Target Bhrigu lake with Tinu (2nd time for me) right after the Prashar Lake trek with her Friends. I was specifically keen on completing this to have a “Double lake trek” in my completed list. The Plan was to reach Manali the same night we climbed down from Prashar but we had to stay the night at a Hotel in Mandi. We thought that we’ll leave for Manali the next day morning. Next day came, the sun managed to get in through slivers of gap between the curtain, but we did not wake up. There was an air of laziness that crept into our minds and we procrastinated.
Soon, it became dark and my watch was showing 10:00am. Dark clouds was gathering and then they did their job of showering Mandi with heavy rain. Me and tinu put on an extra blanket and had yet another nap. At around afternoon we hauled our ass, had lunch and took a bus to Manali
We reached Manali at around 4 in the evening and it was overcrowded. Hotels skyrocketed their charges, taxi fares went up to the same height as well. Ten minutes of negotiation later we struck a deal with a taxi to take us to Gulaba for 1000Rs. We got our tummies fileld with not so great Pav Bhaji and Aloo tikki at Balaji Restaurant. I should keep this blog as a reminder to never eat at that restaurant again. A initial confusion took over me as drizzing started, absent mindness also got turned on. Tinu got me a corn on the cob which nibbled lazily ocassionally. We made our decision to start immediately towards the Trail head. Sparing no time, we got on the taxi, and sped towards Gulaba
As the drab view of the Manali town passed, The gleaming sunset view hit our eyes. The Air got colder and we started speculating how cold it might be at Bhrigu. Thankfully, We outran the rain. Here came yet another moment of stupidness. Worrying about the snow depth, I asked the driver to stop at the next equipment rental store. Once sense came back to me, I decided not to go for it and within moments we were at Gulaba.
The trail head is around two hours away and I was unsure if we could reach the trail and setup a camp before night fell but the ever adventerous Tinu compelled me to push on. The route ahead was just a snaking length of clear road but within half an hour we saw campsite with alcohol bottles stewn all around. “May be the valley will cover us” was my initial thought and walked away from the road but was stopped by barbed wire fencing. Reluctantly,we headed back to gulaba to spend the night.
Teased by cold at Gulaba
We managed to put the camp up just as the sun came down. I was hungry but the remanent laziness made us to open up our sleeping bags and lie down and talk random till our stomach directed us to make dinner. Nothing special there, we had our butane can, burners.. Fired away
Cold it became, I was having my zero rated sleeping bag to keep me cozy but Tinu had only 15 degree rating and i could see her shivering. Tried convincing her to use my sleeping bag as my jacket was warrm enough but she wouldn’t listen. Reaching a truce, we used her sleeping bag to insulate from the ground and my sleeping bag on top. Snuggling close, we drifted into sleep.
Dogs seem to be attracted towards Tinu. Early morning when we woke up there were two of them. That made me realize a mistake I made, our garbage bag was nowhere to be seen but the contents were stewn around. I should have kept the bag in the storage area of my tent. After our half eaten Breakfast, Sweet and Sour poha, which neither I nor Tinu liked, we picked up the stewn garbage, and packed the tent up. Thats when two officers from gulaba checkpost came over and in authoratative tone warned us that camping at the site without their knowledge was dangerous. “We are responsible for whatever happens on this side of the checkpost”.
Up the Meadows
The climb towards the Trailhead was not easy, the sun was hard on us and the tarred road made it worse. We were already sporting a huge amount of tan. I wrapped my newly purchased Purple towel while tinu used her Green stole. Sometimes we cut across the road by taking a steep climb. Finally we made it to the highest road on the mountain and what I saw did not make me happy.
The fences were high and endless on both the sides. I thought the NGT has closed the route to Bhrigu. But my intution and memory said otherwise, so I asked tinu to stay while I checked for an entry point. My memory served me right, I finally found the trail head. I felt recharged. Ran back to get her and off we started.
Just seconds after we started, we saw a line of people with trekking bags coming straight toward us, I realized that there was a commercial trek. my heart sank. I had chose weekday for this trip so that we could have the adventure to ourself. Shrugging we carried on, the only hope was that we would stay well ahead of them. Even though I had been to the campsite before, I really did not know the exact route, All i knew was the general direction of the campsite. I had to plan the route using the contour lines on my gps. The sun was at it;s glory by now, we kept jumping between scattered patches of trees for shade till our hunger made us stop and open a packet of MTR Sambhar rice. We knew our nostrils would flare up trying to take in all the fragnance from cutting the packet. The spiciness and warmth our rice made us click our tongue, we tried to eat slowly but we couldnt and only when the spoons started scrapping the bottom of the packet, we regretred not bring more packets. Ofcourse, we had one more but that was for the camp.
By this time, the group caught up with us, took a lunch break. This gave us an oppurtunity to exchange some pleasanteries and introduce each other with some of the friendly members. They were surprised to hear that me and Tinu were carrying our entire gear with us. We took the cue to leave when they opened their lunch packets and walked straight till we met with a sheperd resting under his tarpaulin tent. He gave us a direction to go and we took it. The gradual slope ended and We had to cross some small hillocks which opened view to the mountain range ahead.
It was about 2 and the sun was still the same and we took a power nap. we were awoken by footsteps, I thought the group was catching on to us but I was mistaken when the outline of a villager with long step moved in. He talked in a very cheerful tone, offered us food and his service to take us to Bhrigu but we simply asked for directions towards the camp. He insisted that we walk with him to his tent from where we could catch the trail easily, we followed. Pointing a finger towards a distant hillock, he said the campsite was right behind and we just need to climb the hillock to see the obvious trail.
We decided to finish our powernap before we started off again, we lied down next to a rock and I used my towel to shield our face from the sun. After what seemed like minutes, we were awoken again by “hi” from the group. They had finally caught up. Not willing to be behind them, we got up and pushed on but in a different direction around the hillock instead of over it which i thought would still lead to the campsite. It was both a good and a bad choice. The good part was that this route offered a liberal view of the huge valley that separated the snow covered peaks and the lush green hillocks. The bad part was that the route was pretty darn steep. In fact I asked Tinu to wait at a place so that I can go ahead and check for alternative route. Sadly none and she had to haul herself up till the point where the route was clearly marked. She kept complaining that my estimate of ETA was pathetically wrong. Well, what can I say, I like the style of Peter saying “Just another 10min”.
The route now was gradually sloping up , winding left and right, and we had to cross several streams and finally a leviathan of a space opened up. About 80m down, a huge camping ground sprawled across the valley and there was around 15 tents put up which we assumed to be of the group. We climbed down and decided to camp far away from the group as we wanted some peace. We pitched our tent and immediately crashed inside. We placed the tent such that we had the view of the both the mountain and the valley. Thought we can take yet another power nap but the people from the other group keot coming over and asking us questions. This was nothing compared to what was yet to come. 15 minutes later, a herd of horses carrying packed tents, sleeping mat were inbound. The leader of the group came over to our tent and told us that we cannot pitch our tent here. I went out and told him that this is a public place and we can camp wherever we want, to which he replied “NO, he gets to decide where the tents are put up”, Swati also joined in the conversation. He added that since we have pitched our tent right in the middle of available space, there will be issues setting up other tents. Hesistantly, I said that we are willing to move and added that we are tired from carring our gear and so, they have to do the move themselves. That was when the penny dropped and he realized that we were not from his group. He apologized immediately and also invited us to their camp dinner. We were not going to but politely offered our food too.
We retired back into the tent and I heard bashing from Tinu regarding the way I organized the bag inside the tent. We spent around 15min reorganizing our items, kept the cooking items in the work area, readied the food packets and headed out. The sun started to shy behind the mountains by now casting a orangish grey cast. Tinu was enthralled by the pure white coat of some of the horses grazing nearby. Gathering courage she inched nearby one of them. There was one backward jump from her when the horse liften its head up to see who’s coming, but kept moving ahead till she could safely bend down and caress the mane. “It’s so soft” was her immediate response. I thought she will take more courage to stay with the horsse but alas I was disappointed, she came back, pulled me towards a flat rock. We sat there for almost an hour till the darkness covered the sky.
We had some maggi for dinner and spent hours talking about our past. As the temperature dropped Tinu started shivering and I understood that her sleeping bag was not insulating her enough. I offered her my sleeping bag to which she responded with a flat “No” but as temperature dropped even further the warmth of us holding hands were not enough and she finally asked if she could have my sleeping bags. Minutes later she was cozying inside the warmth of my Zero degree sleeping bag. I knew my jacket was warm but i failed to remember that my legs did not have adequate insulation and so my legs started to shiver. Thankfully Tinu let me share the legspace of the warm sleeping bag and we drifted into a patchy sleep.
Dawn arrived with the the rooster of a guy blowing sharply through his whistle. It was the other group’s guide. We overslept. Quikly having our breakfast, we packed up and by 9 we were took our photos just as the other group started crossing the stream. The climb was steep and snow covered. We slowly overtook the group but at the same time helped some of the participants climb through the snow. As we climbed higher the snow was found to be more deeper and we kept to rocky section of the route for easy of climb. The climb ended after an hour and the route was moderately flat for the next half an hour with streams that allowed us to fill our bottles. We needed the hydration oppurtunity because the climb to saddle we had to cross to reach the lake was far more steep. My old shoes gaveup and slipped a couple of times and i had to wear my gloves so that i can climb better. Tinu started having weird stomach pain and so we took a power nap which did not ease her pain. We had to continue for the sake of progress and by 12.30 we were at the lake.
The lake was glistening under the afternoon sun, the water was clear in the middle but as it radiated out, it became more of ice and subtly transistioned into pure white ice. We could hear streams that poured water into the lake and out as well. We couldnt approach the lake because there was no clear distinction between solid ground and tthe lake due to the snow. There was a mandir erected in honor of Saint Bhrigu there and to visit it, we kept our bags down and walked towards it.The ground was covered with such think layers of soft snow that once it gave way under our weight and buried us till our hips. Pulling ourselves up, we held hands to keep ourselves balanced while dristibuting our weight as wide as possible, we reached the mandir. After a brief prayer we went and talked to people who seemed to have reached from vashisht side.
They gave us directions but at the same time they told us that we have to hurry up if we have to reach vashist before late night. So, without any further ado, we put on our bags and whisked towards Vashist. The same group who gave us directions started off too and were helpful in the directions for sometime but they were too fast for us as they came empty handed. Crossing slippery ice and chunks of rocks, we reached Pandu ropa which is a campsite marked by circular stone walls. No stop here, filling our bottles we carried on. After an turning, an super wide plains opened up. Horses and cattle grazing, a group of tents pitched far away. The side of the valley we were in was blooming with small flowers and was perfect setup for photos, but before that we needed a powernap as the sun was at its fiercest and we we needed to gather energy for the long journey ahead.
The Vashisth Side of Bhrigu
Photos came out beautifully, Standing pose, sitting pose, lying down pose, you name it, we had it. The route to the plains below was a steep descent and on way we found yet another stream. The sight of water made me hungry. It was around 3 and we had nothing since our breakfast. We setup our stove and finished the packet of Cerelac which we opened in our last trek to Prashar lake. Cerelec never tasted this yummy. We even finished the last of milk powder before we were on the path again. With cell phone reception, we talked to our friends who helped us finding buses to Delhi. The result was disappointing. There was no bus after 10pm. Tinu called her dad and let them know that she’d be a day late.
It became evident that some of the areas was actually being used to farm flowers. The flowers were in carefully planned rows and there was no sign of weeds. There was make shift tents of the farmers nearby. It was now time for steps. Plains had ended and there was only winding route downwards. It was now Tinu presented me with a question, “What would you do if I was bitten by a poisonous snake?”. Gathering every knowledge I had from reading books and watching Discovery story, I said “I will have to amputate your affected limb to keep you alive”
“Hawwwwww” came the reply followed by “you are such an evil guy, how will you even cut it? without anasthesia?”. Golden moment .. I replied with a wide grin, “YES, without any anastheisa, with you shrieking in pain” That actually gave me something to ponder, should i be carrying an local anaesthesia? A lot of Baaass brought be back to reality, we came upto a herd of goats and sheeps, Tinu asked the sheperd how long it would take to reach Vashist to which she got an reply on half an hour. That was quick we thought and so we decided to use all of our energy, Holding hands we sprinted down the slope with our bags joyfully swinging about. Sometime later, we were catching our breaths but then there was view of the town.