We set out for Aru, only a 9km/6mile walk. The day was cool and raining off and on but not terribly uncomfortable. It was not supposed to rain. India has very definite monsoonal flows and October is supposed to be one of the best months for trekking. Don’t you just hate it when there are “unseasonal” changes? We chugged our way up this road until Aru and waited for our crew to catch up.
The first stage of this trek, from Pahalgam to Aru, can be done by vehicle. It is, however, recommended that the trail be walked to acclimatize before getting to the tougher and higher routes to follow. This trail followed the Lidder River to the open meadows at Aru, where excellent campsites as well as private hotels are available. The short trek from Aru to Lidderwat runs through thick pine forests and meadows where the trekker can see the local shepherds grazing livestock. From Lidderwat the trail follows the west bank of the Lidder through Gujjar encampments to the largest nomadic village in the area at Satlanjan. The Kolahoi peak (5,734m/18,812′) is usually clouded over by midmorning, so it is wise to start early from Satlanjan.
We were sopping wet and freezing by the time the cook and ponymen arrived and they started throwing everything off the ponies (including the four live chickens, one is going to be dinner) and in five minutes, they had our Everest Expedition geodosic North Face tent up and ready. Then a cook tent materialized and Sula began erecting a toilet tent. All this for two people. I just sat like a Queen in the dining tent, drinking tea and eating a fried puri while ex-Marine ran around moaning and feeling sorry for the poor chickens. Saib’ra had the propane blasting away in his tent, preparing to chef his little heart out.
Sula served dinner in the big dining tent lit with a kerosene lamp. Soup, rice, fried onions and green peppers, french fries, lamp chops and custard with applies in it for dessert. Saib’ra is amazing. Incredible what he created with his small propane stove in just a short period of time. If you’ve never trekked before, it’s important to know that whatever you don’t eat, the crew will polish off with gusto. Nothing goes to waste.
There were campgrounds close to ours including one with about 8-10 trekkers, crampons and all who are going up to Kolahoi Glacier. They had two tents, total, for all those people, and that included dining, toilet and sleeping tents while we sat here in luxury (for a mere pittance, I might add). I never expected anything this “luxurious” for two persons. People had, and still have, terrible pre-conceptions about India. This first experience shattered everything we were led to believe and expect in India.
I’m exhausted, we both had headaches but it finally dawned that were were at altitude. Duh… Aru is situated at 9,000 feet and Liddermat where we’ll camp tomorrow, is a little higher at an altitude of 10,000 feet. A few aspirins, into the sleeping bags and a good night’s sleep should help.