Here in Taluka. Cool, windy, drizzly. The forest rest house is spacious, musty, British.
Let’s trace the path up to here… From Delhi took a bus to Dehra Dun. Overnight journey… slept most of the way. Reached Purola. Small town. Boasts of Monica Beauty Parlour! Stayed there overnight. Stuffed ourselves on decent Jain food. Said our farewells to electricity, phones, tap-water and other such necessities of life. Took a couple of jeeps that lugged the thirteen of us here.
Came via Sankri… a good journey. Had a glimpse of the snow capped peaks. The vegetation got steadily denser and richer. Purola and Sankri presented a rather homogeneous look. Only tall pines. No undergrowth. The ground was carpeted with the brown, soft yet prickly pine needles.
We are relaxing with songs, pre-dinner. The Supin flows below. Dinner is being cooked by Dipankar, an energy engineer with a passion for cooking. He’s brought along a gizmo he’s made himself… a solar paneled torchlight. Useful, fairly impressive.
Had a firewood-cooked meal. Lakshmi and Shetal are the other two women on the trek.
Trekking along from Taluka to Osla. An invigorating climb along the Supin river. Supin is a tributary of the Yamuna. It has a white, opaque hue in Taluka… and flows with strength and vigour. As we go upstream it is more playful, clear. The river is alive. If we look long enough, and with confidence, who knows, the goddess might appear! The valley is scenic, cool and green. So many new trees with which I’m getting acquainted. Tall conifers. How tall the trees are here! Everything is big here..the trees, hills and appetites!
We spotted chughs, blue magpies and redstarts, besides birds common to the plains. The houses here are aesthetic – two storied wood structures, usually overlooking some stream or river.
On reaching Seema we warmed to a soup. It is fun to watch as the wood-flame prepares our meal. Fire is fascinating, has an individuality… much unlike the LPG flames we are accustomed to. The pariah dogs here are pleasantly different. Rather good looking. So are the children – an eyeful.
Why is this permanent, grand, powerful, raw and impartial beauty so elusive?
The trek from Seema to Har-ki-dun (13 km approx.) is extremely picturesque. Grand, rather. Little streams cross our path. There are so many varied wildflowers. White, shades of yellow, shades of red, a few blues. Wild rose bushes are abundant… dense with white and pink blossoms. We feel the presence of the awe-inspiring snow-capped peaks. As we moved on, more peaks gave darshan. They seem to radiate strength and maturity.
Har-ki-dun is a valley of meadows with grazing cattle scattered here and there. Streams flow through. The snow mountains look on detachedly. The valley is surrounded by lesser hills… alpine slopes, a dark and lush green. The crystalline blue sky is held up by the snowy peaks. Deva-bhoomi this is called. How many legends surround these valleys and peaks! So many seekers must have searched here. So much must have been found here. The Swargarohini peak before us…is the one on which the Pandavas, Draupadi and the dog ascended to heaven! There is the Bandar poonch…the Bheema-Hanuman tryst happened here!
As the clouds disappear, the high peaks appear. Surely they have always been here, but the clouds cover them so convincingly. Perhaps patience, perhaps grace. These peaks have no vegetation at all.
Here in Har-ki-dun the whole of today. No movement…just stand and stare … or sit and stare…or sit and play Black Queen.
What a bunch we are in this lovely nowhere. There’s the good-natured, ready to laugh Bhasale, the capable and peevish Waghulde, the forceful, articulate, Gandhi-fan Jogesh, the responsible, dependable Madhu, the enthusiastic peddler of legends and tricks, Pradeep. There’s the teen-boy-ish entertainer Jayanthan, quiet and cheerful Bharat, confident and eager Vatsan, the jokes-on-me Bhatta, the onion-bhajji-genius Dipankar. There’s the sweet, refined, Lakshmi, giggly, ebullient Shetal, and myself – that completes the set!
Staying in the forest rest house protects us from the fierce elements. It’s cloudy, misty, freezing. The wind surges and the water roars in the streams all around. The steady drizzle is chilling. We are unlikely to see the sun god for the rest of the day. Only for about an hour in the morning all the clouds had lifted. We had a startling view of some peaks to our north-east. Just for one hour. How close they seemed – so reachable. Some were taken in, and gave in to the magnetism…they returned a while later, a trifle sheepish. Why is this permanent, grand, powerful, raw and impartial beauty so elusive? Why do these flimsy clouds hide it so convincingly? One cloud passes, but before that, another one obscures…But I am thankful for the glimpse. There are trekkers who have gone far higher. This is just eleven thousand feet. They assure that there are places where the view is never obscured. I have to build up fitness to trek higher! Can the glimpse of the mountains motivate one to train oneself back home? I will not worry about that now. Besides how far does training help? This raw, impartial beauty has to be merciful!
Trekked back to Seema. The path was mainly downhill, so not strenuous. Could devote our energies to taking in the hills, mountains, trees and the crystalline atmosphere. The weather started clearing up. The colours of the sky were myriad shades of pure blue, sparkling blue. The trees were a contrast in shades of pure green. Deep pine green – the shades of the deepest green to bright luminous greens. The snow on the peaks was fresh. The sun shone to reveal a sparkling white. We passed through wheat fields, a waving mass of gold and brown. In the meadows that lay between the treelines, are the bright flowers – of a score hues – studding the smooth glossy meadows. As we descend, the wild rose bushes are aplenty and so are the roses. The clouds were gray, blue and white. The water in the streams rushes along glittering in the sun, white and silver. Scores of waterfalls, big and small. A large flock of sheep blocked our path. Woolly and plump. How sure-footed and nimble they are! Exotic bugs and butterflies peeped out. The redstarts were virtually ever-present.
On reaching Seema, a good meal awaited us in the local dhaba. Rotis made on wood fire, a subji made with the local greens and the finest curd. Most bathed and washed in the stream waters before the royal meal. Spent the evening sunning ourselves on the slopes of Seema. The two mules (which have been carrying our provisions) sunned themselves too. Exchanged card-trick secrets with the locals.
Trekked towards the Ruinsara Taal. The air was so clear and pure. The sun was shining brightly. The leaves shimmered… even the rocks, mica studded as they were, sparkled.
As we walked on, we entered the meadows. Rich, pure green. Here studded with yellow, there white, now red, now mauve. The dark earth has wrapped on a magnificent saree! I have never seen her so alluring. How sensuous the experience! What an intoxicating sight… The mild scents of the woods waft by. The birds chirp now and then to the rhythm of a singing brook. The breeze brushes past…sometimes gently, sometimes abrasively. The blue, blue sky stretches forth, as clear as a mirror, gazing down lovingly. We walked on mesmerized… Only the mountains smiled(?) dispassionately.
We camped on a green slope about three km from Ruinsara Lake. It had started to drizzle. Four tents sprung up. A kitchen materialized in a cave overhanging the slope. We feasted on a meal cooked over pine wood.
Those of the scientific temper inform us that this is a unique ecosystem – where the snow-capped peaks and the lower mountains meet.
Today we moved to the Ruinsara Lake and back to the campsite.
Had a glorious walk to Ruinsara. The lake itself is rather small, but the surroundings are magnificent. We walked about in little groups, becoming one with the surroundings. The little flowers looked up at the Sun. White and purple expanses of smiling innocent faces. Rhododendron colonies bounded them protectively. There were many a gushing waterfall and scores of streams and brooks. The Kalanag, the Swargarohini and others gave us ‘darshan’ from time to time.
Those of the scientific temper inform us that this is a unique ecosystem – where the snow-capped peaks and the lower mountains meet. Every hundred feet or so the expressions of the mountain spirits change. Now I am surrounded by these white and purple flowers stretching to infinity. An hour ago we were immersed in the eternal birches and junipers. The pines stretch upwards to the peaks. They do not reach there, but they are content to have the company of the fair glaciers.
Egyptian vultures are visible now and then surveying the valley from above. The cattle graze on unfazed.
In our childish glee we try to discover every new flower, every new variant… every unseen butterfly, every unnoticed bug… Snoozing under the sun, with the cool cool breeze brushing, is a tonic for the body, heart and soul. Which do you need?
Today we trekked back to Seema. For the past two nights only two sheets of plastic were separating us from the stars. Now we were getting back to four walls and a roof. Last night we ate chapatis baked on a flat stone. Today we will be more civilized .
The walk was gorgeous… as usual!! As they say, two eyes are not enough to take it all in. How varied are the forms and moods of nature. Gentle, pretty… violent and fierce.
A walk through the woods back to Taluka. Encountered about a thousand sheep. It is not really true that sheep blindly follow the one in front. Clearly they are made of sterner stuff. Every now and then, one would stand still and regard us cautiously, curiously — if the eye contact lasts long enough, you would forget that they are not human!
The woods were dense and green. We followed the Supin river. At places the water was crystal clear — something unusual in June! It was a long somewhat arduous journey back to civilization. The beauty still lingers on, but the beep of the jeep and bits of dirty plastic are firmly here.
The trek is over, the festivities continue! Looking forward to picnicking in Sandra.
Covered most of the distance by jeep. Put up at the forest rest house in Sandra. A pretty, old (1898!), British bungalow with a water-tap. A three-phase electric line hung tantalizingly close, but we were spared of its benefits. Of course, other conveniences like PCOs are close at hand in the nearby Mori village.
The images of the mountains linger on… not just in digital cameras, but also in our hearts.
Just relaxing the whole day… rediscovering the joys of doing nothing. Spread out under the trees, snoozing, reading, chatting…. stirring ourselves only to cook a little something.
Went down to the river (Tons) to wash and bathe. Stared at the flowing waters for a long, long time. Very soothing. A balm. You are still and Time is flowing. How simple life seems…the waters offer freedom from the complicated.
Ate and slept in the open… Lived out a harried urbanite’s idea of leisure.
Took a jeep to Dehra Dun. Had a tasty, sumptuous dinner. Boarded an overnight bus for Delhi.
The images of the mountains linger on… not just in digital cameras, but also in our hearts.