I love traveling. Especially with my awesome friends. We don’t travel that much, but we are starting to. Every year we go to a place for trekking called, “Kamrunag Temple” located at an altitude of 3334 meters above sea level in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. If you don’t know why Kamrunag is world famous, read this article on Kamrunag Lake by Times Of India. Last year we stayed for a night in Kamrunag. It was okay. We had fun. But this time, we tried to little more. More than just staying for a night. We decided to extend it to 3 days and added: “Shikari Peak” better known for “Shikari Temple” as our final destination. But, what happens when things don’t go as planned? That is why Kamrunag – Shikari Peak Trek became unforgettable.
The planning started with about ten people. We selected a date of 15 January as every year. But this time, we had to extend it to 20th January. At final day, we were only four, me, Vikas sir, Kameshwar sir and Umang. We had a choice, whether to wait three more days for more of our friends to join which we were from last five days or “Let’s Do This” situation. Well, we went with the second one. One night before I grabbed few things including few eatables like milk, noodles, popcorns, etc. I thought everyone was bringing some of it. On the evening, we all met. Vikas sir brought the Tent. It was a bit heavy; everyone decided that the tent will go in my bag ( I wasn’t happy). We were all packed, and we only had two sleeping bags, we thought two will be plenty. We decided to buy the remaining things in the morning. As expected we got up early and went to the bus station, and we were lucky that we got the bus early. We had first to travel to a village called “Rohanda” in a bus. The trekking starts from there. The time we reached Rohanda, we were all hungry as we didn’t have time for breakfast. We had some breakfast in a shop there. We bought some stuff like more Maggie(Noodles), Flashlights and more food. We had four bags, 2 were about 17 Kilos each and rest two were light weighted. We decided to carry them in turns and swap after some time. So we started the trek at 1100 hours to Kamrunag. But we forgot something and made the biggest mistake. You’ll know.
The Easy One
The Kamrunag Temple is about 8 KMs steep incline from Rohanda Village. As we’ve already been to this place many times, so it was easy for us. You must not think that these 8 KM are just any other 8 KM. 1 KM trekking a Hill is like 4 KM for you. It was harder because of the heavy bags we were carrying. Slowly and steadily we reached at Kamrunag Temple at about 1600 Hours, i.e., 4 PM. We were excited and also little worried as there was only 4 of us. No one else, just us and the Kamrunag Temple. The First task is to check whether there is water or not. It was winter there and temperature more likely to be under zero. But luckily there was a running tap of water. We collected water as much as we can because we didn’t know for how long this will keep running. We don’t want to take any risk. After that, we needed to decide where to put out tent. After a much debate of about half an hour, we decided to put up near a tree, where we can see only three sides. But, the fourth side is what made me more scared. It was the time of sunset, and we had plenty of light still left. We set up the tent and believe me or not it looked perfect. We left the bags near the tent and went for the most important thing, woods. We collected plenty so that we can spend the whole night by the fire. We started the fire and made some noodles. We were all talking about our girlfriends, careers, our lives. But we noticed that it was dark already. Everything was so quiet that even if branches fell from a tree, it makes a loud noise as if someone is running around our tent.
We ran out of topics to talk. Yes, we did. All we could hear is the chirping of burning wood in the fire and the sound of running tap. We were afraid, as we were only four people there. Kamrunag lake was the only water source for all types of animals in that jungle. If somehow some wild animal even thought of something like, ” ahh am feeling too much thirsty, let’s get something to drink by the lake,” we could’ve been screwed. It was only 9 PM, i.e., 2100 hours, we were tired. We decided to sleep, but the problem was, there were only two sleeping bags and four of us. We said, “Fuck it. It’ll be warm inside the tent“. It wasn’t. Kameshwar sir and I were inside our sleeping bags, but Umang and Vikas sir decided to sit back inside and take the guard. It was about -4° to -5° Celcius. Umang and Vikas sir was wearing everything they could find. They even try to sleep with all our clothes and bags over them.
I went to sleep, but when I woke up, everyone was awake, gossiping and even cursing me. I don’t know why. Everyone had enough sleep except Vikas Sir. We let him sleep till the last. In the morning, we made some noodles and pop-corns. We wrapped our things, packed our bags and threw Vikas sir in the lake. I’m just kidding, but we thought of it and decided not to throw him in the lake. We were ready to go, but we were little late. According to our plan, we should be ready at 7 AM, i.e., 700 hours. But it was 9 AM, thanks to Vikas sir. We didn’t think it of a big deal. We were ready for the next phase of our trek.
The Right Path
Now, we all went blank. We only knew the trail of Kamrunag, but we didn’t have any clue about “Shikari Devi” trail. As we planned it on google earth, Shikari Peak was 15 KMs North-East from Kamrunag. It all look very pleasing on Google Maps but a lot different from down there. It was from above, few straight lines and we thought 15 KMs is an easy trail. Trust me, when I tell you that 15 KMs on hills is far more than 30 KMs in reality. We had no idea what we were getting into, but we did. First, we tried to find some tracks there as one of my friends told me that there is a direct trail to Shikari Peak. We did find a nice cemented track, but towards a different direction. We decided to follow it. We kept following it but after 30 minutes my compass was pointing us into opposite direction. We were moving away from the Shikari Peak. We checked the map, but we couldn’t locate ourselves because of the thick forest. We needed a high ground to know an exact location. We went off that cemented path and tried to go North East. We stopped at a cliff with no signs of the road or any trail. Time was running out. We didn’t know shit. It’s about 2 hours since we left but we were still struggling to find the right way. We didn’t have any choice. We all decided to follow the cemented path. It was 11 AM. There was little snow; that was a relief. But suddenly we saw something. There were two pillars where the cemented road finishes and trail with lots of snow starts.
We sat for a while. Vikas Sir and Kameshwar Sir had sperate shoes just for snow. These were army shoes readily available at Manali. They had to change, but it took about 45 Minutes to get them in their shoes. We started once again. The snow was hard which makes it more slippery and difficult to cut through. We had no idea whether we are going into right direction. The trail was going towards a peak which had a small flag on it. As it was at a right height, we decided to make our next stop there and have something to eat. It was too high and with this much weight we were carrying it makes it more difficult. The scenery was something else. Every time we see right spot; we take out our cameras except me. I was cold and lazy. See this Picture and decide on your own.
We were at the top now. We can see everything and everywhere. It was like a playground which is not flat. We were tired, bored as hell. We were like let’s camp here for tonight. We ate some dry fruits and some fruit cakes, and then we headed towards the Shikari Peak. We can see a small flat ground over a hill with some hut-like structure. We knew it was the Shikari Temple. We confirmed it with our compass as it’s exactly at North-East. You’ll have a the idea by looking into this picture; the arrow was Shikari Peak.
We were late, and we knew it. We weren’t worried because if we didn’t find the peak we could camp anywhere for the night. We had food and water. But as we started drinking too much. It looked easy trail as we can see where we want to go but it wasn’t. We were running low on water. Everyone knew it as we decided to drink only when we cover 3-4 Kms. The sun was right above us that made it harder to resist the thirst. We came by a tap of water. It wasn’t working for some reason, or I thought there was no water. There were 3-4 water tanks, but they were all empty. We had two bottles of water which are about 3 liters in total. There was some water in small hole or ditch around the tap. We all were thirsty, but we decided not to drink it as we couldn’t decide whether it’s clear or not. We didn’t want to get any flu by drinking water like that. But it looked clear to me. It was clean like ordinary water. I was thirsty; I decide to give it a taste. That was incredible. I drank it; I think Umang did also. The mistake I made there is not to fill my empty water bottles with that water. I should’ve filled them.
As we were inside forest so we couldn’t see whether we are going right or not. We kept moving on the trail. We saw some huts which were likely to be homes of native people, and we thought they could give us some water. But every time we check any of those houses, they were locked or empty. The it was like a village with no soul. The silence was disturbing like everyone had abandoned the village like a pre-apocalypse movie. Sometimes we were afraid to check just because it doesn’t look good. We were afraid, Yes. We didn’t find anyone. Umang and Vikas sir was moving fast, but Kameshwar sir and I left 50 meters behind. Suddenly we saw some goats and sheep and two women sitting. We asked whether this was the right trek and where can we find water? They said that this is the right trek, but you won’t be able to find any water till you reach Shikari Peak. Well, this was disappointing. The rest of two water bottles were empty too. Now it’s all about finding a place with water. We filled the bottles with fresh snow and put it in the bags so that the warmth of our clothes could melt the ice and we could have water to drink. We finally reached a high ground with open sky. We could see everything from up there, even Shikari peak.
It was already 3 PM. We had only 3 hours before its dark. It was winters and days are small in winters. The distance was about 6 KM. After some rest, we started moving. But down the hill, I heard some noise like someone shouting. We saw a man plowing. There were some huts down there too. We were happy that finally we can have some water. We all decided to leave the bags on the hill and go down with bottles. It was a man and his wife there. I saw she was eating something and when we asked for some water, she directly said NO. She told us that the water is for them. But her husband laughed it all. “It’s not much, but you can have it, ” he said. He had a large can, but it was almost empty. It only filled one bottle. We were sad, but it was something. We thanked him and asked for the direction. He said, ” You all are on the right trail, just keep following the track and you’ll be there in 2 hours. Two hours ?? We were delighted by that. He also told that we will get plenty of water just before 1 KM from the Shikari Peak.
We were walking for the almost whole day, and we were tired as hell. We were walking continuously, without talking and without any thought. We were angry, all of us, but not each other but at the situation. We had mood swings just because of the tiredness. The main cause for this was the water. No one was thirsty; no one was complaining, and that made me worried. My legs were shaking badly. I wanted to rest, but when I thought about relaxing, I look up at the sun, almost sunset and decide not to. We were walking for at least 2 hours and still no signs of water. Walking on a trail not wider than just to make a single person walk and cliff so steep that if someone even slipped it would take 10 minutes to reach the bottom.
Vikas sir was leading, I was on the second and Kameshwar sir and Umang behind me. It was so bad that at every 10 minutes, I wanted to cry. Now I was walking without even paying attention to the surroundings. I was questioning myself, “why the hell I am here? Why did I come? I should’ve stayed at home. What would I be doing at this time? By the Lake I guess. Yes, by the lake.” Suddenly I slipped. My foot went off the trail into the cliff, and I fell down on my ass. I landed on the edge. No one had any idea what just happened. I was stunned. I couldn’t move, for a moment, I thought I was rolling down the cliff. That is it; I am dead. My eyes were wide open; I didn’t move at all. Kameshwar Sir shouted, “Don’t move, I’m coming.” He slowly reached out and first he took my bag from me, then pulled me off the edge. They knew that I am in shock, and I was. It took me 3-4 minutes to get back and understand what exactly happened. It was that moment I realized that I shouldn’t take this lightly. We took a break. We all sat for a while in complete silence. It was getting dark, but we decided to stop for a while.
The whole forest was under the Darkness. We had flashlights, but we didn’t know how much trail is left. The forest of Shikari is considered more dangerous than Kamrunag Forest, but at this point, we weren’t afraid of wild animals. I am talking about myself that I didn’t even thought of any animal attack. That is how much tired we were. The trail was too narrow now, with a dark wilderness in the cliff. It was dark, but we decided to use only two flashlights. Finally, we came across a hillside. It was the final climb as we could see the top of the hill. But between the hill top and us, there lies a stream with no water. It was too steep, way too much. We saw a trail going into the dark forest. That wilderness is so dark that for the first time this day, I was afraid. None of us wanted to go through that forest. I saw another trail going beside the stream to the up top hill. No one knew which one to follow.
Everyone was clueless at that moment. Someone had to speak out, so I did. I told them to come with me and climb the steep hill beside the stream. For a moment, everyone was staring at me like I’ve gone mad. I convinced them that this trail is under an open sky and seems nearer to the hill top. We started climbing. Vikas sir and I were leading the way. We were at the edge of giving up. You might be thinking why repeatedly bragging about the Tiredness. Let me tell you why. While climbing that steep hill trail, we lie down in every 10 seconds. I remember sitting within every 10 seconds because my heart was pumping so hard that I was afraid of getting a heart attack. We were half way through. I looked back and saw Vikas sir lying down, Kameshwar Sir and Umang down far sitting. I can remember Kameshwar sir saying that we should camp here. But It was the worst place to camp.
They needed something, hope to climb this shitty steep. I told them that I see something up there. I told them that it could be the water source that man said. Suddenly everyone was looking up with hope. I don’t know what got into everyone, we all were trailing again. When we were about to reach the top we saw a trail going to the right side and one up. I knew that the trail going up was the right one. It was last 30 meters. I told them that we are almost there. When we reached the top, we saw nothing. There was nothing, besides a massive hill like a wall that we couldn’t even think of climbing. I figured I messed up and made everyone follow a wrong path. But no one blamed me. We then all agreed to go down and follow the trail going to the right. This track looked like it was taking us somewhere else than the top, but what choice do we have? Moving for 10 minutes on the trail, we found bonfire spots and that point we knew that this is the right trek.
Survival or Ethics
We kept moving. We knew that we are on right path. It was about 8 PM. Wind blowing is so cold that I had to rub my ears in every 15 minutes. Finally, were at the hilltop. But there was nothing. A large ground with no signs of Temple or anyone. We thought we came too much forward, and the temple left behind. We sat down, with disappointment. Everything was going wrong. We were on a large ground with a fantastic view, but the hilltop is about 20 meters from there. We decided to camp there. It was an excellent place. But Vikas sir said that he’ll check the top so that we could know the surroundings. Vikas sir shouted from up there, “Kamal, come here. I think I see something there.” I went up and see something like a wall. I used my flashlight just to confirm but couldn’t get what exactly it was. We all decided to go there and check by ourselves. It was the Rest House.
Finally, we reached there. The only thing that separates Kamrunag with Shikari Peak is the Rest House. The Temple was 150 meters over the next hill. It was 8:30 PM. We decided to visit the temple in the morning. The Rest House was locked with no way to enter. We were about to open our tent, but Vikas sir said something by snooping in the window like, “Plenty of Blankets.” We were all cold, and we only had two sleeping bags. Those blankets and beds inside the Rest House could save us. But it was locked. We were questioning each other, whether breaking the lock is right and ethical? Was it worth breaking? You guys might think that it’s not a good thing but just think that you have to sleep inside a tent which merely resist cold in the temperature of about -4°C to -8°C?
We had no choice to give it a try. We tried breaking the lock, but the lock has already taken hundreds of hits previously. I think people like us looking for blankets would’ve have done it. The lock was an asshole. We tried everything, but there was no way of getting in unless we break the door. At that moment we thought, breaking door is way too much. We left the door as it is without even a scratch. We made our tent, started a fire, boiled some water, made some popcorns, noodles. We slept that night without giving a single damn about anything. We all were thinking ourselves like criminals who tried to break-in and failed. But, when it comes to life there is no line between ethics and survival.
One Memorable Trip
Next morning we got up early and visited the Temple. I called my girlfriend and asked for the exit way. Within an hour, we found a road to the nearest town which was about 16 KMs. We reached on time and got ourselves a bus to Sundernagar. While on the bus, we all were staring at each other that what have we been through but at last we did it. How well was our preparedness? Were we fools to go so unprepared? Well, that feeling of taking the risk without an even blink of an eye and getting out of it is hard to explain through the words. I cannot forget this trip of Kamrunag – Shikari Peak my whole life.