The new day dawned with the sun out in all its glory. Life seemed to be so much happier and I thought we had all recovered very well after the arduous trek the previous day. I had been through the final night of sleeping in a bag and in a tent. 3 nights in that cold is enough. I couldn’t wait to get back to sleeping on a bed and being spoilt with the comforts of a modern day city life. We were asked to clean up any and all debris lying on the ground after we had finished rolling up the tents and sleeping bags one final time. We started on the descent at 9:00 a.m. The first 5-6 kms of the descent was fun as everyone was in good spirits and a round of Antakshari duly followed.
Post lunch, the group split up into smaller chunks as those that were energetic sped down quickly and reached the point where we had started. I was much slower. I had my knees constantly in my mind and ensured that I walked much slower than the rest. Climbing down is hard on the toes too. I was ensuring that I walk sideways as much as possible on the descent to minimize the damage to the big toe. Regardless, it was numb by the time I finished, at approx. 2:00 p.m. We bundled ourselves into 3 jeeps and were driven back to the hotel we had been put up in.
A refreshing bath later, it was time for some R & R. We had a final briefing and handing over of our certificates at 7:00 p.m, which was followed by dinner and a proper bed with a quilt. I was quick to get to bed. I was tired and asleep by 9:00 p.m. We were asked to leave by 6:00 a.m the next day and I didn’t want to travel with less sleep.
On the final day, we eventually started off at 6:30 a.m in 3 jeeps, back from Joshimath to Haridwar. The return journey was marked by the change in temperature and the removal of layers of clothes as we descended. By the time I reached Haridwar, I was back to a single t-shirt. Tired, but content on having completed my first Himalayan trek!
I had the opportunity to meet with a number of people on the trek – there were people from Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kanpur, Udhampur and Meerut. Professionally, there were MBA grads from IIMs, there were 3 unforgettable bunch of guys from an Atomic Energy plant in Rajasthan, Sales Relationship guy, Project Managers, Software Engineers, etc. Remarkably, looking back, there were largely all people from cities with enthusiasm to experience and enjoy. Yes, there were small cliques and mild discontent amongst the group as would be common anywhere. The beauty of it was that the stay was short enough and the schedule, busy enough, that the discontent could not foster into something more serious.
After the trek, for some time, I have been clear in my mind that I do not want to go through that again. I did it once and that is it for me. Maybe it was the dehydration that did it, maybe it was the pointlessness of climbing a peak that is only 5000 m high. I do not know. Since the time though, there is a thought germinating of a tougher expedition to undertake. Something that my wife and I can do, not now, not next year, but maybe in a few more years. Maybe that will be the one trek that will be the last!?