We did see each other at three thirty in the morning the next day. Holding hands we walked into the woods, letting our headlamps light the path in the otherwise dark pre-dawn. The hugging and kissing had to be done with, before the gang of shitters could arrive. The hugging and kissing was done with. It had been a long long time. We liked it. And before the gang could arrive, we were back to our respective halls, inside our respective sleeping bags. We slept for a while. When we got up, it looked like we had just had a nice dream. And then we joined the gang of shitters.
Except for a not so short trial trek (but thankfully, without our rucksacks) in the morning and everyone-please-introduce-yourself session, sitting over green grass, under a glimmering blue sky for the rest of the day, we didn’t do anything much. The day after that, early in the morning, we left for Zongri. With our rucksacks.
The trek was as painful and difficult as had been the first day of trekking. Also, taking too many breaks really fucked me up by the time I reached Zongri. But then, what matters is that I reached Zongri. And so did she. And so did everyone else. Like Orange for example. That Israeli security guard, remember?
Orange talked to us about skiing. ‘You don’t come straight down. You go side-ways.’ He also shared his Mt. Kilimanzaro climbing experience with us. How he had layers of clothes on him and how he had still shivered. How it cost him 1000 USD fee of which the government itself retained 100 USD per day of stay within the range, while the rest went to the coolies and other helpers.
As the evening set, MRP and I had maggie and chai in one of the few shops that existed at the otherwise habitation-free Zongri. We had maggie and chai sitting in the kitchen, sitting right in front of the burning stove, seating with each other, sitting together with half a dozen other students. That night, we stayed in tents. All of us. I shared mine with Movies, Rocky, Orange, Film-maker, and Oxygen. Next day Rocky and Kunti packed off. They both had fallen ill. Kamal Nayan accompanied them down. Apparently he had become a father. He was returning home. ‘Pahad me hamesha muskarate rehna chahiye’, he had kept saying on the first day of trekking.
The following day, we treked from Zongri to the HMI base camp. I followed my own pace and found trekking easier compared to the previous days. We crossed plenty of snow around the pass. It started snowing on the way to the base camp. And then we were there. At the base camp. With the snow still falling, we were made to fall-in. We fell in. The snow hardly bothered us that evening. The first evening at the base camp. The snow was beautiful rather. ‘My first snow-fall’, she chuckled. She was delighted. We were on top of the world. Quite literally. And we were not lonely.