Odi Thaach to Parvati Project - Next day morning began our return journey. By this time, I was a regular member of the leading team, and we all were now eager to get back. We started our hike on this route and stopped at Thakur Kuan for our pack lunch and a photo-session. We reached Parvati project at around 2.30 PM after crossing the Parvati river with the same cable car. Parvati project is an abandoned project, but it still has a small helipad and few sheds there. We made this our temporary campsite on our way back. It started raining immediately after we reached there and had our tents set up. The evening was very cold near that river, and I skipped my diner and instead stayed in the comforts of my sleeping bag. Coincidently, that night Shivali tried cooking some food; and I vaguely recollect that Arjun and someone else had upset stomach next day.

Parvati Project to Khirganga - Khirganga Our return path was mostly the downward slope, so our plan was to cover more distance each day while returning. Accordingly, next day we left this camp and started for Khirganga. Our pack-lunch spot on this route was Thunda Bhuj, and we had another look at the beautiful Parvati River, "Five Pandwas", and small waterfalls there. Sometime in the afternoon we reached Khirganga. This was one of our favourite campsites and this time we were even more desperately looking forward to it for the hot water bath. We were more relaxed at Khirganga this time as it was our last stop on our way back. This camp at Khirganga was comforting in many ways; we had hot water bath again, and we hogged food at one of those hut-hotels. The best part was the "hot-honey-lemon-ginger drink". Sipping it was an out of this world experience at that temperature after a hot water bath. Few perfect moments of bliss!!!

Khirganga to Barshani - Next day we were supposed to go to Barshani from Khirganga via Kalga. That was our last trek on this route. By this time we were very comfortable with each other and didn't have much inhibitions. Moreover, we were very confident about Himalayan mountains and our routes. In fact, the moment we saw a steep ascent we instantly & intuitively knew that it was definitely the wrong route. More than anything else, we were desperate to get into a vehicle that moves on its own, without having us to walk. So with all this confidence, intuition and desperation we managed to discover a new route under able guidance of Sushrut. We were rewarded for this innovation with few apricots and a beautiful view of yet another Parvati river waterfall. Unfortunately, our main group leader Amod was "less than happy" with Sushrut's idea of leading us there. Anyway!!!

Reaching Barshani meant getting connected back to the civilized world, the world that used wheel, telephone and television! Arjun, Advait and Ajinkya were desperate to know Euro cup score; finally an Italian in Barshani helped them in their quest for knowledge! We left Barshani by bus (Moves on wheels, how convenient!!) and reached Manali that night. The next day in Manali was all about shopping and eating out, as we changed our role from trekkers to tourists. Our trek was over!! I treated myself with some good chat and lots of cold drinks - apple, plum, and litchi. Yum, yum! You know, never trust a doctor when he says 'thou shalt not have them' when you've cold!

The return journey from Manali to Delhi, and Delhi to Pune was long, tiring but smooth. We all had become very good friends by then, we enjoyed ourselves in this journey, we hogged fruits, ice creams, and anything edible, and Sushrut even gave an amazing dance performance in the train, which was undoubtedly the most enjoyable & memorable part of this return train journey. For some of us this was the first Himalayan trek, but all us knew that this definitely wouldn't be the last. We very well knew why trekkers say that Himalayas is addictive!!

Reflections - Some people ask trekkers why do they do all this despite all the hardship. Why do they go there? The best answer I can quote is by the climber George Mallory when he was asked, "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?" He said - "Because it's there!"
He further says - "If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for." I couldn't have put this in better words!

Each travel in a way is journey within yourself, a different journey for everyone. When I reflect what it has been for me, I realize that it has been so much!

It has been a humbling experience - made me realize how small, insignificant and feeble I am as compared to this wonder of nature. First two days made me aware of my limitations, and reminded me that I can't take my body for granted.
It has been an inspiring experience - for making me realize that my grit is my strength, and if I am determined I can face any challenge.
It has been a heartwarming experience - Just to see Gowande uncle and Mahajan uncle doing it all without any fuss despite their age. For the wonderful spirit and relationship that Mahajan uncle and aunty shared.

It has been a life-enriching experience as a whole. I close my eyes and I can see lively Parvati River in all its grandeur. I can see the colorful flower carpet at Thakur Kuan. I can recall how miserable I was on my trail from Khirganga to Thunda Bhuj. I can also vividly recall all the contentment I had for making it on my own with my determination. I can recollect the moment of perfect bliss I had while sipping hot-honey-lemon-ginger drink at Khirganga on our way back. This trek has become part of the most beautiful memories and has touched my life in so many wonderful ways.

This is an ode to Himalayas
For being one of the most humbling experience,
For being one of the most inspiring experience,
For being one of the most pacifying experience,
For being all this and much, much more…
For giving me a chance to get in touch with my soul!