It was Friday evening when my friend asked me whether I was interested to go on a trek to Manali, during the short span of holidays. Adrenaline rush is something irresistible. I agreed to go on a Hampta Pass Trek of 14,100ft altitude in the Himalayas which seemed like a piece of cake at that time. In an engineer’s life, real adventure is as easy as finding a pearl in every oyster. As the day of departure got closer, little bit of anxiety crept in. A train journey is a must at least once while travelling in India. You will find so many interesting strangers to interact with. Oh yeah!Some creepy as well but mostly hearty Indians who would love to chat with you or maybe play a game of cards while you reach your destination. India is full of friendly people you see?

I looked outside the window and saw the architecture change from the usual to beautiful domes and arches, that is when I knew we have reached North India. I hadn’t  travelled that far from home until that day. It was a whole new experience.

We visited a few places in Delhi as we reached because we had some time to kill till our bus ride.The moment you step in the country’s capital, your chest is filled with pride and respect, its in the air. I loved New Delhi, I would surely love to go there and explore it more someday.

The bus to Manali had finally arrived. Everyone settled in their seats and the twelve-odd hour bus journey began. I recall myself looking outside the bus window with anxious eyes.I did not know what to expect. That’s where I learnt that sometimes its better not to expect and just go with the flow. Life has its unique way of teaching you so let it do its job. Manali is a stunning place. No wonder it attracts so many tourists every year. The climate is so pleasant. The first thing you notice as you reach Manali is the mystical rivers. Mystical because you stare at the water trying to figure out the direction in which the river is flowing, you gladly fail, mesmerised by mother nature. We set out to explore Manali in the evening. Hidimba Devi Temple was our first stop. Its a beautiful historic temple, the forest that surrounds it is captivating. The magnificent forest areas of Manali instantly reminded me of the dark forbidden forest, being a potterhead. I kind of wished I had a wand, cloak, hoped to see some silvery unicorn blood on the ground as well.

The dogs there are cuter than the ones I see daily on the roads back home(no offence to dogs). We got company on the roads while roaming of these cute furry strangers, who then felt like one of our own. Funny creatures dogs are, no matter who you are to the world, you are always special to them. They never care about what you speak or how you look, they care only about how you make them feel.

The day of the trek dawned bright and sunny. We met friendly people in the trekking group and began this venture at last. On the first day we walked from Jobra to Chika. I was stunned by the beautiful scenery that surrounded us; the lush green meadows  along with the small streams on our way, it all felt like being in a fairy tale.

Adrenaline rushed into my veins and I couldn’t help but walk like Bilbo Baggins through those meadows, as swift as I could be. Any Lord of the Rings fan like me should definitely go on a trek to the Himalayas, sounds foolish, but trust me its as beautiful as the middle-earth. We were very tired as we reached the campsite. The spectacular views that you get to see make you forget the pain in your bones, like  medication does.We wrapped up our sleeping bags and set out the next day, trekked from Chika to Balu ka Ghera, another exciting journey with the river alongside.We were blessed that there was no rain, since the weather there is quite annoying at times, as in one moment you feel like you are taking the ice bucket challenge and in the next, you have to walk in the scorching heat with warmers on. We did river crossing for the first time that day. The force of the water was scary. I’m glad that I had hands to hold onto, because considering my size I would be gone into the valley in seconds.

We reached the campsite a little more tired than the day before, a little more happy than the day before and a little more excited for what is going to happen next. The third day of the trek was the longest we trekked towards our goal, Hampta Pass. It was the most memorable part of the trek for one obvious reason, that it was the day we reached Hampta but also because it was the day when I got to know myself a little more. There were moments when I felt so tired that I wouldn’t even notice if my feet detached themselves to take rest for a while. Mountains are climbed less on feet and more on will power is what I concluded. “Yes, you can do it!” I kept telling myself. I have a fear of heights so I tried my best not to look straight into the valleys on the way. It was more of a mental game for me. We walked through many glaciers. A five minutes distance in our normal life seems like half an hour of walk up there. The burden of my fear added to that of my backpack, trying hard to bring me down. Breathlessness had become common, the only option was to keep going. I finally reached Hampta and said to myself “Hey, you made it! Hampta Pass is conquered!”. I sat there in silence for a while to let the reality of the situation sink in a little. I felt proud of myself  for being there finally. My heart was full of gratitude, not towards anyone but I just felt lucky that I got to see such spectacular views and become stronger on the inside.

We climbed down, it was a very steep slope, again I had to fight my fear. On the way to the campsite I was extremely exhausted, hungry, slightly homesick too. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling exactly, anymore. All I knew was to keep walking. The path towards the campsite seemed to be a never ending one. Maggi is a blessing, a safe haven for a famished person and the cold hands of nature make the hot noodles taste even better. We were so tired and in immense physical pain, there were chilly winds flowing through the valley to add to that, anyone could barely speak.

We crossed another river the following morning, our feet got numb the moment we entered the icy water. As our feet got back to senses which seemed like never but they did gradually, we started walking towards our last campsite.

We had our little campfire on the last night. Singing songs and dancing around it was so much fun.After relentless efforts we could ignite the sticks. As the spark turned into a flame, our eyes gleamed with happiness. All hands immediately started gathering around the fire. All the lethargy after a long tiring trek kind of vanished into the chilly breeze.The cold that seemed to mock us with its icy hands now stood far away in silence as we praised the fire’s warmth. That’s the thing about fire, isn’t it? You can’t stop admiring it once it starts rising. Those flames resemble the fire within you, keep it burning and never let it turn into ashes.

Every morsel of the tasteless, smelly food that I had made me miss mom’s food even more. Travel brings you closer to home than you ever were before. The journey back home began. “You only hate the road when you are missing home”(Let Her Go, Passenger) was the earworm I caught.

Away from the city life, the silence has its unique way of speaking. A sense of realisation hits you when you breathe in that fresh, pure air of the Himalayas. The task is to keep walking, no matter the destination, the journey stays in your mind more vividly, always. The air makes you philosophical and urges you to introspect, reflect on your actions and know where you are heading. No wonder all great saints went to the Himalayas. Not just saints, but each one of us should trek to the Himalayas at least once our lifetimes. The true essence of life is much deeper, it is difficult to understand, but the effort makes it all eternal.

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