He had asked me and I’d said yes without giving it much thought. Although a few days before I wanted to refuse, I just couldn’t because I’d already said yes. It was about the word. I’d been somewhat afraid of him earlier and the travel together 3 years ago hadn’t made things any better. Also, a thought came across if I might get bored with him for he talks so little.
At 9:30pm we were both sitting in the bus to Dehradun. I saw him after a long time and he was growing his hair again. For a while we talked about our lives as strangers do and then all fell silent as expected. The bus stopped at 12am. He went out for toilet but came back having coffee. I felt betrayed to say the least. But then we both had coffee. The bus started off again and reached Dehradun ISBT at 3:15am. It was too early to reach. So I went off to brush my teeth and we had tea. There was lots of tea for we were both tea-lovers. After we made our inquiries about the direct bus to Sankri, we hopped into a vikram(auto) to get to the railway station. Finally, we found the bus in front of Agarwal Bhavan which left at 5:30am. [next bus at 7am] The latest I can remember being hungry was this bus ride. The conductor seemed to be in a hurry and didn’t stop for lunch before Purola . And I was sleepy the whole ride. Something about the mountains of Uttarakhand, I concluded later. We got the permits required to enter Govind wildlife sanctuary and national park from Netwar. At 4pm, we reached Sankri and immediately got into a shared jeep for Taluka. One and a half hour later we found ourselves at Taluka Forest rest house. GMVN had a hole in the toilet seat.We went for a walk after a while until it was dark. After having dinner we were back in the room by 8pm. I prepared for sleeping while N had got books to read. After a few minutes I found him snoring with the book in his hands. I wish I had taken a picture.
The first day of trekking I woke up at 6:45am with no hot water to take a bath. A sponge bath with the cold water was all I had. After breakfast and a chat with a guide Kamal Thakur( 9410540191, 9456706889) about other treks, Borasu pass specifically, we left for Seema at 8:15am. We took our first break exactly after an hour near the river. We sat there in silence separately and then I tried looking at the view upside down lying on a rock. I walked around to collect a few stones. And then this big group arrives with all the noises of a big group. We leave them with their peace and resume our walk.
Walking along the river Rupin, we stop for tea twice; once at a stall opposite Gangaad where a 20year old makes us ginger tea and another at a turn near the bridge where the chaiwallah bhaiya was reading Ambedkar. At 2:15pm we reach Seema and settle ourselves in the forest resthouse there. The guy at the dhaba in front of the resthouse, Deshraj, made us available hot water for a bath, a luxury no doubt. We rest for a while which meant N reading his books and I doing nothing.
At 4:30pm I propose a walk around the village Osla located at the other side of the river. Looking for a homestay, we end up having tea and pahadi aloo at the house of Bharat singh Chauhan. Promising we will stay at their house on our way back, we left when it was already dark enough to lose the way and finding ourselves walking towards har ki dun. We’re told of another path and we rush towards the bridge and to Seema. The night was starry and moonlit. At 8pm, we were already in bed but with no sign of sleep. I ask N to tell me a story. He talks about people we both recognised but he knew. We fell asleep a few hours later.
The next day we woke up early and after an early breakfast left for har ki dun at 7:30am. The way is from Osla and we meet a number of village people going to or coming back from their farms. Cholai covers the landscape like a carpet of pink flowers. This day’s stretch was a tiring one. On the way we meet the IRS doctor and Delhi police ACP with a scar across his face on the one side but a kid’s smile at the tea shop before the climb begins through the farms. Moving further we were a little lost when shepherds show us the right path. And again we are reminded of not having a guide and bears in the jungle stretch we were to pass through today. When we did reach there, I begin to think of what could be done if a bear actually appeared. I thought of my little knife to pierce through the eyes of the imagined beast. And then the Hyderabad guy appears with his guide walking down from har ki dun. Further ahead, we find the caretaker of the resthouse , where we’d planned to stay, going back to the village. We convince him to go back and arrange for our stay.
Finally, with numerous breaks and dragging ourselves we reach har ki dun at 2pm. After having lunch, N went inside to sleep. Sometime later I join, it was too cold outside, but can’t get myself to sleep. So, after a while we go for a little walk. When we return we find the 6 of the 8 school bache we’d met in the bus. After dinner we shift into the warmer room. It was the night of the mouse. I heard a sound like rustling of leaves which N explained as the wind outside. I dismissed the theory for there wasn’t any leaves outside. Another explanation emerged of the animals, cows, roaming outside. A few minutes later when the noise came closer to the window, I was scared and asked N to shift sides. As I got up to shift, an outline of the mouse was visible at the window in the moolight. I let out a controlled scream. N got off the bed and chased the unwilling mouse out of the room.
It was Dussehra next day(12th October, 2016). We woke up early and went for a walk to get a better view of what was described to us as aata peak. At 9am we start the return trek and left for Seema. When we reach at almost 2pm, we sat under a rock which was almost like a cave to decide whether to stay at auntys homestay or at the forest resthouse. Finally, we return to the resthouse. It was the evening of silence. At night N smoked charas with Deshraj while we chatted sitting near the chulha.
The next morning we left for Taluka at 8:15am. Deshraj joins us on the way and talks about his treks and travels the rest of the walk. It was fascinating to see the attraction of a kinnauri cap in Garhwal Himalayas. It was a quick walk with only one break at Gangaad where we got our only picture clicked. We reached Taluka in 4 hours. After lunch, we wait for passengers to arrive so that the jeep for Sankri could leave. After an hour we started waking towards Sankri. On the way, we cross the little stream on the road and start walking in slippers. After a while, the jeep stops for us and we reach Sankri around 3:30pm. We stay at the hotel where they had running hot water! Later we go for a walk in the village and meet the kids and the puppy mani. After dinner, we get into the blankets when for the first time it’s rather hot than cold.
The next morning it’s the same long journey back to Delhi via Dehradun. N stays in Dehradun to meet a friend while I head back to Delhi sleepy all the way again and thinking of the journey that had just ended.
And lastly all credit for the beautiful pictures belongs to N.