Travelling Solo? ….I used to think about it, dream about it….fantasize about it!.
I didn’t want it to become ‘ just a dream’ and wanted to act on it, so there i was on the day of my 20th b’day wanting to fulfill my dream instead of spending yet another b’day drinking with friends, i packed my bags and with what little i knew, decided to go to chail . My whole family was skeptical about the idea but my father was confident enough in me to let me go.
I arranged a few things,booked a ticket for the same evening , and was off to catch the bus.I entered the bus with a sense of purpose ,which ironically so, I had none. I had just booked a one way ticket to a place, with no idea what I would do and more importantly , where I would live.
Well, then what, the bus started, and I was officially ‘en-route’. There was no turning back now. It took the bus around 30-45 min to reach the outskirts of Delhi, that is when a strange feeling of happiness engulfed me. It was the realization that I was ACTUALLY doing what I had fantasized about for such a long time.
With wind in my hair and Pink Floyd in my ears, the 8 hour journey didn’t seem that long. I got off at Kandaghat where I was supposed to wait for another 2 hours for the bus that was to take me to Chail. It was 6 in the morning ,the weather amazing, and there i was, sitting on the edge of the road, looking at the amazing view in front of me. Never had I admired nature the way I did at that place and time. But this quiet admiration got interrupted by a thunderous roar coming from down the road . To my amazement, it was a group of bikers coming this way one behind the other. I sat there in awe of them, feeling like a partner in their journey, just only without a ride.
It was a small bus and I went and sat on the last seat(old habbits). The people seated with me were locals. They seemed to be mere acquaintances to each other at first, but as the bus started moving I observed that they were literally finishing each others' sentences. I felt like I was going on someone else’s family vacation. The journey as a whole was a good change of pace, especially when one comes from a big metropolitan like Delhi where such occurances are very rare.
I got off from the bus a few kilometers before the main market at an intersection, and started walking downhill. I kept walking for a few kilometers and didn't come across any vehicle or any person for that matter. It was at that point when the feeling of me being ‘alone’ actually started to sink in. After walking for over an hour I came across a hoarding of a resort(Rashi Resort), so I decided to check it out. It was not too expensive so I took a room and kept all the clothes and other stuff in the closet. Not having eaten much, I immediately got something to eat and headed back out.
I asked the receptionist about unexplored locations in the area and he told me there are pathways connecting the roads that only the local people take which are empty most of the time. With no more thought I was off to check it out. After about half an hour, I found a trail leading upwards into the dense trees and bushes. It seemed to be a path no normal person would ever take, but then again ,who wants to be normal?
I head into the trail , it was a steep climb in a zig zag pattern. There came a point when just before the trail was bending towards the right there was a drop of more than a couple hundred ft. I stood there and in front of me was an amazing view of endless mountains for as far as I could see. It was the first time that I felt as one with nature. Everything around me was either green or brown.
On going a little further I had to climb up to reach the road, only to find another trail that was leading into the woods. It took me a little over an hour to reach the top, going through 3-4 such trails. I came out of the trees, panting, feeling like a nomad finally finding civilization. It was this civilization that told me that Chail has the highest cricket ground in the world. Feeling intrigued, i knew that i had to go there.
After walking for about 3 km uphill, I reached the ground. There was nothing fancy about it, just your average cricket ground, yet had the distinction of being unique. I was taking photographs when a group of friends came up in their car. They were checking the place out and asked me to take a couple of pictures of them, so I obliged. One thing led to another and we started talking, which is when I got to know that they had come from Punjab. The conversation was going quite smoothly up until I told them that I had come alone from Delhi. There was a moment of silence, followed by a series of questions, followed by endless praise. They looked at me with awe and told me how amazing it was, for me to do this. That look, those words were a reassurance that what I was doing was right. We took a picture with each other and parted ways. It was amazing how a few strangers could influence me like that.
I started on my way down in the afternoon and walked till I reached the market again. It was a lot more crowded than it was before. I sat there in the middle, on a bench, tired. It was a very lively atmosphere with children playing cricket, the smell of food all around and of course the amazing weather.
It was already getting dark so I decided to eat something at a dhabha before heading back to the resort. I was famished, maybe that’s why everything in the Thali tasted amazing, although reflecting back i'm pretty sure everything; dal, sabzi, tasted the same. By the time I finished eating, it was dark and I couldn’t go back by the same route I came from (through the woods), so I had no other option but to walk downhill on the side of the road. I had a few more kilometres to go when I learnt an important lesson, that walking on the edge of the road, on a hill, in total darkness, with cars coming at scary speeds , there is not much a phone flashlight can do to help ;p
Making it back to the resort (miraculously ;)) , I was beat and had to call it a day, hoping the next day would be just as eventful.
I slept like a baby and woke up fresh the next morning. By 8 am I had left the resort to go to Kali mata mandir which was 25-30 km uphill. I had just started when I was fortunate enough to get a lift from a person going to the same place. We hit it off really well, sharing our diverse experiences and backgrounds, so much so that we didn’t even realize when we reached.
The entrance had a royal touch and was quite welcoming. It seemed as if we were entering a castle like in the game of thrones.
It was on top of a hill and the weather was absolutely breathtaking with the fog so dense that I couldn’t even see properly beyond the boundaries.
Climbing a series of stairways led me to the main temple which appeared to be out of a scene of a Bollywood movie.
I stayed there for an hour or so, sitting on the ledge, taking photographs and listening to music. After a while, when I headed out of the temple I saw the person I came with, still there, taking photographs. So we decided to go back together again. We were in the car and had already covered half of the distance when it struck me that it was my last day in chail and I didn’t get a chance to be by myself, exploring things, which was the sole purpose of my trip. So I asked the guy to let me off as I wanted to hike the rest of the way . We shook hands and went our separate ways.
I got off in the middle of nowhere and started walking down the road while looking at the picturesque view and listening to John Denver. Although it seems a bit cliché, but was actually quite memorable. I walked for a long time until I reached back to my resort.
It was already noon when I reached, so I ate something, packed my bags and checked out of the resort. I asked around about the timing of the buses plying on that route and got on one after waiting for about half an hour.
My return journey had me changing 3 buses, that too while it was raining quite heavily, only to reach the railway station so as to cover the rest of the distance by train followed by covering 15 stations in the metro, followed by an auto to finally reach home, AND I WAS STILL in awe of the fact that I had actually done what I had been planning for so long, which made this tedious journey seem like nothing.
This trip, although quite short, was responsible for instilling in me a sense of confidence and personal achievement. It was full of firsts and paved the way for many such amazing trips, helping me meet new people and have new experiences.
Watch this space for more.