Since my last blog entry, we went on our ten-day trek! It was an amazing experience, and I think I learned a lot, not all of which I’ve fully come to digest yet. I’ll summarize the main points of interest briefly, but covering all of them would be way too much to write.
On the 14th we packed our bags with food, gear, and all necessary supplies to survive for ten days in the mountains, and headed out in a bus. We were dropped off at an altitude of about eight thousand feet alongside a road and we set up camp for the first night. Tents are pretty lightweight, easy to set up, and are the first thing we would do whenever we made camp. The next thing was food, we had to make food every day for ourselves. We packed a wide variety of food, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, onions, flour, butter, oil, cheese, bacon, lentils, granola, nuts, and a variety of spices. We made food every day for dinner, and occasionally for breakfast and lunch. The first night we made an easy and quick meal of fried rice with soy balls. Every night after dinner we would do a debrief before going to bed. The debrief involved a couple of things such as discussing the highs and lows of the day, discussing the schedule for the next day, listening to a few selected readings, and selecting leaders for the next day.
Every day two members were chosen as designated leaders for the day. The roles of the leaders were fairly simple, they were in charge of deciding when to wake up and leave for the day, organizing and leading the group on the hike for the day, and deciding where to camp for the night. Our two guides for the trip, G and Vipul, told us the first night that their role was to act as a support system when the group needed guidance, but overall the group would be in charge of leading itself, and they would function just as members of the team. That meant that the group decided on everything for ourselves, what to eat, where to camp, and how far to walk each day.
The next day, on what I’m going to call day one, I was the designated leader of the group. This meant I was in charge of a number of things, and the main first task was leading the group on the hike. The way we did hiking every day is that we split into two groups of seven, with a guide and a designated leader in each group. On this day we were going into the village of Pihtiri, and so we departed, only knowing the general direction of the village. G and Vipul taught us some basic Hindi so we could communicate with the locals and make it to the meeting place within the village. We got there successfully and had a more in-depth lesson on Hindi. We left the village and made our way to the campsite that the other leader for the day, Mitch, and I decided on for the night. We set up camp and made stuffed bread for dinner. Stuffed bread entailed frying onions and potatoes and then cooking bread on the camp stoves and filling the bread with the stuffing. It was pretty good, especially considering the circumstances. We had our evening debrief and then went to bed.
Day two was much the same as day one, with slightly less going on. We hiked for about five kilometers before setting up camp in a field that we soon learned was the home of some sheep. The sheep weren’t an issue at all, except for the poop scattered in the field.
Day three was a much-needed rest day so we didn’t move camp. We started the day by making biscuits and bacon gravy which was one of the best meals of the trip. Then we had a three-hour time for self-reflection, which was one of my favorite parts of the trek. I reflected on the struggles up to this point, which weren’t a ton by any means, but more importantly, the time gave me some time away from the rest of the group to recharge. That afternoon we did our first individual check-ins with the guides to discuss how the trek was going so far and what we could improve on. That evening we made pizza for dinner, which is the only meal that we made that would challenge the biscuits. It was a simple cheese pizza with tomato sauce, but considering that we were three days into our trek it tasted amazing. Overall day three was one of the best days and was a much-needed day to recharge before the most difficult days ahead.
Day four was one of the most difficult days but also probably my favorite day. We started our hike up and reached snow for the first time. About an hour and a half into our hike for the day, it started to rain and an hour later the rain really started to come down. We took shelter under a tarp for a while and eventually decided to set up camp. This was the first campsite above the tree line and was on a ridge, so we were basically at the highest point within a couple of hundred yards. With the rain still coming down we quickly pitched the tents and tarp and started to make some cheese quesadillas to boost the group’s mood. We quickly realized a major issue for the campsite: there was no water source. We filled our water drums with the rainwater while we could and started melting snow. The issue with the snow is that there was a lot of dirt and sediment in it and wasn’t great to drink. We had plenty of water for the night still, although we were much more conscious about not using water when possible. What I really loved about this campsite was the view. We had almost a full 360 view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, and while it was initially cloudy with low visibility, the clouds cleared up for a beautiful sunset. The group dynamic that night was also really awesome, everyone was in good spirits and got around really well even after a tough day.
Day five was by far the most physically challenging day of the trek. The task for the day was simple, find a campsite with water, no matter how far we had to walk. The first and main obstacle we faced for the day was the snow. The trail for most of the day was covered with snow. We were at an altitude of above 13000 feet so the snow was not necessarily surprising, however, the amount of it still there at this point in the season surprised our guides. The mountain was pretty steep for most of the day, and we were walking along the mountain not up it, meaning that we were at constant risk of slipping off the side. One slip could’ve resulted in easily falling over thirty feet onto the rock outcroppings below. While everyone slipped at points, everyone managed to catch themselves before they lost control and fell a dangerous distance down. We hiked for about four hours in the snow before coming to what the guides has planned on making our campsite. The issue was that there was no water source, meaning that we had to keep hiking to a water source. We descended the mountain to a campsite that the guides knew would have water, and after an hour our tired group finally arrived. The energy of the group was really low, but everyone was in relatively good spirits still. We made a quick pasta dinner before crashing out early.
Day six was another rest day. Honestly was a really uneventful day. We had a late start and had almost the entire day to ourselves, except for a brief meeting in the morning as a group to talk about leadership. The group was pretty tired so most people took naps; I carved a stick and went on a walk with Hannah.
Day seven was another pretty easy day. We descended the mountain even more to an altitude of about nine thousand feet. We set up camp in an awesome clearing, where there were goats, sheep, cows, and dogs all around us. We talked more about leadership and had a large chunk of the afternoon to ourselves.
Day eight was a struggle for our group. It was a rest day and we were past the hardest parts of the trek. Tensions were high among everyone, as people were ready for the trek to be over and everyone was starting to get on each other’s nerves. After a rough morning, the group got together for the main task of the day: dinner. Dinner for the night was going to be lamb; our guides had bought a lamb from the nearby village and it needed to be killed, skinned, and cooked, while supplies for cooking it needed to be purchased from the village. G chopped its head off in front of those who wanted to watch, and some stayed to help skin the lamb. I worked on starting the fire for cooking it; gathering wood before eventually helping to get the fire started. We had a little time to ourselves to chill, but most of the day was spent focused on dinner. We made rice to go with the lamb curry that was made, and it was absolutely phenomenal. It was definitely the best thing that was made on the trek, although, unlike all the rest of the meals, I had no part in the cooking process. Something about being a part of the whole process, and watching the entire thing happen made it taste even better, and it also felt like a really great experience to be part of.
Day nine was another one of my favorite days. It was the last day of walking and we didn’t have to walk very far. We descended into the local village of Pitardi and got to hang out in the village for a while. We were lucky enough to get to watch a Hindu ancestral tradition that happens only a few times a year. Their ancestors possess a couple of the elder villagers during the ritual, as they dance and eat food. It felt a little strange as an outsider to witness such an important spiritual ceremony, but at the same time, it was really awesome to see. My favorite part of the day was being able to walk around the village and see their culture and interact with the locals. G and Vipul taught us a little more Hindi and told us to ask around and try and find a small store to get snacks for everyone. After hanging out in the village for a couple of hours, we descended all the way to our final campsite, a meadow at the coming together of the Rupen and Supen rivers. That night it rained a lot, making dinner was difficult, and group spirits were low as everyone was ready to leave the next morning. Everyone hung out in their tents for most of the night, talking and debriefing about how the trek went.
Day ten we got picked up pretty early at around ten and drove an hour to a hotel. There we had a delicious cooked meal that we didnt have to prepare ourselves, a shower, and a comfy bed. We spent the day relaxing and playing games.
The following morning we woke up early to drive the six hours back to the Hanafil Center. We unpacked and cleaned our gear and then had the rest of the day to relax. Today we didn’t have much to do, we had a course reflection, and a brief meeting to talk about what could be improved about the course and had the rest of the day to relax. Tommorow we have the entire day free; most of the group is planning on going into Mussourri and going shopping for most of the day.
What challenges arose on the trek and how did you overcome them?
There were a lot of challenges that came up throughout the trek. Their were some environmental ones as well as some within the group involving group dynamics. For the environmental ones, we overcame them as a group, by working together, by perservering, by not giving up on one another, and by doing what needed to be done. When the group was told that we had to walk another couple kilometers on day five, no one complained everyone got together and was like alright let’s do this. For the social challenges, we overcame them by talking to one another. Through communication we were able to settle our differences and make the best out of the difficult situations.
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