Monday, 12 May 2014

Just because - Prachi Shrivastava

Someone recently asked me about my one main personal reason to trek. He said that for him it was the mental piece that trekking up a hill brought. I said that for me it was the motivation to fill the empty pages of my travel Moleskine with helpful notes and bizarre nomad tales. But then this weekend happened. And what has actually driven me to trek regularly all along revealed itself – somewhere near Kareri village.

Kareri village is a Gaddi village an hour (22km) out of Dharamshala (by motorable road) featuring vast fertile lands lush with wheat, icy gushing streams, Sherpas herding sheep, a few huts, about a hundred village folk and a poultry farm. If one ventures on a 16km trek up the green undulating slopes upward from this village, one crosses some breath taking meadows and a number of impressively crafted shelter caves to reach the Dal lake – a pristine lake situated at a height of 4700m up the Dhauladhars.

Before we get to the weekend’s revelation – my personal reason to trek – let me get into its contextual setting. 25 of us from Delhi and Chandigarh set about to trek up to the lake and camp for the night by it, this Saturday. We parked our tempo traveller by the village, picked up our tents, sleeping bags, ready to eat and ready to cook food, water and rucksacks, and began stepping up the trail. However, the sight of the lake was not to be for 20 out of the 25 trekkers.

The 20 who did not make it, did not suffer any casualties on the trail – far from that, they lived a gala adventure. From tracking down the half of the group which initially lost the trail, to trekking almost the entire way up in heavy rain, to crossing a fiercely heavy stream in the dark, taking inadvertent ice baths in it and continuing up the trail in the darkness. Finally again losing the trail, splitting from the group and climbing a 70 degree incline to pitch tents on a hill at 1:30am and surviving on the insufficient food and water left with their part of the group. However exertion and a time constraint got the better of their will to reach the lake the next day.

The five, including me, who meanwhile made it up to the lake the next morning did it on 4 hours of sleep and empty stomachs – but oh the beauty of the lake, the meadows and the homey shelters on the way made up for the toll the two hour climb took on us, and how!

But over the weekend all 25 of us gained something in common, regardless of reaching the lake or not reaching it, crossing a stream expertly or slipping into it, managing to lose the trail or not losing it. The common gain was –  a fabulous weekend on the road less travelled, in its preserved and unexplored trenches, in the company of people who do not say die when they have to climb a mountain.
And that is, and has always been, the actual reason which drives me to trek so often. 

The unmatched joy of landing a cave in the lap of nature, previously hit by a select few on the power of their physical and mental endurance, and clinking mugs of Old Monk with similarly privileged buddies. I am in love with the echo that our laughter creates in dark valleys at such heights the prospect of climbing which does not charm every other tourist. The wait for another weekend of gossiping until the fire dies down at another newly discovered nature marvel, is too long for me.

In this weekend’s life-sized film, my heroes were: the debutante trekker in our group who jumped into the middle of the river-crossing action to help others despite his inexperience, the experienced one who didn’t let his energy die until the very end despite skipping several meals and lifting several rucksacks, the ones who kept the smile on and the chatter and jokes coming even at the prospect of having to continue uphill way past bedtime and in never-ending rain, the group leader who literally bulldozed an entire tempo traveller out of damp muddy pits with his one tiny body – instead of resigning to wait until the wet road becomes motorable again, and then the five of us with a one track mind focussed on reaching the lake instead of on our own weary bodies.

Why do we climb up a hill? Just because! And life is too short to create enough memories on caves and ridges and streams and in forests with all my “just because” buddies. Which is why I am already up planning my next one, and so are some of them from what I hear!

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