Pindari Glacier Trek India October 2006
We were looking forward to meeting Tagore, the architect of our trip, and his family. Through hundreds of emails we had exchanged, Tagore had become a friend and confidante... he knew all the answers to my questions, solved all the logistical problems, and counseled me on cultural issues. I walked right past him in the lobby when we met and felt like the victim of online dating.... who is this stranger who knows too much about me? But once I adjusted to real-time interaction the Tagore I knew merged with the man I met and we picked up like old friends! Saro, his wife was as warm as Tagore described and her sister Glory and husband Christopher had fascinating insight about their re-adjustment to living in India after years in the UK. The dessert buffet at the Shangri-la was fantastic and Tagore's sons , Vivek and Arun chuckled with Nick and Ali - who could try more puddings? The whole family was accompanying Vivek to his wedding on 3 Nov in Madras, so we were fortunate to meet!
Billy and Nick did the cultural tour of Red Fort but Ali and I made it no further than the shopping arcade... five pairs of earrings for £1??? Then we made the mistake of taking our taxi driver's recommendation for shopping and wasted the afternoon at a huge but very overpriced shop (where we later found he got a finder's fee!) Finally, we headed to the train station and fended off aggressive porters and beggars as the platform became more and more crowded. Once on board, we discovered that three families had tickets for the same sleeper beds! Nick and Ali lost all confidence in my trip planning, but Billy and the sharp eyes of a bystander saved us from being thrown off the train by the conductor.... we had been upgraded to 1st class!
The train pulled into Kathgodam at 6am and we were met by Mahesh, our translator and Tagore's neighbor, and Reis the taxi driver. Feeling a bit shattered after two nights travelling, we stopped in Bhimtal at Mahesh's house to drop off the bags we did not need on the trek and had breakfast at the Country Inn where we had our timeshare exchange for the following week. Ali and I made a BIG MISTAKE... we had cereal with milk, before continuing on to Almora for the night at the fancy Kalmatia Sangam Eagle's Nest Lodge, with our first views of the Himalayas.
The next day we slept on and off during the long journey on twisty roads to the start of the trek, until the road became truly a jeep trail at Loharket. A very dim light bulb helped us to see the dal and potatoes with chapatis which would be our staples for the trip. Mahesh found that it was not safe to leave the taxi waiting for our return because vandalism to non-local vehicles was common. Reis slept in the taxi and then headed back to Song where a garage was found to house the taxi safely. We assembled in the morning to start the trek - over Dhakuri pass to Khati,. 20 km was no problem, but the climb was daunting, 3871 m to the top of the pass.
The next day was a 20 km walk, down past Khati and back up 2395 m to Dhakuri and it felt pretty easy. I guess I was finally feeling better! We stopped for chai tea and they asked if we could help a boy with a cut foot. Dr Harvey to the rescue! Billy loved taking care of the fellow; steri-strips, antiseptic and a stern lecture about staying off the foot. Later we had Maggi noodles in a courtyard dhaba, where the locals were as fascinated by us as we were by them. The sun came out late in the afternoon and we brought out sleeping bags outdside the rest house to lay on the grass and read. Ali cried when she finished Phillip Pullman's Amber Spyglass and Nick made progress on the mammoth Game of Thrones he carried throughout the trek.
We packed up early the next morning to go up the pass again and begin the long decent to Song - 4527 m over 15 km. Billy worried about his knees, but he was fine. Perhaps the promise of beer in Bageshwar kept him motivated. We greeted Reis with cheers when he met us with the taxi in Song.