NAG TIBBA SUMMIT - When we climbed a mountain to meet someone.
Well the story might inspire you to plan your trip around Uttarakhand, one of my favorite region.
This one is another feather for our Siblings travel goals, after we first started in Puducherry, as it never gets boring with your siblings and traveling is a great way to connect us and collect memories.
I was on a month Holiday, to India, and was visiting after two years so couldn’t hold my excitement, more than meeting ppl, it was to meet India. I was desperately missing mountains and raw beauty of our motherland. Out of my 28 days visit, I planned travel for around 20 days. First, I attended great Indian wedding functions in Delhi. Then Left for Pune to join my Bikerni gang, had another great anniversary ride with them and then visited my Mausi and cousin in Mumbai.
Returned to Delhi again, packed for Tripura, left with parents to meet my Bua in Tripura, had great time exploring this area of India, which I will cover in a separate blog. After 5 days trip returned Delhi again and went to Vrindavan to meet rest of my family.
During the end leg of my stay in India, my sister and Kanav my brother in law, planned to visit me from Chennai. Kanav suggested we should go to some trekking trip etc, to which both my Mom and Sister objected, because I haven’t stayed home and was just traveling. I agreed initially, obviously they were right.
Earlier when i was coming the plan was to Visit Poonch in Kashmir, as Kanav is a native of Poonch and his whole family lives there. Poonch is another very beautiful place in Kashmir, and I have been jealous of everyone in my family, who has visited. It was one of the most Picturesque place, and one that could fill my desire to visit mountains.
However, to our dismay, just a day before I was leaving for India, horrible Pulwama attack happened. So Poonch being very sensitive area was closed and I dropped my plan.
But just few days before my sister's visit, I became restless. I thought what a waste of a trip to India, if I am not even visiting Mountains. Australia has great geography, completely different in many aspects from other countries, but then Indian mountains have no match and I am a country soul, so visiting India meant visiting mountains.
Few days before their arrival, I looked up for short treks considering the time limitation. The nearest accessible destination was Mussoorie. When I searched for a trek there, I found Nag Tibba trek. Not much photos were found, but some of them were of beautiful meadows covered in snow.
The Itinerary and our actual story
When I shared details on our family whatsapp group, the whole group got alive and we booked this trek with Renok adventures, it was 5499 per person including meals, accommodation in camps and trek guide.
My sister runs a page on Instagram it’s a happy world, and is almost a celebrity now, many of her illustrations are inspired by Ruskin Bond’s writing. So, when she heard of the plan, she got excited for a different reason. Her inspiration was Ruskin Bond - the famous writer. She demanded if we are going to Mussoorie we must meet him. Everyone was getting something so all were happy.
The description wrote easy trek and some basic tips. We packed and left for Dehradun in our Safari. Plan was, to road-trip till Dehradun, where the tour guys will pick us up and drop to the village where the trek commences.
Day 1 – Delhi to Dehradun to Camp
As always happens in the beginning of our trip, we covered 5 kms, Prachi who was instructing everyone not to forget anything, forgot her own bag of jacket and Shawl. And we had to go back to pick them up, and happens with all the siblings we started blaming and arguing, pointing out each other’s in capabilities, this was the Shagun for a great trip.
Once we crossed boring highways and roads of Ghaziabad, we enjoyed our gossip session in cars. We all had so much material collected after my Australia migration, there were so many things to share and discuss. After reaching Dehradun our travel agent picked us in the tempo traveler.
The views changed from boring highways to greenery, hills and streams and so our mood. We reached the village around 04:00 PM and our trek guide was worried and eager to start. Day light was fading and it was a 5kms steep trek, none of us was prepared for.
Until you start hiking, you don’t realize how unfit you have been, you did nothing except sit and get pampered. Some of us, completely forget the basic of fitness, same happened with me I was sour in few mins and was struggling.
But I was still happy with the pain, it makes the journey worthwhile, this was joyous pain, so was the experience.
I was excited as hell, my sister kept asking,” Bhaiya Kab pahunchenge, kitna door hai?” (when we will reach? how much far?) Her other great expectation was Maggi, all of us wanted food she wanted specifically Maggi.
Kanav had completely different concerns, he asked, if we can do Bonfire, as a camp is incomplete without Bonfire. Our guide was reluctant and said, we might not have enough logs. Kanav wasn’t ready to give up on Bonnfire, so Paarth and Kanav kept searching until they found one log, which was like more than 30kgs.
It was tough to even lift our own body, carrying another 30kgs was nightmare, me and Prachi picked some light logs and kept walking like zombies almost in trance.
It was almost dusk and our guide kept saying, we are just there, and we have to keep going. I couldn’t imagine the pain Kanav and Paarth must have been going while carrying that 30kg log. We covered the trek in 2.5 hours and he admired us for completing within time and good pace.
We were almost there, our guide called for someone in camp, and a person came running. When he saw the boys carrying log, he said why is it required we have lot of wood? Kanav asked enough for Bonnfire? he said yes of course! And we all looked at our guide for misguiding us, poor boys carried so much wait for around a km, it was terrible to do so with anyone hiking.
We kept mumbling about that for some time, until Bonfire was made. The site was dark, no light and chilling weather, a Bonnfire here was not luxury but an essential need. Hot tea and Maggi was served to our greatest delights, it was a life saver.
After a lengthy discussion, about the pains, the weather and the trek, we finally went off to our tents.
The camp Night
For me and Prachi it was a very long night, our tent was surrounded by two dogs, looking for warmth around human bodies and one of the dogs was completely resting over the tent’s zipped entry, so we had a tent guard.
It was around -7 or -9 degrees, and we were lying wearing all possible woolens, caps, muffler shawls and still we couldn’t sleep a wink. We both kept complaining about the cold and the discomforts of the tent, I had similar experience last time while Triund trek.
I was having the same intense discomfort. We had to go to pee several times. That’s how we spent nearly all night unwrapping ourselves from our somewhat acquired, comfortable position, removing layers of coverings inside sleeping bags and then struggling with the tent guard, for a time lengthy enough to pee our pants.
The algorithm was - Prachi would switch her mobile torch on, and I will follow, and I will shiver waiting outside for my turn and vice versa. The washroom tent was at a lower level in the camp as compared to our sleeping tents and every time, we had to manage our steps to descend to this level, it wasn’t smooth with our knees jammed after the trek, topped by cold weather.
DAY 2: The beginning of Adventure
Both of us were waiting for sunrise. We were out at 05:00 again, it was still dark, and the sky was lit with stars. We went for the same toilet ritual, this time, Prachi lost her balance, considering her height, she took two turns to fall, and the torch light was gone. All I could do was shout “Behen tu Kahan hai?” (Sister, where are you?) We can’t stop laughing about it now.
Finally, she managed to get herself together and completed the ritual crying in pain.
Kanav was hearing us all night, while the other two were sleeping carelessly. In the morning he came and gave us his sleeping bag too, so that we can get some warmth and sleep, but we were far from it. Whole night she plotted with me, how we are going to convince our guide to make some different arrangements or we will leave for Mussoorie.
I was completely in synch, until morning when a breeze of fresh wind, and hot tea wiped my painful memory of night. Prachi was upset, about change of my mood, I was ready to compromise the going to Mussoorie part but couldn’t do living in the tent part.
Our guide said, we will make bed in Kitchen which was warm and cosy hut, made of bricks held by mud, filled with their daily stuff. I was happy with that arrangement except the presence of Badal, who was a Pony. My sister was still not convinced for staying here and was pushing to leave for Mussoorie.
But this was just beginning of our suffering, before a tough journey, that we never planned for. We had decided just to enjoy our time in camp, do easy walks around the place and next day meet Ruskin Bond at the Cambridge Book Depot, he visits every Saturday to meet his fans. Everything was simple, with some little bits of planned adventures.
However, when we were sipping our morning tea, our guide started prep talking. "People who come here, must go to Naag Tibba, it’s a beautiful peak.
You see Nandadevi ranges, half way you see a temple then other half it’s all snow" . We were here to spend some time together, not to conquer a peak, so we were like, we will pass. Then our inspiring guide told us about the group of 25 girls, who were also climbing that day, and Bachendri Pal was leading them.
I paused and asked who? He said Bachendri Pal, the two post 90s- generation #Insta-young men in our group had no idea, who she was? Rest of us were thrilled to know we have a chance of meeting the legendary woman, first to climb mount Everest. We were late it was already around 08:00, had a sleepless night, no gears for the dense snow, but motivation to meet her on the peak and it was Women’s day, coincidentally.
The inspiration and the climb
Suddenly there was an upsurge of energy in the group and we all got inspired to do the summit, keeping aside our limitations and mindset.
The trek began, our legs were somewhat conditioned after one day trek. It was a moderate struggle, with our limited speeds and exhausted body until the Nag Tibba temple, a local pilgrim and temple area covered in Snow.
From this area the snow cover had started and there was a trek of 3 kms remaining all under a dense sheet of Snow. 3 Kms sound reasonably easy, for plains, it’s a lot of effort on a hill specially a steep one and its an extreme effort, if that steep hill is covered with Snow.
Soon we realized our shoes and clothing were completely unsuitable to walk over the snow. All of us were taking little steps and still were struggling to keep our feet on ground firmly. I was nearly wet till my knees and believe me walking with wet shoes and socks in extremely cold weather is more than just painful, its punishment. I can't even imagine the spirits of our soldiers working full time under such conditions its beyond comparison.
It was getting difficult at every step, and when we turned back, we were nervous about getting down this steep slope in a snow laden terrain. It was full of risk and challenges, almost death like that we didn't prepare for.
Many times, Kanav asked the guide “Bhaiya vapas kaise jayenge” (How we will go back?) Guide was unaware of the intent behind the question, and tactlessly said “Ab aaye hain to jana to padega vapas” (since we have come will have to go back as well). While Kanav was looking for encouragement and assurance. The response was as cold and brutal, as the weather.
Nonetheless we kept moving forward with sour knees, wet feet and determination. The climb was not just a physical effort, but I would say mainly a psychological one, we were using mental strength to find ways to navigate around the difficult climb, taking support from some dry woods, branches and sometime wet hands, numbed by Snow. After an effort of 4 hours we reached the peak, and suddenly it felt like we were injected with Glucose. There was a batch of girls roaming around the peak and my eyes were looking for Bachendri Pal, as if I have seen her and I will recognize her.
I shamelessly shouted, "Pal Madame where are you?", over the peak. My siblings gave me typical "You embarrass us" look. I gave an "I don't care" look, back. I am proudly, such an embarrassment sometimes.
We were also told there was an amazing lady Premlata Agarwal, the first Indian woman who scaled seven Summits of the world.Finally, we had the privilege to meet both the legendary women on a Summit. We narrated our whole story about reaching there, and how she inspired us to climb the peak without any plan and preparation, that too on Women’s day, a great coincidence which none of us noted earlier.
Now it all made sense she came with a batch of 25 girls from Tata steel. I knew this moment will be recorded for life, and I am making my own history, to tell tales to my future generation.
She was amazed to hear, how we made it with our ordinary shoes and clothes to the summit, and we knew it was all the inspiration we drew from her.
We were just recollecting our strengths and have been on the summit for just 15 mins, while the group of girls had already spent 2-3 hours and were rushing back. After all the climb our strength had faded, and downhill was more dangerous and tough.
Without wasting time we started walking downhill, to follow Bachhendri Pal. The girls were geared with Snow clamps, snow shoes gloves and all what was needed to go thru the extremes of weather and the terrain. We were looking completely impromptu.
It was extremely tough then what I have imagined, at every step I was falling. My shoes were not getting any friction in Snow, Tanmay’s case was worse and he is the one to be blamed for that for always carrying fancy shoes inappropriate for the trek and never learning from his mistakes. Instead of walking he chose to slide sitting and rowing by his hands in snow. It was impossible for me to keep balance and I was more on the ground rather than over it. It was very hard for others to move as well, there were so many blank spots we encountered while trailing, where we were just standing and strategizing our next move. Prachi, Kanav and Parth made a team and tried helping each other.
The guide was completely exhausted handling me and had lost his balance many times, as I hit him while losing my balance, making him fall too. We were getting exhausted and stressed after every step and it was dangerous, still a long way to go. The stomach was growling with hunger, our guide mentioned we will get Rajma Chawal once we reach. This was much more than, just motivation for the two Poonchi people (Kanav and Paarth, as Kashimiri’s national dish can be Rajma Chawal). While climbing the inspiration was to meet Bachendri Pal, now it was Rajma Chawal. It’s interesting how people are motivated by needs of their body and taste specially.
Tanmay was nowhere to be seen, we assumed he slid his way back to camp however we were still worried as he never stays in the group. I was also semi-sliding, semi-falling and semi stepping all the way and it had become a BAU (business as usual) activity for me. The other 3 were still working in teams and can be spotted from far.
Finally, we made it to the camp, with wet clothes, wet shoes, bitten by cold and fatigue. I went to my tent for a change of cloth, as soon as I entered it, my legs were uprooted from the ground and I couldn’t move, they declared EOD (end of the day in IT terms).
After 15 mins of being physically dead, I gathered some courage to find dry clothes and change. We all enjoyed a great meal, Paarth and Kanav ate 3 plates of Rajma Chawal and all were looking better. After this we, just took the sleeping bag on the ground and lay there until dinner.
Today was a better night in warm, and cosy huts and above all, we had a sense of achievement prevailing within our group on completing the summit, with our high spirits alone and the meeting with Bachendri Pal of course!.
Day 3: Naag Tibba to Mussoorie
The pain of the last day was finally kicking in and we had to leave for Mussoorie. Luckily, we planned the camp at right time and therefore it was Saturday. The day we can meet the famous writer Ruskin Bond in the Café. We were happy with our trip so far, keeping aside the discomfort and sufferings. We had grown mentally somewhere with our experience.
The trek to the village downhill started, and this was feeling simple, in terms of our last adventure.
We were watching new travelers coming up, to Naag Tibba, and they were somewhat looking Victim to us. Unaware of the upcoming extremes.
We reached a point where vehicles are able to reach and the team of girls were waiting in the Bus for rest of the companions to join. I was completely busy in myself, we stopped for a break and then suddenly I asked Prachi, “Mujhe Bachendri Pal wali photo de Insta pe daalni hai” (give me, our pic with Bachendri Pal for Insta). I repeated 3-4 times may be, and never noticed that Pal Madame was sitting in the bus and listening to all my conversations and smiling. I was so embarrassed later, that I did the rest of the trek without looking back.
Mussoorie - The meeting with Ruskin Bond
The whole journey we discussed what we will do once we meet Ruskin bond. And here is what happened, do watch the video
While reaching, Prachi called up the book store where the writer meets his fans on Saturday. To our dismay he was not coming to the book store today due to sickness. We kept insisting for address and any chance to meet him and the lady was reluctant. Later I called her up again and the conversation went like this.
Me: “Madame please koi to jugaad hoga, hum badi door se aaye hain, Australia se sirf Sir ko milne”
( Madame, There must be a way, we have come from far, from Australia just to meet sir)
Lady: Hearing my masculine voice assuming I am a male: “Sir, hamare haath main kuch nahi hai, wo bimar hai aaj nahi milenge”. (It’s not in our hands, Sir, he is sick and has refused to come or meet anyone)
ME: “Arey to address or phone number de do aap, hum mil aayenge”. ( In that case just give us his address and number we will go by ourselves to meet him)
Lady “ Jee wo hum kisi ko nahi dete”. ( sorry we can’t provide that)
Me: “are fans ko to de sakte hain, jo itni door se aaye hain”. (You can atleast share with Fans, who came from far just to meet)
Lady: “Specially not to fans”.
Me: “ Koi bahut hi bada fan ho to? Ekdum big time?”. (What if it’s a huge fan? big time one?)
Lady (Couldn’t control laughing): “I won’t be able to help”.
My siblings were laughing on my insistence over the conversation, because, irony was my Sister was the big fan, I knew him as a writer and liked his books, My brother in law, was helping his wife to fulfill her dream, the other two were clueless but were completely in to the fan club without even knowing who Ruskin Bond was. Hilarious situation.
Our first priority was to get a decent hotel (not Jab We met wala Decent). We found a good hotel checked in, and we were looking at comfortable beds with Quilts and blankets and there was a heater. After what we had been thru, it was luxury for us.
After refreshing ourselves, we left for the market, to enjoy the hill station vibes. Kanav found a driver who knew the address of Ruskin bond and was ready to take us there. We all were thrilled, without wasting a breath, we all jumped in the car and left. No one even let the possibility of not meeting him, to cross their minds all were positive.
After reaching the area, he showed us one set of stairs and told this is where he lives. We were standing there frozen, discussing who will go first, what we will say all kinds of preparation and stories being discussed. It was decided that me and Prachi will go. As bombarding at someone’s home in big group without invitation, especially when he was sick wasn’t right.
We climbed the stairs and saw the name sign – RUSKIN BOND, RAKESH BEENA. First we clicked photos there and then I rang the doorbell, I was prepared with the sentence what I will say to the person who will open , why we have come?, why is it imp? Everything on my lips and then suddenly the door was opened by none other than Ruskin Bond himself. There was silence and pause when he said yes, Prachi was in trance, I jumped in and said – So sorry to disturb you sir, but we have come a long way to see you and you were not sitting in the book store today”, he replied I am sick, I said won’t take much of your time, just an autograph and if you don’t mind might be a selfie, to which he humbly agreed.
I called up the rest of the gang for the selfie.
Prachi was flying around like a sparrow. Our trip was finally complete. We enjoyed rest of the day exploring cafes and local life around Mussoorie, in morning we left with loads of memories and tales to share with our future generations.
1. The Trek is moderate/easy for other seasons but very challenging for winters with the snow cover.
2. Please plan and carry proper shoes and gears. Snow boots, Gloves, woolen cap and socks are not optional but mandatory in winters.
3. Take ample time before reaching the site, and better to carry less, but imp things like water and food shouldn’t be compromised.
4. Try finishing before sunset, as its gets dark within few mins and there is a high risk of falling, it will also increase the time to complete the trek by hours.
5. Whatever you do, don’t pull a stunt on mountains they are much bigger and powerful than you can imagine.
6. Ruskin Bond sits every Saturday in Cambridge Book Depot, do plan to meet him as its once in a lifetime experience. You will understand if you read, at least one of his books. They are very simple and easy to read and will fill you with positive vibes.
7. I recommend "Renok Adventures" the guides the facilities were on time, and they were flexible enough to accommodate our needs.
And at the end " HAPPY TRAVELS".