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Diary of a Non-Martial Artist in an Extreme Martial Arts Camp

Mountains call you. Well, that is what I have heard since I was a kid. I never believed it until one afternoon, I got this crazy invitation to join a camp to go on a trek in a forest called Deoban organised by Kombat Hall. Ahem! It is a martial arts establishment with a persona that 'fit' people would call their dream, which I call my nightmare. But hey! Mountains were calling me. So, I plunged into this life-changing opportunity.

Deoban is less famous in the lower Himalayas. It is natural and untouched by human development. It is on a higher hill and has a cold climate throughout the year. Vyas Shikhar is the highest peak; you can get a fantastic view of the Himalayas from there.

We started our journey on March 28th, 2024, at "sharp" 11.40 pm, and in the martial arts style, our beloved Shikher Sensei left two people behind because they ran a bit late, leaving us with a total of 47 people. 

We reached Lokhandi around 9 am the following day. Lokhandi is a small and dainty town where the trek to Deoban usually starts. The village does not provide modern facilities and has just one small place to rent a room with rudimentary provisions. But I bet after almost 11 hours on the road that one bare roof would feel like a five-star hotel. 

In Lokhandi, we met a small team from Indiahikes, one of the leading firms in India that organises great treks across the country. Our trek leaders, Amit and Abhishek, and some beautiful local people were also part of the team and, in my opinion, were the main heroes. Indiahikes were responsible for our trek. The plan was to go up the trek with Indiahikes and train for martial arts with Kombat Hall. Sounds easy? Yes, but only in my dreams.

Indiahikes arranged a pleasant and easily digestible lunch for us: Dal, chawal, roti, and vegetables. After lunch, we started our trek with a briefing and safety instructions. The first 30 minutes of the trek made me realise that the Himalayas cannot be lesser anywhere. I have never sweated so much in my life. 

Trekking in Beautiful Deoban Forest
Trekking in Beautiful Deoban Forest

But the best part was that the martial artists were accommodating and supportive. They all shouted together, walked together, and laughed together. This inspired me, and I moved forward slowly and gradually understood the drill. 

On the way, we found some animal carcasses. Some kids suggested it was a dinosaur fossil, which I would say- "the hardest time creates the best imagination". But hey! We can forgive an eight-year-old; it is their job to imagine.

Me with Dino
Me with Dino

After trekking for four hours, we reached our campsite. Our camps were ready. Thank God for that. Wait No! Thank God to Indiahikes for doing it and Kombat Hall for not stretching the definition of physical fitness, though Yashpal Sensei would have liked us to set the camps. 

After looking around and thanking the heavens above, I realised nobody had a mobile reception except JIO. Disclaimer: It is not an ad for JIO, but Jio users still have some network. We had to take care of the garbage and make sure to refrain from contributing the trash anywhere. Our toilets were in a tent structure with one big hole dug to get our business. 

But outside our tents, the scenery was beautiful. I felt like I had travelled to some paintings from the past. It was calm, serene and beautiful. The weather was a bit cold. We had delicious white sauce pasta and some chocolate milk and tea. I can swear (on my favourite ice cream) that I have never had such tasty pasta. 

Our Beautiful Camps
Our Beautiful Camps

But let us remember we were with martial artists as soon as people started to enjoy. Shikher Sensei reminded everyone to wear their gear and prepare for training in the mesmerising view. Training went on for about two hours. After two hours of training, we did not find the dinosaur carcass, but we did find the dinosaur's stomach. We reached a point where we could devour anything and everything. But our food was taken care of by Indiahikes.

Martial Arts Training
Martial Arts Training

It was a complete blackout at night, and our headlamps were our most significant companions ("Budhape ka Sahara" decoded). We ate a delicious dinner and the most fantastic Sewaiyan (vermicelli) for dessert. Yes! We had dessert in the Himalayas, under the stars. Tired, happy, and full stomachs, inhaling the fresh air gave us instant sleep. 

Around 3 am, Abhishek (our trek leader) knocked on my tent (if you can call talking loudly knocking). He told me he was putting my shoes inside as it started raining. At that moment, I thought about how hardworking they all were. I would not wake up even if someone told me we were under an alien attack. But there they were, putting everyone's stuff inside because the rain started.

The next day, when I woke up at around 5 am, the ground was white instead of green, and the weather seemed like I had travelled to Siberia in my sleep. I could hear a loud thunderstorm that gave me the illusion of being stuck in Normandy during WWII. But our beloved Shikher Sensei, regardless of the weather—and I am sure he would not consider bombing, too—ordered everyone to join the yoga session that Manleen conducted.

Walking was challenging with extremely low visibility and rain mixed with snow, which did not make life easy. Going to the toilet seemed like going to the front of the war. Nevertheless, we got our morning breakfast on time. Again, for someone like me who never liked porridge. I took three servings of porridge, though there was an option of sandwich and upma, but the porridge was just as heavenly as the outdoors.

Shikher Sensei asked us to get ready just a few minutes after breakfast. We were going up to the peak. I was like, WHAT? Honestly, I could not even go to the toilet, which was 7 metres away, and now I was expected to carry a small bag and myself in this weather up in the mountains. I was not ready. But the Sanshinkan/ Kombat Hall team was so energetic and positive that I decided to try. 

Ready after Snow and Hail Storm
Ready after Snow and Hail Storm
I knew they would not let me die.

We started trekking upward towards the highest point in Deoban, which is called Vyas Shikher Point. It was rainy, cold, and windy, but surprisingly, I found it easy. It was not because the terrain was kind but because my body had adapted. I was a mountain girl now. The trek was heavenly. It was surreal. I did see the birds I had never seen before. Close to the top, I saw a bird called the Himalayan Griffon. It was giant and majestic and magical. I saw hundreds of them flying overhead and making an unrealistic sound. 

Finally, after the extremely tough surge, we reached the Vyas Shikher point. The weather had cleared up, and it was sunny and comfortable. It was ravishing on top. The feeling that I did the summit is challenging to explain. All I could see was the breathtaking beauty surrounding me. I could see Mount Nanda Devi.

It was magical. I was in a Harry Potter world, but without my broom, I achieved all that with my tiny two feet. It all made it all more worthy. Not that I would mind the broom that flies.

The Summit Point
The Summit Point

After that, the rumbling of my stomach made me realise that it was time to feed it, too. So, after feeding my soul, we all had our lunch on top, packed by the team in our lunch boxes. It was a delicious vegetable, Pulav. Now, the fantastic food quality "does not surprise me". It seems like the mess workers were Midas, but instead of making everything become gold, they turned everything into delicious. 

After lunch, I slept on the mountain peak. Yes, I was a nomad by that point. I did not mind my clothes or my face getting dirty. I woke up after a few minutes only because our trek leader woke me up to remind me not to sleep; otherwise, I might face trouble going back. So, I woke up, and we clicked some pictures. It looks like the nomads remembered social media. 

We started our journey back to our base camp, which appeared like a cakewalk. We reached our base camp fast, and after reaching it, we had a sumptuous meal of noodles and tea. Some of us who were uncomfortable stayed at the base camp and told me they received the utmost hospitality and warmth. 

As if we had forgotten, we heard Sensei Yashpal's whistle and Sensei Shikher's voice to train again. This time, the training was more extended, challenging, and fulfilling. After training, we all went to the mess tent and had our dose of comedy, without television or internet. Everyone was talking, and everyone was listening and laughing for a change. It was the healthiest human interaction I had witnessed since the millennium. 

Happy and Connected Souls
Happy and Connected Souls

We had a fantastic dinner. I had never eaten so much as that night, and the local people who were part of the kitchen team were keen on feeding us as much as possible. We got a briefing for the next day as we would start our return journey. After that, I went to sleep with a happy body, soul, and tummy. 

I woke up the next day at 7 am. The martial artists had already finished their early morning training by then. We all had our last breakfast in the mountains and started packing up. We heard the trek back to the city would be a shortcut and more manageable than a cakewalk. That day, I learned the biggest lesson of my life: never believe in anything that comes with a shortcut, be it a mathematical question or a mountain trek. I bet both would kill you. 

Luckily for me, I was with Kombat Hall and Indiahikes. The trek back home reminded me of the line from Taylor Swift's song, "Baby I am a nightmare, dressed like a daydream". 

Indeed, it was prepossessing, but the descent was almost 90 degrees with loose soil, and the trail was as slim as I wished my waist to be. It was terrifying and nerve-wracking. If I was not with the team, I am confident I would be found in the next decade living a Mowgli life because I could not get the courage to descend. It was literally like walking on a rollercoaster, and I hate rollercoasters. But I trusted my group, and hence, I am back to civilisation safely.

The  Group
The Group

Overall, I have learned some essential things on my trek. 

Discipline is tough. 
Consistency is the key to success. 
Nobody is stronger than you. 
Giving up should not be an option. 
It is okay to be scared. 

I also understood why Uttarakhand is called DEVBHOOMI. It is not only beautiful in terms of its scenery, but it is also beguiling because of the people who are born on its soil. I have met some of the happiest people here. They would host you with utmost respect and warmth with whatever little they have. The adversity of their surrounding did not harden them at all. Our kitchen staff kept patience even after everyone shouted for food. They served us as happily as ever. 

Team Indiahikes took care of our safety with excellent efficiency. 

Kombat Hall and Sanshinkan are the impersonations of discipline and persistence. You would not die if you did not look in the mirror daily. Now I know that Mountains really call you if you listen carefully.

I Did It!
I Did It!



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