The bus ride from Manali to Delhi killed me. I have never been so tense and so 'in the moment' in my life as I was for those 16-17 hours. My tickets to Ahmedabad were booked for the 12 PM flight and I reached the airport around 11.40. God knows how I managed to board, and God bless the sweet staff who let me in after saying the routine, 'Sorry ma'm, Check-in closed'. The time in the flight and the ride back home was like a delirium. It was only when the Amdawadi heat pierced me in that fond, old way that I realised I was home, in the same dreaded, wonderful heat of my hometown. I actually miss the Ahmedabadi summers and it felt especially blissful to be back home this time of the year.
The trek was wonderful. The base camp was at a village called Chakki in Naggar, about 25 km before Manali. From there, we walked up to Rumsu, Pulag, Chans Falls, Gom Karari and finally the Chandarkhani range. On the first day, when they took us to this real short orientation trek and rappling, I found myself breathing so heavily and in such a bad shape, that the seven remaining days scared me no end. But as we progressed, things became better and before I realised, I was on Camp 3 at 13,000 ft.
I discovered I am unusually quiet and at a loss of words more often than not. I also verified that I am a very boring person compared to the constantly chattering girls and guys who can find ways to turn into tales even routine business like eating bread and butter. These rather sorry discoveries were balanced by the assurance that I could spend time on my own in complete bliss. It irked me sometimes when people spent all their free time in the pristine environs singing film songs at the top of their voice, playing cards or talking about prospective or broken love affairs. There was little scope for silence in the company that I was in- effervescent collegians with a passion for getting themselves clicked. But then, being able to talk in Gujarati after a long time, being in the company of that lovable tribe after ages was a treat in itself. Being in Gujju company means having an unlimited supply of snacks- and it was no wonder that their stock of khakra, mamra, ladu, wafers and what not did not exhaust even till our way back. (I am sure they have enough food left to see them through the train journey from Delhi to Bhuj too)
Himachal is breathtaking. The comparitively remote place that we were at and the trek through some remote up-hill villages allowed us to see the lifestyle pretty closely. Describing the place is an effort in itself and this impromptu post won't do justice to the beauty and simplicity of the people and the place. I would post the photos once I am back in Kolkata. Talking about photos, there was yet another blunder very characteristic of me. I have nagged friends to pose in cameras without rolls, I have spoilt many a rolls as I never learnt how to insert or wind those properly in one piece and I have lost many a newly printed albums. This time, I managed to wipe out the memory card while i was fidgeting with the camera menu on Camp 3 (for I had taken extra batteries but forgotten to take extra memory cards). In effect, all the photos that I clicked on our way up were wiped out. But I didn't cry to my surprise and decided I would click some wonderful photos on the way down. Some consolation!
On the last day in Naggar, we went out to see the town in an open milk-van types tempo- the dozen of us standing in the cold wind. To my utter embarrasement, they sang songs at the top of their voice, with all the villagers staring at us disapprovingly. It's a pity when (and how effortlessly) the thin line between pure fun and vulgur pleasure can be crossed by tourists. Anyway, we went to a very quiet area uphill where we came across a beautiful bungalow of the famous Russian painter Nicholas Roerich. (I hadn't heard of him though baba and aaji immediately recognised and beamed with appreciation on hearing the name) We were there after five and the house is then closed for visitors, so I could only click the place from outside. There was this Music centre and someone was singing really well. Then we went to a 1460 years old castle, which has now been turned into a hotel (The Castle, Naggar, HP Tourism). Waiters were taking up drinks and food and the interiors were beautifully lit, the wood carvings were breathtaking. I must go there again with Mitrajit asap. Just outside the castle, I marched on the shopping spree I had promised myself. Bought a wonderful shawl for didun, the himachali jute chappals just like the ones that mummy had, long woollen socks and ofcourse, a handful of cherries to eat on the way. I also got a pair of some really neat wooden combs with intricate carving, and a very heavy, beautiful, but apparantly useless small dabbi whose lid is so small, it would be even uncomfortable to use it as a sindoordani. Nevertheless, I was jubiliant after the shopping, as always.