We were finally at Chopta.
I also remember that the closer we were reaching ‘so called civilization’ trash was increasing. From broken bottles to wrappers to practically everything.
Is this really Civilization or lack of it?
And when we were near a small village at Chopta, I saw Dushyant, the Sari Base Camp co-ordinator with his charming smile saying Hello to us. He asked me how do I feel? I smiled big and said I feel alive! Pankaj was elated seeing him and stopped to have Chai with him.
As we trudged our way down with aching body and legs to the camping site, we were relieved. Too tired by then to even feel ecstatic that we made it through 14 kms.
But yes when I look back, I look at it with a sense of achievement. Each one of us from different age groups with a different mind set did this together. Not one person got left behind nor backed out due to any unforeseen emergency situations.
As our camping tents were being alloted, Pankaj requested Venkat if he and Jogen could be in the tent and place me with someone else in the tent. I could really understand why. Pankaj with his asthma issues and sensitivity and Jogen with his health needed space.
And I think that was the best decision that happened because if I didn’t shift to another tent, I would have never got a chance as much to mingle with the girls in the tent especially Omshree and even the others .
When I walked into the tent and told her that am joining them, she said, Bahut Accha hai, we were feeling so cold in the tent with just us two, now we all can be huddled together and feel warm.
We get so caught up in our comfort zones and familiarity that we tend to not explore other options, meet new people and have new experiences.
Omshree and I hit it off while ‘Mindblowing Manvita’ was sweet. What can you talk to a 21 year old who only giggled all the time? 🙂
Yup, I did the same thing as I did in Deorital, asked Venkat if I could help in the kitchen and he was like even after you trekked 14 kms? Aren’t you tired? Devang was smiling and asking if I was making Hyderabadi Biryani??
So as I walked in expecting familiar faces of Deorital like Ankit and others, I saw none! All new eyes staring back at me again. I came to know that the Chopta kitchen team is different from Deorital.
Then I saw a handsome man smiling back, his name was Rahul. He was the nephew of Manojji and we hit it off. The others joined in soon.
They spoke of their lives here, how it’s beautiful but so boring, the only company they had was Music. And if you are thinking Garhwali music, all the guys made me listen to the latest Hindi party and item number songs, even a Tamil Song which Bhupinder the trek guide played on his phone!
They get to visit their folks once a while which was fine,but they craved for the company of people, because more people meant more work which meant busy and not get bored.
Rahul mentioned that just 2 weeks ago they had 4 batches from Indiahikes all camped here and they were going crazy busy and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
The night time sky was so beautiful I tell you as we looked up. It was cold, quite cold as we were wearing layers of clothes, the urge to stay out long and watch the sky was tempting but to get back to the warmth of a tent was equally tempting.
The next day would be a rest day at the camp with a small prep trek sometime later in the morning.
I must tell you about the portable toilets here and before you say Ewwwww! wait wait, it’s not what you think!
We had quite a bit of adventure, scare all in one because of it. So these portable thingys were all fine but this time at Chopta they were placed at a slight descent and to get there was kind of a torture especially if it’s late night, completely dark at a distance with just head lamps on.
Added to that was Devang telling us Foxes visit the camp site for left over food at night, they were scavengers so to not be scared. Their eyes shine bright in the dark. and this is the thing he scared us with . He said they laugh like a ‘Chudail’, like a witch or a devil or whatever. So if you hear some noises like that near your tent, worry not.
And Yes most of us saw foxes at night .Shimmering shiny eyes running across the campsite.
Now I can laugh about it but I remember Omshree and myself talking about it and deciding to wake each other up and go together if there was no option late night.
The next morning was relaxing, really relaxing.. I woke up early morning and had a glimpse of the beautiful mountains and the sky.. It looked like heaven and earth mingled together and such silence I tell you. With a few of them awake, this stillness was required..
I saw Kishore coming back from his walk and Bhim in another space altogether, Pankaj sitting somewhere else, Jogen finding his space, Omshree and Mayank huddled together in their own world.
I remember perching myself on to a rock and sitting there and gazing.. It was really cold and so worth it. Where will you get a sight like this in your daily life?
Where will you get these moments when you can gaze with emptiness of the mind? Where you came from, who you were with, what’s your life all about doesn’t matter anymore.. You are one with Nature.
I felt detached. A detachment towards everything I left behind. Whether it’s my work, my life, nothing mattered. This was THE MOMENT. This was IT. How blessed I felt to be able to experience it.
As I walked and stood at a point and was gazing, Pooja joined in. I remember us gazing at at what was in front of us like that for quite some time, speaking only in monosyllables, smiling and gazing together.
For me, these are those moments and connections. A precious moment between two people where nothing needs to be said, it’s felt.
Slowly Bunny joined in and started talking and here is where we went off on a tangent and hit it off big time. FOOD & TRAVEL!
Imagine the happiness I get when someone talks of food, it’s nuances, is equally obsessed about it, describes food like a true connoisseur and by that I don’t mean using some high funda jargon, but truly loving and enjoying every bit of it. It was Awesome!
We went on and on and finally both of us were hungry salivating over all the types of Biryani, Bombay specials, Hyderabadi specials we spoke about. Pooja was getting horrified as we spoke of different kinds of meat as she was a Jain but she sweetly listened in to everything.
Bunny was surprised knowing I was a solo traveler mostly, he was like How can You?? I cannot ever travel alone man, I need company, doesn’t matter if I don’t know that person well, but I need someone to be with me.
Then Bhim joined us along with Ridhi and a few others. I mentioned to Bunny I heard the beautiful song ‘Maeri’ by the band Euphoria last night, was it them playing it from their tent? He said Yes!! and said shall I play some songs? And there it went off.
A group which just 3 days before didn’t know each other bonded over Music. Conversations happened, connections happened with one song after the other. Where Bunny left, Bhim would take off and play some other number. From Coke Studio to Farida Khannum to Dhanak to Indian Ocean to Joan Osborne to Sufi music.
Devang was sternly calling us for breakfast because we were the last ones left, but we couldn’t move for some time. The Mountains, the music we connected to, I felt time stood still. It was beautiful.
I wondered, just two more days and we would all go in our own way, I met such amazing people, wish it lasted a little bit longer but that’s life.. always, isn’t it?
This might seem soppy but what I feel humankind needs is this more than ever.
To confront one’s emotions, to be able to go up to someone and say you touched me deeply, connected with me and Thank You and I am glad we met.
Trekking is not just about walking and walking, it’s not just about physical obstacles. It’s definitely NOT about who came First, who trekked faster than others and who was the fittest, this part is important too. People, relationships, connections, the adventure and thrill is this.
If you are only focusing on the former, then I feel sorry for you.. You are missing something important in your life..
In the process of knowing others, you know yourself more, aspects that was hidden or things that never came out of you before comes out in the forefront, the choice is then left to you.
Do you want to face it and explore it or run away as usual?
To Be Continued…