Exploring the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya: Part 1- Cherrapunjee

Ah Meghalaya!

The land whose exotic rain-forests hide one of the most beautiful secret of India- the ancient Living Root Bridges.

These Living Root Bridges, as the name suggests, are bridge like structures made from the roots of Fiscus Elastica. Interacting with locals, we found out that each living root bridge take at least about 10-15 years to become sturdy enough to hold human weight, and most of the living root bridges in the Khasi-Jaintia  hills of Meghalaya are over 100 years old.

In this article, we’ll showcase a series of such bridges encountered by the author during his trek to a village called Nongriat near Cherrapunjee.

The trek starts about 3-4 kilometres from Nongriat, a village famous for its rare Double-Decker living root bridge.

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Enroute the Nongriat Trek- Such views are abundant. 

Infact, you can witness you first ever living root bridge about 30 minutes into the trek (2-3 kms before Nongriat). This one will be marked as ‘Single Decker living root bridge’ on the sign boards. (I am unable to recollect the name of the village where this bridge is present. Comment on this blog in case you happen to know the name. TIA!)
Ticket Cost for Single Decker Root Bridge: 10 INR.

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Need to climb this bamboo structure to access the root bridge

cramit_img_20160515_081946-0120170121_195645About to catch the first sight in 3…2…1…

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SlowRover Snapshots #22

Bamboo Skywalk (Meghalaya)

Title: The Bamboo Skywalk
Location: Nohwet Village, Meghalaya, North East India

You’ll rarely find its mention in any Meghalaya itinerary found online or in travel guides. Neither will the locals persuade you to give this hidden gem a visit.

But find it, you must!

This Bamboo Skywalk is located  in beautiful Meghalayan village called Nohwet, at a distance of about 80 kilometres from Meghalaya’s capital city-Shillong. Sadly, this village is often skipped by tourists who prefer the proximate (and more famous) village of Mawlynnong (Too mainstream, I tell you!).

Each year, two brothers build a bamboo skywalk/view point, more than five stories above the ground, with their bare hands.  For a nominal fee of 20 INR you can, from atop this skywalk, witness the true consequences of the world’s most profound monsoon (this is the wettest region in the world!)- a 180 degree view of numerous waterfalls, more than you can bother to count,  and the mirror-like the flooded plains of Bangladesh.

Want to see more of Meghalaya? Click here and here to access more images from this beautiful state.

SR Travel Tip: If you ever get a change to visit the godly Indian state of Meghalaya, keep a day exclusively for Nongriat Village– home to the double decker living root bridge of Meghalaya! Click on the hyperlinks to access more amazing content from us.


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Experiencing India: Sounds and Sights from an Indian Train Journey

It’s surprising how train journeys closely mimic the cycle of life. We meet people, make friends, only to let them go and find new ones- thereby knitting an endless chain of emotions- only to be felt but never to be broken. But again, what is life, but a collection of such journeys.

The following passage is an ‘as-it-happened’ description of a journey with the Indian Railways (the 12.30 Passenger train from Madurai to Rameshwaram, both of which lie in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu). Try not to find for a story in here, rather, seek to experience the billion personalities that make India Incredible. Here it goes.

Chug, Chug, Chug! The 12:30 passenger train from Madurai has just started to sing its rhythmic song, a melody it will sing for the next few hours till it reaches a mystical island called Rameshwaram. It is an overcast day of November 2015, the rain clouds looming over the horizon as I attempt to traverse, and hopefully document, the lush green landscape of Tamil Nadu, India.

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Tamil Nadu country side with the looming rain clouds

I yearn for the rain, as I am aware of the power of the raindrops to elate even the most dolorous environs.

As I try to get comfortable in my cozy window side seat, I am greeted by a distinct sound. ‘Wooooooo…’– a loud cheer, emanating from the far corner of my train bogie, surprises all the five occupants of the compartment I am in. The train had just passed over a small river causing a group of seven children, sitting at a corner of the bogie along with their parents, to let out a loud “Woooooo..” sound in a seemingly pre-planned unison. From that moment onward, the children failed to hide their excitement towards any river, tunnel, or even an old bridge that our passenger train crossed.
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SlowRover Snapshots #21

Tibetan Monks of Nepal

Title: The  Monks
Location: Swayambhunath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

You need to traverse a total of 365 stairs to reach the Monkey Temple of Kathmandu- ‘The Swayambhunath’. The climb is  steep, often disclosing an impossible to climb gradient of ascent. But once you reach the top, it is a sight to behold. The entire city of Kathmandu is in front of you, showcasing its sea-like expanse against the background of the mighty Himalayas.

Despite being a Hindu temple, the temple complex is usually maintained and frequented by Buddhist monks who perform their traditional rituals daily. The ceremonies are not only elaborately orchestrated, but also colorful.

-Vibhav


SR Travel Tip: Another must visit place in Nepal is the town of Pokhara. Located beside the beautiful Phewa lake, Pokhara boasts of magnificent landscapes and exotic eateries.


Want to see/know more about Nepal? Click here
PS- Click on the hyperlinks to discover exciting secret content! Let us know which one you liked best! Happy browsing! 
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SlowRover Snapshots #20

Ross IslandTitle: Old and New
Location: Ross Island, Andaman, India

Beauty, it is said, lies in the eyes of the beholder. All things are beautiful, however, it is us who should be able to see the magic within.

Ross Island is a perfect example of this apparent subjectivity. An island, which was once the seat of the mighty British Empire, now lies in ruin. But they say the ruins have an ability to speak to your soul; to fondle the emptiness within.

And Ross Island does just that. The island, deserted decades ago, is now full of dilapidated structures reminiscent of the glorious past.

However, if you look close enough, you’ll manage to find beauty in this negative place.

-Vibhav Bisht

Want to see/know more about Ross Island? Click here!


SR Travel Tip: Andaman is a treasure trove of travel escapades. We highly recommend an sunset dip in the most beautiful beaches of all – The Radha Nagar Beach of Havelock Island.


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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #19

Dal_Lake (1)

Title: Colours of the Dal Lake
Location: Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Cozily perched in the lap of one of the most beautiful valleys of nature, the Dal Lake possesses the wizardry to enchant even the most reluctant tourists.

The ‘Shikaras‘, or the small boats, that ply across this calm body of water are considered the highlight of this region. A sight of a distant, yet visibly colourful, shikara with its reflection etching the mirror-like surface of the Dal lake, and the hues of setting sun being reflected in the background. It seems that the term ‘Heavenly‘ was coined exclusively for such experiences.

 

-Vibhav

SR Travel Tip: If you get a chance to visit the Kashmir region of India, make sure you try the renowned ‘Wazwan‘ multi-course meal of Kashmir. Being a foodie myself, I can vouch for ‘Wazwan’ being one of the best food experience in India.

 

Want to know more about Kashmir, India?
Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.

Also, if you liked this post, you’d love this page as well. Click to check it out!


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2015 Travel Logbook – ft. Fantastic Indian Foods And Where To Find Them

Given our love for food, this post was long coming. It is a proof of how nice things happen to you when you travel.  2015 was a year of joyful travels for the Slowrover team. Individually, we travelled to distant parts of this beautiful country, getting unbelievably lucky when it came to food, This post celebrates our love for Indian Food, and we share with you, the best treats we had in 2015 (and where to find them). Here it goes

Disclaimer : You will feel very hungry. And you will need to travel.

Omelette Indulgence at Lovely Omelette Centre, Mussorie
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Cheese Omelette at Lovely’s

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Foodgasm in the making

Lovely Omelette Centre is considered to be one of the best omelette experiences in India. Extensively covered by all the leading travel/food journals of India (Lonely Planet, Outlook Traveller, Trip Advisor, Highway on my Plate), this Omelette paradise is adored by all. It offers a limited variety of omelettes (Oil/Butter/Cheese being the prominent ones).

Location: At the Picture Palace end of the Mussorie Mall (Uttarakhand), near the Church.

 

The Joy of Looking At Fresh Banana Chips Being Prepared 

Travelling through Kerala meant being exposed to both banana chips and coconut water in plenty. And they don’t love their banana chips for nothing. Check out a fresh batch being prepared in Thekkady :

Location : Malabar Chips, Thekkady. There is lots on offer here – sweet, salty, tangy banana chips and several kinds of other specialities like tapioca chips.

 

‘Tikki-Chaat’ of Vrindavan
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Tikki Chaat, anyone?

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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #18

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Title: Her First Smile
Location: A village near Munsiyari, India

Her name is Keenu. She, alongwith some other naughty kids of her village, had come to visit us, while we were camping a few hundred meters away from their remote Uttrakhandi Village near Munsiyari.

While the other kids were busy running around our tents, little Keenu had her eyes fixated on my cell phone. It suddenly dawned upon me that it was probably the first time that she had come across this miracle consumer product. Not only was she delighted by the bubble like icons on my phone screen, she giggled each time the phone made sounds.

Perhaps her major delight was reserved for the last. For when I finally started my phone camera on ‘selfie mode’, she gave an expression that was part happiness and part disbelief. After all, this was the first time she was watching her own face on a phone screen! I’m glad I pressed the click button right then.

Not all selfies are bad, ay?

 

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit Munsiyari in Uttarakhand, India, do not forget to visit the ‘Master Ji’s’ Museum. An overnight trek to the Khaliya Top is also highly recommended.

 

Vibhav

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Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


 

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My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 1) – An Early Appointment With The Sun and Suicide Points

“And that is the suicide point”, our driver said and allowed the jeep to splutter to a halt so that we could scramble out. A tall rock, smooth and majestic, which reminded me of the hacked torso of an unfortunate lone messenger who dared to carry a peace treaty to the enemy barracks, was the addressee of the name. There’s this thing about India, every hill station has a ‘suicide point’ and an ‘echo point’. We stood at one of those, somewhere in Munnar, a town in Kerala, on our way to Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, which are the world’s highest tea plantations producing flavorful Orthodox Tea.

Board guiding visitors to various points of interest in the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate

Board guiding visitors to various points of interest in the Kolukkumali Tea Estate

I found myself uttering the meaningless question to our driver – “Do many people come here to die?” I think I sounded stupid, but he exclaimed “No! No! No one has ever committed suicide here”. So it was baptized ‘suicide point’ for no apparent reason just like all its other namesakes in India.

While we clicked pictures, the minimal amount of knowledge that I have in Physics told me my voice would echo better here than it had at the Echo Point where we stood to watch a new day dawn some minutes ago. In spite of the severe insistence of our driver that our voice will reverberate and probably wake up all the village folk in the valley down below, even our loudest shouts feebly regurgitated for a second or so before dying out in the endless chatter of birds. The only thing which had echoed at the Echo Point was the image of the Sun, rising from behind the mountains, like a shy child rising from the crib. It must be painful for the Sun, waking up before the rest, assured of your return to the same bed. Was constancy a curse?

And the Sun had finally risen like a shy child rising from the crib, scattering its glorious warmth

And the Sun had finally risen, scattering its glorious warmth

But we had beaten the child today. We had risen before the Sun, set out in what seemed like the hour of death on a wobbly road, in the throes of the cold wind which wanted to embrace us like a jilted lover while the whole town snored in deep sleep down below, to witness one of the most beautiful early morning spectacles we have ever witnessed.

The Sun took its time, rising lazily from behind the clouds. And as it made an appearance, clouds were scattered like a mob before the cops

The Sun took its time, rising lazily from behind the clouds. And as it made an appearance, clouds were scattered like a mob before the cops

And after paying a visit to the punctual host we were brought here, to the suicide point. Maybe they called it suicide point just to preach caution to the travelers? A misplaced step around there would lead to a steep fall. I think I’d rather die somewhere like that. I mean if it has to be my last experience, I’d want it to be beautiful. And settings like these are definitely numbered

A view worth dying for! - Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

A view worth dying for! – Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

There’s more coming from me about Kolukkumalai and Kerala soon. Stay tuned! 🙂

Update – Read here for Part 2 – My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 2) – The Tea Factory, The Workers And Some Conversations

-Swetambara

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Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer
Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook.

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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #17

Coffee Seller

Title: The Kaapi Innovator
Location: Manamadurai Junction, Tamil Nadu, India

 

The compartment was abuzz with a distinct sound. Our train had  stopped at Manamadurai Junction, a small station that falls on the route from Madurai to Rameshwaram.

Throngs of coffee sellers bombarded our peaceful journey with an incessant sound of business.

“Kaapi, Kaapi, Kaapi” they cried in unison, trying to sell the world’s favourite drink in a local accent (Kaapi is a phonetically corrupt term for ‘coffee’). One of the sellers parked his minimalist coffee store by my window. He had managed to customize a rod of iron to be used as a makeshift coffee stand (See Picture).

Need is indeed, the mother of all inventions.

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit Tamil Nadu, we recommend you to visit Dhanushkodi, a ruined city that was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964. The eerie walls of the ruins, accompanied by the incessant sound of ocean waves lashing against the nearby shore – Can’t be missed .    

Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #16

Kolkata, Fisherman,

Old Man and his Fish

Title: Old Man and his Fish
Location: Gangasagar, West Bengal

Each day millions of Indians use boats to traverse mighty water bodies of the Great Indian Plains. On one such boat ride, I noticed this peculiar man. He had his hands inside two containers while vigourously shaking the what was inside. After witnessing this strange, incessant act for more than 15 minutes, I went ahead and inquired about the reasons for his actions.

He replied “I am transporting freshly caught fish in these vessels. If I don’t  keep stirring the water inside, the fish will suffocate and die withing minutes. I must do whatever it takes to keep them alive and fresh!”

“And what will you do with the fish when you get down from this boat?” I inquired further.

“Kill them.” came the reply.

I gave him a gentle smiled and walked to the other side of the boat.

Little ironies that fill our lives.

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit West Bengal, We strongly advise you to visit the Sunderbans. It is the world’s largest delta and a home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #15

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Behroopiya at Vrindavan

Title: Behroopiya
Location: Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

He claims to be Kishan from a small UP village- I doubt if either of that is true. For he is a Behroopiya; ‘an Impersonator’. A man with no identity, yet identifying himself with everyone around him. He chooses to live a part of their lives- people he meets on the streets, people he watches in the movies, everyday. Some days, he’s a vagabond sadhu, seeking alms from the passerbys while giving them fake blessings. Today, he chose to be an army man wearing a Behroopiya name tag. Wonder how many lives he’ll save today on the streets of Vrindavan.

SR Travel Tip: The birth place of Hindu God Krishna, Vrindavan is not only one of the holiest cities in India but also a veritable pastiche of different cultures which is best reflcted in food. SlowRover recommends a stay and a meal at MVT Restaurant and Guest House while you’re here. 

-Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #14

The narrow passage through the green cover looks like an entrance to Anaconda's lair

The narrow passage through the green cover, with knobbly branches stretching out their arms, definitely looks like an entrance to Anaconda’s lair

Title: Anaconda’s lair in Kerala
Location: Poovar, Kerala

I hope you won’t judge me for admitting that I haven’t seen any of the movies of the Anaconda franchise. Sure I have seen a scene or two while surfing channels but my attention has always been stolen by Colin Firth playing Darcy or Ellen’s wisecracks. So, I was surprised when during a backwaters tour in Kerala, my guide told me that the third part in the series was partially shot there. But I wasn’t amazed. In fact the dense, ghoulish green cover made it an apt setting. The presence of solitary, abandoned vessels further strengthened my beliefs.

An abandoned boat - a sign of imminent danger?

An abandoned boat – a sign of imminent danger?

I do know now that Anaconda was shot in Romania (thanks to Google and lots of scandalised friends). But I think the location would be just too apt. Take the hint Hollywood!

SR Travel Tip: Try to visit Kerala between the months of May-August. The humid climate keeps most tourists away (not all, of course). I stayed at the Over the Hill Resort and would definitely recommend it for its services and tasteful architecture.

-Swetambara

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SlowRover Snapshots #13

CharlesBridge (1)

Title: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Location: Prague, Czech Republic

I was celebrating Halloween in Prague. As I walked on the Charles Bridge, I stopped at one of the most popular of the 30-odd baroque sculptures adorning the bridge – John of Nepomuk. He was the vicar who was unceremoniously tossed into the Vltva river sometime in the 14th century. Instructions for the King, describes how a jealous King Venceslaus had tried to find out the name of his Queen’s alleged lover from the vicar who refused to betray the seal of confession and invited the King’s wrath.

He became a martyr and was the Queen’s bridge over troubled water.

SR Travel Tip: Take a long walk on the Charles Bridge and it will be difficult to not be overpowered by the delicious scent of fresh trdelník in the air. Krusta is one good place to try the traditional Czech pastry.

-Swetambara

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Valley of Flowers, Travellers and Pilgrims

I feel quite smug when I look at people performing rituals to appease Gods. I have never been compelled to fast and hope for redemption. No, that definitely does not mean that I haven’t tried to appeal to the better Nature of Gods on the morning of many an exam to ensure I score more than I deserve. But I think, that if there is a person called God, that person wouldn’t be so corrupt as to dole out marks, money and marital bliss in return for renunciation or offerings. Honestly why would a God care how many fasts you have kept and why would that God choose to praise you by rewarding you with your heart’s desire. It’s all too simple isn’t it?

In short I believe I might uncomfortably occupy that space called religious agnosticism.

This makes me quite capable of stepping into a place of worship to enjoy moments of calm, while observing the architecture, the paintings and murals.

The beautiful Badrinath temple in Uttarakhand (India)

The beautiful Badrinath temple in Uttarakhand (India)

But I have never quite believed in the rituals that people engage in. For me they are mere formalities to facilitate my visit.  Take the practice of taking off one’s shoes before entering a religious sanctum for instance. During my formative years, I was exposed to my mom’s friend who was finicky and expected everyone to take off their shoes before entering her living room. I started thinking of temples as similar places owned by finicky Gods. Like I listened to the aunt hoping to get chocolates, I followed rituals to visit temples in order to be able to observe.

You may enter - after you take off your shoes

You may enter – after you take off your shoes

My understanding of such demonstrations of faith such as walking barefoot to a pilgrimage, is limited to say the least. I can’t help but engage in a fierce debate when such instances meet my eye. A similar opportunity presented itself to me during my sojourn in the Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand (India).

Valley of Flowers – if you haven’t taken a look at the hyperlink, I’ll state the obvious, it is a valley of, guess what? Flowers!

But these aren’t just any flowers. At least not the ones you can order online for your mom’s birthday. They are flowers which are a part of the sacred Himalayan alpine vegetation.

A beauty seldom found beyond the valley of flowers

A beauty seldom found beyond the valley of flowers

Unique, bashful, temperamental, the flowers live and breathe in the valley, watched closely by the guardian mountains of the Himalayas with their burly bodies and beards of soft white. Streams which simmer with shy gaiety keep them company with their gurgling and shimmering warmth. And pretty butterflies and naughty wasps are aplenty.

Flowers being looked after by the Himalayas

Flowers being looked after by the Himalayas

No wonder it features prominently on many a traveler’s ‘bucket list‘ and finds mention in some of the greatest works of literature. Such is the enchanting beauty of the valley that Frank Smythe, the British mountaineer froze in his tracks when he accidentally chanced upon the valley and his encounter resulted in a book – The Valley of Flowers. Oh and of course, it is also listed in the UNESCO World Network of Biospheres.

Counting stars would probably be easier than counting the flowers on this plant

Counting stars would probably be easier than counting the flowers on this plant

Well, I for one don’t really have a bucket list. A place catches my fancy and I start planning a trip (sometimes when it doesn’t work out, I add the name to a secret ballot from which one day when I run out of places, I shall draw a name at random and scurry off to sip tea there).  So, with great eagerness, I set out to explore what promised to be an unforgettable rendezvous in the Himalayas where there are several species of flowers, names unheard of, some dangerous, fatal even, nevertheless beautiful.

You can find several winged companions buzzing with excitement

You can find several winged companions buzzing with excitement

Now when I head to the mountains, I do it for the vantage point above the world that the peaks offer. I do it for the emeralds swaying on the boughs of trees, the majestic robes of cloud which flutter in the wind and the Sun which blushes a deeper red while setting in the hills than in the plains. Distance from the chaotic network of roads in the cities which make life run like clockwork, from the hands of soot outstretched to hold and wring my wind pipes, from an armor of people who protect me so well that I’m at no risk of discovering myself ever. The kilometers which span between the city and the hills, bring this distance for me.

A flower which would give Black Beauty a run for her money

A flower which would give Black Beauty a run for her money

As I began the ascent to Ghangharia, the village which offers lodgings for the travelers aspiring to visit the valley, I was hoping for all of this and more. However, what greeted me was not a pristine picture but a picture which had been knocked clean off the wall and the inhabitants of the frame were swaying in the wind. An iron bridge and wide concrete roads on which vehicles were plying with great urgency, more hawkers selling more goodies in shimmery plastic packets than the New Delhi Railway Station and more people around me than I was likely to meet at a party in my city.

People clicking pictures around concrete structures on their way to the valley

People clicking pictures around concrete structures on their way to the valley

What was the reason? Apart from being a major attraction for nature lovers and Himalaya enthusiasts who throng the village to see the marvels of the Valley of Flowers, Ghangaria is also swarming with pilgrims who come to visit the shrine of Hemkund Sahib. Many of them walked beside me during the ascent, holding a polite conversation before quickly overtaking me. Some of them preferred to walk barefoot and that’s perfectly not unusual for pilgrims in India.

Sikh pilgrims I met en route Ghangharia

Sikh pilgrims I met en route Ghangharia

Now I am a perfectly jovial person as anyone who would have met me knows. However, I have a daily quota of joviality which is directly proportional to the number of people I meet. Hence, I was becoming increasingly irritable, aloof and the backpack started to feel much heavier than it was– when finally the respite came as I turned another dreary corner. It was as if I had crossed an invisible barrier dividing two countries. The air was a playful child which greeted newcomers with an enthusiasm which could knock down unprepared souls. The assault on my senses became pleasurable all of a sudden as the surroundings became beautiful. And amidst the new-found liberty of the mountains, I set the pace for the rest of the journey.

This twisted tree is the last post before the village Ghangharia

This twisted tree is the last post before the village Ghangharia

The path meandering through the mountains abruptly came to an end, vanishing within a huge intersection of a small village which by no means looked empty or quiet. I found myself moaning again. Would I never be rid of people on this trek? I had reached my destination for the day, tired and spent, but excited because of the promising aspects of the next day. I waited for the morning like I had waited for the morning I was to be awarded a Student of the Year (or something along the same lines) award in 6th standard.  Unlike that day, I did not have a nest of butterflies in my stomach who threatened to fly out through my windpipe. I had a cheery breakfast and made more acquaintances before setting out.

We cut across the village diagonally at a brisk pace to get to an official barrier. All the jagged, chaotic beauty I had been yearning for remained elusive. There still spread some beautiful, soil and moss-covered rocks between the valley and me. Had I not been so preoccupied with getting there, I would have probably paid them the attention they deserved.

Entering the valley is like going through The Looking Glass

Entering the valley is like going through The Looking Glass

I feel obliged to give a slight warning to future explorers. Don’t bother going there if it is order that you seek. I for one, usually tire of order and the chaos which it sows in my city life, the burdens of which are noticeable within a week of turning my back to the mountains. I love the mystique and the exotic chaos of the mountains which calms my mind and gives it the depth I seek. And this valley, an abode of the beautiful chaos whose song is sung by the countless species which come into existence in the delicate habitat, is perhaps the best chaos I have witnessed.

Mr. Leaf here looks really good with the yellow hair, doesn't he?

Mr. Leaf here looks really good with the yellow hair, doesn’t he?

As I rested by the river bank, soaking in the glory of Nature which surrounded me, my mind wandered. I thought about sundry things. From the botanist who had lost her life to this valley and its mysteries to the Lord Indra who sought his pleasures here. And then I thought about myself. The valley meant so much to me while I probably meant nothing to it. Just another of those thousands who flock to see the wonders it holds in its arms.

A flower shining like a beacon among the greens of the valley

A flower shining like a beacon among the greens of the valley

Then something interrupted me. Not something actually, someone refilling their bottle at the stream while making what seemed to me as much noise as possible. Another possible acquaintance, another interruption, who I observed chose to walk barefoot. Another pilgrim! But why walk barefoot to the valley? Not really, a splash in the stream led to wet shoes which were now drying on the bank. But my presumptuous query about the shoes managed to start a debate. Lots of words cropped up – renunciation, salvation, and beliefs – yes, all the stock phrases basically.

Then the conversation started taking an interesting turn. My acquaintance wanted to know why would I climb mountains, why would I walk when I could ride, why would I eat sparse meals in the villages when I could afford lavish dinners in the cities? Choice – was my simple answer. And then that victorious smile spread upon my new friend’s face and something dawned upon me.

The message reads

The message reads “enjoy the view of the mountains from here” – Nandadevi National Park, Joshimath

My friend got up to leave. So it was as simple as that. Being baptized in a certain religion at your birth makes you a devotee. Many a times the lifestyle choices prescribed do not appeal to your soul, your being. So people like me start thinking of religion as a factory, working through the machinery of rituals trying to manufacture identical individuals in the society. But does that mean we don’t need that kind of influence? One might choose to live by a different set of rules, or by no rules. Even negating makes you a believer. That becomes your own personal religion, albeit with fewer followers than other religions. Like the flowers of this plant, alike yet different :

Cluster of flowers spotted at the valley of flowers

Many musings later, I found myself getting up to join the rest of the group to head back. I was reluctant. I did not want to leave, not yet. But I had to. This view would have to do for now.

I was, after all, a pilgrim!

-Swetambara Chaudhary


Tripoto
The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer
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© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara Chaudhary.