Traveling heals me. It gives me new experiences. I learn lessons about life. I get to taste new cuisines and have interesting conversations with locals. Travel teaches me resilience and adaptability. I prefer to travel alone as it helps me get a better understanding of myself.
Himachal Pradesh had been always a dream destination for me. As a great lover of nature, mountains, trees and rivers soothe me like nothing else. Having lived in Pune all my life, after I finished my training in Mysore I opted to work in Chandigarh. This gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream of going out and exploring as many places as I could.
For a Mumbaikar girl, setting out on a journey at midnight to a new place (Himachal Pradesh) from a city that I was just getting to know (Chandigarh), filled me with excitement and trepidation. Since I was on a limited budget, I had to plan my travel carefully. I boarded the local transport bus from sector 43 ISBT to Dharamshala. Luckily, I got the window seat in a non-air conditioned bus and had the added advantage of a cool breeze on a warm summer night. I reached Dharamshala at 7 am I then headed to McLeodganj where I booked a room for Rs.200 at a homestay maintained by a local family.
I started my trek from Bhagsu (a small village at the foot hills of Triund). There were a few other trekkers as well. Most of my fellow trekkers were Western tourists and many from Tibet.
It was pretty hot. My body took time to adapt to the weather and the exertions of the trek. After trekking about a quarter of the way, I met a girl from Mumbai called Bhagya. I learned that she was also alone and she had climbed Everest four times. It was great trekking with someone who was so experienced and friendly as well. It took me four hours even after trekking non-stop for nine kilometers to reach the summit. I knew the view up there would be worth the pain and the injuries.
Finally, the majestic Dhauladhar range was in front of us- the closest view of snow covered peaks at 9800 ft. The experience of seeing those huge and mysterious mountains for the first time cannot be described in words. It felt almost as if they were whispering to me. I could hear my heart beat and for a moment I closed my eyes and felt as though I had accomplished something.
It was very cold. There was a lone tea stall which also sold tents. I managed to get a tent and a sleeping bag from the owner of the stall, Sarju. I also bought chai and Maggie noodles. I can honestly say it was the most expensive Maggie noodles I have ever eaten.
I soon found a suitable place to pitch the tent and Sarju helped me with it.
Afterwards, I took a few photographs from Sarju’s stall. He shared his experiences of living in Triund over the past seven years. Soon, he had to go downhill to cut and gather firewood for the night. Bhagya and I joined him. We went into the forest with an axe, cut and gathered wood and carried it up two kilometers. We then went down to a stream and carried back almost 10 liters of water. I almost felt like one of the locals.
That night I had dinner consisting of goat milk, dal chawal (lentils and rice) sitting with some shepherds and their sheep. Sitting there under the stars, with the mountains glowing in the moonlight, with a warm fire and the sheep and their shepherds for company, I’d never felt so much at peace.
That night I slept in a cozy tent in a not so cozy sleeping bag. I woke up early to watch the sunrise. Waking up in such a heavenly place was a beautiful feeling. Suddenly I felt like all the material things such as money, mobile, your job and other luxuries don’t matter. The simple life is what it’s all about. It is these experiences that make my life larger. One just needs the courage to step out and follow one’s heart.
More travel experiences are on the way.
As I travel, I learn.