Raw and Pure

This is a blog post by Floh member, Keerthi. Learn more at www.floh.in (a network that connects singles in real life)

‘The grass is always greener on the other side’.

If this is true, then the Himalayas certainly exist on the ‘other side’!
And it’s not just the green, but the bright Red Rhododendrons, sparkling white snow and pink ‘Thinni’ flowers. Minus the city traffic from this image and multiply it with towering mountains – this more or less sums up my Harki Dun trek earlier this year.

The holiday feeling began to sink in only when we landed at Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport, a tiny building surrounded by endless mountains. Bachan Rana, and his ever smiling brother, Suru picked us up bags, baggage and camping equipment in tow. Although our bumpy journey to Mori was through dusty roads and dry heat, a pleasant surprise was a local wedding ceremony. Now a marriage ceremony here is not just rituals in a hall, but a blaring mix of colors, music, bright lights and revelry. There were girls grinning from balconies, men huddled up on roofs and old grandmothers singing songs. Silver and gold streamers formed a glowing canopy for the crowd below. An entire town watching one wedding! The father of the bride even invited us for dinner, which we politely declined (reluctantly), as we waved goodbye to the shy groom and the ‘big fat’ Dehradun wedding party.

My first view of a pure Himalayan sky was at our Mori campsite. There are no words to describe the beauty of dark coniferous trees against the backdrop of a pitch black sky sprinkled with glimmering stars. This might sound poetic, but the Himalayas are nothing if not a stark dichotomy of poeticism and rugged nature. This night was also the start of a true camping experience- set up tents, lay out air mattresses, huddle to get warm near the bonfire and try to sleep in a rustling sleeping bag. Maybe it was the tiring journey or my packed work schedule just prior to the trip, but I had the best sleep this night, as compared to all the other trek days.

Next morning, we hiked to our next campsite ‘Taluka’. Each campsite promised to be more interesting than the previous one. The cave became our dining room, the river Tons a source of music (with the waves), and the mountains a postcard view from our tent. Bachan and Suru promised to be the most versatile of cooks – I did not expect to have custard for desert at 5000 feet (and in the middle of nowhere), let alone soup, starters and snacks.

The next day we trekked uphill for more than 6 -7 hours to a ‘homestay’ at Osla village- a place where I was hoping to have a shower! We were welcomed into a creaky wooden room sprinkled with feathers and fleece – which made us believe the previous residents might have been chicken or sheep! It was our first and only night in an actual room with 4 wallswhere we piled mattress on mattress, blanket on blanket and huddled together to stay warm. There was a beautiful snowfall outside – it looked like cotton balls daintily falling on a sheet of white.

We chatted away into the night and amusedly discussed the remote possibility of ever having a bath in these places without freezing to death! K happened to blurt out his prior experience with the art of massage. From then on, he became our official masseuse for aching calves and stiff shoulders. Thank you for your patience K!
“It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks.” (the three rules of mountaineering)- this line aptly describes D-day, our final ascent to the base of HarkiDun . Scrunch Scrunch Scrunch, went our shoes as we stomped through the snow – luckily only ankle deep, else we might have needed better equipped boots. After 7 hours, standing in majestic isolation was the HarkiDun peak, at 10000 feet. As I stared at the massive mountains, I felt my inner resolve deepen – to always stay inspired by Nature and to never stop exploring. Our camp here – at ‘Kalkatti Dar’ was nicknamed ‘poop island’ by M – as large sections of the place beneath the snow revealed old animal dung. It was here where we all felt completely isolated. Disconnection from electronics had already happened a few days prior, but this place further added a sense of remoteness and stark raw nature.

It is amazing how simply we lived for 7 days, with the bare minimum. Even path directions are so simplistic – In Bangalore, we say ‘take a turn at x building, cross junction and stop at z restaurant’. In the mountains, people just guide you with three words “follow the river”. On one hand I realized most people don’t actually need much to get by (considering the amount of stuff we accumulate in our homes) and on the other hand felt that the ‘city genes’ in me will not sustain this rustic forever. But I will surely keep coming back. Sigh, if only the two worlds could co-exist!

On our way back, as we passed mules, M joked the mules probably shut their nostrils at our sight – thanks to no bath for a week! K joked that all the first time trekkers needed to be garlanded as they exited the mountains – thanks to all the slush, mud, rocks, leaves, snow, streams and loose soil that we walked through. For me, all these apparent inconveniences sink into insignificance – in the face of Nature’s beauty – which no DSLR can truly capture. There was no one favourite day in the whole trek for me – it was so diverse and everyday was something new.

As we drove down the mountains back to Dehradun, I was reminded of scenes from Xmen and Rambo – Wolverine running through the trees and Stallone in the heart of the forest! We spent a night at Dehradun, walking around the streets and feeling slightly ‘alien’ in a ‘city’. Even though after our 6 day stint in wilderness, I never felt more comforted by the feel of a warm bath or a warm soft bed, as I did that night. I am so grateful that this trip happened at the right time and the right place and with the right people.

‘Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.’ – John Muir

I look forward to more such trysts with Nature.

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