It was drizzling outside and I had a hot cup of tea in my hand. To be precise it was liquor tea without sugar, something which I always prefer. I had just stepped into my friend’s house who is an avid trekker. In spite of his busy work schedule, he has somehow managed to do a couple of them in a year. On the contrary, I had never been on a full trek as such. I did just a couple of hours’ trek in Italy but nothing serious in my own country.
My friend has been poking me for a long now and he is now determined to send me to a short trek just to get the hang of it. He is sure that after my first trek I will surely be addicted as he knew my passion for travel and photography.
According to him the best way to start loving trekking would be to start with something doable something which will not be difficult for a first timer and something which would include ample scenery as well has varied terrains. He zeroed on Hampta Pass Trek.
I am sure many of you who have watched the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara have had the thought of going on a long road trip once in your lifetime. Fortunately for me, I have had that experience a long time back, to be precise 15 years back(2003) much before the movie popularized the concept of a road trip. Back then this was just another long drive and it is only now that I realize that it was actually a landmark in my traveling life.
It all started right after I finished my last examination in college where I was completing my Batchelor’s degree. There was a gap between the last examination which I still remember were Economics and the result date. I still hadn’t figured out what to do after graduation thus was completely relaxed.
Which state in India is known as the Venice of the East? This was not a direct question to our team and I eagerly waited for the question to pass it to my team. This was during our school inter-class quiz competition which we used to have every year. During school days I was an avid quizzer thus all these answers were almost at my fingertips.
For years I have known that Kerala is often referred to as the Venice of the east especially the town Alleppey (Alappuzha) which due to its waterways is often associated with the Italian town of Venice. It was really fortunate for me to have traveled to Kerala quite a few times and the experience was just amazing.
One fine day all of a sudden an opportunity jumped into my lap, a chance to travel to Italy and I knew which place that I had to visit. Traveling to Italy and not visiting Venice would be to visit India and skip a chance to see the Taj Mahal. The planning had to be perfect since Venice is in the eastern side of Italy and within a few number of days, I had to complete my tour of the country covering what all could be covered.
What on earth is this I exclaimed? It’s a two-in-one you see replied my father. But this is not an ice cream to which he smiled and replied that it’s a two in one music system having both a cassette player and a radio tuner. It was the 80’s and it was the era of disco and boom box. My father had just got home a new Akai two one and I was stuck to it like a magnet. I knew what a cassette player was and even knew how a radio functioned with the SW (Short Wave) and MW (Medium Wave) buttons but this one had an FM button and that was something new to me.
At night my father extended the antenna and switched on the radio while he was locating radio stations by turning the tuner dial I asked him about FM. Frequency Modulation he replied, it’s like radio but with stereo audio but you won’t be able to hear anything now as there are no functioning FM channels in India. Maybe if you travel abroad someday you will be able to hear FM. By the way, he asked do you know who invented the radio? I did not know the answer so he replied that it was J C Bose who had first identified radio signals but it was Marconi who the world credit it to as Bose could not spread the word of his discovery to the world.
I have traveled to many hill stations around India and there is a common saying that all the locals keep telling us that the village is better than “Switzerland” when it snows in the winter. I have heard this some many times that I have actually started ignoring this whenever I am traveling to hill stations. So when I was traveling in the Bloggers Bus along with six other bloggers from around the country on a trip organized by Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board in coordination with GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited) I was not expecting something different when I was told that this Harsil is the real “Switzerland of India”.
It was a never-ending bus journey we had traveled for more than five hours and were yet to reach our final destination. As I looked out the window of the bus all that I could see were large shadows of mountains against an equally dark moonless sky. Only some blinking stars were always following our bus as if to accompany us on our journey across Uttarakhand. The dark winding hill roads were only illuminated by the headlight of the bus and I could see a signboard with the words “Raithal – 0 Kilometers”. I looked at my watch and the time was 11.30 PM and by then the entire village had gone to bed as is the norms in the hills.