and and never complained about anything. I was to have many great experiences of him. He has a prodigal hunger. At a time Moru can eat enough food for four people .
We came down from the Pisu Top. We were tired and Moru had some pain in his leg. We went to the Dhaba at Chandanwadi and sat in the inner area. By then, the Sardar who ran the dhaba knew us very well. He gave us a kangdi to keep us warm. We sat there chatting and drinking tea for about two ours. In the meanwhile, Moru managed to burn his clothes with the Kangdi. After many cups of tea, we left the dhaba and went to the camp. After finishing the usual chores in the camp, we slept like logs.
15th May. Woke up in the morning and went out for the loo. Just as I was stepping out, I saw my wallet on the ground in front of me. The leather had become rock hard since it had spent a whole day in the snow. I don’t think any other wallet will manage to get lost and found so easily.
Today, I and Moru were to go to Pahalgam with group-2. The Group-2, Group-4 that I am talking about are the names of the groups. I cannot really explain all the complexities of which groups were to be at what camp when and who were to be the leaders in this letter. So be it. Moru accepted to lead the group in spite of his troubled leg. I became the rear guard. Being rear guard is very boring. You have to herd all the slow moving people along the way.
I was the rear guard till Frislana. I very funny incident happened during this walk. There is a huge shortcut before Frislana. It saves almost 10 minutes. I was walking very leisurely. The people in my group had already gone ahead. I had forgotten to tell them about the shortcut. And they were outside the earshot. So I couldn’t tell them about the shortcut. I took that shortcut and actually waited for more than ten minutes for the group to arrive. They came by the regular route and were completely surprised seeing me ahead of them.
At Frislana, we told the group to go straight to Pahalgam and I and Moru started walking together. Ali and Bashir hailed from Frislana. When we left Chandanwadi, they had urged us to meet them again. We promised to meet them again. On the Pisu Top, we had become very close to each other. Earlier night, they had made very sincere efforts to teach us the Kashmiri tongue. He would translate a very small Hindi statement, into a long Kashmiri statement. Time that we spent with them was really a great time.
As we were entering Pahalgam, it started raining. The route was also very boring. I treated Ajit, Sandeep and Doc-1( Doctor Milind Modak) in a Dhaba in Pahalgam to celebrate finding my lost wallet and then returned to the camp. We noticed that the tourist crowd in Pahalgam had increased quite a bit. That evening, Group-1 returned from Aru. That group had 8-10 girls. Makya (Karkare, the translator ) was already in Pahalgam. He had hurt is leg by stepping on a broken bottle. That night, Doc-1 gave some sleeping tablets to Moru and put him to sleep. Moru was completely exhausted and his feet were also troubling him a lot. He slept in the evening and woke up directly next evening, almost after 24 hours.
On 16th, I, Moru, Bhavalkar & Bapat were camp leaders. But because of rains and snow, Bhavalkar hadn’t been able to do any outing. So he was allowed to go to Baisaran in Pahelgam with group 1 and 2. We spent that whole day in Pahalgam. In the evning, when Moru woke up, he was very hungry. So I and Moru went to the sardarji’s Dhaba and ate large number of Alu Parathas. Moru was eating paraths one after the other. Then we had tea and returned to the camp. We had a huge camp fire that night and had great fun. Moru and Makya were in full form and were dancing with full abundance.
Next day, on 17th May, We were to take Group-2 to Aru. Doc-1 was with me. We covered the distance of 11 kms to Aru talking with each other. Initially, we were going by a route level with the Lidder river instead of going by the main route. However, soon this route vanished, and we had to climb up to the main route. At that time, a plump guy named Ramani did something which was very funny. I don’t know if I will be able to describe it, but I will make an attempt anyway. When he was just ten feet below the main road, he let go of his sack which tumbled down more than a 100 feet below. The expression on his face was completely beyond description. We asked him to come up and then Doc-1 went down and brought his sack up. Around this time, I started having a mild headache,
When we reached Aru, all of us were extremely happy by seeing the camp and it’s surrounding. There was huge flat land which was completely covered by grass.
Doc-1 immediately went to the Aru village and as usual came back after jotting a lot of information in his small blue diary. Whenever he comes across any new information, he jots it down in his diary. We keep making wisecracks. I heard from someone that he has jotted down some of these PJs too. He is very well built. He has also done the basic mountaineering course. He is ideally suited to go on a climbing expedition. Even in our group, the group members followed Doc and Moru, more than me.
In the evening we collected frewood. There was no helper at Aru, so we had to collect the firewood. And also do the dishes. There was a cook named Jain at this camp, who was a little crazy, but a good cook. Mhaisalkar and Patel had reached Aru before us. As usaul, Patel was sleeping. We had a great dinner and slept on dunlop mattresses for the night.
Woke up early morning. 18th May. Today we had the “camp leader” duty. Aru is a very beautiful place. The river at Aru flows about 100-150 feet below the campsite.I went to the hill behind the camp for the morning ritual. A beautiful, small, black bird was fearlessly sitting nearby. He started singing a beautiful song. In the beautiful Himalayan surroundings, the bird was looking like a cherry on the ice cream. The bird finished it’s song and flew away and exactly at that moment a pony came running in my direction loudly neighing. I had a fright of my lifetime. Fortunately the pony went away without causing me any harm.
Today, Doc-1 went to Lidderwat with group 2. Mhaisalkar and Patel also left with them as group leaders. In the afternoon, Bhagdikar and Dhamankar reached Aru from Pahalgam as leaders of Group-4. I had Moru had decided that whenever we were to be camp leaders, we would do our best to keep the campers happy. So we gave them a lot of good food. Some people were willing to sleep in the tents outside, so we made the arrangements. Naxt day morning, we made tea and then woke them up. They were very pleased to get steaming tea when they woke up.
Today, 19th May, I and Moru were to go to Liddarwat with group-4. We started in the afternoon post lunch. Today, I decided to cover the distance of 11 Kms in chappals. As usual, Moru was leading and I was the rear guard. The route was pretty straight forward. Initially, there was a biggish ascent. By the time people completed that, they were out of breath. I was a little surprised. Because I was breathing absolutely normally. We let them have a five minute halt and then pushed them ahead.
We enjoyed the route between Aru and LIddarwat. The surrounding was very beautiful. The road kept winding up and down. Lidder was on our left, flowing deep in the valley with the typical sound of flowing water. There was thick tree cover. All the mountaintops around were covered with fresh snow. Many times the road would pass through trees. After walking for about an hour, we reached a flat meadow. A lot of sheep were grazing there making their typical noise.
The route started climbing again. and the suddnely, it came down level with the river and started going along the bank. We saw a lot of wild ponies there. After walking for about twenty minutes, we came across a wooden bridge. This was the bridge Makya had repaired some days ago. The bridge looked quite sound. Makya and co. must have really put in hard work. We crossed the bridge. Mhaisalkar had come forward to receive us. We reached the camp with him.
The hut at Lidderwat was similar to the one at Aru. The rooms and kitchen were also identical except that the building was a little old. But the campsite at Liddarwat was more beautiful than Aru. The meadow in which the camp was situated was very big. The camp was situated in a triangle surrounded by tall mountains. All the mountains were covered with green trees till some height and then capped with snow. On the left, we could see a huge snow wall high above us. On the right, there were two separate fast flowing streams of Liddar.
There was a huge stone near the camp. I spent rest of the day sitting on that stone in the pleasant sun. Both my feet were now swollen and aching. That night, I, Moru and Doc-1 went to the dhaba to eat paratha. That dhabewala was fond of cricket and he kept talking about it. In the evening, a guy by the name of Abdul Karim invited us to his home to drik milk. He milked his cow in front of us. His wife the warmed the milk, added salt to it and gave it to us. It was accompanied by the maka (corn) roti.
The weather at Liddarwat was very pleasant. It wasn’t very cold. We had a great room with hard packed mud flooring. All of us (I, Moru, Doc-1, Patel, Mukun the cook, Mhaisalkar, Alka and Tapas) slept in that room.