Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Trek

She woke up, picked up her watch from the left side of the pillow and saw the time, it was 7 o’ clock. She was to go for a trek with her parents today. They were in Dharamshala. She got up from her make-shift bed. It was a mattress on the floor with a sheet, blanket and a pillow. She saw her parents sitting on the bed, sipping tea and chatting. She stretched, smiled and said good morning. Two pairs of eyes turned towards her and smiled back in return.
Twenty minutes later, as per the reception clock that said 7:20, they were at the reception, leaving for the trek. The receptionist was a handsome young man who had a very smiling face. He was wearing a crisp white shirt with a black tie and a pair of black trousers. He was standing behind the brown reception desk and smiling as always. He wished them luck and called to the young guide who was to take them for the trek. The four of them left through the main door, out into the beautiful city. You could see the high peaks, covered in snow, in the distance, a sun glowing softly in the early morning sky, green grass on one side of the road and smiling people passing by.
The guide was wearing a blue coloured track suit with trekking shoes. She was wearing a track pant too, with a red tee and a white sweater. Her mother was wearing an orange kurta with white pants while her dad was clad in a grey track pant and a white tee. They were a young looking family.

It was a short trek so they did not carry any bag with water, food or anything that might be required on a trek. The guide was carrying a shoulder bag though. They walked on the road for a short while before cutting into the backyard of a house. Most of the houses were huge and beautifully constructed. They all had great exteriors. This particular house was a little bigger than the rest. It was off-white in colour with a big courtyard and a beautiful kitchen garden. The windows were brick in colour. They had to take a sharp right from the main road to cut into the kitchen garden of the house. There was a dog tied-up on the roof of the house that suddenly started barking. She turned to look at the dog and shivered slightly. They hurried past the garden and entered something that looked like another garden. The moment she stepped in and looked around her, she was spell-bound. It was a tea garden. She raised her right hand to her chest and held it there. It looked straight out of a fantasy land. Green tea leaves all around them. Her parents and the guide had walked a little ahead so she hastened her pace to catch up with them. The guide suggested they get a picture clicked against the gorgeous tea plantations, so the three of them stood against the tea bushes, she stood in between her parents and put her hand around her mother’s waist and her father put his hand around her shoulders. All three faces had happy smiles. When the guide clicked the picture, he held his thumb up to gesture to them that it was done and that it was a good picture. They all moved on. The guide was in front, a few steps behind him was her father and then were she and her mother. The sky was all shades of orange, pink, purple and blue when she had gotten up, now it was mostly light blue with scattered white clouds.

They cut through the tea plantantions and reached the other end of the garden from where they exited. They walked on the mountain roads for a good one and a half hour. They crossed small streams of muddy water that had planks of wood throw across them in order to let people cross them with ease, they crossed beautiful mini-forests with trees and bushes and wild flowers growing in abundance.
They felt exhausted and decided to stop at a tea stall that they saw on their way. They stopped there for a few minutes, had tea and biscuits. The guide suggested that they buy orange sweets because they give energy. She bought a small packet of orange candies and stuffed it in the right side pocket of her black tracks.

They set off again and suddenly found themselves facing a gorgeous, huge temple. The temple had a courtyard. They had to take their footwear off at one side of the courtyard next to the water cooler. After they removed their shoes, they washed their feet in the cool water from the water cooler. Dharamshala felt hot that day due to the trekking. They were all sweating slightly.
There were small rooms on three sides of the temple. The rooms had various idols of Gods and Goddesses and Gurus. They visited each room and stood outside with their heads bowed and hands joined together. After the last room, there was an opening in the stone wall and she could see a steep staircase. The guide informed them that there was a stream below and it was considered quite holy. So they all decided to go down. They left their footwear near the water cooler and one by one went down the steps.
It looked like the water had cut into a huge mountain because on either side of the stream there were giant walls of grey rock. The stream was littered with rocks as well as tiny pebbles and the water current was quite strong. The guide pointed towards the stream suggesting that they cross the stream and climb up on the rocks on the other side. Her parents sat down on the rocks and declined the offer to cross the stream with a shake of their heads. They looked a little tired and out of breath. She was standing on a rock with a hand on her waist, contemplating. She suddenly nodded and held the guide’s hand. She put one foot in the water and was almost taken away by the current but the guide held on. The pebbles under water were quite slippery and that is what made it a little more difficult to cross. She closed her eyes for a second, took a deep breath and with a smile on her face took the next step and then the next and finally crossed over to the other side like a proud victor!
They all sat there for about thirty minutes like that in peace and harmony with nature and its forces. She laid her head back on the rocks and closed her eyes with a contended smile.

They were sitting in a jeep and heading home and she raised her hand to see the time. Her watch showed 12 o’clock. It was noon and she was starving. At the thought of food her hand automatically went to her stomach and she strained her neck to see how far they were from their hotel.

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