Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Magic of the mountains

Sumedha Sood just got back from a magical weekend in the mountains. Here's her story!!

Another example of too much planning doesn't do me any good....have been trying to plan a river rafting trip forever but it never materialized until this last minute impromptu plan :)

And I loved every bit...even the endless car journey, which seemed like it would never come to an end.

Our stopover at the ghats of Haridwar enroute at 4 in the morning for a dip added to the delay. But then we couldn’t miss the chance to rinse away our sins to commit new ones! ;) Holding each others hands to keep any one of us from floating away with the current of the Ganga. We took the plunge one after the other in the icy cold water. “Hari Om” Followed by changing out of the wet clothes in the make shift dressing room made by holding a bedsheet!

Breakfast that morning consisted of samosas and kachoris dripping with oil.

Back home I think twice before indulging in the said delicacies even late in the day, leave alone for breakfsat. Nonetheless to say, the meal didn’t add to anybody’s comfort once we reached the round about roads of the hills.

All the queasiness and discomforts were finally worth it once we reached our camp site...it was just like I had imagined it and more.

Our blue tents set up amidst the tall beautiful pine trees facing the river. A bigger tent which served as our dining space and the bathing area further ahead. Waking up in the morning to the smell and sounds the of woods is as good an incentive I need to wake up early! The toilette thereafter is another wonderful experience...brushing your teeth with the sun shining on your face and the river in front for a view with its gurgling sounds giving company to the birds singing! Zipping yourself in the small tent to bath, followed by muffled screams after the chilled water falls on your skin! But then the view of the open sky above eventually soothes your chilled nerves:)

After splashing around in the cold river water....the warmth of the bonfire was just what we needed and that’s what we got! Accompanied by some yummy food prepared by our cook. The night sky simply took my breath away....so many stars, I felt like I could reach out and grab a handful! Laid falt on my back on the sand, staring at the sky for a long time...my bonus was catching 4 shooting stars!:)

After the tiring journey and all the excitement, we retired to our sweet little tents for some peaceful sleep.

Me and my room mate and partner in crime...Shubha were the last ones to wake up! We got a separate escort to take us on our morning trek, but we soon caught up with the other lot. Some of us fitter, some huffing and puffing there way up...but we all finally made it to the top. Victorious…to enjoy the lovely view.

The way down is always so much simpler...uphill is what takes the effort! So we were back down at the camp before we realized, hungry and ready for food. It’s amazing how much I ate up in the hills...blame it on all the fresh air and all the exercise!

The rafting itself was an amazing experience. With these amazing people as our guides…the head, Arjun, who called himself Arjuns…gave this really adorable speech about safety and the rules before we hit the waters! He could give Javed Jaffery a run for his money! Komi, who controlled our raft was the quieter one and far safer too! Raju was the naughtier one, who would venture into the deeper waters more often.

…Riding on rapids...high and low. The cool water splashing all over and around you. And the view of the valley...the mountains, the tall pines and the river we were leaving behind...a sight that has to be experienced!

Though we were a bit disappointed cos the whole thing was a bit too easy….think we were prepared for scarier waters and what we got was a river timid and much too placid.

Getting off the raft and swimming in the river was simply amazing. Ice cold water which numbed my limbs but was totally worth it. After getting off the raft...we obviously still hadn't had enough of the water, cos what followed was a water fight...splashing each others already drenched bodies with still more water! When we were over the water, we shifted to the sand. And poor Subhash, ended up being the guinea pig for fulfilling everybody’s fantasy of creating a mermaid in sand! J

But he was such a great sport and made such a pretty mermaid too!

Instead of putting our dripping bodies in the car to get back to the tent, we decided to go the Indian DTC style way! Hanging out on the doors of the Tavera, with the winds drying our wet clothes and cooling our faces…we reached back to our tents. What a ride! The only downside was our bruised hands from holding the car too tight with the fear of being left behind fallen on the road :P But even that was worth it!

After cleaning ourselves up of all the sand and dirt we had come back loaded from the river, we were ready for some food! How these adventure sports make you hungry J…Post lunch we had another little adventure planned for us….getting an experience of how Spiderman must feel like! :P climbing rocks! Only we had ropes and other equipment to help us and not spider web alone! One by one each of us got our safety gear in place and took the plunge…or uh…the climb! Looked real easy when you watched someone go, I mean just how tough could it be. Man…why won’t he just put his foot there and not there…hold that rock, right there. But then, once you are hanging in there, it isn’t as simple. You are like OMG where do I put my foot next, all my weight is resting on my left toe, placed very gingerly in that tiny cleft in the rock. Help! But then you hang on, look down at all the others for some hope and cheering…you can do it! And then finally you do, do it…reach the top! And it almost feels like you’ve reached Mt. Everest. And then its time to go back down…hanging by the rope. And though still not cakewalk, its easier coming down, than climbing up. Its quite an amazing feeling when your feet land on the ground….ah gravity!

After the little rock climbing adventure, we got back to our camps. And then everybody just scattered around to do their own thing. The enthusiastic bunch headed to the volleyball or the badminton court. Some others just walked down to sit next to the river, lost in thoughts. And then there was the occasional carom board game going on too. I chose to just relax and lie on the hammock, enjoying the smells and the sounds…gazing up at the blue sky framed with the silhouettes of the tall pine trees……hmmmm………..

Once the blackness took over the skies…our bonfire was put into place again. And we took our seats around it….and then the conversations just flowed accompanied by some masala peanuts and aloo pakoras.

Weren’t quite done with the snacks yet…the dinner was announced!

Feel like we were almost forever eating and such amazing food too! From aloo puri and paranthas for breakfast to rajma chawal and even Chinese for lunch and dinner!

After finishing our elaborate dinner in the dining hall tent, each of us headed to our tents. And the sleep just enveloped you the minute your head hit the bed.

Woke up early next morning for our last bit of adventure. We had “Flying Fox” and “Burma Bridge” planned out for us. After the rock climbing, these were like pretty much like cake walk…pun unintended!:)Flying Fox was being suspended with a rope on your waist and gliding down. Again the brave hearts left the hand support and pretended to fly while the not the brave ones hung on tight! Burma bridge was kind of scary if you allowed yourself to feel the fear. Walking on a rope bridge, which sways left and right which each step you take is thrilling, specially cos you know the safety gear will never let you fall even if you do! Imagine though the Japanese actually crossing on similar contraptions over rivers, where one slip of foot surely means your death and shivers run down your spine!

Post the adventure activities, we headed for breakfast and then the second round of rafting. Longer and more difficult this time….and we were prepared! Drove up 4 kms further from the camp to the point where we would start the rafting from. While putting on our gears and preparing to get our rafts in the river, we had bunch of local folk for company. Sitting on the rocks looking at us crazy city folk for some wholesome entertainment. Mothers with their babies, slightly older kids with dripping noses and mischievous grins and the belles with their innocent smiles and untouched beauties. I couldn’t help but run to get my camera from the car to capture some of their smiles…

Was a wonderful ten minutes spent clicking and talking to them…

And then it was time for goodbye and head to raft.

As promised the Course was a much tougher one this time. And so much fun. Stronger rapids, water splashing from all around. Small lengths of placidness and then sudden bursts of water. We were having a blast. The water was far more colder than the previous day as the sun wasn’t shining as much. Consequently the brave hearts who took the plunge in the river were far less….yours truly was among them! And man, was the water cold….numbed you right till the bone but am still glad I took the plunge!

The ride back from to the camp was another adventure!

Our guide Arjun offered to take a few of us back on the truck on which the rafts were loaded! And so we got another course on the raft, only on the road this time.

And Arjun true to his funny bone, would still shout commands of “Get Down”….”All Back”….”Left Front”….

Was really awesome being so high up, sitting perched on the edge of the raft, holding on to the “lifeline”…the wind blowing on my face and catching the lovely views!

After our lunch which felt like the “last supper”…we were ready to head back….

At the lunch table, our tour guide the Colonel introduced us to his German friend, Paul. He’s been coming to the TONS camp for over 7 years now. Comes to TONS and sets up his personal camp a little away from the main campsite. He had done up the place so nicely, it was wonderful…complete with a rice lamp with Buddha’s image on it, his personal bonfire and a hammock for a bed! For the last 12 years he’s been driving around all over India on his bike. He said his dad spent all his life earning money and finally never had the time to spend it, so he’s doing just that now…enjoying and experiencing life like its meant to be! His farewell words to us…”Go on live your life, don’t run after money, do what you enjoy and respect nature. It all comes down to nature finally!”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You have expressed ur experience in a pretty nice fashion. Rafting @ rishikesh is much beyond an experience. It feel heaven to be in himalayas , specially on the shores f Ganges. i mst hv been der abt 10- 15 times bt still cnt get enuf f it ... its beautiful, its heaven, its spiritual, it is much beyond the world... Loved readng ur experience... We've had a bit more adventorous n tougher times.. even travelled back 2 d camp in a cement truck luking like a construction labourer... wid no shoes... bt hand -made shoes wid sm empty cartons of bisleri... lol.. whch brought us back to the stone age...have experienced d most amazing rapid called as''The Wall'' .. whch m sure u mght nt hv experienced... .. thnx..cheers
Nishant :)