What exactly is passion? I find it difficult to answer this question. However, I can tell you one story if you ask me this question again.
A guy IT engineer (read 9 to 5 job) starts from Noida at 1700 Hours. At 1830 Hours he lands at the ISBT Delhi. Boards an ordinary bus to Kangra and after a back breaking journey of 13 Hours, leads a 30 kilometer long trek expedition in the jungles of the Dhauladhars’.
And then he and his team lose the trail. They come back to the same point after walking for two days. Then he goes back to Delhi. A week later he comes back. Ordinary bus, 13 hours, same trek, again. This time a black bear welcomes them just an hour before they reach the top of the pass. They abandon the trek expedition this time. Himalayas can wait, a black bear will not.
A week later, this guy calls me again and asks me to get ready for the same trek. Again.
That my friends is passion.
Meet the legend
Before I start narrating my sorry story, here is a word for all those who want to trek in the lower ranges of the Dhaualdhars’.
Never underestimate a Himalayan Pass. Ever.
The Dhauladhars’ rise from Dalhousie. As the ranges flatten, the walking distance across the passes increases exponentially. For instance, you will have to climb more and walk less if you intend to go to Chamba across the (say) Indrahar Pass. However, if you choose the Jalsu or the Bohar Pass, you will have to climb less and walk more. The Jalsu Pass is at least 35KM long walk from Paprola to the nearest road head in Chamba.
Bohar Pass is the last mountain pass (or first if you start from Dalhousie) connecting Kangra (Shahpur) to Chamba (Rakh). The remaining 3 (out of major 14) passes of the Dhauladhar Ranges are within the Chamba District. Adjoining it are the Basodhan, Kali Naali, and Loha Passes. They all are passages from one Chamba Village to another.
Our plan was to cross over the Bohar Pass (3400 meters) in one day, which meant walking as much as 20-25 kilometers in a little more than 12 hours. We, a team of three, had done exhaustive walking before and we were ready to exhaust ourselves this time as well.
If only we knew which way to walk!
We had already inquired about the gaddi settlements en-route and we were sure of making it across without any guide. However, we kept walking for two days and reached back to the same spot where from we had started. Almost a 360 Degree Parikrama.
The trek starts from Boh Village, which is 15-20KM from Shahpur, a stopover at the Mandi – Pathankot NH – 20; just next to the Kangra Airport. Because we had decided to cross this pass in one day, we were in a supersonic mode. The first five kilometers were covered in just a matter of an hour. And then we lost our way. We climbed up a vertical slope for about half an hour and then realized that we had left the actual trail.
That was the first signal.
Because we still had 7 hours of daylight remaining, we didn’t mind losing the trail. The next stop was at the Project site where a Private Company is constructing a hydropower plant on the Barahal Nalla. To our left was the Baleni Pass and in front of us we could see the Bohar Pass.
At least we thought so.
The valley on both the sides of the pass is inhabited by the gaddis’ until late November. That means you don’t have to worry about company and trek guidance. After walking for 6 hours, we reached the last settlement before the pass and then we got to know that still hard-work of walk 6-7 hours was needed.
There is no remedy for overconfidence, you see.
We called it a day there because except for four apples and handful of dry fruits, we had nothing to eat. At the campsite we met Daler Singh (62), a Bharmouri gaddi. And we will get to know more about him and sorry lives of the gaddis’ in the next blog post.
He prepared food for us and was more than happy to serve us because he rarely saw Indians on such expeditions. And because unexpectedly we turned out to be desi bande he was happy to have a desi company for the night.
The next morning he explained the trek route to us. Keep to the left he said. Whose left he didn’t mention and we simply assumed that he was talking about our left. We were looking at a narrow opening and all of us assumed (except for Mr Daler Singh)that that was our pass.
The narrow opening that looked like a mountain pass was atop a steep slope. Once we climbed that slope, we were surprised to see no temple or trishuls at the top. And because we were walking left, we took another left turn and unintentionally started walking away from our destination. The pass was to our right and not to our left. It was right in front of us while we walked with our back towards it. A wrong turn it turned out to be.
Our trail was not well marked and neither it was suitable for humans. After walking for another two hours we approached another gaddi settlement and then came the shocker. We were heading towards Sinhuta, which meant we were almost back to the same point where from we had started. Instead of the Bohar Pass, we had climbed the Gharanu Dhar Jot (3200 meters approx.)
Nobody said a word. We kept walking; the descent was steep, and the mood grim. It was all fucking depressing. The pass was right in front of us, the moment we turned left, we were just an hour away from the pass.
This depressing moment lasted a little long and when we descended the steep slope, we started laughing hysterically. Having eaten nothing since morning, the laughter grew loud and crazy. We were still left with two apples and a 15 kilometer long walk.
The Dhauladhars’ had flattened us. We landed in an unknown village and the nearest road-head was still 13-15 kilometer away. We walked away with a heavy heart and a promise to come back again.
We did come back again, a week later. This time we decided to climb from the Rakh (Chamba) side. This time we almost got ourselves killed by a black bear. And that jungle is arguably the densest forests of Himachal Pradesh.
The project is in the pipeline again. Before the Dhaualdhars’ cover them with a snow blanket, we will give it another go. It’s not a race or a competition with the Himalayas.
It’s just the science of Kaizen Walking.
Kaizen is a Japanese word for continuous improvement. According to Kaizen Philosophy, the word best is an illusion, better is something more concrete and chase-worthy. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Whatever you thought was your best, you can always do better than that. Or at least aspire to do better. Because it’s only when you aspire; you accomplish something in life.
And that’s what wise people have been saying since times immemorial.
Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.
So why do we walk? Because its walking and not talking that will lead us to the heavens.
A Special Thanks to Gaurav Vashisht.
P.S. There is another passage from Kangra to Chamba adjacent to the Baleni Pass called the Kanikot Pass. Next time maybe!