As you have read in prologue about Kareri Lake Trekking, the plan for first day was to trek from Satobari (1700 mt/5600 ft) to the Kareri village (2500 mt/8000 ft), where we were to have our first night halt of the four-day trek.
We reached Satobari village with Arvind, our tour guide and tour operator. Arvind gave us lightweight hiking sticks. He gave a short stick to the youngest trekker who was seven-year old then. Our luggage was loaded onto jeep to be dropped at kareri village.
Bunty was our other guide who was solely to guide and supervise the young one’s adventures, acrobatics and talking tongue. Everyone traversed the trek according to their age; kids mostly jumped and hopped and slid and walked only when none of these activities were feasible; we mostly walked and at times had to sit to get down on sloping stretches.
Initially the route passed through pine forests and the ground looked all brown due to dried pine needle leaves which were slippery to walk upon, specially on slopes.
A yellow breasted green finch, busy with her lunch, put a first stop; kids looked and moved ahead while we were left behind busy photographing it. Bunty accompanied the kids and Arvind stayed with us.
A little ahead Russet’s sparrow was busy collecting twigs among dry pine needles. Further ahead, a lovey-dovey couple of Scaly bellied woodpecker was busy with some private moments.
Younger one shouted: “If you stop any more for birds, I will not go further.” Bunty doused the fire by a steady hose of distractions.
After about two hours walk, we descend steeply towards a stream. A group of women, who were going to visit a local temple, overtook us. They definitely had the feet of mountain goats. Arvind helped the youngest girl in this group to get down the steps carefully. I have noticed in France, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand that people in hills invariably smile when they pass by each other. And people like me, from plains, also change their indifferent attitude in Hills and behave differently. This small gesture of smile creates magic among the complete strangers, they appear familiar and friendly.
Arvind was waiting for us at the base of the stairs. He pointed towards a patch of Myrtle grass. It is known as “Sweet flag/Calamus, or Myrtle grass” in English and in Hindi it is known as “Bach, Ghorbach, Safed bach”. He uprooted a grass, crushed it in his hands and gave us to smell it. It was sweetly aromatic. In-fact because of its sweet-smelling aroma, in Europe, it was used as floor covering for the packed earth floors of dwellings and churches. Arvind told us that in Himachal, they grind the dried roots of the grass and give to kids aged between 1-4 yrs to increase their immunity and prevent cough and cold.
In the homes of Penobscot(an indigenous tribe in North America), pieces of its dried root are tied together with a string and it is hung up for preservation. Steaming it throughout the home is believed to “kill” sickness. It appears the ancient people were well aware of its immunity enhancing properties, across the globe.
From here we soon reached the market of Ghera Village. Arvind suggested us to check and make last-minute purchases here as this was to be the last market on the way.
We further descend and reach a stream which was quite thin at that time of year. A metal bridge above it transported us to the other side. Steep set of stairs took us up and then we made a circuitous round to reach the other side of the hill. There was another bridge and another stream which was not so thin, beyond which was the steep climb on a hill leading to Kareri village.
A pair of Oriental Turtle Dove kept a watch on us as we crossed the ridge while we kept watch to find two other woodpeckers species. Here and there we got some sneak peaks of the Dhauladhar range, in the shadow of which we walked.
Arvind called Bunty to make a detour to the water-mill. The miller was busy smoking his hukkah and the gur-gur of his hukkah was drowned by the thudding run of the water and the smell of hukka’s contents got lost in the scented breeze of the forest.
Kids climbed up and down to check the water flow which was driving the wheel in the mud hut housing the mill. Younger one was wonder struck that mill can run without electricity, which encouraged us to tell him about how electricity is produced. Even before we could complete a sentence, he ran away to Arvind to ask him to play in water. Up they went and jumped in a secluded pool.
A female Plumbous Water Redstart kept Manish busy while I sat down and listened to the squeals. I had to coax them to come out lest they would be too tired to even reach the Kareri village, which was still an hours (for us) climb up.
The climb now was steeper but the peaks kept us glued to them and by the time we reached the Kareri village, kids were already in the host’s home.
I sat down at the short boundary wall of homestay in Kareri village, situated in the shadow of Dhauladhar Range of Himalayas. The terraced farms followed by green hills fading to blue and grey provided a perfect eye journey to the sparkling white peaks of Dahuladhar, which themselves were set in the blue canvas of sky.
My elder son who was thirteen yrs then, was busy clicking the pictures. Younger one, just seven yrs, was resting after a day’s hike from Satobri village to Kareri village. Manish was busy talking to our homestay owner Mr Amar Singh Ji. I tried to get up to participate in the talks but found it very difficult to stand up. But I did, although with lots of effort. I thought it to be the stiffness in the back after a long day of hike, which would go away after some rest.
As the Sun set on the Dhauladhar range, roosters and goats and cows and the tired trekkers started to settle down. But when night approached, it became impossible for me to sit or stand up. I talked to Manish and we both told our tour guide Mr Arvind Sharma of Tour De India about my pain.
He gave us a warm water bottle to apply on the stiff area but half an hour of warmth did not show any relief. Now it worried me and Manish both that in this condition, I would not be able to go for the rest of hike to Kareri Lake. Kids and we all have been preparing ourselves for this three-day trek since last one month. We all were climbing seven storeys everyday to build the stamina and put our muscles in a working mode for the hike. They had dreamed of sleeping in the tents in the Himalayas and along the river. With all these entangled emotions, we went to sleep. I was advised by Arvind to keep a warm bottle close to the problem area throughout the night and so I did. Despite uncertainty of the plans, we slept well because our body was well exercised that day.
End of a very happy and fruitful day on an ominous note.