Having walked two days, on the third day we rested. We stayed in the dirty, windowless room with the smelly quilts and staunchly waved away Ballu’s attempts to rouse us with bed tea at 5.30. Actually, if Ballu himself had come to the room, we might not have stood any chance of success, but since he sent his second-in-command, Deshraj, we had no trouble. At last, around 7 a.m., I accepted the tea and, since Amit showed no signs of raising himself to the extent of being able to swallow anything, I drank both cups. (In the mountains, if you haven’t got diarrhoea, you take your laxative any way you can.)
When we finally got out of the room at 7.30-ish, we found Ballu busy rolling out puris to eat with steaming hot chhole (chana; chickpeas). The kids wolfed down eight puris between the two of them, while Amit said he single-handedly demolished 11. I got stale rice. (Sob.)
At 9.30, we went for a “picnic”. We carried the camera, a bottle of water, a small packet of cashews and raisins, and a big plastic bag full of dirty laundry. I’d mentioned to the kids that we could wash our clothes in the stream at Har ki Dun and for some reason this idea caught Tara’s fancy. She was really looking forward to it! Since there was still a lot of snow, going down to the meadow we had come from didn’t look like too much fun and going further up looked even less inviting. So we went down to the valley behind – where a small stream curved around the foot of the Swargarohini massif and disappeared in the direction of the Jaundhar glacier. The glacier is only another 12-13 km from here, we were told airily. That was 12-13 km more than I intended to walk, and in the wrong direction to boot.
We descended the slope behind our room and picked our way down to the water. We all took off our shoes and socks and eventually the kids took off their pants as well – I worried about sunburn, but the way they were managing to get their pants wet in the river, I’d have to worry about pneumonia soon. We all washed clothes in the stream. Unfortunately, washing clothes in the river is not as easy as you might think. Where the water is fast and deep, it too cold to stand in. Where it’s shallow enough to keep your feet dry, it’s full of silt. Tara was dipping a sock in the water when it slipped out of her hand and started to float downstream. Only with some good luck did I manage to catch it before it drifted lazily away. “Some of our clothes are going to reach Osla before us,” observed Amit.
The kids enthusiastically silted up their laundry; I tried to de-silt it and rinse it clean. Amit spread it out on the grass to dry, so that it picked up all sorts of things; I tried to rinse it clean again and then lugged it all the way to a far off rock to dry. Then the kids had a blast playing with stones and sand and water and we had a blast watching them. They tried their hands (and feet) at rock climbing and Amit stood guard behind to ensure they didn’t fly off the top of the rock and land in the roaring river behind. We munched the dry fruit and drank the water and I showed them how to fill water from a stream. They were so delighted because they could empty the bottle out into the stream and fill it up again and nobody would scold them for wasting water!
We went back up the thorny hillside for lunch and after lunch the kids were persuaded to take a nap. Amit went to the GMVN guest house to see if their room was any better than our current room with the smelly quilts; we had a reservation there for that night. He discovered it was much better – larger, cleaner, and with a nice window and a nicer fireplace that the staff promised to light a fire in at night. He also discovered a back route between the GMVN guest house and the Forest guest house. When the girls woke up from their nap, we packed everything and moved. Ballu refused to follow – packing the kitchen was simply not worth the effort, he said. So we came back to the Forest guest house for dinner. By the time we went back to our palatial lodgings at the GMVN guest house, it was dark. Naturally, we lost our way and were stumbling around in a maze of boulders and snow when the staff from the GMVN guest house sent out a search and rescue mission for us. By 8 p.m. we were in our room, the kids were in bed, the fire was blazing and the quilts were mercifully odorless. Of course, when the fire ran out of wood around 9 p.m. the room was horribly cold – but it seemed a small price to pay.