Perched amidst the green mountains and endless blue skies, lies a quaint little village called ‘Pantwari’, 60 kilometres ahead of Mussoorie. This is the starting point of my first ever trek in a long time (I am talking about years here). With friendly faces around me, I assumed that things are nice and slow here. We (group of 14) started our trek to Nag Tibba Peak after a light lunch and a ride to the end of the motorable road, which marks as the head-start for the trek to commence. It was around 1500 hours and the afternoon sun did not hurt as much as I thought it would. The light and gentle breeze caressed our faces, and little did I know about how the following 24 hours will teach me lessons for life.
The trek started and after going for about 10 minutes, I got my first reality check when my body screamed from inside. Every bad decision taken by me in the yesteryears, starting from mindless smoking to binge eating pizza, came back to haunt me. I realised how every inch of my body started throbbing with pain and my gut was screaming ‘I QUIT’ in caps. I started taking shorter breaks, clenching my belly and sitting down on every rock, after every 10 minutes of climbing the steep terrain.
Witnessing my bad state, two of my fellow mates offered to carry my backpack and slowdown to walk with me. I am thankful to the almighty for those two good souls… If I ever accidentally win a lottery someday, I will split the money three ways among us, for what they did that day! I kept on asking the guide ‘how many hours more?’, every 20 minutes, till the time he decided to give me the silent treatment. *cringe*
We ran out of water and the will to live after two hours! After covering almost 6-7 kilometers which seemed like my final journey to hell, we reached the first milestone to the Nag Tibba Summit – The Check Gate! Lo and behold, the trek only got tougher from here with the sun setting on the backdrop. Upon asking ‘how far’ for the nth time, I was told to hurry up as we have to reach our base camps before its pitch dark, and also ‘there are leopards lurking in the bushes! WTF!’
As it became just a matter of time before darkness engulfs us, our guide decided to take a bypass, which gave me the scare for life. This route was extremely vertiginous with fallen leaves, and the soles of our shoes slipped while walking in those leaves. I knew that if I would have slipped, it is going to take ten minutes for me to reach the ground below me, and no one would even bother to find my body, and I will forever haunt these mountains like a vengeful spirit! Lol.
Finally, we reached our campsite and trust me, I have never felt this relieved in my entire life. I lied in the grass under the shining starts and dimly lit moon, at 3050 meters above sea level, I breathed the gush of fresh oxygen after an arduous trek of almost 10 kilometers! Everyone got into their little tents and I got into mine. We lit a bonfire, sang old school songs, shared spooky tales and told each other how much we loved them. Everyone told how much they appreciated the fact that I came on this trek, even when my close friends ditched me at the last hour, and it truly meant a lot.
Next morning, I got ready for the trek, but ditched everyone in the middle and came back to my campsite as I wanted to chill on my own. I went to the family who manages the campsite, who had six members in total – an elderly couple with four children. I went inside their tiny hut and the elderly woman offered me some ‘green stuff’. It seems like I give away the vibe of a green junkie! I sat with the little girl as she tied my hair into a clean braid. Upon asking how life was up there, the old man told me that the resources are limited and so are the needs. Food for thought – Imagine living in a mountain all by yourself, fighting away the dark side of nature while having no basic amenities at disposal, be it running water or electricity!
My group came down after their second trek and we moved downhill, we covered it in half the time which took us while surging upward. We reached Mussoorie in the evening and stayed in a beautiful hotel that night.
If you think our trek ended there, you are wrong! We trekked to Landour and Chaar Dukaan the next day with cramped bodies. Finally, we reached Delhi and felt triumphant on completion of my life’s most difficult weekend getaway. But, here is what I remember from that time, ‘Thank God I went and took this plunge of faith. I will come back stronger and better again!’