You and I go way back, to the beginning. We’re one hundred percent connected in a way no one will–or could ever–understand. We’ve been there, standing together. Sometimes crying in the shower, sometimes snorting through our nose, but it’s always been you and me. Always and forever…
Or so it was supposed to be, but some time ago I left you–
I left you floundering on your own, to rely on love and encouragement and strength from others–from strangers–when it was I who should have held you up. When it was I who should have hugged you and praised you and appreciated you for the wondrous person you are–for all the beauty and life you bring to this world.
I seldom tell you how much I love you. How much I admire you. How beautiful and caring and intelligent and strong you are. That you are my hero.
I was standing under the light of a thousand stars. At a far distance, I could see the burning flames of bonfire.The laughter of a group of fellow trekkers and the soft murmuring of river Supin was all I could hear. It was the night of the first snowfall in Har Ki Dun. Wild freezing winds wrapped us all in the arms of nature.
When suddenly, a kitchen helper (bhula, a native word for younger brother) came out of the kitchen tent right next to me. He discovered that the frosty water in the bucket, used to wash utensils, had developed an initial layer of ice. He plunged an ice axe in the bucket to break the thin ice.
And casually started washing utensils with the freezing water.
If you ask me, what I felt in Har Ki Dun, in complete honestly, I’ll tell you that I felt small. Small under the luminous light of a thousand stars, as if the universe up above is vast and unknown. It is full of uncountable stars and you are just another short story in the universe. I felt small under the wild force of powerful winds, small under the courage of the casual act of how someone was so comfortable with washing utensils with freezing water.
My personal universe started to look small, under the panorama of hopefully twinkling stars. In that moment, all our urban worries of this modern world, the hustle bustle of meeting deadlines, completing targets, attaching self importance to everything and hyping our own existence- all start to fade away!
No wonder, the mighty mountains resonate humility.
No wonder that Himalayan people are so humble.
Therefore, I urge you to travel. Travel to explore the different shades of life and the Himalayas. And trust me, each trek teaches us something. You will never be the same person, as you were when you started the trek!
I’ll tell you a story before I shift to Rishikesh, eternally!
Not one that will change your life!
Not the one to move mountains!
But one that will make you smile and take you to the mountains.
Long time back, a group of six, sprinted through the lively lanes of McLeodganj, the heart of Dharamshala.
Thousands of adventurous souls come to Mcleodganj. Some to trek amidst the overwhelming Dhauladhar range, some to explore the shades of Tibet and visit the adobe of Dalai Lama. Few to amaze their senses with paragliding in Bir Billing. Some to just take a freezing dip in the Bhagsu waterfall, followed by which, they yearn for hot chai!
We were there to do nothing and everything. Bravehearts without a plan, that’s what makes Mcleodganj so tempting!
Unplanned- unequipped, sheer randomess, enticed us to trek Triund. We hired a local guide, who just charged us Rs. 200/- per person.
The nominal fee, surprised us and curiosity got the better of us. So when we asked him:
Us: How often do you trek?
Stupid Us: Why don’t you get a better job, somewhere, that pays you well?
Sherpa: I did…
Curious Us: Then?
Sherpa: I went to Chandigarh, to work in a travel agency. I fell ill and left it, within a month!
Me:Ill of what?
Sherpa: Haan madam, wahan pahad nhi dikhte na, toh main bimar ho gaya! (Madam, we don’t see mountains there, so I felt sick)
This little conversation stayed with me ever since. Even after half a decade, I still cannot forget the reverent look on his face, when he saw the mountains.
Now, after half a decade, when I wake up and don’t see mountains, I can tell what he meant. And thus I believe, the people who turn to the mountains are different people. They are like wild mountainous beasts who cannot be caught in the concrete jungle. Sooner or later, the mountains will call them home.
So here’s to going back home, here’s to going back to the mountains!
Here are 8 lessons trekking taught me! And good God, only trekking could have!
1) Start easy: The initial half an hour is a real test of your mettle:
Let’s face it! Apart from blazing love affairs, almost everything else looks difficult in the beginning. There’s no honeymoon phase except a real honeymoon phase!
The initial phase on a trek may test your mettle. The body takes time to warm up, while you wade through breathlessness! Step by step, you form a rhythm and get on with it!
Until then, you struggle!
Such is the fate of anything difficult that comes our way. A new project, a demanding new job, a new place, any new business… will be like your initial half an hour of trekking! So breath slow, form a rhythm and get on with it!
2) One step at a time:
Try rushing and you’ll lose it before you thought you would!
Whilst trekking, we always focus, develop and maintain a pace! This is not only because we care loads not to trip, but also because trekking is like focusing on every step you take with every breath… it’s like walking meditation!
Drawing the same analogy to life, each step towards any threshold that we want to reach to, is significant. Maintain the right pace, focus, and be careful with every step you take! And you’ll be there! Try rushing into success and soon you’ll reaslise there are no short cuts!
3) Test your waters, test your snow!
The snow of life is similar to that of the mountains.
While trekking on snow, we are advised to check the snow before we step on it. If it’s too fresh, you’ll sink in, if it’s hard as ice, you’ll slip!
So dig your toes right before you fall head over heels for it!
4) Rewards are luring, but the journey matters the most:
They always praise the view from the mountain top! What immensely matters is how did you reach the mountain top? Was your journey as amazing as your mountain top view?
Eventually when you reach the mountain top, the view may or may not be worth it. You’ll spend longer time trekking your way up the mountain, so the journey matters more than the view from the top! Make it count!
5) Downhill slope in life? Slide through it buddy!
Is life going downhill? It there too much of snow? Simply smile and slide through it! You’ll enjoy the slide and reach a new trail in life.
6) Lost? Look for a way out!
This reminds me of a school group I was out with for the Nag Tibba trek. We went off the trail and eventually were lost. I was left with one school teacher and a group of 20 kids. Freaked as crazy, I instructed them to wait at a spot. I went around the mountain to look for a clue of the trail. I stumbled upon it after several failed attempts!
So if it looks like there is no place to go, look for a trail or create your own! You’ll reach your mountain top, one way or the other. But look for it!
7) Carry your own loads, pitch your own tent, roll your own sleeping bag:
In all, it’s your raita, clean it on your own!
8) Take breaks! Drink water! Cool down! Don’t give up simply because it’s difficult!
There are moments on a trek and in life, when you feel you’ve had enough and forging ahead is difficult. Those are moments to stop and reflect. To believe that you can!
Have you ever been soul stirred by a place? Beyond the glittering nights in Old Manali, the hustle bustle of mall road, there lies an unexplored oasis of peace- Naggar. It’s not for its ancient temples, the carved pillars, the quaint abodes that I say so, but for its unrestricted wild winds, the cheerful aura, the stories that this place hums of.
Just a quick drive of an hour from Manali mall road can open a world so different from where we belong. Riding amidst apple orchards, Deodar forest and fleeting by quaint hamlet of Sajla you will plunge into the beauty of Himachal countryside.
It’s time to get off the grid and explore beyond the obvious! I’ll let the pictures do the talking now:
A ten minutes uphill hike from the Naggar market to this temple is just the beginning of a day long adventure! Don’t miss on the intricate pillar carvings of this ancient one!
If only eyes could click photographs and preserve them in some memory memoir! This is what I wished for when I captured what the view from the temple looks like. Leaving it for your imagination to picture…
Another 10 minutes walk further ahead, leads to Naggar castle. Constructed by Raja Sidh in 1460 A.D, it was converted into a heritage hotel in 1978. Now it stands, in all its glory still intact, fancied by thousands of tourists every year.
The castle is a wonder created with wood and stone, built in local architecture called Kathkooni. Certain sections of the hotel can only be visited by residents, however the restaurant and the museum welcomes all. Steal some more glances to fall in love with this one:
I’ve always felt that tea cups and mountains have an inseparable bond! The Naggar castle boasts of a restaurant where you just can’t resist a cup of tea!
Though it’ll be tempting to stay at the castle beyond experiencing the chai, you must head on for adventures ahead!
The local market welcomes all with a vibrant cheerfulness: embrace it! From apparel to desi wines to just a stroll, its worth it all!
For lunch one should head straight to Pizzeria for an “oh-just-can’t-get-enough Pizza”! If you haven’t tried the brick oven pizza, you must be up for this one!
After this pizza of a lifetime, if you are up for a short trek, then don’t miss on this beautiful Himalayan tail that leads to the Krishan temple in the middle of a forest! Adjacent to Pizzeria, goes a tiny trail which can turn into an unexpected wonder!
An easy hike with a few uphill patches in between leads to the temple.
The peacefully wrinkled face of an old priest will welcome you to narrate the interesting legend of this temple.
While descending you may choose to visit the fascinating Roerich memorial, just 1 km walk from from the Castle. Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, writer and philosopher. He settled in Naggar in 1928 and stayed until his death in 1947.
I wish I could add some more photographs from Roerich estate, however, the house is locked and you can only peep in their lives through closed glass windows!
The last bus from Naggar bus stop is at around 7 P.M, catch it if you can or else the taxi drivers of Manali always have great stories to tell!
All in all, Naggar is full of happy surprises! While strolling across its ancient temples, classic castle, colourful alleys, amazing restaurants, and overwhelming mountains… you will find yourself smiling at the simplicity of being peaceful!