Travelling. This word didn’t hold any meaning for me until I saw the movie “Into The Wild”. Alexander Supertramp made me think about my life and where was I heading. Before that, I was a lost soul with thinking of a herd mentality that to be happy and successful, one needs money and to earn money, you need a high-paying job, and to get job, you need to study hard and so on and on. But today I can say proudly, it’s not the money that matters but the memories that we make, the exquisite pleasure felt in living, the adventure, the days that we can remember in our old age matters.
And then I decided to trek into the Himalayas, I asked some of my friends if they wanted to join me, most of them were scared of the idea and no one was ready to join me, I decided to do it alone. I was scared, I had never travelled before, I thought of quitting this idea of travelling. Questions like what if I fall?, what if I get robbed?, what if I get lost in the wilderness?, etc bloated my mind. But then I remembered this poem by Emily Dickinson,
“If your nerve deny you,
Go above your nerve”
And then I had this ‘AHA’ moment, what if I fly, what if I get wings, what if I become infinite, what if I can see heaven on earth. And then I decided to go on a relationship with the mighty Himalayas. The moment when I saw the sun rising from back of the snow peaked mountain, I knew, I am not the same person, I was in love with the mountains, with the nature, with the wind that flows in the mountains and with the silent roar of the river flowing between the mountains. And then, I changed, I felt trivial infront the mighty mountains, I felt I am more than me, I was naturally high, I felt intense excitement and happiness. I was in a state of euphoria.
Route : Allahabad (0 km) – Dehradun (775 km by train) – Sankri (995 km by bus) – Taluka (1015 km by jeep) – Osla (1030 km by trekking through forest) – Har Ki Dun Valley (1045 km by trekking through meadows) – Morinda Tal (1050 km by trekking through meadows)
27th June 2014
I boarded the Allahabad-Haridwar express. I was excited and frightened. I was alone. I reached Dehradun on 28th evening. Then I met Anish bhaiya (initial contact through Indiamike.com) at Dehradun, who was also going to do the same trek so we tagged along. Now, I had a companion. He is one of the most humble persons I have ever met in my life, I learnt enumerable lessons from him.
29th June 2014
We decided to board a bus to Sankri from Dehradun at 5 a.m. And then began my horror ride on the hilly dusty roads. I was in a constant fear that this bus will fall down and I will die. I survived. Did I mention, I have motion sickness and all those zig-zag roads made me puke all over beautiful himalayas. But after a while my body accustomed to the road and I started enjoying the scenic beauty of the journey from the bus. Looking at a town, the trees, animals, river yamuna and the people from a height of 500m is in itself an adventure. We reached Naitwar by 3 p.m. It is the entry point of ‘Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary’. We were required to pay Rs 250 for 3 days for going inside the National Park. It’s not necessary but it’s wise to take the permit as they would send a rescue team if you get stucked on a calamity and don’t report on the aforementioned date. We reached Sankri by 5 p.m. Sankri have the last motorable road in the region. From Sankri to Taluka there is a narrow road which is closed during Rainy season and winter season because of the extent of danger on the road. We were lucky enough to get a jeep, the road was very narrow and rocky, had stream of water flowing in between the roads and had a deep valley in one side. It was one hell of ride. We reached taluka by 7 p.m. There was no rooms available for our night stay. We asked an old man if he can let us stay in his house, he agreed. We had our supper and then sat in the backyard to see milky way galaxy through our naked eyes. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. And then we retired for the night. I was thrilled, I was going to start my first trekking experience tomorrow. My mind was restless. I could not sleep peacefully.
30th June 2014
We had our breakfast, said adios to all the people and started our trekking through the forest to reach village Osla.
We walked and walked, after around 5 km, we stopped at a rest point.
Anish bhaiya handed me his DSLR taught me its basic functionalities and asked me to click anything I wanted. I was passionate about photography from quite a time but this was first time I was handling a DSLR. It felt awesome. We met a boy in Taluka who was returning to his village after 8 years when asked why he left his village, he said ‘Life is hard in village’, he wanted to do something with his life. He now works with a rafting agency on Tons River.
On the trail, we saw women farming on the mountains, drank natural mineral water running down the mountains.
Soon it became difficult for me to walk, my legs started paining. I didn’t asked Anish bhaiya to stop because I could see he was in more pain and I didn’t wanted to discourage him. I kept going. I never gave up.
We reached Osla by 2 p.m. We booked a room, had a little chit-chat about the culture of the village with localities, and walked around a bit.
Anish bhaiya started clicking photos and I sat on a corner rock beside the river and was thinking about How happy I was in those moments. There was silence all around except constant roaring of water in the river stream and occasional chirping of birds. This silence was unique in itself, it compelled me to rethink my life, the things that I have done, all the good ones and the bad ones and how it made me the person I am now. It was an exhilarating experience.
We wanted to see the unique gathering of people around the duryodhana’s temple where girls and boys sing song to attract each other. But it started raining and soon it was dark. Temperature dropped and we had our dinner and called it a night.
1st July 2014
After a sound sleep at night, we woke up at 7 a.m. We ate our breakfast and went to ask the caretaker of GMVN, Har Ki Dun to come along so that we can have a place to stay at Har Ki Dun. Today we had to trek 15 kms, the first half of the trek was continous steep walking and tough but the second half was easy and tiring.
Localities warned us not to smell any flower in the meadows as they are poisonous and would make us unconsicous. But while walking through this meadows, I did smell the flowers, it was all around, I could not help. The aroma was out of this world, it made me feel something. I felt like this is it, it won’t matter if I die here. All I wanted to do is lie in this meadows for forever and enjoy this beauty of majestic himalayas. I rested for a while and waited for Anish Bhaiya to catch up and soon we started trekking again.
This time we came across a slippery trail which scared the hell out of me, I feared an untoward accident. While walking through that slippery trail, I knew what is fear and how can we defeat our fear. We crossed it after taking small steps cautiously.
Now we were at a place which was heaven, we could see the true beauty of the majestic himalayas.
After walking around 10 km, I was tired, Anish bhaiya was tired, once he even wanted to quit but I din’t let him do that, I took his heavy backpack and gave him my light backpack and continued walking. I kept repeating the same poem again and again,
“If your nerve deny you,
Go above your nerve”
It gave me strength. I walked and walked. Soon we reached our destination, Har Ki Dun valley. I cannot justify it’s beauty on mere words. It was awestrucking.
Then I had this moment of realization and was very happy because I did it, I defeated my fears, I stepped out of my comfort zone, I went above my nerve. It was first time, I was experiencing the clouds passing through my body. I was naturally stoned. I had no memory of my past, I was living in the moment. Nothing mattered to me anymore.
After exploring the valley for a while, it started raining heavily, we realized the caretaker had still not reached Har Ki Dun and it was becoming dark. Villagers warned us that we might encounter bears at night that roam this valley at dark hours. We were scared, we also didn’t had the proper winter clothes to beat the cold at night anyhow we decided to wait but when the environment approached the blue hour, we decided to break the lock of the guest house. Just when we were about to break the lock, I saw Prahlad and Satish (Caretaker) coming from a distance. I was delighted to see them, I hugged them and thanked them for being our saviour. Soon it was pitch black, there was no trace of single light ray for miles and miles and sounds of animals roaring echoed the entire valley. Prahlad cooked us food and then we had our dinner. We talked for a while and then we retired for the night. It was a tough day, I was tired and slept peacefully for around 10 hours.
2nd July 2014
Today was our rest day. We woke up early to see the most beautiful sunrise of our life. If this image of sunrise through Mt. Swargarohini doesn’t motivates you to travel then I don’t know what will. This sunrise made all the pain and dangers worth having. I would have walked more 30 kms, if I had to, to see this sunrise.
We explored the valley, started clicking photos of the himalayas. I started clicking photos of the beautiful flowers all around the valley.
(You can see more here Flowers at Har Ki Dun). It was a good shiny day, sun was sparkling like it was greeting us with its rays. We ate aaloo parathas cooked by Prahlad and then I wanted to trek to Morinda Tal but Anish bhaiya wanted to take rest and enjoy the sheer beauty with himself.
I went alone with the trek. Then I realized suddenly that for miles, there was no other human in this wilderness and I was all alone. I was in love with my solitude. The valley was full of beautiful flowers. The farther I went, the more flowers I saw but then suddenly it all disappeared and I stopped, I was looking at a glacier or a large mass of ice that was melting to form a river, I was awestruck. I had to cross this to reach morinda tal. I tried walking on the ice but I slipped and fell down, then I decided not to go beyond that point, I was also losing my breath as air was thin at the height of 3800m and my heart had to do extra work to pump the oxygenated blood in my body. I sat silently for an hour or two and then I lost myself in my thoughts. I was content with myself. I was in love with myself. After spending some time with myself, I decided to trek back to Har Ki Dun.
I came back and then we had a photography session with Satish.
Soon, the weather was bad and it started raining heavily, it was snowing around Mt. Swaragarohini. At night, we had our dinner and started talking about our life and sharing our stories. Prahlad told us how he was forced to marry at a younger age and how he along with two other guys wanted to start a trekking start up in that region. He shared his plan with us, and even asked me to join him, once after I complete my BTech. Then I asked him about his village culture and how people lived there. He told me everything about his village and how unique it was. He even sang a song that he used to sing at the temple to attract girls. Here is that song.
3rd July 2014
Rainy Season had already struck this region, we didn’t wanted to get stuck in the rain so we decided to trek till Taluka today. We started our trek early in the morning at 5 a.m. We stopped for a while at Osla to say adios to all the guys we met in our journey to Har Ki Dun. We started walking again towards Taluka.
After a while it started raining heavily, the trail became slippery, we had to take each step cautiously. I lost my track. Two roads diverged in the wood and I didn’t knew which one was the right one. I waited for bhaiya to come and show me the right direction but I confused him too. After a while we started searching for chocolate wrappers in both the trails and took the one which had the wrappers. Har Ki Dun is a frequent trail and many people visit this trail. Almost all of them eat chocolates for instant energy. When it comes to survival, our mind works in weird ways. It surely is mysterious. We reached taluka by evening, took a shared jeep to Sankri and booked a room in GMVN, Sankri.
I was dirty. I had scratches in my body, I decided to take a shower in that cold weather before I retired for the night. We had to catch the early morning bus to Dehradun.
4th July 2014
Took the early morning bus to Dehradun. We reached Dehradun by 3 p.m. Anish bhaiya went to bus stop to catch a bus to Delhi and I towards the railway station. We said good bye to each other, hugged, and went different ways. I took a waiting ticket to Allahabad on Link Express, got a room to stay near railway station, boarded the train next day and reached Allahabad by 6th July.
This journey proved as an awakening moment for my life. I was not the same person I was. Those 10 days were the best 10 days of my life. This was my first encounter with the himalayas. I touched the void of my life. Now whenever I think what this journey gave me, I realize it gave me a sense of living and appreciate the beauty of the small things in life. When you see people walking 20 kms daily to reach the only school in the region and then help their parents in the household chores in the evening, you realise how lucky you are to receive the comforts that you have. And when I returned my every sense was amplified, I could hear better, I could see better, I could think better. I never dream about my first encounter with himalayas, it’s in my mind all day long, I think about it all the time. I am addicted to the thought of going there again and again. I think this blog post doesn’t do the justice to that feeling of being close to the nature, hearing the song of the birds and the constant roar of mountain streams, seeing the dance of the butterflies, feeling the gentle gusts of cool breeze effused with the scent of fresh flowers and feeling the stillness yet constant motion of everything in the wilderness. Please visit this place and appreciate it’s beauty for yourself.