Travel has been given numerous names by innumerable people depending on what Travel meant to them. I would now go on and add on to that list a new anecdote; Travel is like sleep. Travel is like sleep not because it is relaxing or it refreshes us which it actually does but I state it in an entirely different context. Just like Sleep is the solution for every Indian mother for every disease or problem that her kid suffers from no matter how dangerous or grievous; Travel is the solution for me for any problem that I face in life.
I like to call myself an avid traveler in definition though I hardly manage even a fraction of the trips that I actually intend to take up. Keeping disappointments aside I leave no stone unturned to make the best out of whatever amount of travel I get and I am sure that the “I” here does not stand for just me but so many of us who feel and do the same. I must admit though that I have been blessed enough to get some of the most memorable stories of my life out of those very few days. I love hearing travel stories from everyone and I am sure you would enjoy some of the gems from my Travel Diaries.
As they say, it does not matter how long the journey may be, it will always be defined by one crucial turn. It could be the turn of the steering wheel, turn of events, or just a turn of your eyes into another direction. 4 days in Mcleodganj filled with wonderful views and weed but the only thing I remember now is a wrong turn into the hills that made my trip worth remembering. It was the Christmas weekend of 2014 that I along with 6 of my buddies took the road trip from Delhi to Mcleodganj. After braving through what was the worst fog in many years with the visibility, not more than a couple of meters (not even the end of the bonnet was visible) where all 6 guys except the driver, that was me were hanging out of the windows in all directions to help wade the car through. We thought that was the closest we would ever come to a tragic accident but that thought lasted just 2 days.
After a couple of peaceful days of wandering around, hopping cafes, and of course visiting the” mandatory for anyone who visits Mcleodganj” famous Shiva Cafe suddenly the adventure junkie in one of us woke up and spread the idea of trekking to Triund in all of us like an infection. Riding high on the spirit of travel everyone agreed. Next Morning everyone with all the vigor left for Triund. Making our way through the boulders and the trees on a slope that climbed faster than us, we finally made it to the “Golu Devi Temple” which was on the 3 km mark out of the total 9 km trek to Triund and with an absolute majority, stalled the plan to go further. The worldly gains were calling us back down and we could not say no. Little did we know what was in store.
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As we started climbing down with even more excitement, a friendly discussion started to take shape.
Friend 1: These views are nothing. Naddi village is the place for the best view of the snow-capped Dhauladhar Mountain Range and is just 5-6 kms away from Mcleodganj.
Friend 2: Cool, we will take a cab as soon as we reach down
Friend 3: You know the road distance in the hills is exaggerated. If we go on foot from the middle of the hill forests, we might reach quicker than the cab.
Friend 4: Yes, all the mountains merge into one another. I am sure if we wander into the hills from right here, we will find Naddi Village nearby.
Before we could realize, we were away from the regular trail to Mcleodganj and had reached into the deep forest area. We found a guy sitting on a cliff, smoking joint, and making a fine sketch of the view so we decided finally to ask for directions. We asked for the directions for Naddi and in reply, we got a detailed history lesson of how China captured Tibet and how Tibetans are fighting back. With this profound knowledge, we moved forward with even more confidence. The path began shrinking and actually moved towards the edge of the mountain where we could see the entire depth of the hill from beside 1 foot from our feet.
Things had gotten a little serious and no one was talking now except an occasional “be careful” message as the going got tough. Suddenly we came across a meditating monk who was visibly upset on seeing us at that place which probably he had chosen specifically for the fact that no one could come there. His eyes had a very clear “Delhi se hi honge BC” written in them and the fact that there was no space to move from his sides, all 7 of us, one by one, almost hopped over him to cross over, would not have made him any happier. Anyways we were too scared to think about it so we just kept moving quietly. The quiet soon became anxiousness and slowly turned into fear as we came to terms with the fact that going back is also not an option now as we have come a long way from the trail and suddenly all our fears came true. We hit a dead end, a very beautiful dead-end in fact as the hill on the right side, valley on the left side and now at the front as well stopped us just in front of the majestic and a wide-open view of the Dhauladhar Range, covered in white.
The view was to savor for life but the moment was to think of saving a life. We were stuck and hopeless. One of the friends thought of lightening the atmosphere a bit by clicking our pictures but the expressions on our faces scared him back to normal. We all just stood there for about 10 minutes trying to think of thinking something useful and failed so we dropped back to praying to god and he was there. No not God but a villager from the hills who for us was no less than the God, carrying a bundle of leaves and twigs over his head. He came from up the hill, from our right side crossed us, and started going down towards the valley on our left side. We all were focused on his feet and slowly we started to recognize a trail beneath his feet. There was a telepathic nod amongst all 7 of us and we just started following him. He was too quick for us but still led us to a position where we felt relatively safer. After around 15 minutes of climbing down, we could see some houses down in the valley. The sight gave us our voices back and the chirping along with some nervous laughter started.
As the houses began to feel closer our confidence started rising again and soon we landed into a field from where the view of the snow-capped Dhauladhar was at its best or second-best rather if we compare it from what we witnessed from the dead-end at that height. There were kids playing nearby who upon asking the name of the place replied “Naddi” as we smiled at each other more so in relief than joy. The cameras were out again as we captured the (now what we claim) most memorable part of our journey.
There were many moments where we felt close to death but the moment where we touched base at Naddi was the one where we had never felt more alive. Such was the satisfaction of the unexpected joy of completing t e accidental trip that even Maggi and tea at Naddi felt like the best meal we ever had. We often talk about defining moments in life and this was my moment where I transformed from a tourist into a traveler. What was yours?