Nehru Diary 2: Rhododendron Juice

According to the training schedule, on the first day of the training, we were going to hike up to a hill. So the morning at 6 am, we trainees rushed to the rallying point, with the big backpack full of  equipment like snow boots, crampon, sleeping bag, feather jacket…

Some classmate had very crooked packing, few were late… the chief instructor announced some matters seriously in Hindi, which I couldn’t understand. But anyway, I just followed my fellows and walked to the trail head.

I was a bit nervous at the beginning, worried about unable to keep pace the the rank. But my past trekking experiences were not in vain. Nice and proper packing contributed to a stable centre of gravity of the rucksack, proper adjusted belt and straps, stepped with breathes…the more I walked, the more easy I felt. I wasn’t quick, but kelp my own pace, slowly I overtook others.

I started to use my new toy GoPro, walked along the zig-zag trail in the pine forest, chatted with friends, and soon we arrived the returning point on the ridge.

 On the way back, I chatted with Ken who is on the same rope with me. Ken is a Indian with an English name but were born and grew up in India. His mother’s grand father was an English, so his belongs to a Christian family, that’s why he has an English name. He was only 20+, but had already had his own travel agency, arranging trips for foreigners who wants to travel in India. It has been one year since he started the business, now he wants to develop trekking business. So he came here to learn more about this field.

Ken was thin and tall, looks physically fit. But the ascent in the morning made him exhausted. It’s fair because his rucksack belts were loose, and all the weight were on his shoulder. Actually not just him, many of my classmates were totally drained out this morning.

After the breakfast, we started our first lecture: Knot. The only female instructor is the instructor for this course. There were no extra words in her class. She used simple words to teach well organized content. Even I don’t understand Hindi, I can easily got the idea. Her lectures were all like this, so I was happy every time I know she is going to be the insrtructor of a class.

This knot lecture is a review for me, but for other fellows were more like a nightmare. Everyone were complaining about the demonstrations were too fast. There were no way to learn how to tie the knots.  But later we realized that most of the class were like this. First the instructors demonstrated, gave us a frame of how it works. Then we were given a specific time to practice.

I thought the people who came to this course, not only were interested in mountain but had basic mountaineering skill and fitness. But surprisingly not, at least half of them weren’t. I had some mixed feeling toward this. My Indian fellows, without any experiences, they had dreams of climbing to the top peaks of the world. They transformed it to real action and came here. The distance between “knowing nothing of the mountain” to ” joining expeditions” is so close for them.

The geographical advantage and the promotion of the government should played an important role among. Geographycally, the Himalayan range stretchs along the border of India and Tibet. For the goverment of India, it is important both for strategy significance and tourism development. For mountaineers, it’s a priceless treasure. The government were active, there are 6 or 7 mountaineering institutes along the Himalayan range in India which were founded by government. Every institute holds many courses every year. I, a foreigner pay 800 USD for a course. For my Indian fellows, 100 USD. For some who were selected from NCC( National Cadet Corps), it’s free. And those institutes not only have mountaineering couse, they also offer ski, paragliding, rafting course…etc. The most important thing is that, the cost for Indian were all partially covered by the government.

 In Taiwan, there are uncountable experienced trekkers since we have the highest mountain density of the world. Those trekkers can carry heavy, do map reading, orienting, river tracing, they can walk fast and far. They know how to survive whithout expansive equipments, they can even cooked a real feast in the mountain.  But not many of them ever thought about climb to Everest. Not many of them thought about learning snow and ice climbing, to the famous peaks in the world.

Part of it is because our mountains are not high enough, and our location is not north enough to have snow all year on the mountain. Part of it is because our government was not into it. Maybe because of our Chinese(this word here only has caltural meaning) metal set. We are too much cautious, we don’t aim high, and we don’t encourage adventure. Although I can’t tell clearly, it seems Indian is totally different. And obviously, we don’t know how to dream and we are in an environment that don’t encourage dreaming.


The most exciting thing today should be having Gulas for my first time. Around 10 in the morning, we had a break. Kitchen staff brought a bucket of red color drink. Indian friends told me it’s the juice of Rhododendron, locally called Gulas! During the Spring of Himalaya, Rhododendron blossoms.The petal is eatable. Last year in Dharamsala, I even made a sugar pickle with the petals of Rhododendron! But it’s my first time to hear that locals make a product from it. Rithwik, who belongs to the same rope with me, is knowledgeable. He told me that this juice is only made in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Darjeeling of India. All in Himalayan! The juice are processed into syrup, which can easily dilute to juice by adding water. Most important thing is that, I can purchase it easily in the market of Uttaerkashi! I was thinking to bring this back to Taiwan as a souvenir. And I actually did. I brought 3 liters of syrup back to Taiwan at the end~

Another interesting thing of the day is visiting market. We were given few hours to purchase missing equipment in the Uttarkashi market. Uttarkashi is right below the hill where NIM located. It’s a big town in the mountain hills, also the biggest own on the way from the biggest city of Uttarkhand- Dehradun or the sacred land Haridwar to the origin of Ganga, the mother river of India.

We were brought down to the town by the NIM bus. I didn’t want to go at first. But my instructor told me that I really need to bring 4 pairs of gloves and socks during the training in the glacier. And I do need a sunglasses that can fit on my near-sighted glasses.



I met Kundan, who is also near-sighted in a corner of the market. We decided to go together. We need to find snow goggle that can fit in our glasses in less than 1 hour to catch the NIM bus! We ran around the market crazily, and finally found a mountaineering equipment store that instructors told us. We bought the only two left but poor quality goggles which cost 550rs each! And we ran back to the collection point like we were participating in TRA( The Amazing Race). We definitely don’t want to walk up to the hill on foot! We ran through a play ground of a school on the way. The interesting thing is, there are few trucks parking in muddy ground, and a line of street vendors inside are selling foods. It’s more like a park than a school playground XD