Landing in Jolly Grant airport, Dehradun was so different this time. Super hot weather, crowded, nothing like the cool crisp calmness I felt in December last year. I was missing the freezing cold and quietness of Rishikesh I experienced the last time.
The moment I got into the cab I was told the Tapovan area of Rishikesh had a 3 hour traffic jam, it was a long Easter weekend, and the Delhiites, Haryanvis, descended into this spiritual land like flies for white water rafting, since the route started from Tapovan it was a no go. The driver told me he could drop me at Rishikesh bus stand and from there walking was way better. Like hell it was, bleaching hot sun with crowds and my hotel was in Upper Tapovan. And at 2.30 pm it ain’t no paradise!
Lugging my backpack thinking it as a practice for the trek I waded through heavy crowds, dust and sun. Surprisingly it didn’t faze me nor get me irritated, it was the way it was, what could one do? Also I had another thing going on, my old damaged phone completely gave up the day before I travelled so it was neither showing mobile network nor catching any Wi-Fi signal. All I had was a phone that could be used as a Calculator and camera at best.
My topography skills are the worst and the new hotel I booked as I reached Tapovan was nowhere to be seen, I couldn’t use google maps which almost all of us are now dependant on, and the people giving me directions was only making me walk in circles for an hour 😁
And to walk like that with garish ostentatiousness in people surrounding me was something else! It was like a scene from a 80s Bollywood movie. Tight t shirts, loud colours, eating away lays and kurkures and throwing plastic wrappers, soda cans all around by these hordes from the Delhi region was too much to take. I could handle walking for another 10 kms but was not able to see the sight of horrors in front of me.
A spiritual place like Rishikesh got transformed into another garish Delhiwala attitude where the only thing that works for them is their way. If you think am being judgemental yes I am, because what we all need to do when we visit any place that is not native to us is to respect it, to understand the way it is, the locals, their culture. Anyways..
I finally found my hotel which was run by ISKCON, tucked away in a quiet lane away from the madness and was I glad about it. The smiling reception guy saw my plight and got me chilled bottle water of which am always grateful for. The staff were also shaking their heads to this jarring loud crowd that descended.
I could get my phone on and off to connect to Wi-Fi to check the timings and location for tomorrow’s pick up location to base camp. I for one, was never for meeting up trekmates before the pick up date. I knew I had the next seven days with them, no hurry. Well, that’s the way I function. Chatting in a WhatsApp group, meeting up at airports, coffee is not my thing. I like the element of surprise, curiosity. And what better way to do that than our ride to base camp?
There also have been many occasions when I cancelled out of a trek seeing the vibe of the group on WhatsApp. Yup that’s me. And my instincts so far has not failed me. From what little I saw in this group was that everyone was friendly and no show offs.
Hey we are all flawed, none of us are clean but one thing I learnt from the Himalayas was, being a good trekker is not just about fitness, being strong and walking all the way, it was the attitude. That attitude could make or break a team. And when we are in tough situations up there, which will always happen, the masks come off and in that dire situation bad attitude could let the morale down for the entire team.
After some chai and a short meditation, I had to get out to buy some essentials, and I just kept walking for some time, but the crowd was ever increasing and I didn’t have the energy to attend Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat. I thought to myself that if Ganga Ma wants me, she will somehow manage to get me to see the Aarti. That’s the way it has been always.
My first sight of her in 2016 is something that I cannot forget. I felt a mothers love I was missing for years in my life. She is all encompassing, tender, formidable and destructive at the same time. After that, Rishikesh has been exactly that, visiting my mother every time.
After a quiet dinner at the hotel restaurant, I retired in early ignoring all WhatsApp messages in the group and getting geared for tomorrow. From what I saw there were 16 of us, a tight enough group to get through gruelling Pangarchulla. Nishant was our Trek Leader and we would meet up tomorrow at 6.30 am to go to Joshimath which was a 10 hour drive.
It was time to meet the Pangarchulla gang 😊 Until I blog tomorrow