During the last few years, Ankur and I have become lazy and turned into beach bums. However, not long ago, we loved the mountains. Both, Ankur and I have trekked the Himalayas. Ankur has been to Ladakh and the Valley of Flowers while I have trekked to Roopkund as well. All these treks were before we got married. Post the wedding, we have turned into beach loving romantic souls. Yes… I know… I am simply finding a reason to cover the lethargy… but lets just go with the flow, shall we?
The last trek that I did was to Roopkund, the mystery lake. Situated at a height of almost 5000 meters, in the lap of the Trishul massif, Roopkund is also called the ‘Skeleton Lake’ on account of skeletal remains that are were found around the water body in 1942. These skeletons date back to the 9th century and belong to a group of about 300 people. Local legend has it that the king of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhaval, with his pregnant wife, Rani Balampa, their servants, a dance troupe and others went on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi shrine, and the group faced a storm with large hailstones, from which the entire party perished near Roopkund lake.
While a lot of lakes in India, especially those at high altitudes, have religious tales attached to them, surprisingly, this one does not! Most trekkers strap their backpacks on for this trek, not really to sight skeletons but to soak in the scenic landscapes en-route to Roopkund.
Here are some of my favourite pictures from the trek, all shot from a small point and shoot camera, quite a few years before I ever held the DSLR… or even knew that I wanted one!
The base to start the Roopkund trek was the little village of Lohajung. We stayed in a small local hotel and set out to scale heights after a warm breakfast of tea and eggs. Besides our guide Kundan and the professional crew, the trekking group included Jana (a young German girl), Millie (young French girl), Pierre (Millie’s boyfriend) and Millie’s father (I am forgetting his name). We had innocent looking ponies accompanying us, for carrying our camping material and supplies.
On the first day, we camped in the picturesque village of Didina. I was tired after the first day of the trek. But somehow, my body stopped aching after filling my lungs with crisp fresh air, as I watched the sun go down behind the mountains. It was magical!
Nature had also thrown a few other options on the Himalayan slopes, in case we would want to unwind ‘otherwise’. Here is a picture of the marijuana plant that grows wildly on the Himalayan slopes. Apparently, making fritters using the leaves is quite popular with the locals.
The next day, we walked for quite some distance, crossing the Himalayan slopes that were covered in carpets of soft green grass. These green slopes are called bugyals. My favourite bugyal was Bedni Bugyal. It made me want to stay in a little house in a tiny village and wake up to this view every single day!
Now, lets get real… I knew that would never happen. All I could do was enjoy the views from my tent for one day! I had mixed emotions of solitude and freedom. I wasn’t sure what I felt… and I had not had any marijuana fritters! Trust me!
The next day, I finally sighted the the snow-capped Himalayan peaks… destination next! Looking up to the mighty Himalayas can be such a humbling experience! Some more adventure was around the corner.
The trail was getting tougher… and I was getting slower. My body was not feeling too strong at 4000 meters above sea level, with the air getting rarer. My head seemed heavy and I lagged behind the group… maybe by a kilometre or so! I was scared… all I could see was an expanse of white, with dewy moss. A cloud cover descended swiftly and I started feeling cold and breathless.
The path was narrow and suddenly, I felt acrophobic! I felt lost!
I have no clue where I got the will power from, but I gathered some pluck and trudged on. I continued walking hoping that I was on the right path. After about 200 meters, I stepped on pony poop! I was happy! I ain’t joking! Fresh pony poop meant that my group had just gone by! Yahooooo!!! I was on the right track!
A few meters ahead, faith took shape of strangers, who were praying at a small temple. Serendipity… and I walked on… faster, with a new wave of faith.
Within a few minutes, I saw Kundan running towards me with an extra jacket. We sat down and I caught my breath and then walked towards the camp. I crashed into my sleeping bag. I felt as though I had had a litre of potent alcohol and little monsters were playing heavy metal music inside my skull.
The next morning, when I got up, I felt all fine and was charged up for the final leg.
Getting to the lake entailed a difficult and steep stretch, which took every bit of energy out of my body and every ounce of determination from my mind.
As we ascended, it got cloudy and the white snow reflected every known shade of grey. We went up, glanced at the lake and ran back. It felt like victory!
Thus commenced our descent… once again through the snow… the moss… and the bugyals.
I got back, a happy soul, having lived a myriad of emotions.