An early morning in Bhangeli and a fresh chai to soothe us , we said our goodbye to the lovely family that hosted us and the cutest kid they had and made our descent down to the road head where the vehicles were waiting for us.
Gayatri was limping and pacing gently down and we were also taking it slow, seriously where did we have to rush now? Plus this was another mini trek with a 1.5 kms descent on a stone trail. We were chatting away, dreaming of a good breakfast or lunch where we could taste some spices!
Devraj and Abhishek had trekked down with us, they didn’t need to, they were staying back and going to Harshil, a nearby picturesque place where they could relax. Post this, our Pahadi boy Abhishek was going to do Kedartal- a difficult trek in just 2 days, initially Devraj was all gung ho about it and was ready to trek with him. But better sense prevailed, he was tired and he wanted to relax. He told me later on that was his decision and it was a good one.
As we were descending we saw the rest of the team joining us and together for one last time. Making our descent slowly down we reached the road chatting away. I gave a big hug to the boys Abhishek and Devraj. Abhishek was such a people’s person, kind and caring, and being from Uttarakhand he could start off leading 2-3 day treks on his own, through word of mouth, and then he would get that experience to go further But he was obsessed with joining Indiahikes and there was nothing wrong with that ambition, he would get the right kind of exposure and experience just that he had to be patient and keep trying and not give up.
Abhishek gave me an old horse shoe and I was very touched, I decided then that every time I trekked from now on, I would carry this horse shoe for luck and good tidings, as I told him it will feel like I was trekking with him! And I mean it Abhishek, if you are reading this, that horse shoe will travel with me wherever I go 😊🤗
Bidding our goodbyes we got into the vehicle. The kid gang as we called them were in one vehicle while the sober, older ones like us in another vehicle. It was a nice drive with us chatting on and off and maintaining comfortable silences in between. In half an hour we were in the hot springs with the ladies area being separate. Kavya and Gayatri got in, while Manisha dipped her feet on and off and I had to do the same sadly because of my cycle. But just my legs in the super hot water was amazing so I could imagine how Gayatri and Kavya felt dipping themselves in hot spring water, they felt rejuvenated.
I clearly remember the conversation our group had while having breakfast post the hot springs. Darshan, Korak, Shourya, Gayatri, Sarvotam, myself about the days and the events that went by. Korak and Darshan agreed to that session we had last night, it was getting to their nerves. I was telling them that Gayatri’s jokes is what kept me from sleeping off during the session. Shourya felt it was a waste of time, Sarvotam was the guy who maintained a fine balance of not hurting anyone while giving his feedback 😊 He was also very interested now of doing a trek with a Porter and guide, going at his own pace. Gayatri was recommending Har Ki Dun which is a beautiful trek in the winter too and it was not a difficult one.
Shourya said he didn’t like a lot of aspects about the trek but he had already signed up with Indiahikes for Brahmatal in December and he would have to go with them this time. Here we were, a bunch of older and I might say mature folks and it’s not like we are criticising everything about the trek, but there were certain aspects that had to be changed.. And also maybe a few of us like Gayatri, Korak, Darshan and me felt it was time to look for something else in terms of trekking that’s it.
The rest of the journey was smooth with us sleeping on and off and having a delicious lunch after a week! Darshan kept reminding the driver to take us to a good lunch place and he did! And I remember our faces as we had roti/naan/paratha with paneer and sabji! It was delicious!! Gayatri was like, I can finally taste some salt and spice, my taste buds are waking up!😂😂 I remember those moments fondly thinking of the food we ate together as a bunch, sharing from each other’s plates and conversing like a family ♥️
When we were crossing the outskirts of Mussoorie, we saw the mayhem and chaos on the other side of the road! That day being Oct 2nd and a long weekend, there was traffic jam with all trying to reach Mussoorie! FREAK!! It was overwhelming and disturbing with the sounds and noises of vehicles and people after a week of bliss.. Sarvotam tuned out by playing music on his headphones yet just by watching the crowd and vehicles was pulling down our energy levels. And once we reached Dehradun it was awful! Every place to every mall to streets were jam packed! It was like COVID didn’t exist!
Darshan and I got dropped near the railway station where our respective hotels were but after a big faux pass made by my hotel I could manage to get another room in Darshan’s hotel. Also it was good we were in the same hotel as we were taking a cab ride together to the airport the next morning.
I remember checking in feeling all the tiredness and stress of having to change hotels and all. Gayatri and I had initially thought of having a good dinner together but after this fiasco of mine plus both of us being very tired, we gave it a miss.
I remember how much I ate at the small restaurant in the hotel. Sitting alone there and watching politicians on either side debating and making fun on tv I thoroughly enjoyed eating tawa roti, paneer and boondi raita, it felt good to be in silence and be in my own world.
In the morning as Darshan and I made our way to the airport, we chatted quite a bit on life, on treks and what he was set out to do. One thing was clear, he would not come back to India once he left next year and it made a lot of sense. There was no reason for him to be here. And he had lots of courage to start life all over again in Canada. He didn’t know what the future entailed but it was worth a try.
I admire Darshan and he is one guy I have come to respect. I liked how randomly he would call me up out of the blue and we would have a long conversation. There was an ease in our friendship, picking up from where we left off and I was for sure going to continue it no matter whichever part of the world he was in. 💙
As we reached the airport and did our usual security checks and all, who did we see but Dhruva and Kavya! Kavya was in the same flight as Darshan and Dhruva was in mine. We looked different with our non trekking gear, well they did except me! We reminisced about our trek, joked about some stuff while I was as usual handing out ‘healthy snacks’ to eat with Kavya smiling big 😁
She had a big project ahead of her, she would be shooting in Palampur, Himachal for a series, a new venture in a few weeks time. I would miss trekking and chatting with her. A maturity beyond her years, a cool confidence and I keep repeating this, very caring. Hugging her and Darshan goodbye, Dhruva and I kept chatting until our finally delayed flight was ready to depart.
As I had to rush to catch my connecting flight from Delhi, I couldn’t say bye to Dhruva, he had a train back to Mumbai much later. But in all it felt very good to see some of my trek mates in the airport.
As I end this blog series, like always I had some learnings.
One thing was very apparent, I had to slowly muster some courage within me to start trekking solo, and as Gayatri assured me Nepal was safe, my mind was made up that next year I would do a solo Annapurna base camp trek following her example. I had backpacked/ travelled solo around the world from the past 15 years, now it was time to trek solo too.
Another realisation was to express my feelings to the ones I loved, if I couldn’t, then what was the point? Life was short, very short and precious and I had to make the most of it. And definitely yes trekking would be the objective for me, this is it for me in this life. Himalayas taught me so much, of love, of letting go, of being myself, of not taking any nonsense from the world and to live life on my terms.
And the most important lesson I learnt was, we need people, not anyone but the right kind of people on such journeys, whether it was to the mountains or in life.
Trekking showed me you can’t be isolated and be an island by yourself, and think you are doing all this on your own. No way! How we get by as humans is by being there for each other, and that means giving and also asking for help. Even in a solo trek, it was again the people who helped you out, a shelter, a smile, a wayside rest stop, a kind stranger, all that made you complete the journey.
I take your leave by not saying goodbye, for I know I will travel/ trek again and if something truly moves me inside, I will share my thoughts. Till then wherever you are, make the most of it, and don’t waste a single moment, be present, be aware and YES, always, I mean always keep that child alive and awake inside you. Be curious, free, spontaneous and willing to explore ♥️ Ciao!!
PS: Enjoy the pics of the awesome folks I trekked with below 😊