Life has its way of throwing little seredipitious treats at us, every once in while.When my sister called me I became a part of one such treat. She was going to a 11 day trek in the Himalayas and she wanted company.I had just left a few things behind and was looking for a fresh start. A trek was perfect. I hadn’t really heard about Har-ki-dun.I googled it up minus the images(I don’t like to see the places that Im going to before hand). From what I read I gathered that its a valley (dun meaning valley)from where one can see the Swargrohini peak.Swargrohini is of importance in the Indian epic Mahabharta as it was by climbing this peak that the pandvas went to heaven.So, with a little bit of prepration: not so much for the trek as for the weather, my sis and I were ready to go.
We boarded the train from Manmad station and an unknown adventure with 30 strangers began. The train journey that started with awkward hellos and formal introductions went through the fun card playing sessions, eateries being passed around and ended in us being a bit less of strangers.We reached Delhi the next day.The sun was a bit lazy that day and we were greeted by cloudy weather. The butter, the paneer,the kaali daal and the mighty lassi at a small hotel near the station made for the perfect north Indian lunch.
Next we boarded the train for Dehradun, Ruskin Bonds very own Dehra.It was here that we started feeling the difference. The air became cooler, the people friendlier, the barren concrete landscape gave way to lush green fields and small streams.It was here that a kind stranger offered us a seat. It was a mighty one mind you,not for the weak hearted.After 22 years of living and in the absence of parental supervision, my sister and I got the opportunity of sitting at the darvajja of the bogie. And we were kids again. We saw the fields passing by,the farmers ploughing their fields, the kids waving good bye to the train, the setting sun, the breeze on our faces, the wind in our hair. No other thought crossed our minds except for the wonderful scenery passing in front of us.We were feeling more and thinking less. This by far is the best seat I have had while travelling.
We reached derhradun at night. It seemed like a confused place. A city that has left its stature of being a town but has not yet arrived at the one of a state capital. Nonetheless the city had beautiful plantations and some nice architecture. The hotel that we stayed in gave a direct view of masoorie in the distance.
A view of masoorie from dehradoon.
Nestled in those lights in the distance somewhere was a man, a simple man(yup the kind is rare but they do exist),a man who spoke very less, but was a man of words nonetheless(OHK im digressing!Though u can read my other blog “A day in masoorie” for further info… ) . So, coming back to the hotel in dehradoon. The hot water bath after a long journey was relief. Little did we know that this was going to be our last bath for almost a week.We got up early next day and started the 8 hour bus ride to Sankri.The route was beautiful and haunting. Haunting because the roads were extremely narrow ,as if the mountain were shrinking anything artificial built on its face.On one side was a valley,one miscalculation on the part of the driver and we would all go down the gushing waters of Yamuna. Beautiful,well, pretty much for the same reason. At around noon the weather started changing.It changed from pleasant in dehra to rainy on the way and finally to chilly when we reached Sankri in the evening. Sankri is a beautiful village. Around 20 houses and a few shops nestled in the Himalayas.It was first from here that we could spot the snow clad peaks. There they stood in the distance, seemingly unconquerable.
We all took a good nights sleep as the next day would be a long and ardous one. A 14km trek to a village called Seema.All of us woke up early(thanks to the innovative ways of our trek lead). We were taken by jeeps to a place called Taluka from where we were to start our trek.On the way to Taluka our jeeps went through waterfalls and while trying to enjoy the scenery around we hoped that our drivers knew what they were doing. When we reached Taluka, it had started pouring, the ponchos and the caps came out and we marched out for the trek. The trek was like a beautiful long walk through a dense forest. The rain had made the forest even more beautiful-The mist down the valley,the petrichor, the continous sound of the river flowing down, the sight of the mighty Himalayas. This was pure bliss.
When we reached seema the sun was out as if congratulating us on the days hard work. Seema seemed like a trekkers village.There were 2-3 lodges and a few Tapri’s(small shops).These Tapri’s welcomed us with piping hot chai and chulha made maggi. After eating the simple and tasty dinner(yes thats a possible combination) we went to sleep. Next day ,as usual, we got up early and started on the main trail of our trek, the one leading to Har-ki-dun.This trail was amazingly scenic.By now the sound of the river below had become a constant companion, Himalayas were in every direction you look and the village of Seema now looked like it had come straight out of the sets of Honey, I shrunk the kids.
MAGGI!!! Whoever invented this, should be given a nobel prize!
A view of Seema from above.
Then terrain was :lush green fields at times, rocky at times.With the sun above our heads ,electrol and glucose had become our best friends.But more than the energy boosters I think it was the cool water which we drank from small waterfalls on the way that did the trick. By noon we had covered half of the trail. We sat on the sides of a river and had our packed lunch.
Our lunching table.
Then as we moved on after lunch, the nature decided to treat us. It is rain!!It is hail!! NO,its a snowfall! Probably the first proper snowfall for me. We were all very happy. The spirits swelled and the tired faces turned brighter.But soon its intensity increased. After trekking in heavy snow fall and with only one question in everybodys mind(Aur kitni dur hai?)we finally reached Har-ki-dun.
Enroute Har ki dun in heavy snowfall.
There’s always a point in every trek which is extremely dangerous and beautiful at the same point.For me it came just before reaching the destination. By now most of us were scattered. The people who were walking ahead of me had reached Har-ki-dun,the once behind were nowhere in sight. There was no sight of land, it was snow coming from the heavens and it was snow on the beneath our feet. There was one particular inclined patch: the Supin river flowing below,nothing between it and me except for that slippery incline of snow. I looked down marvelling at the beauty and the sereneness of the sight and when I looked down again I was scared. One slip of the foot and I would probably go tumbling down. In that moment I froze. I looked in front, I looked behind.There was no one. My legs started shivering.I just couldn’t take the next step. Its surprising how in such crisis situations your brain responds. It becomes its own motivator,its own analyzer and its own driver.From some hidden pool of courage you never knew existed in you, it draws strength.And LO!! Everytime you do end up taking the next step.And with such courageous little steps you reach the destination. The moment I reached Har-ki-dun I rushed into the little cottage which is the only sign of humans there.The place was warm because of the fireplace. We were greeted by chai and Parle-G biscuits. It was only after about 10 mins that I ventured out to see what exactly this har-ki- dun is. Looking at the sight i thought that maybe this was not just the route that Pandavas took to heaven,this is a part of heaven itsef.The valley is peace. It is all that we long for in our hectic crowded city lives.It is that good nights sleep. It is a long sigh of relief.It is the smile that you long to see. It is the birds chirping,the wind blowing,the river singing,the ring of innocent laughter,speechlessness,hope everything combined in one.Looking at that site I felt more alive, I felt happier and though no body was at my side: no messages,no facebook no whatsapp, I did not feel alone.There away from everything else in the world I felt connected.
Our cottage at Har-ki-dun
Soon the sun went down and the stars were out. We could see the Swargrohini peak standing tall in the east,very close to us. And then we saw the moon rising from behind the peak. At one point the moonlight from the Buddha Poornima Chandra seemed to meet the mist flying away from Swargrohini’s peak. It was not clear whether its the moon that has come closer or is it the peak that is spacebound.
Moonrise behind Swargrohini.
After a comforting glass of bournvita all of us slept like logs. There was only one realisation, that of being tired. Inspite of the cold, the aching in the entire body,the longing for being some place more comfortable, the need of a bath, I had the sweetest sleep I have had in a long time. Now, that is something that luxury can’t buy.Next day morning was the rest day.We were told by the local guide-Gulab (an amusing man in himself) that the sun would be out from early morning to afternoon and the snow is your playground.So we went out and became 5 yr olds again. Snowball fights, making snowman and snow fairies, sun bathing(maybe shouldnt have done that said our tans later),taking pictures,we had alot of fun.
We found a rock each and sat there just looking. It was here that it really sank in. This was not a scene out of a fairy tale neither was this a picture on one of those exotic travel brouchers. It was real, we were actually here. Yes,something so beautiful does exist and yes we were experiencing it.
The thinking spot.
It was here that I finally had the breath to look back at the journey and do a little bit of thinking(yes I do think, rarely happens but happens).I have always believed that treks change you in the smallest and the widest of ways.You discover things in you, you never knew you had.Treks are probably the best form of meditation.The only moment that exists is your next step.About the Himalayas,I’m confused. They offer the best to your eyes, and just when you think that the mountains are your friends,they turn hostile. They tell you that you do not belong here. And just when you feel like the only thing that you want to do is get away from the mountain, go to your home,to the comfort of your own bed,they extend a hand of friendliness again. They do welcome you but only as guests.Well the Himalayas are mighty.Sitting there on that small rock and surrounded by snow clad peaks all around, me tiny little at their mercy, I truely discovered the meaning of the word humble.Here it didn’t matter what I was in the outside world.Whether I was the president of united states or the greatest football player in the world(Go,messi!)or whether I was lost in the lanes of mediocrity with nothing to look forward to.In this mighty place it didn’t matter. The mountains have stood here for thousands of years and will do so even if I top my next exam or I screw up my next interview. Everything I did in the real outside world seemed insignificant ,outright useless.Suddenly all my horrendous problems didn’t seem big enough.The mountains seemed to be looking down at me. Mocking. Saying is it really the Humans that the earth is of? Do you really rule the world? It is my kingdom that you are in now.Now see for real, that the earth is not just a brain on two legs walking around. It is us,the mountains, the rivers, the horizons, the deserts who’s mother you call your own.You are just intruders.And like an intruder I did feel.Intruding into the serenity of nature, going against it, my kind hurting it in every horrible way possible.I didn’t feel very proud of the all brainy human race then. Yes,that little bird that flew by seemed more vidvaan than us. It knew that it is the one who is supposed to adjust with the nature and not the other way round:a knowledge that illudes most of us ‘well educated’ people.I felt like bowing down and saying sorry.Only if that could make the situation better.
The ‘vidvaan’ bird.
Beautiful flowers in the snow.
The trail of thoughts was interrupted by a beautiful purple flower that grew in that hostile environment.And i turned my attention to the hostilities that we humans had faced while coming here. Physical exhaustion,torn down limbs,illness.Each of us had fought an internal battle. At some point of time everyone felt that they couldn’t do it. But then something moved.Something inside each of them gave them the strength to see it through to the end.Yes,the mountains were unconquerable but so is human spirit. I looked back up again,this time straight into the eyes of the mountain and I thought that Yes you are mighty, but who were to acknowledge your mightiness if it weren’t for us humans?Who would have known about your existence if it weren’t us who would have come up?Who would have known that you are unconquerable if we hadn’t tried to conquer you?Your strength ,mighty, your force, unstoppable and yet you do need my validation and the validations of the small birds and flowers who battle you and find their air.
And then it felt like there we stood as equals, smiling because both of us were humbled. None lessened by the mightyness of another. The mountain had got its validation of greatness and me human of my spirit.The trek changed me. I came back knowing that the world is much more than just me and my life.I came back more alive. More happy. The people I did the trek with were strangers.,but we bonded strewn together by the yearn for adventure. Friendships bloomed. A long trek back home which could have been a dreary walk because of a swollen knee turned into a fun leisurly nature trail because a friend kept company, adjusting her pace according to mine. So, all of us came with different restlessness in their minds, did the trek together and went back into our lives with a liberated heart. That is what a trek does. It teaches you to live,live freely.
Our lovely group!(Yes the dog is a part of it to.)
Photo credits: Ruchita Belapurkar,Pratik Mukund Langarkande, Rohit Kulkarni,Malvika Mayur.