Landslides, blocked roads, missed buses, and everything in between. Although I faced more than my share of troubles to get there, my trip to Nako has been a surreal journey with the experiences of a lifetime in less than a week, as I returned with a heart brimming with love, adventure and Chhang! And, memories of an authentic Buddhist wedding, where they treated us like kings!
Here's my story!
After a highly uncomfortable 15 hour bus journey, and having cucumbers in brunch without even getting to brush our teeth, we reached Kalpa in the evening, exhausted. And missed the next morning bus to Roghi by just 2 minutes. Murphy's law I tell you!
We spent this time apple-picking and staring back at the mighty Kinnaur Kailash.
The bus to Tabo had already left from Reckong Peo, by the time we arrived there, after being transfixed at Suicide Point in Roghi, . And we decided to take the noon bus to Samddho, and get down at Nako. Best decision ever!
It was 5 in the evening when we arrived at Nako, with broken backs and dizzy heads, and multiple landslide situations in places like Ribba. And AMS had hit us hard -- the hardest I have faced in all my years of travelling in the mountains. With no energy left for any more adventure, we checked into the first home stay we came across. Delek Guest House, hosted by a loving and docile couple, gave us the most comfortable bed, and the most spectacular view of the Hangrang Valley.
The Kinnauri couple served us a ginger-lemon tea with secret ingredients, known to be therapeutic for the AMS, nausea and other mountain sickness.
We woke up next morning to an invitation to a Buddhist wedding in Malling, the village nearby. I was hesitant at first, but seeing the hospitality and affection from our hosts and other villagers, we just couldn't decline.
Probably one of the most weirdly romantic nights, as I saw the beautiful bride Dolma wed Tenzin, in the presence of pure love, happiness, revelry and Chhang!
Buddhist weddings are significantly spiritual in nature, with the rituals being only a personal choice and not a religious duty. It is bereft of any extravaganza, there are no strict guidelines for the ceremony, and came off as a rather dull affair for someone who has passed out at Delhi weddings more times than one could count.
Yet later, as I caught the vibe of the wedding, I saw actual celebration of love and union, with music, dance and delectable food. Residents from all over the valley had come to celebrate and offer their blessing to the couple.
The groom’s family arrived carrying trays containing various food items like tea, meat, fruit, wine, traditional cakes, and local liquor. One stark difference with other Indian weddings, in most Buddhist weddings in India, the groom’s family has to pay a sum as dowry to the bride’s family in exchange for their daughter’s hand.
I probably haven't been treated with such warmth, benignity and zeal at my own cousin's wedding, that I received at this wedding in Malling. We ate our hearts out, the food was simple, given the means high above in the desert mountains, nevertheless it was a feast, and I couldn't stop munching my way through the night.
We dosed on Chhang, Chulli and Lugdi, the local liquors of the mountain, that was served at the wedding. Danced with the monks, the beautiful couple and the locals at the wedding. In my head it felt like we were the guests of honour, as we were the only outsiders, and God the hospitality! They treated us like kings!
After all the revelry, we left for Nako on foot, late at night, it was dark as a sullen cloud before the sun. With no lights through the distance, and only the moon guiding our way, we wandered through the trees, the desert and the mighty mountains to our village. Might as well be the most romantic walk ever!
Surprisingly, the unplanned and spontaneous events are the most adventurous ones as well. And with a heavy heart and memories of a lifetime, we left for Chitkul in an early morning bus.