Over the Hills and Far Away – A Himalayan Trek

May God bless their souls, was the first thought that came to mind when we cancelled our journey to Base Camp Everest. The earthquake of 2015 sure reduced parts of Nepal to shambles but not the spirit of their people (as we learned from our friends and television channels).

Our aching hearts, notwithstanding, we rerouted from the capital city, Delhi, towards the cinematographic state of Himachal Pradesh, in the light of the first antemeridian hours.

We crossed Punjab’s Chandigarh and, on reaching the Kangra valley of Dharmshala, ten hours later, heard a ringing clarity in the air.

With a sweet cumulus cloud cover overhead, we approached the compendious settlement of McLeod Ganj, seat of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, bursting at its seams with tourists, traditional bakeries, dumpling hawkers and Tibetan temples at right angled crossroads.

The start point of our herculean – or so we believed – trek was Dharmkot, set in the midst of lush pine forests, blossoming rhododendrons and elephantine mountainsides.

Before heaving our backpacks, of overnight tents and sleeping bags, we made a pitstop at Sun & Moon café. You needn’t ask – vegetable maggi and cardamom chai it was!

You know that feeling of resfeber?

We hiked through a tangle of vertiginously sloping paths, watched the sun glide effortlessly over the glassy hills, ready to retire, and fortuitously saw a diamond glow in the mist ahead. What became of this was a stunning sight of the snow-clad Mun Peak, the highest point of the lower Dhauladhars.

Pitching our Quechua tents in the pallid light of the evening was yet another adventure although the stark beauty of the area was unequalled.

We fell asleep, under the sky salted with stars, the crescent moon shining. The warm dusk matured into deep darkness.

The next morning, as the sun rose from behind the granite peaks, we awoke to supernatural, beautiful wilderness.

“Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!”

Not before a quick hors d’oeuvres (oh, it was all of eggs, bread and tea!) did our steep climb resume. The untempered heat, crumbly rocks and surges of chilly wind was a challenging terrain that took us 3 hours to complete. Though, incestously thrilling.

The exhaustion on reaching our destination and campsite, Triund Hill, was forgotten; we stood witness to the well-sculpted, jagged, whitewashed Himalayan ranges and its glorious summits soaring into the clouds, particularly the Indrahar Pass.

An otherworldly sight, if we may.

A slight drizzle ensued followed by petrichor. We lolled, in the swoon of the background, in a cozy teahouse serving rajma/dal chawal, omelettes, hot chocolate and the likes.

An evening of bone-chilling winds brought about a cheerful woodfire whose warmth suffused into our tents for the rest of the night.

As the moon poured its light across the land, we drifted into a dreamless sleep.

At daybreak, we unwillingly made our way back to the base, and a resolve –

“I will come back to you, I swear I will;
And you will know me still.
I shall be only a little taller
Than when I went.”

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