Sunday, 21 September 2014

On a trek to Lal Tibba and blue berry cheese cake.

Here is the trek description in a more readable form.
  • Trek from the academy to Lal Tibba.
  • Started at 7.30 am.
  • Downhill walk till Bhilaru pump house.
  • Salt sprinkling ceremony to ward off leeches and to maintain pH levels, slaughtered few mountain goats to propitiate trekking gods (ok, this part is made up, the sacrifice part).
  • Some more downhill walk on algae covered paths (slippery as hell).
  • Bicchu buti kisses in between (painful, painful, irritating initially, but one forgets after a while as the aches in legs from climbing overtakes the bicchu buti sting). Nobody quite grasped the nettle!
    Bichu buti
    Beware of bicchu buti.
  • Some mushrooms enroute.
  • Dead wood blocks the narrow path; OTs slide on their bottoms in order not to roll down 80 ft before the fall is broken by trees. Fat bottomed OTs you make the rugged world go round!
  • Crossed leech infested area near a pool of stagnant water and a ribbon of a stream that has the deceptive roar of a raging torrent, somehow. Yours truly mistook the leeches for earthworms, steps in to the pool, soggy shoes and socks torment for the rest of the trek.
  • Climb begins in earnest. Narrow, gravelly path. Precipitous drop one one side and stinging nettles on the other.
  • Crawl on all fours at a place. Palms still sweat when one thinks of that part. Happy because of the paunch which lowered the centre of gravity.
  • Climb past hamlets, barking dogs, flatulent cows.
  • Climb past fruit bearing trees (apple, apricot), 'mansoor' shrubs
  • Climb ends at Lal Tibba view point. Two sleepy, generic cafes. A binoculars on a roof top. Cloudy so could not see any of the upper Himalayas. Do ends justify the means? Not for Lal Tibba trek I say!
  • Pleasant walk downhill and some more climb up to ITM lawns for lunch.
  • A bee going about its business.
  • Kellogg Memorial and St.Pauls churches, old and redolent of 19th century Raj era.
  • Char dukaan disappointed few motor vehicle borne pretty young things. Heard the pancakes are worth making the trek to Landour. Should check out the said pancakes.
    Signboards at a cafe.
  • Kulri bazaar home to quaint shops. Antiques store was a shortcut to an indeterminate past, in to lives of others, memorabilia mundane and mysterious. Reminded me of the saying that love is greater than truth. And commerce in nostalgia did not seem an example of exploitative capitalism.
  • Serendipitous discovery of Clock Tower Cafe by friends. Blueberry cheesecake was out of this world. The ambience made it especially noteworthy.
    The interiors of Clock Tower Cafe.

    The coffee was good.
So that in nutshell is an account of the trek. Was it tough? You bet it was. Was it memorable? Every bit yes, especially the scary bits. Was it worth all the sweat, salt, fat etc? I suppose so.

A larger collection of photographs of the trek can be found here.

Below is the trek account in its original form.
Lal Tibba earned an enemy in me today. The trek was 18 km long. The unsuspecting batch started a slow walk downhill till we reached a point where we sprinkled liberal amounts of salt on our shoes (a pointless exercise, for dry salt does not stick to dry shoe surfaces), socks and inside the shoes. This pickling of ourselves in salt was to deter potential dependents in the form of leeches. Once sufficiently salted, the batch made its way through a narrow path surrounded by an abundance of bicchu buti. A handwritten caution note pinned to a tree does not prepare one to the full scale horror of bicchu buti rubbing against one's shins and arms, even through a layer of cloth. The resultant sting was bitter, intense for the initial 2-3 minutes and the itch fades away in to the background remaining a persistent irritant for a time. There was a spot in the descent where a fallen tree caused few anxious moments as the OTs had to go around the gnarled roots on a narrow path and descend some 12 ft in an almost vertical drop, land on another narrow strip of loose dirt path of 1 ft width failing which the OT would take a tumble down an abrupt drop of around 80 ft. It was the first instance when one feels a bit of trepidation. One also imagines Final Destination 1 to 5. Then there was another point in the climb where the loose gravel and a slope of close to 60 degrees meant one had to cling to tufts of grass or shrubs and climb on all fours. It was not a dignified sight for the civil servants to crawl on the sides of the hills, but between the indignity of crawling and the reasonable certainty of a headlong plunge to the very bottom of the valley some 1500 ft below, rational human beings choose crawling.

There was this funny thing of feeling giddy the moment one raises their head to admire the vista of trees of the deepest tree-green covering folds of earth, like vertical love handles, the tremendous middle Himalayan Mussoorie range. So, to avoid falling off the mountain side, one tends to keep his head down, eyes peeled to the path, belabored breath like a sputtering engine. Keep one's head down and climb and climb and climb. Through rocky paths strewn with slate slabs, dried cow dung, an accompanying dog and a racket of dog barks. Climb till you wonder if you are ascending to heaven. Climb some more till your calf muscles turn in to mountain goat muscle. Stringy and tough.

After all the climbing one reaches Lal Tibba. The point we landed up at after the rather difficult trek was a small piece of tarred road and couple of cafes. Since it was overcast there was no chance of seeing the snow-clad Himalayas and the prominent peaks. The culmination of the trek was underwhelming to say the least. Post lunch one was free to move to the academy as per one's preference and I opted to walk down to Landour, along with few friends. Landour was pretty as a post card. Of special mention was the Clock Tower Cafe, a delightful cafe with superb views and a blue berry cheese cake to die for.

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