Ever experienced Kumaon in the Monsoon?
Pines on the hills yonder look handsome and tall, amidst which many iconic Bollywood songs have been sung, and where the barks have been engraved by generations of lovers swearing their undying love. Pines are the symbols of majesty of the mountains that seem to replicate the slope of the land onto their own bosoms, in total harmony to accept God’s showers of rain and snow.
The pines adorned with rustic cones, the nostalgic smell, the brown mud and undergrowth below – all charmed me to make yet another trip to say hello to the hills. This time, I ventured into the regions of Kumaon – the land of the man-eaters of yester-years, lured by the stories penned by Jim Corbett, almost a century ago! I found myself a quaint little cottage, off the famed hill towns, and looked forward to some memorable laid back time. Hammocks, bonfires, leisurely trails, nature, greens, all seemed just what I needed after a hectic year catching up (literally!) on responsibilities and never-ending errands and duties!
I rode on a bus till the nearest town, after which a jeep was the best way to cover the meandering and often kuccha paths towards my destination. Luckily the cottage owners had tied up with a jeep operator and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself paired up with a German lady (introduced as Greta, with fluent English) who was staying at the same place. The 6-hour journey was surely flying!
I learnt that she was a camping freak and was on a 3-month spree to romance the Himalayas. Of course, what better time than the legendary monsoons to see the green cape of the hills in all its finery. It was raining incessantly of course, but the smell of wet mud made it so much more real and built up the excitement!
3-hours into the journey, we heard the worst that you can get in the hills – there was the dreaded ‘cloudburst’ somewhere nearby! We prayed that it did not affect us! But woe and alas! The jeep came to an absolute halt! There was a landslide and the path was blocked! Well, well, well!
Everyone was feeling glum, but hey, what was this! Greta seemed unperturbed, even excited! She pulled me out and we both ran to get wet in the showers! Clothes, shoes, and all! Ohhh, hadn’t I forgotten the simple thrill that brought memories of childhood flooding back?
“Just let go…..!”, she cried. I did! We ran into God’s pine boulevards and here the rain was much lesser, thanks to the thick cover and rich growth of the pines. I ran and laughed with an abandon that is hard to describe! Mud slush, mud slings and splashing in the hills, felt like a junglee myself!
It did stop raining, though we didn’t realize it till some time! The sun started peeking out… Ohh it looked so beautiful and the clear sky was unbelievable as it peeked at us from amidst the towering pines, guarding us like fierce sentries!
Reluctantly, Greta and I headed back to the jeep. We had been gone a whole 3 hours! The landslide had been fixed by the locals. But hey, what was this! Greta yanked her bag off – and mine too! “We will camp here for a few days!”, she ranted! And mesmerized that I was, I agreed.
It did take a lot of convincing with the jeep and cottage owners, but they sweetly relented and promised to send us food stock and other supplies! Ohh, now it was pure wilderness and just us! Greta had a tent good enough for the two of us, and I was surely going to make the most if it!
The next few days were everything that I read as a kid in the adventure tale books of Enid Blyton, when the Famous Five and other favourites went to camp! I have never been so close to nature and so away from the ‘world’ as we know it!
Bathing and washing by the little stream, lighting a fire, real fire cooking, trails that led to nowhere, and days that pass with the movement of the Sun, nights by the sky. Sleeping bag, a makeshift hammock (yes, I got my swing!) – idyllic times and a bond with hills! Wet times, sunny times, clear nights – each doled out in balance!
The sounds of nature that I didn’t know existed became my companions – those of birds, river, leaves, breeze, and raindrops- even a distant wild animal perhaps. We didn’t get any visitors from the animal kingdom – that is a sure regret!
I came back refreshed and totally charged up after the mind-blowing experience. Greta remains a close friend. I cannot wait for my next sojourn with the wilderness!