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(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH

  

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-1

Frenzy. It was frenzy everywhere.

"You can stay here for the night. I have everything arranged" he smirked, while slowly sliding the knife out of one of his sleeves. The sight of a huge shimmering knife, in a place so alien to us, held by a man who looked like he'd kill for a lock of Vinayak’s hair, was enough for us to recount our blessings. In an instance, we went from enjoying the picturesque scenery of Tosh, into an extreme sense of distress. I glanced over at Pari, both of us sharing the same sentiment. Our hearts pounding.

The number of scenarios that go through in your head when you are confronted with situations that seem to be of life and death, is immense. It's like those moments after death where your brain plays all your memories, a movie of your life playing in front of you, 100 frames a second, only here, our ending was undecided.

However, our heightened sense of paranoia (of possibly questionable inception) was short lived when after taking out the knife, he cut a fruit, keeping the weapon, and our misery away. We took out our bags, making sure all our ‘bases’ were covered and scooted. It had been 18 hours since we'd left from Delhi. The start of which had been rather shaky, unplanned and haphazard.

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-2

The Start

Planning for this trip was one of the simplest tasks ever. Figuring out a weekend, calling a couple of people, packing bags and leaving; all of this done exactly 10 hours before our bus ride. Pre-planned trips feel like you are doing a disservice to the experience you are about to have. More often than not, it’s too hassling. You have to stick to a schedule and thereby hamper the pace of the trip. It’s too much pressure while planning, where you have to cherry pick a few locations to suit your time constraints, thereby evoking a mild dissatisfaction. Therefore, it's best left to nature and our whim, where you take things as they come. With all the packing done light- the luggage, the people and most importantly the wallet, the latter the emptiest of the lot, we embarked on this journey.

The ride from Delhi to Bhuntar was a nothing full of sceneries. With a slightly overexcited couple sitting beside us, the direction of our gazes was to be fixed at the infinitely dark abyss of the night. It's in moments like these, away from people you know and venturing into the unknown, that you open up to people who you'd otherwise think are totally outside your wavelength. In the wild of the night, Pari and I had a hearty conversation, with Vinayak taking a front seat, and the couples doing their deed.

Bhuntar

From Bhuntar, what awaited us was a tumultuous 4 hour ride to Barshaeni. With buses packed to the extent that it gets unpleasant for everyone, with the (possible) exception of the conductor and the driver. Unpleasant for people who sit inside it, people who stand and lastly, people outside who watch. The happiest were the ones who sat on top of the bus. Too much load on the buses gave it a curvature akin to a belly with love handles. The roads were perfect for the buses. It felt like these were made keeping this exact bus in mind, their width not exceeding the buses’ by a single inch. The unison of the two was inseparable; the road following the tyres, making sure any debauchery (read: wrong turns) was met with the harshest of punishments (a “skyfall”). God bless the driver's precision and our luck, that we reached Barshaeni safely.

Tosh

At around 2.30 when we were to start our trek abound Kheerganga, a couple of trekkers informed us that it'd be in our best interest that we start the trek at a slightly early stage. Be it the will of the young or our foolishness, we continued - without paying any heed, only to realize half an hour later that those Samaritans were right. The downpour kept increasing while the sun setting, a lethal combination. A quick taxi to Tosh and we were set for the day. Looking for a place to camp, we were informed of the village 'Khulta' where we decided to set camp for the day. Enroute we met our mystery man, the dude with the knife. That encounter dampened our spirits a bit, and we decided to settle for the day.

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-3

A quick survey of the options led us to a cozy cafe with a perfect spot for pitching the tent. Perfect in the sense that there were no two ways about the area, it had to be done at the exact position, lest we fall. Our recent interactions had left us a bit high-headed to a position where none of us could fathom how to pitch the tent. Our hopes being paramount barred us from taking any external help. After half an hour of failed attempts, I slowly walked into the cafe and in an embarrassed tone said "Could you please help us pitch the tent. We seem to be missing something there." The cafe owner more than happy to help, however, giving us the look equivalent to 'Ah! These kids.'

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-4

"We are all set for the night" smiled Vinayak.

This we were.

The sky was star lit,

Beneath lay three souls,

Away from their past,

Into the mystic land.

All three had stories of their own,

But beneath this roof of theirs,

In nature's bounty,

All of it was entwined.

Kheerganga

Everything was in place for us to start the trek to Kheerganga. Being late- Check, missing a few things- check, over-estimating how much our nimble bodies could carry- check. Neglecting (once again) what a kind-hearted taxi driver had told us:

'Please keep your luggage at one of the downside cafes, the climb is steep and you won't need all the stuff you are carrying'. That advise would have done us some good, had we followed it. One heavy tent, two sleeping bags, couple of jackets (each), innumerable chocolates and all that (seemingly) necessary stuff. All of it didn't seem much while on road. However, once we started, all of us could account for every additional gram of weight we add decided to carry, and the pleasure it was providing us.

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-5

Seldom bored from this mundane, arduous stretch of walking, a weird but fun idea sprung up- having a group anthem. This was to pick up the wounded and place our trust in something which was higher than all of us. Basically anything to get us to the top. As much brainstorming as could be done by exhausted souls at 7,000 feet led us to a meager but satisfying ‘Why you trippin?’ (because there, everyone seemed to be tripping.)

We had our share of ‘oh we can't do it’ moments. However, what awaited us at top was a beautiful straight out of the book kind of scenery, and a pack of lovely, playful and overtly faithful dogs. Not being a dog person myself, I wasn't too pleased at the sight. However, as luck would have it, or as Pari’s fondness of dogs would it, I did the unthinkable- I patted all these dogs.

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-6

The Kund

Atop Kheerganga, lay a special place. A place so magical that it would relieve you of all your pains- literally. It's the hot water spring. A dip inside the hot water spring, and all the numbness in your body gets obliterated in a second. The tranquility of the place is such that it would perfectly fit the description of the ever so famous quote by Rumi:

Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field(read: hot water spring/kund).

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass (read: kund),

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense any more.

Our Wayback

After a lovely night spent atop and a quick climb down. The journey seemed to be coming to an end. Having made the decision of taken our overly crowded bus (again), we were left stranded somewhere between Kasol and Manikaran, where two roads lay before us- to either continue in the bus and miss our connecting bus, or hop into a taxi. We took the one less traveled by- hiring a taxi. Our requested attempts to drive the taxi faster seemed to wake up the driver’s long forgotten F-1/Nascar/Tokyo Drift dreams. If there was a record for having endured the maximum number of ‘falling off the cliff’ chances in a half an hour drive, we might be some serious contenders for that. Thankfully we reached Bhuntar and from thereon, we boarded our bus to Delhi and all was merry.

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-7

Afterthoughts

Amidst the breathtakingly beautiful sceneries, star-studded skies, snow-capped mountains, one couldn’t help but wonder "Why do we travel?" Why do we leave the comforts of our home to go live in a tent, albeit for a (sadly) short period of time? Why is it, that we leave behind the pinnacle of human evolution to go live in a primordial state of being- to a place without any network, where you have to encounter those ye ''kon baitha hai jhadiyon ke piche'' moments. However, the question was self-answering, I just had to recount my experience during the trip for the answer.

Maybe it's our longing to connect with nature, an insatiable calling. The same nature, in front of whose whims one is so helpless, provides us with the most spectacular landscapes in its bounty. In its cradle, we become our true selves. Traveling is putting your will to test, to pushing your boundaries. As Edmund Hillary says- "It isn’t the mountain you conquer, but yourself". It isn’t just the journey you complete, but a part of yourself which you find- hidden somewhere deep beneath you. It broadens your horizon. From finding trekkers who pick trash on the way uphill to bus conductors who offered us money after seeing our not-so-loaded wallets, it makes you believe that humanity isn't as doomed, and there are some nice people still around.

While doing all of this, you explore depths- both within yourself and of your relationship with people. It makes you get to know the other person so much more, only to realize how little you knew them before. Above all, it’s about experiencing something surreal, about building bonds and memories that last a lifetime. Going on any journey is akin to opening a pandora’s box, and in the process making thy self a pandora’s box- a person full of fun-filled experiences.

If not for all this, you could try it just for the pictures.

(ALMOST) THREE MEN (HOPING TO BE) IN A BOAT: A TRIP TO KHEERGANGA-TOSH-8

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