When i was a child, my parent’s concept of vacation was travelling down to my grandparents place, stay there until the winters get over and come back for school. Never was it about going somewhere outside the town. It all changed when i moved out of the town for further studies after my high school. I traveled to a lot of places in the southern part of India, be it as a college trip or with friends. But i wasn’t really passionate about it, until recently; when i took a trip to Himachal Pradesh.
It happened so that my sister was interning there in Spiti Valley and my life wasn’t in its best, so i decided to take a break not realizing how it would impact my life. For me it was more of a trip to beat the Delhi heat. I had taken just four days leave from my company assuming i would visit just one or two places and be back soon but as the journey began and the moment we were in the hills, i just started craving for more. Each destination getting better as we go, it made me feel; coming this far and not seeing
one more of it would be something worth regretting. We believe in budget travel. How good it is to travel by the local buses where you get to meet the people of that place, interact with them, learn some and teach some and you also realize how simple life is for them. There was this old lady, maybe in her late seventies from the look at her wrinkled face one would say, who was very keen to take a picture. We took a couple of pictures with her and she tells us how she has very less pictures of her own at her house. She was full of life and loved knowing where we were from, what we were doing and was much thrilled to talk about the yearly apple production of their family, how the export would fetch them good money. There was a sense of pride in her voice when she talked about it.
There was this one point where we had to get down and catch another bus for Rampur, it was pretty much a barren roadside with just two shops and a big banyan tree for shade. As we were waiting for the bus under
the shade of the tree, there was this old man with shaggy eye bags, hunched back, wrinkled skin and his eyes half shut as a prevention from the direct scorching sun. He was there selling peaches, which was say about 100 in number. He called us and handed us 2 peaches each and told us to have it on our way. This act of kindness literally melted me. Sitting under the sun in broad daylight and selling those few peaches, how much money would he make? Yet he was kind enough to offer us some.
We reached Sarahan by evening, it was beautiful yet calm and the only sound one could hear was the chanting of hymns in the nearby Bhimkali temple. We spent our late evening and night in the terrace; simply star gazing as it appeared to be more than one would have ever seen. The other morning we visited the temple and left for Sangla.
It was on day 3, when we were travelling from Jewri to Sangla; we took another bus and chose the last seats so we could sit together. However even after the conductor warning us, we didn’t realize how unevenly rough,
tiring yet adventurous the roads could get as you go further into the hills. It was a bumpy ride in a true sense and the locals seemed to have well habituated to it. But for us, it was something new, something adventurous. There was also certain aspect of thrill or fear of not making it through as the people told us stories on how certain incidents took place when the vehicles lost balance. There was no hope for survival because of the height as well as the rugged and stony slopes of the mountain. In this bus ride, amidst us was this old man who was travelling from Rampur to Sangla, to get back his married daughter. Dressed in an old coat and worn out pants and shoes, which had already given up on the edges and a hat, with a few holes here and there; he seemed to look like a person having a tough life yet you should see the excitement in his eyes, when he spoke about his daughter who was married a year ago. Maybe he had his own problems as he was travelling in the broad daylight drunk but he didn’t let it reflect on
his face and made it a point to smile at every passenger that walked in and out of the bus.
We arrived at Sangla by 4 pm so we quickly checked into a hotel. The view of our room was simply breath taking. There was this huge majestic hill right in front of our window, half covered in snow and had thick dense forest towards its end and to add up to its beauty, a river flowing with water as clear as crystal. The only sound one could hear was the sound of the waves, smashing against each other. The other day we got up and started our day with strong coffee and headed towards Chitkul, the last Indian village, after which the Tibet border starts. The road itself was a beauty of its own, with certain patches of forest and again some barren land and on the other side was these small hills, snow-capped on the top and there was this river to accompany us, all through the way. Chitkul however was a small village with barely 50 houses built in antique yet similar styles. We rushed down to the river not realizing how fresh and cold the water could be. It was indeed so crystal clear that one could spot tadpoles in it. We returned to Sangla by evening.
Our next destination was supposed to be Kaza. We had been travelling all day from morning 8 am and it was by evening 6 pm we were in a place approximately 25kms from the nearest civilization, where we got stuck due to a landslide. The wind was at its ultimate speed and the river seemed to be outrageously angry and fighting against each other, smashing against every rock that came along the way. There was no way our bus (big vehicles) could make it through that way, until morning when the army people would come and clear the way. We were stuck there for almost 2 hours with approximately 40 passengers in the bus. I and my sister were the only girls yet i never felt so safe, ever in my life. However we decided to take a lift from smaller vehicles coming from the other side and go back to Nako Village. We spent the night there in Nako and visited the monastery and the lake there. It was the next day we headed for Kaza.
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson. It is as true as what were more exciting for me were the memories made while travelling to the destination. I have learned so much from this trip that i had to write it down in words and share it with the others and make them see what i see. Today we are all busy working 9-5 as a slave to earn money for a better life. But what is a better life? Is it only the status that you hold or how many bungalows and cars you own? Wasn’t it for the other people to see, would you still have the same craving for it? These places i visited, the people there have so less of those materialistic things that we call it need today, yet they are happy, kind and generous too. And we complaint about people losing humanity and being bad to each other. Always remember, goodness should always start with us. They we can expect the world to be a better place where faith in humanity is restored.