When was the last time you dreamt? Visualized your dream? Did you just forget your dream in the business of your life? Well, I did!
And then, I lived my dream!
The journey is beautiful and adventurous, destination is extremely exhilarating while, here’s the origin of my dream:
Sitting on the second floor of the hotel, facing Leh Palace, we were introducing ourselves and the treks we’ve been to before. The heights, distances, views and grades of each mountain path everyone mentioned gave an adrenaline rush, one struck hard when someone said – “MachaPuchare”. What? Machapuchare? You mean fish tail? For the fish lover in me, I wanted to see how it looks like and instantly googled it and thought, “Man, you ought to be really fit and strong to climb it. I wish someday I climb and look at the fish tail right in front of me.” That’s all about it, we then started prepping for the next few days of fear and a lot more to attempt Stok Kangri. Never did I think of it until..
The Journey of Self-Exploration:
The night before trek, while walking on road looking for Nepali Thali – 14 October 2019
Siman: O’ Hello Naveen ji, Suresh ji? Dinner done? You are aware that I will be your trek leader, Sonam is our guide and porter. Meet my friend Bikram, he’s here on a holiday, if you don’t mind, can he join us for the trek?
Naveen: of course Siman ji! The more the merrier. Ensure arrangements are done accordingly.
Day1: Pokhara to Deurali (2100m). 30min drive/ 5hrs trek – 15 October 2019
The drive from Pokhara to Phedi is spectacular. Wherever you see, snowcapped brown mountains stand in their majesty, yet subtle! But our focus is more on the ATM machines because we might have to buy eatables during the journey and sure, you need money! Fortunately, SBI ATMs provided Nepalese Rupee with Indian ATM cards.
The first few steps seem like soon we’ll reach a villa hidden in the bushes but as we climb the stoned stairs, though small yet many in number, they seem to never end, now they are being stony! 60 minutes of climb, Sibu ji, Sonam ji, Suresh ji and Bikram ji climb like they are on a school excursion – excited kids, laughing at everything, running around like it’s a park and here was I, contemplating – if I continue this for another 3 hours, my thigh muscles would wither off and I would look like a Kentucky Chicken with no flesh on the bone!
Its sultry, sunny, been sipping water. Steps will surely take me to heaven because as far as I can see, lush greenery, proudly shining sun and stoned stairs that reach the sky. When you’re about to lose spirit, someone appears out of nowhere to lift you up! That’s exactly, what this Amma did – plucked cucumbers and other fruits from her garden on the slope of the mountain, mixed some spices into a pickle and gave us the best energy booster that won the battle with heat and my spirit. Now I decided, I will reach atop and rest.
It’s 8:00 pm, I am all set to sleep under the blanket on this soft bed, shivering in cold in this 7-bed room and this man, Bikram ji, drives me crazy asking, “Naveen ji, do you want to eat some fruits?”, how can I say no?’
First day in the lap of mighty Annapurna is successful!
Day2: Deurali to Forest camp (2530m). 6/7 hrs trek – 16 October 2019
6:00 am – (Outside the room) – Stranger1 – Its very cold, I have three layers on, I can’t walk
Stranger2 – I don’t think we can go far, whole of Annapurna is covered with clouds
(Inside the room) Me to myself: After yesterday’s stunt, should I really go ahead today? I want to go back home safe. I have come here without any preparation, should I risk my body? Shiva, if you want me to come up there, show me a sign, tell me if I should climb high or walk back?
Just when I stepped out of the washroom, everyone happily called out to each other – “the clouds are moving, that’s Annapurna III, next to it on the right is Hitchauli, and there on further right is Machapuchare” and I stood there awestruck – blankets of clouds raced among themselves to give us a spectacular view of this mighty range. I am coming Shiva!
After the first surprise, comes the shocker – 7-8 year old kids’ uber excited to trek, running around the kitchen and dining tables, asking their parents to finish the Nepali bread with butter, jam and omelette with a cup of hot green tea! I wonder where these kids get the energy from!
Straight for about 100m and then a right for the next one hour is the path of abundance! Abundance of long green trees, with very big barks and some slender, so many that even the sunlight finds it difficult to seep through the shadows of these trees. The path is very simple – naturally inclined with a few steps dotted at distances that make this day a walk in the park. Is there a greater artist than the one who created nature? We have been to other parts of the Himalayas and this is very different from the others! Mountain is a mountain, why aren’t the treads the same?
Siman ji, Suresh ji, speaking about everything in the world, are at a visible distance behind me. Sonam ji and Bikram ji are racing with each other to reach the Forest Camp first. Here I am, mesmerized at the beauty of everything around me. The voice of birds, shapes of leaves, the little passage the sunrays make from the sky, at every turn a glimpse of MachaPuchare – covered in clouds like the Indian bride dolled up.
Pizza at a height of 2530m, sitting amidst people of different countries, one playing guitar, someone singing, a few playing cards, some playing volleyball, what more should I ask for? This spider on the glass window of the dining hall is irking me, might attack my green tea with honey! ‘Naveen ji aapko pata hai, Neha Kakkar aaya tha mere sapne me, wo mereko bahut achcha lagta hai. Vo Nepal aayega na, main usko Nepal ka queen banayega, aur hum dono ka height bhi match hota hai – same same – you know!” – said Sonam and his dream girl stories took us on a laughter ride.
Day3: Forest camp to Low camp (2970m). 6hrs – 17 October 2019
“I know this route, feels like I’ve walked here many times before”
Suresh ji to Siman ji: Oh God, you’ll have to hear this again and again till we reach back India
Siman ji: Naveen ji, you are a true nature lover. You will feel like you know the place or you belong there because you connect with everything around you, you feel at home wherever you go
Sonam ji: I don’t know about you Naveen ji, but I will feel at home when Neha agrees to marry me… I my Neha…
Suresh ji: oh you both started with your obsession??? This day is gonna be crazy, I better stay away from you both (laughing)
1 hour into the forest, a walk of peace and harmony, we five walking at our pace, in trance and awe at the beauty of naturally fashioned trees – some leaning on the other, some tall and slender, some huge and wide, some colorful, some wet, most with pink stem.
“Can you believe it? I was talking to the tree and since the stem was wet and fibrous, I wrapped my arms around her, I felt some movement inside, awestruck, I leaned and placed my ear on the stem, I could hear and feel water dripping, but I don’t see any water outside. Wow!! That’s magical!! Never experienced it before “, I danced in joy.
The trail is wide, wet soil, mostly red, inclines are steady and not steep. There are so many trees that it’s difficult remember the route. Once lost, you’ll never be found I guess. It’s sunny on the sky but here, under the canopy of tree, it’s cold and energizing.
For lunch we halt at a small kitchen setup by two men from a village. The prawn crackers are tempting but being a vegetarian, I hold back and relish amazing bamboo pickle with bamboo rice and daal.
Once at the destination, our room is cold, mattresses cold, water cold. It’s windy. Clouds blanket over. Gloves, muffler, woolen socks, jackets and thermals are not enough. It’s very cold. Our dinner time is fun – talking to people from different countries, sitting across the fire oven, Sonam ji plays guitar very well, Bikram ji always serves us food first. Hot Chocolate here is yumm.
Day 4: Low camp to high camp (3540m). 4hrs – 18 October 2019
Shorter day of trek, good rest and sleep, we leave in the night to Mardi Himal – that’s the plan. It’s cloudy and cold. Once again I pray, “Shiva, should I come forth? Should I trek today? I am doing well so far. I want all of us to go back home safe. Nothing else matters”
When I finish my breakfast and come out of the dining room, I see sparkling white tip of MachaPuchare, with clouds covering the rest of the sky. He always shows me signs. All geared and power-packed, we start.
“Sibu ji, I stopped eating non vegetarian because I didn’t want animals to be killed for me. Now that three doctors have forced me to eat meat and fish for my health to improvise I will. It’s been four years I have not. From today I will.”
At 2pm we reach our rooms. Relished chicken. Walked around, basked in sun. Rested. All seems amazing, I’m a little anxious for tomorrow night would be my first night trek to the summit.
Day 5: High camp to Upper view point (4250m) and back to high camp. 3 hrs – 19 October 2019
It’s about 10 am. “Sibu ji, air here is comforting, the route is familiar, trees generous, every view is new, yet so homely. There’s a very comforting connection. If peace can be picturised, this is peace. Can I sit in the lap of those five trees standing together?” I close my eyes, sitting cross legged. When I come back to this world, I see there’s a thin line that differentiates this world with the world I was in. And that difference is” belongingness”. There I connect with everything around while here is a roller coaster of emotions.
By 12 noon we reach the dining hall. Very hungry. I’ll go for vegetarian meal. We’re closer to MachaPuchare. Tonight it is.
“We wake up at 1 am, start at 2am. Normally it takes 1 hour 30 minutes to Mardi Himal View Point 1 and about 20 minutes from there to View Point 2. But because you are with us Naveen ji, we will go very slow and will try to reach in 3 hours 30 minutes. Take rest. Relax. We are with you Naveen ji, we will make your dream come true. Just pray for good weather. “, asserted Sibu Ji
The Summit :
1 am: its so cold, I’m freezing, should we really go now? – I.
2 am: Sonam will lead us, Bikram will be with you, Suresh ji will follow you and I will be the last. You don’t carry anything. We have the torch lights, we are carrying water also. Suresh ji is carrying eatables and your day pack also. You hold the trekking poles properly. It’s easy route and cold. We are lucky for the full moon light. Don’t push yourself, we will go at your pace. – explained Sibu Ji.
3 am: I don’t want to walk anymore. I am okay but I can’t walk further. This seems to be a safe place, you guys go ahead, look at the sunrise from View Point and I will view from here. Please go. Don’t wait for me, I am happy I came this far. You’ll miss the sunrise, go. – I persuaded. “Naveen ji if we leave you and go, what if Neha Kakkar gets to know? She won’t marry me then Naveen ji, don’t you want me to get married and live happy?” – giggled Sonam, the little boy with enormous strength and beautiful dreams
4 am: “Suresh, Sibu, wait, don’t walk. I am not feeling anything, no fear, no thoughts, no pain, my brain is not having any thoughts. Is it AMS?”
“No. Just breathe. You are alright. Sit down for a few minutes” – helped Suresh.
“Drink water Naveen ji” – offered Sibu
“Nothingness! People pray and meditate for years together to attain this. I’m experiencing it now. I am just me. Free of thoughts and emotions.” – I announce it to both and start walking.
5 am: “Bikram ji you said just 500 steps, we’ve already crossed a 1000 i guess. These are not steps, these are rocks cut in rectangular shapes with a hand railing on the side. You fooled me well. I can’t climb these gigantic steps anymore” – obviously me!
“I will take you to View Point 2 Naveen ji. You start climbing or we’ll carry you” – threatened Bikram
5:20 am: “Woo hoo.. Array Naveen ji… You made it.. We’re at View Point 1 before sunrise. Rocking Naveen ji, now i will sing a song for Neha and dedicate to you” – exclaimed Sonam in joy
Bikram ran to View Point 2
Tea shop uncle was serving tea
Suresh and Sibu walk with me to the tea shop, sitting around the fire in this freezing cold, we’re so happy and excited. Waiting for the first ray of light
5:30 am: “Light aagaya.. I can see the sky.. Come Naveen Ji Suresh Ji.. Can you see the snow and clouds on MachaPuchare, Hichauli and Annapoorna III?” – jumped Sibu in joy
“You have brought me safe until here, you will take me back home safe. Make all this worth it, give us a glance of MachaPuchare without the clouds” I murmur
Far from us in the sky,
With Pink radiance are the clouds in the south,
Majestically standing in Pristine white
Shoulder to shoulder are Annapoorna and Hichauli,
Announcing his arrival with the yellow tinge,
Rising sun is the world of joy,
Running clouds beat my heart,
To see you in your pride
Have I dreamt of –
I asked for a glimpse
Here you are –
Mighty yet simple, Unconcoquered yet so close,
You my love, MachaPuchare“
To thank the universe, I sit in a corner and meditate.
Yes, I am living my dream, right here and now. Just me, MachaPuchare and my people who brought me here.
Day 5: High camp to Siding village (1700m). 6/7hrs – 20 October 2019 and Day 6: Trek Siding Village to Lwang village (1,460m) approx. 5 hours & Drive back to Pokhara, 3 hours – 21 October 2019
Less words, more joy. Still in awe in the beauty of everything Mardi Himal presents. Everything and everyone in the world is so beautiful. We see a group of nature lovers, they go around the mountains in Nepal to clean and carry the rubbish we trekkers make / throw. They choose to make world a better place to live in, sacrificing their holidays and weekends. Such inspiring people!
We will meet soon
This trek would not have been possible without the help of so many people, needless to say, Sibu ji (Siman) – the amazing cool planner, Sonam ji – youngest but brightest, Suresh ji – my savior in all treks – we four were already in the plan. We didn’t expect this friendship to happen and grow but these 6 days are magical. The man who wasn’t in the plan but came from nowhere like an angel – Bikram ji, you’ll know better about his selflessness in this conversation –
2 am to 5 am: Bikram ji, please don’t walk by my side on the edges, you’ll fall. Sonam ji is showing the way forward, stop risking your life for me. You might be strong but you need light and you must look at the route for yourself, looking at my footsteps, moving stones for me to walk easy, you have already slipped twice. Stop worrying about me, walk ahead of me or behind, not on the narrow, steep edges. – I kept repeating it but, Bikram ji had one response – “I will rest only after showing you MachaPuchare and taking you back safe to Pokhara, till then I will be by your side”, with a smile that shone his teeth in the darkness of the night.
Mardi Himal is one of the easiest trek in Nepal. People finish it in 3-4 days. We took 7. It’s beautiful and closest to Annapurna III, Hichauli, MachaPuchare and other peaks, all can be seen from one point in Mardi Himal. We were strangers when we booked with ‘Everest Tour Nepal’, now we have memories for life. Mr. Sibu is the man behind making it happen – +9779849178651
I lived my dream and I am dreaming more, are you?