Friday, August 27, 2010

Heidi Adventures

They say there is no better feeling in the world than waking up in the arms of the man you love. I beg to differ. There is a feeling which overwhelms this one. It is of waking up in the arms of the man you love while being snuggled in the enchanting embrace of mist sprinkled with the golden dust of dawn. The pure delight which sparks every nerve ending is indescribable.

I owe this experience to the Misty Mountains peeping from one of the mysterious peaks of Kumaon. The journey to this destination was as impressive an adventure as the destination itself.

True to our nature, Vivek and I made a last minute decision to visit the Misty Mountains. For Vivek it held the double thrill of re-acquainting himself with a long-lost friend from his MICA days. For me, it was the simple joy of escaping the city-choked life. Once we had made up our minds there was no turning back. Maddy (Madhur Chabbra, owner of The Misty Mountains) tried repeatedly to warn us of the many dangers which could turn into very real possibilities. But the hint of danger, just thrilled us more to idea of an adventure in the hills. Vivek being the practical one, did try to reason with me on more than one occasions.

“Let’s go!” I insisted. “If we get stuck in a landslide, we’ll sleep in the car. We’ll pee in the open and giggle as the grass blades tickle our asses. We’ll live like the wild in the wild! We’ll pick wild berries to eat! Imagine,” I gushed, “ What a tale it will be to tell our grandchildren!”

“If we live to tell the tale,” Vivek muttered as he slipped the car into gear and turned onto the breath-taking mountain roads.

We set off from Delhi with plans to halt in Bhimtal. The first damper in our plans were the endless processions of the Kawarias. Thanks to them, there were road blocks everywhere. At one point we were stuck in a sickly traffic jam because one truck driver had the ego the size of a boulder and wouldn’t budge till he was ordered to do so by a policeman! Trust Vivek to chase the policeman down and set him about his duty. But thanks to all the diversions, though we had left Delhi by 5 pm at 3 am we were still stuck at Rudrapur. A long long way from Bhimtal. A work day coupled with crazy traffic and Vivek wanted to call it a day. We checked into Hotel Sohrab bang on the highway and dropped dead the minute our heads touched the pillow.

Hotel Sohrab was a disaster. Besides the bed, nothing about the hotel was even remotely comfortable. Without waiting to even brush our teeth, we loaded the car back and set off towards Kathgodam. We connected once again with Maddy, who once again warned us of the torrential rains and asked to enjoy Bhimtal instead. This strengthened my resolution. We hadnt faced a night off with the Kawarias to head back from Bhimtal, had we?

After a scrumptious udupi breakfast (yes, you got that right! Delicious south indian fanfare at the foothills of Kumaon) at the Udupiwala, we headed towards Almora. Our directions were clear we had to to take a right turn towards Badechina 2kms before Almora. What a right turn that turned out to be! For long miles ours was the only car, slicing through dense fluffly clouds. Deep valleys spread out on the right hand side, while steep rocks arched over our head on the left. Visibility was down to a couple of feet and it wasn’t even raining!

Earlier landslides had left a lot of rubble in their wake, and it tested Vivek’s every skill as he manouvered Hobbes (our i10) around the jutting stones. We drove through streams and rivulets and giggled with abandon as the water splashed all around us. We were finally driving in a dream. Somewhere after Badechina as we were heading along towards Seraghat, we did encounter a fresh landslide. To our luck, we were just in time as a huge JCB crane arrived and started spooning the debris of the road. What a spectacle! It was then that the magnanimity of the journey we had undertaken really hit us.

Excited beyond words, we carried on undeterred. In the expanse between Badechina , Dhaulchina and Seraghat we had no network. A worried Maddy had tried unsuccessfully to reach us at least ten times, to no avail. Zoozoo, Vivek and I carried on blissfully unaware of Maddy’s near panic. Our adventure had just begun.

We arrived at Rai Agar via Seraghat a little before sunset. So far we had been following directions laid out for us by an article in ET and by a very discouraging Maddy. According to those directions we were now to take the road to Ram Mandir which promised to be 6kms of a steep climb.
“Yeh gaadi waha tak nahi ja sakti,” the localites shook their head at us and the car. Poor Hobbes would not be able to bear the steep climb through the slush and rain storms. Time to call Maddy. Fortunately Rai Agar offered us a weak but sustainable network connectivity.

Maddy would not believe we had made it to Rai Agar unscathed. He promised to have us picked up within twenty five minutes. While we waited for Maddy’s pick-up to arrive, we had Maggi cooked in authentic Rai Agar style and watched the sun being smothered by the clouds even as it tried to make a quick escape.

It was dark when we finally reached Misty Mountains in the Pick-Up. I could hardly see anything around me. But I could sniff the clouds. Both zoozoo and I lifted our noses to the fresh air and sniffed away to our heart’s content. Water gushed in streams somewhere in the background and their cheerful gurgle told me that coming here was the best thing I had done.
Little did I know of the wonders I would wake up to the next morning. be continued