Friday, July 17, 2009

Sarpass – The Conclusion (Part 3)

Simply put Sarpass Trek was bigger & better than anything I have done before. It is only fitting that a Himalayan trek should take the cake so to speak. For I have absolutely completely fallen in love with that region.

This trek was also special for the company we had. I remember discussing with a gentleman who had done the Everest Base Camp trek & then with some of the camp leaders with respect to how YHAI goes about organizing an event of this type. Also very motivating was the fact that in our group SP4 there were first time trekkers, experienced trekkers & intermediate trekkers. And something that I found very nice was to see among women a college going student to a married woman. Also nice was a Father & daughter pair doing the trek together, a husband & wife doing it together & a couple who did it for the second time in celebration of their meeting a year ago on the very same trek. In our very group of friends were guys who were doing this sort of a trek for the first time.

The other significant part of this trek was that it was a true camping experience. Sleeping in tents, resting in tents, playing cards in tents & working on various improvisations to make the tents warmer, it had its moments. One must congratulate YHAI for making some amazing arrangements in the most difficult of places. For example the camp at Fual Paani. Also a big credit has to go to them for the food arrangements. The cooks apparently get up as early as 3 or 4 AM to ensure the morning tea (which is served to you in the tent & is like a wake up call at 5:30 AM every morning) to breakfast to packed lunch to dinner. Add to that welcome drinks, evening tea with some snacks. In Biskeri Thatch we were served hot pakodas with tea. This to me was five star treatment. I don’t think at those altitudes we could really ask for more.

All said & done it was a trek that had to be remembered for trekking. End of the day that is what we were all there for - some hardcore trekking. And we got our money’s worth. Actually more than our money’s worth. For a little less than Rs 3000 I think we got a steal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) for Sarpass

What to expect during the trek? Food, Things to carry, Clothes, Toilets, facilities etc. There is a load of information out there however below is how we did it & what we experienced.

One has to really be prepared to extreme weather conditions. One definitely needs a good rain coat. Also the jacket that you buy for the cold should be rain proof. It helps big time. A good pair of shoes are really important. They are important because in snow & in slush it gets wet very badly. Our group used Woodlands & Lafuma shoes. The latter being the expensive option. We did most of our shopping in the Mayur Army and General Stores in Shivajinagar, Bangalore. We picked up Inners, Monkey Cap, Raincoat, Wollen Socks from there. We bought our gloves from The Brown Shop in Commercial Street. If you are investing in shoes especially Woodlands you can purchase it from a factory outlet it costs cheaper there. It is recommended that one either carries two pairs of wollen gloves or goes in for a pair of leather (basically rain proof) gloves.

We survived majority of the trek with one pair of clothes. With another pair being a back up. We were also advised to carry as less luggage as possible. This I think is very critical because it does help a lot in your pace & energy levels during the trek. We invested in Rucksacks in Bangalore. We bought them at Adventureworx in Jayanagar. However most of us didn’t use them during the trek because these rucksacks themselves weighed about 2 Kgs. The YHAI issued a simple bag that was very right & perfect for carrying just the required amount of luggage.

The food is basic & very good. Apart from lunch which is packed & hence cold, the rest of the meals are served hot. Dinner would mostly comprise of Rotis, Sabzi, Fried Papad, White rice, Daal & Pickle. For Breakfast we had broken wheat porridge, puris, Bread, Upma & so on. Also apart from the YHAI provided meals in a few camps the villagers also sell omlettes & maggi. At every Lunch point every day the lunch stop is where the villagers have set up shop selling omlettes, maggi, tea & coffee. Infact at our first camp Guna Paani we had the provision of charging our mobiles in these shops of course for a charge. The price of omlettes & maggi increased as we went to the higher camps. I also remember on our way to our last camp (Bhandak Thatch) savoring desi lassi sold by a villager at the lunch point. Yummy.

Although it is highly discouraged by YHAI, porters are available during the trek. Local villagers agree to carry your rucksacks up to the next camp for a charge. I think the charge was upwards of Rs 100 per day per bag. They of course come back next day to carry the bag again till the next camp. This is indeed a luxury thats available but at the risk of the bag owner. These porters don’t walk with you as they take shortcuts to the next camp.

There are toilet facilities at every camp. It’s basically a toilet tent. One each for men & women. Needless to say these are not clean & I also found these toilet tents very short in height & cramped for space. The YHAI is very strict about using only the allocated toilet sites. Any fooling around there could result in sending back the offenders to base camp. But of course apart from the toilet tent one was free to use the vast spaces in the allocated area. Which to me and quite a few of others was more convenient & some adventure in itself. Absolutely forget about bath during the trek. In the base camp there are bathroom facilities. The cold Parvati River water is supplied there. If anyone is game for a colder than a refrigerator water bath, could pursue it. Also at the base camp town Kasol, there are a few hotels that let you use their bathrooms for a charge. My suggestion would be to not bother and experience not taking bath for a good 11 days.

The tents provided are cosy. Some of them are not on flat ground so the sides or the corners could be open to the elements. We had some cases like that. We would either cover it up with our rucksacks or use our rain sheets (which we bought for 25 bucks in the base camp & please note this is more of a protection for the rucksack & not to be substituted for a raincoat). In all the higher camps , everybody was provided with a sleeping bag & a blanket each. These are very effective in keeping you warm at those altitudes. Also if you are forced to occupy more people in the tent suggest you don’t complain for you will realize it helps to warm up the tent in the higher camps. Our Tent strength was varying between 14 – 16 people.

Kasol, our base camp site is a small town. Largely inhabited by Israelis who have set up base there for what many say easy availability of pot/hash (Sorry I don’t know the exact term used). This trip taught me a lot, one among them was that Israeli women are very pretty, at least the ones we saw there were. There are some very nice restaurants, cafes, & bakeries in the town. After the trek got over we dined at an amazing restaurant. Our table was next to a window & through the window we could see snow capped mountains it was a very romantic place unfortunately ours was an all guys group. Kasol has many travel agents. We booked our Manali to Delhi bus tickets and Manali to Chandigarh bus tickets in an agency here. It is advised to think twice about booking anything with these guys unless of course you are in for more adventure apart from trekking like my friend had of sleeping in the drivers cabin from Manali to Chandigarh and three of us had in settling for the last row seats for our Manali to Delhi bus ride. This after paying up full amount & getting specific seat numbers on the bus.

Finally, I would like to end with the list of people who I did this trek with. Imran – the initiator, planner, executor who also became the Group Leader of the SP4 during the trek. Dilip – The main Entertainer of the trip. Deepak, Devaiah, Dinesh, Jayanth and Gyan.


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