The real adventure is when you do everything on your own. This was exactly on our mind when we were preparing for our trek to Kareri Lake. We had done this trek before. But this time we wanted to do things differently. So we decided to take with us everything that we would need to survive without taking help from anyone. We took with us our tent, a small cylinder, cooker, rice, lentils, coffee powder, milk powder, sugar, butter, and even spices for cooking.
Though our bags were heavier than the last time, we were quite happy with our decision.
Our trip began when we boarded the bus from Majnu ka Tilla, this is a famous and common place to get a bus for Himachal, in Delhi. We were lucky enough to board the bus minutes before it started to rain. Had we reached there 5-10 minutes later, we would have been all wet just like those who boarded the bus after us. In these volvo buses, there is a compartment on the outer side of the bus where you can keep your bags. Since we had a cylinder with us, we did not want to risk keeping it there. Because who knows what it would go through among all other bags which are sometimes thrown at the top of each other. So we decided to keep it with us inside the bus. Though it took up some of our sitting space, we somehow managed to spend the bus journey.
Insights: The Volvo AC buses from Delhi to Himachal usually cost around 800-1000 ( price can vary 100-200 on either side). They are comfortable AC buses, the price includes the journey, a blanket and a water bottle. They stop once in between for dinner at some hotel/Dhaba. The stop is usually 30-40 minutes long and the cost of the dinner is borne by the passengers.
We reached Dharamshala in the morning around 6:00 am. It is a wonderful feeling when you wake up to a fresh and cold breeze in the morning. Even though you have just reached the place, the place has an immediate effect on you. You feel a sense of lightness in your head, leaving all the noises behind. We seldom realize how many noises and impurities are around us. Only when we go to a place where the air is so fresh that you enjoy each breath, where you hear absolutely nothing other than the sound of birds and sometimes the sound of a bus making a turn on a distant curve that you realise how crowded the places are that you have been living in. If you are in a city and reading this just stop for a while and notice the different noises that you can hear.
The bus had dropped us at a petrol pump in Dharamsala, it is the last stop and also next to the bus stand. After walking for around 5 minutes and also enquiring about the buses, we reached
from where we would get a bus that would take us to Kareri village. Or so what we thought. Places like these are usually connected with public transports but unlike in cities, the frequency is quite less. For instance, if there is a bus that leaves to, for example, Kareri at 8:00 in the morning, the next one might come in the noon or maybe does not come for that day. So, these things you have to know in advance which are easily found on the internet after doing some research. This is quite understandable as well because the population is quite less in these areas. Although, travelling in local buses costs very less, when someone from, lets say, Delhi go there they are either unaware of these or choose to ignore these since they want to remain in their comfort zone and instead book a cab which cost a lot more ( just to give an example, a local bus will cost around 20-30, whereas a shared cab or taxi will cost you 300-400 for the same distance).
The bus dropped us at a turn of the road which leads to Kareri village and then it went to a different route. There we had to wait for another bus which would take us to our destination. Along with us, on the bus, there were two teachers who were also going to the Ghera village, which was on the way to Kareri village. So, while we were waiting for the Bus we had a little conversation with them. And they told us a bit about their life and how their regular days are like. It is really amazing how life can be completely different in different places. Things which are easily available in your city, in other places people might have to wait to get them. Transport is one example. We should learn to appreciate what we have instead of taking them for granted.
After a while, a cab arrived which was heading towards the village. We took the cab since not much distance was left. Riding on narrow roads surrounded by mountains, trees and sometimes passing by water streams. Soon we reached the Ghera village. The teachers got off there but we still had to go to Kareri village. We tried to negotiate the price from there to the village with the driver but could not come to an agreement. We thought we could easily get another cab and hence we too got off there. But later realized that it was a mistake as we did not find any cab and had to walk a lot. After walking for 30-40 minutes on a steep shortcut ( the ones you see between two parallel consecutive roads hilly areas) which involved walking through bushes and small stairs like rocks, we covered some distance but still had a long way to go. So we decided to take some rest in the hotel that was just ahead of us. After, I guess, around 30 minutes we somehow managed to find a cab. And finally reached Kareri Village.
Upon reaching there, we quickly took a sip of water, refilled the bottles, carried our bags on our shoulder and started the trek. In the beginning, we started by shooting a short clip of the trek, and in the clip briefed about the trek and what we were carrying with us. It was around 11:00 by then. Now, when I look back it kind of amazes me to think how long that day was. Taking an entire day to reach the lake ( our camping site). Starting at 7:00 in the morning, when the bus dropped us in Dharamshala to 6:00 in the evening when we reached the lake.
The complete trek took 7 hours to complete. Along the way, we met a number of trekkers. Some were descending and others were going for the lake just like us. Just after we started our trek, we met a group of veterans who were coming down from the trek and when they told us the time it took them to complete their trek we really got motivated and we picked up a good pace. At least for a while, we did.
After walking a while, we encountered a group of college students who were also descending. Unfortunately, they had messed up a nest of bees and some people from their group were badly bitten. My friend, Ujjwal, was pretty scared of this incident. And he wasted no time in putting his raincoat on. Along the way, we met a young couple who were also going to the lake. They had a guide with them to show the way. This trek, however, can be easily completed without a guide as you will find a lot of other trekkers on the way and second because the route is quite simple. By simple I mean that it does not require any specific skills to complete the trek, the only thing you need is a bit of fitness and your will power.
The five of us covered a long distance together before they went ahead when we stopped to shoot a video in between. It becomes easy when you are doing such activities with someone as the route and the time will pass talking with one another. And even if you are travelling alone, you will find such company on a trek. Out of which some become lifelong friends. We had soon covered almost 80% of the route. And usually, it is the last stretch that you struggle with. Since we had all that weight with us, it was getting really tough to cover those last few kilometres. We stopped for a while to take some rest and hired someone to help us with the weight. And to our surprise, we were hardly 30 minutes away from the camping site. Finally, we reached the campsite, pitched our tents and took rest for a while before beginning our dinner preparation.
After a short rest, we took our cylinder out of the bag and started preparing coffee. Although we were exhausted and had the option to get the food and tea from the shops available there, we didn’t. Because then all the effort of carrying all the extra weight of the cylinder, utensils ( cooker, plate), and the raw materials ( all the lentils, and other stuff) would go in vain. So, we found a stable place to put the cylinder and were sipping the coffee in no time. The feeling was absolutely amazing, just imagine after a hard day, carrying all that weight on our shoulder, walking for 13 kilometres from morning to evening, and then enjoying the hot coffee in the cold surrounded by mountains, sitting in front of the lake with newly made friends sharing stories. What else can we expect? Wait, there is more. How can we not have a bonfire when we are in the mountains. That’s our tradition, whenever we trek we get to have a bonfire. So, we arranged a bonfire as well. And sat around it after cooking food for ourselves.
We sat around the bonfire for quite a long time, talking, playing games, and sharing stories. This is the best part of trekking and is one of the reasons why we and a lot of people do it. And then when everyone was sleepy, one by one we all went inside our tents and went for sleep.