We woke up at 5 am and were soon on our way out of Joshimath. The dense fog prevented us from making out the deepness of the valley and the never-ending mountains surrounding it. However, on our bus ride to Govind Ghat the fog quickly cleared, revealing the regality of nature that made me feel insignificant.
With our hiking backpacks fastened tightly, we started the arduous walk from Govind Ghat to Ghangria. No vehicles were allowed on the ascending path, though horses and porters were ready to lessen the discomfort for the next 13 kilometers. And what a hike it was!
The journey began at 7 am. I could not appreciate the beauty of the mountains for long. Panting, my bag weighing me down, I trudged behind Nikhil and Ani staring at the ground rather than straight ahead. Occasionally, I'd stop, catch my breath and move on, only to look forward to the next break. We refilled our water bottles from the streams chilled with melted glaciers, walking alongside countless Sikhs traveling to Hemkund. Many were barefoot. Occasionally, someone cried out Bole Sonihaal! The masses responded with a reverberating Satsriyakal!
It started to rain. Well, it was more of a heavy drizzle, but the humidity and heavily misted air ensured we were drenched soon enough. The weight on my back, combined with the muddy path and now cold clothes did not make for an easy climb.
I still don't know how I finished the last kilometer. The last 600 meters were especially tortorous, because there was a sign marking ever 200 meters. My legs were failing me, my lungs just about ready to give up, and my mind screaming 'Just let it come already!'
Thus we reached Ghangria. The arrival was far from a celebration. We were exhausted. We booked a room, put out our soaked belongings to dry, and jumped under the dry covers. At 3 pm, after 8 hours of pushing myself to a physical and mental max, I slept.
By the time we woke up, our stomachs were grumbling- and rightfully so. We ordered a lavish dinner of paneer, channa masala, tandoori roti and dal fry. This was the one time when I felt gluttony was justified. And yes, we gluttoned.
First day of ridiculously crazy trek- done. For the next few days we'll be exploring other sites near Ghangria. The good news is we won't have to carry all our stuff. As for the bad news - it looks like Ani lost his wallet.
The unrelentingly evil road to Ghanghria (courtesy: Nikhil G)