It is often said that “of all the roads you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt!”. What nature can teach us, nobody can.. After having travelled a lot, in multiple countries, I have come to find that India is one of the most beautiful, culturally rich and historically oldest countries. The most amazing parts of India are the Himalayas!! They are beautiful and mystic.. !!! Umpteen stories of Kailash Parvat and Himalayan ranges talk about Lord Shiva, where he used to sit for “Tapasya”. Entire Himalayas was like his “home”.
Those who have visited Uttarakhand know for sure that the ranges are beautiful and are also very dangerous. It is not only the landslides, but also the steepness and difficulty level of trek that one has to do to reach Ghangaria or Hemkund or Valley of Flowers. The roads are well-made.. but still there are patches where you need courage, stamina and immense desire to reach the top. The weather is unpredictable and it rains quite heavily at any given time of the day. The heights are ~14000 feet, where the oxygen supply is rare and hence your lungs capacity has to be good.
This climb cannot be much practiced before going to mountains. This is because the combination of mountains, rains and cold weather with thin oxygen levels is hard to simulate. As one starts to climb, they go through a combination of steep climbs and deep descends, walking through the waterfalls, walking very narrow patches of valley edges, where its mountain on one side and deep valley on the other. It is thrilling, exciting, dangerous and scary.. all at the same time.!!
As a friendly advice, while travelling, it is very very important to go slow, stop in between and feel the mountains… feel the weather and experience what mountains are trying to tell you..it is precious because as they say, “Mountains change you. The sights change your perspective of life… permanently”!!
So let me share few of my amazing experiences in mountains, and I bet that these won’t be new for those who have been to Himalayas.. This is the first one I write here. More would follow in coming blogs.
On the way from Valley of Flowers to Ghangaria, it was raining heavily. It was a gruesome weather since it was equally cold. Oxygen was thin because we were at about 14,000 feet above the sea level, and it was hard to breathe. Most of us were just climbing all by themselves.
They were fighting their own stamina and their own fear. The fear was of slippery stones, difficult climbs and extremely narrow pathways paved between huge mountains and deep valley. I was one of them and I had no one ahead or behind me for atleast more than 500 feet or so. I was walking on my own. Normally the organisors allocate a guide to each group. But the guide accompanies the person who is slowest and hence I had no company, since I was quite ahead of the group. Walking in heavy rains, with snow-topped Himalayan ranges in the front, I came to a path which was extremely scary. It was through a ferocious water fall. These waters were falling from the steep mountain and into the deep valley. The path I had to travel was a narrow road, of which, on one side was this tall mountain and on other side was the valley in which water was falling. The road must be like half-feet wide, just bare enough to enable one single person walk. It was a road which almost felt like impossible for any human to cross. But since this was the only path seen, there was no doubt that I had to cross this road under that water fall. Initially I was okay. I had a stick in my hand and I just walked under those heavily pouring waters. I came half-way through and the fear surmounted.. I was frozen due to the “realization” of the circumstance. It was so scary that I just couldn’t move. I couldn’t go ahead nor turn back. It was impossible to go behind because if I had to turn around I had no courage to see those deep valley, with waters falling just pass me and mountains on the other side, just clipping any space around.. I could not move ahead due to the gripped-in fear. I literally froze and water was pouring on my head quite mercilessly. It must be like 15-20 seconds, which seemed too long and I took out my left hand to seek help. There was no one.. absolutely no one, which I had seen well before I started to take this road in the waterfall. In the right hand I had the stick and since it was towards the mountain cliff, I could not take out that hand. Other hand was towards the valley in which water was falling. With that half feet road, it was impossible for anyone to come and help. Still, I had to do something and hence, inadvertently and subconsciously I took out my left hand to seek help. I knew it was a useless attempt, but I just waved it a bit (almost like a helpless fool). In around few seconds I felt like my life was over. Nobody could help me move, and I had no courage to take step ahead. It must be like atleast 10-15 steps before I could land up in a safer part of the mountain. But it was in vain and I was stuck..
And a miracle happened… a very strong and cold hand held me. It took a grip of my left hand which I had taken out onto the valley side and which I was hoping to take help with. The hand was big, very strong and extremely cold. This was a huge support. The hand took a strong grip and almost dragged me through those 10-15 steps rapidly. It made me cross that dangerous zone and next I found myself out of the waterfall and out of that narrow path between valley and mountain. I immediately saw behind and saw that the path was behind me now and I was safe amidst the jungles on left side and the mountain, ofcourse, on the right side. It was a big relief. I collected my senses and tried to see the “person” who helped me. I saw the hand, a strong one with white tight sleeves till the wrist. The person rapidly went ahead of me. Running with high speed. In few seconds, he was not seen. Nowhere.. at all.. He had vanished, well.. almost.. The path was again empty. Not a single soul around. I was so happy and relieved to have crossed the very dangerous route, I continued my journey further..
While walking, I thought to myself.. where did this person come from? There was no one around me while I entered the waterfalls.. How could he ever catch my hand from the left side, where there was a deep valley? Was there any place there atall, for anyone to come in? And how could he drag me? For that he has to go ahead of me, from the left..!!
How is it that he ran so fast thereafter that I did not see him? Who was he? Rest of my entire journey I kept searching for someone similar. I found none… none at all. He came only for those few seconds to help me and landed me in safe location…
It is often said that one cannot plan a trip to mountains, especially the Himalayas. They say that you need to be invited to go there. And hence, if you go by invitation, you have to be taken care of. Somebody has to ensure your safety. Who ensures this safety and who encompasses entire Himalayas?
As a scientist and a researcher, it is difficult to write such a blog. But the experiences do not lie. It was bright daylight when this incidence happened and those who have been to Ghangaria or to Valley of Flowers would recollect such a location as well.. Such experiences make you more humble, change you forever and help you realize the irrelevant and artificial world in which we normally live. These experiences showcase your fragility and miniscule presence in this gigantic nature. It also tells us that there are different kinds of energies around us which we do not even know. We can only experience it.. but, for that, we have to be aware and we have to be receptive…
It is exactly for this reason, it is said that atleast one of the roads we choose in our life time, has to be a dirt road…!!