1st March 2015
These have been amazing twelve days. Sleeping INSIDE the car and getting up to amazing views of Himalayas was the kind of feeling I longed for so dearly and for so long. I was living that dream. At times I had to pinch myself to know whether it was true. I have been fantasizing about this kind of life for years. I remember how bad I used to feel sitting on the branch manager’s chair, working for the bank, working with the people I didn’t like, working for the people I didn’t like, working in the system I didn’t like. I knew one day I will have to cut this rope and be free. I knew one day I will have to go little mad otherwise there was no hope.
Thanks to my mate from my village Sardar Davinder Paul Singh who gifted me this book ‘Zorba the Greek’ which had a profound impact on my life. I read the book many a times. Whenever I reached these lines “A man needs a little madness, or else… he never dares cut the rope and be free”, I used to pause, go out walking and thinking. I had family to keep and other financial constraints. Usually after the walk and thinking I used to postpone cutting the rope. I could not muster up enough courage until one fine day, the very first day of year 2011, madness overpowered my thinking. I cut the rope and became FREE.
After fabulous sleep IN THE CAR at Ukhimath, I got up very fresh. A cup of tea later I was on my way. As usual, I was not sure of my destination for the day. The plan was to move towards Chopta and Tungnath. I knew there was Deoria Tal nearby but was not very sure about its exact location. After driving for about half an hour, there came a turn to the left mentioning Deoria Tal. Turned left and was soon at a shop at the entrance of the village.
I saw a car parked on one side of the road and I met a gentleman who greeted me gleefully. He was Mr Kailash Bhatt, a native of the area, an avid traveler, a social worker and a photographer. He arrived at Sari village the previous day along with his childhood friend Mr Maan Singh. We had wonderful chat, a photo session and a cup tea. Mr Bhatt has wonderful knowledge of the area and shared very interesting stories. We had good time discussing and sharing various aspects of travel.
It was overcast and drizzling. The trek to Deoria Tal was damp and slippery. The chances of views of Chaukhamba and the range were remote. Still I decided to go for the trek. I did not meet anyone during the trek. Could not take many photos too. The trek was well paved, very steep but not very difficult. It passes through dense oak and rhododendron forest. I was able to complete three kilometer trek in little under two hours with leisurely walk. There were few shops open just before the Tal. There was no one the Tal. It was still drizzling. I walked around for about one hour.
The Tal is not very big but neat and good looking. The surroundings are lush green with lots of plants and trees. This was a good season for burans (rhododendron) and I could see lot of red flowers hanging on the trees. The view of snow clad mountain range and chaukhamba was totally covered with thick blanket of rain clouds. After a while I saw some people arrive with camping gear. They looked bit confused and were into hot discussion with each other. On return trek I stopped at one of the shops for maggi and walked down easily to Sari.
From Saari I drove towards Duggal Bitta (Chopta). There was thick snow scattered all around near Chopta. I stopped at a restaurant for tea. The restaurant happened to be Chauhan Guest House at Baniya Kund and was owned by Mr Vinod Chauhan. Vinod advised me to stay at Baniya Kund as there was snow on the road to Chopta. Weather was bad and there were chances of fresh snow fall too. I was confused until it started raining heavily and decided to stay at Baniya Kund but IN THE CAR.
I did have a company that night. Besides Lalpari there were two other vehicles parked outside the guest house that night. One belonged to a young Indian couple and the other one was a taxi. There were only two rooms at the guest house. One was occupied by the young Indian couple and the other by a French couple who were driven in, by the taxi and a driver.
Vinod put fire on the wood just outside the guest house under the shade of a veranda to beat the chill and make the environment livelier. The young Indian couple sat around the fire and kept chatting until dinner was served. The French however had their dinner inside their room.It was very chilly that night and Vinod, very kindly, gave one quilt each to both of us. Me and taxi driver who was to sleep inside the car too. At around 10pm he pulled the shutters of the guest house down. We two were the only people on the road on the road now.
Around midnight that night I heard a very soft sound as if something was falling very smoothly. I came out of the car and found white snowflakes falling from dark heavenly skies. What luck I was having. There were time when I was stuck in the bank and used to crib at all those moments when I saw pictures of fresh snowfall on the mountains and I was not able to come. This time, I think, it was 5th time during this trip, I was enjoying fresh snowfall. Not only snowfall but abundant of it. At best of the locations and at best of times . It was 2am in the morning. Darkness all around. No human soul awake at this time of the hour and I felt this scenario was all for me.
I was hard to believe, still I knew, I was living another dream!!!