“Yes! I dind it.”.:P Well that’s how Rishi puts it when he achieves anything that is extraordinary for his little hands..and thats what I exclaimed as I reached the Valley of Flowers (VoF)!

If someone had asked me why I wanted to climb to the VoF a few weeks ago..the honest answer would have been that I don’t know yet..but I knew I wanted to. Had a few things to prove to myself, a few things to surpass, test my limits…

I have never been athletic and with my petite build was never sure that my body could handle much more than the daily grind..but it did and how..

Just before we had planned to leave for Delhi, there had been flash floods and cloud bursts in Uttaranchal, especially in Chamoli district where we planned to trek. Everything was hanging in balance and that was a lesson in itself of patience.. I learnt to wait, to trust the unknown and hope for the best.

We arrived in Delhi by flight and from there travelled to Haridwar via train. From Haridwar it was an arduous ten-hour bus journey made lighter by banter with friends and doses of sleep..it was on this stretch that we got a taste of the devastation that can be caused by nature’s fury..as well as the fortitude of human kind which can clear up huge landslides and move on.

The road is steep, dangerous and sinewy and tiring. We reached Govindghat by nightfall and hit the bed after some dinner at a local hotel. We were woken up by the trek guides with a steaming cup of chai..and we went out and what a view greeted us…this alone would have made our trip worthwhile..

It was from here to Ghangria that our trek actually started. A 13 km trek which needed everything I had. I also met so many wonderful interesting people on the way…it would make for a blog post all by itself!

Starting the journey..

Being a newbie to trekking, I was getting so very tired every few minutes. There were so many times I wanted to just give up and hire a mule for the rest of the journey. But that would defeat the purpose of the trek…So at one point I decided I would rough it out. Some journeys are meant to be made alone and this probably was one of them. I left my husband and friends and started walking. My aim being just the next step. I was buoyed forward by a group of Sikhs on their way to Hemkund Sahib (they seem to be exceptional people). They helped me keep moving with the chants of ‘Satnam Vaheguru’ and glucose powder. There was an old man, around 80 years old probably who helped me cover almost two km with his stories about Sikhism and Guru Gobind Singh. I have nothing but respect for this warrior clan who helped so many of us during our way up and down..

As I walked past them, I met up with a couple of Bengali babus, who told me ‘tea khabhi’ and then had the grace to laugh at their own hindi and made wonderful company for a couple more km.

I was resting at a tea stall, when it started pouring and I realised that I had left everything including my raincoat in my solo journey. But as if someone had heard my thoughts, from the mists materialised my friend of thirteen years with my raincoat :P. from there on it was me and him and the mist walking in tandem to the pitter patter rain and the sound of our breathing. it was an amazing feeling to finally have made it to Ghangria. To know that I am greater than my limits!

The only parallel I can draw to this experience is very clichéd, delivering my baby boy–where I yelled for the doctor to cut me open and end the pain, while he yelled right back at me to keep pushing.In the end the pain was gone and I had a perfect baby in my arms….this trek was almost as magical as that for me…and that, is saying something!

 

 

 

 

Before the trek, my perception was to conquer the mountains, you know..the planting your flag on the summit sort..But nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was the one who was conquered and in letting myself be conquered lay my victory!

I wanted to go down on my knees and give thanks to the majestic mountains, the gurgling streams, the thundering clouds, the angry river and the unpredictable rain for letting me complete this journey. I was humbled and grateful and elated all at the same time. This I think is as close to a spiritual experience that I will ever get.

From Ghangria, we headed to the VoF the next day, my dream was fulfilled. I saw flowers in millions, entire hillocks decked in pink and yellow and white. The valley of flowers also turned out to be a valley of ‘interesting people’ as well for us. We met a world-famous sitarist and a world-famous botanist and were lucky enough to get a few lessons on the flowers from him. I will always have a mental image of him quoting the vidurneeti on why we should not pluck flowers..

Subset of the interesting people we met on the journey

I was hit with altitude sickness at this point and had to come down and missed the hemkund trek the next day.

But then that gave us a huge window of time and we visited Badrinath Mana and Auli. Mana and Auli are something that I am sure, I will keep going back to at various points in my life, to see them wear different disguises in different seasons..

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The trek took my breath away (literally and figuratively), taught me stuff that I would have never otherwise have learnt, earned me friends wonderful and I would like to think made me a better person..

What is your mountain to climb? Is it mending a broken relation? Is it getting over your fears? Is it learning something new?

Go for it, start..one step after another…the journey will be long and tough. but pause to let your body rest, catch your breath and enjoy the scenery along the way. When you reach the summit, do let me know, what it is that you felt..

"Everybody's got a mountain to climb,
Don't be discouraged when the sun don't shine,
Gotta keep on pulling, you gotta keep on tryin',
Everybody's got a mountain to climb,
Everybody's got a mountain to climb."

-Everybody's Got A Mountain To Climb
by Dickey Betts"

P.S: to all moms who are dilly dallying about leaving their babies behind..do it! You have earned yourselves a vacation and...the fact is my son was super excited to look at the pics and told me to climb carefully and not fall off the mountain :P

I am so glad that I can go out now and then and my lil man wont hold it against me :D
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