It started badly for us. Anxious white lady wanting to meet her injured husband, frustrated foreigners and chatty honeymooners all stranded sipping hot tea in middle of nowhere. The rains came down hard on us dampening our plan. The casual onlookers found it amusing at the sight of people running around helplessly seeking help. Casual tap on my shoulders and a reassuring look on my friends face convinced me that I need to forget about everything and take a nap in the bus. I was woken up by my co-passenger who offered me mixed nuts as I have not eaten all day. This kind old lady was stranded like rest of us due to land slide on the way to Manali. She was in a hurry to meet her husband in hospital at Manali who had a major motorcycle accident.
My pleading on her behalf with locals to take her to Manali through alternate route went in vain. Help arrived in the form of exploitation. The locals sensing a good chance to make money offered to take people to Manali through alternate route for a hefty sum of money. Despite our initial refusal we had to give in to their demands as there was no sign of road getting cleared anytime soon.
Long arduous journey through the woods finally brought us to Nagar, our destination. As we walked to the guest house we had booked, there was an eerie feeling that the worst was yet to come. The guest house owner Mr. Ravi welcomed us with a bad news. He informed us that it had been raining for last 3 days and if it continues we would not be able to trek. Exploiting helpless people is a well known trait of Indian people. It’s not as obvious for an Indian as we live with it day in and day out. This ugliness surfaces when we travel with foreigners around the country. Ravi, on realizing that my companions are not Indians decided to increase the cost of trek that he was to organize for us. In spite of various email exchanges negotiating the cost, he claimed that we had cheated him. He went on to accuse me of not sending any such mails confirming the negotiated cost. When asked to open the email that I had sent him, he declared that internet was down due to rains. I had to connect to edge network through my phone to prove my point. He went on to highlight the Indian lowness by deleting the email from my phone. Luckily, the semi-retarded mountain man (He claims that) was not aware of restore button. This incident infuriated my friends and our negotiations ended with heated argument and with us finally giving in and paying a little more than what was negotiated. We wanted a perfect vacation.
The rain showed no signs of yielding. We decided to postpone the trek by a day for the rain to stop. This did not go down well with Mr. Semi-retarded Mountain man. He started forcing us to start the trek despite the heavy rains. After another heated argument, he gave in. His presence left us in foul mood that we made up our mind to start the trek the next day irrespective of weather conditions. Luckily for us rain paved way to sunshine.
Trek started with a climb to a little village near Nagar. I don’t recall the name of the village but I felt some really strange vibe from the villagers. At that point I was not sure what it was so I ignored and continued the trek.
The mild climb led us to serene place where a lone young man was busy boiling local rice alcoholic drink. The smell of it put me off, but my friends were interested and bought a bottle from him. Having read about deaths caused by consuming local alcohol, I wasn’t keen on tasting it.
The forested area suddenly opened up to grassland on top the mountain providing spectacular hill. With the peak just 2kms away and in line of sight, we stopped for lunch. Bright sunny day paved way to dark black clouds charging in from the west. It felt like the clash of Norse gods. Pacing ourselves to avoid the inevitable rain, we quickly climbed towards the top. It felt weird that we were moving closer to clouds rather than moving away from them.
In a matter of minutes the heavens opened up and soon we found ourselves climbing amongst rain and mist. The passing cloud did just enough damage before passing on the next mountain. Our base camp is called Novatapru, a strange name for a place that has just one hut.
The old man living on the top of the mountain provides food and shelter services for travelers. The pleasant old man allowed us to warm ourselves and served us food. The rest of the day was spent chitchatting about life and our future. After a sumptuous dinner we buried ourselves in tent.