End of the VoF trip

Photo taken by Pankaj Batra, New Delhi India o...

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It was hell of a week and more. The trip to Phullon ki Ghati – Valley of Flowers. From the chaos of thirteen of us getting together at the airport, the massive traffic Jam at Haridwar, the river side stay at Rishikesh. The trip to Vishal Badri and the insightful road. To the trek up to VoF, the Trek in VoF. The stay at Ski resort in Auli and the holy Joshimath. Follow the links for the first four parts. The Himalayas had more to show and teach. This is the concluding part of the trip.

The trip to Joshimath was revealing. We came back late evening and as we settled for the night. Dawn came on slowly in the hills. As we went to play some games and looked out of the window, we saw the clouds clearing and in that oh just enough light saw the snow peaks in the distance. Next half an hour was moments for the long exposure photography and testing the night mode on the handycam. Naked eyes did not mind at all. Sun’s crimson in the west was all gone. East threatening with progressing grey. The sky had the menacing blue that looked cool in the pictures from Tripod bound SLRS. Snow peaks were calm, majestic. Mocking. How I wish moon were there. Soon enough it was too dark for the eye or the lenses and we marched back. Dinner. Sleep.

Start of another early morning drive.It is a hard 14+ hours to Dehradun so we set up 5:30 am in the morning. The group quite. Breakfast at a small village, consisting of parathas and bread. Quick visit to the reset rooms, dumps and we were on the track. The going was good, stomachs full and there were songs in the bus. We were punctuated by a puncture. Manoj rolled up his sleeves and the spare replace the damaged. Nice view of the river and the opposite mountain. We solved the problems of our company and as we were tackling the world issues the bus was ready to go.

Uneventful meandering path. The punctured tire got fixed. Lunch. More miles and tea break. As we came out of the tea, the sky looked heavy. Rolling dark clouds. We started out for the most heart stopping four hours. The rain was thick. The sky had none of the colours of yesterday. In fact none of us looked up. It was dark and the headlights were on. In the headlights of passing cars we saw how the soil was soaked by the downpour. Each turn was potential for a mud slide or a land slide. Shiny wet boulders were straining, fighting gravity. The ground below them slipping, eroding. While the group was singing, the prayers were silent ones. With the evening even the singing turned to Bhajans.

En-route we saw a Tata Sumo crushed. Under a large boulder twice its size. This had happened in the early hours that morning. Little ahead another truck, that had fallen day before. The BRO/BRTF earth movers were clearing the debris of last night’s mudslide at few places. The bus in front of us negotiated the curves and at places its right wheel was suspended in the air. Well so would ours. On the left was the mighty mountain being eaten up by falling water. The dead weight of soaked soil and stacked rocks, shining in the reflected glory of the headlights were real, their slide would be too. On the right was the drop that all too clearly showing how far below was the valley, how hard we would fall and with what consequences. We had a train to catch in few hours. I did not worry about missing it. Getting out of here with Wify dear, Dotty dear and the dear friends would be blessing enough.

Out there at the Joshimath, the mind played the paradoxes and the intellectual abstractions. Thought we could glimpse the universe. Today the paradoxes were felt, in a more heavy, down to earth way. There was the green life, new leaves. The river was forming from the water pouring from the skies, this would give life and food to millions in the plains and the hills. Yet each life was threatened. I felt very lonely in the dark bus. I was thinking, so much of it is in the plans, so much to do, so much to tell. So much to count for the innumerable blessings got. And yet felt the family and friends very close too.

But the thoughts here was also about how well the people cope hereabouts. We were just passing through. This was an experience in its last leg. For those who live here it is a reality to be faced every day. The ride and its perils explained the serene, practical demeanor of Monoj and others. If you stare at the real danger and mind thinks of proper priorities so often, your exterior has to reflect the inner thinking.

As the mile stones announced Hardiwar to be reached in few kilometers, there were hazy lights seen in the valley below. Even as the light got bigger and clearer the mountain on the side was ready to devour us. We cleared the stretch and raced to Dehradun. Late dinner at a Vaishnav Dhaba and we were on the train to Delhi. So ended the trip to the Mighty Himalaya. But the feeling and thoughts will remain. Feeling of the thin chilly air, feeling of awe at the Valley, feeling of serenity at the math, feeling alive after so long, feeling afraid, feeling relieved. We are going back and the mountains are waiting for the next visit. For others to discover their truth, to reflect and to know what is it to live.

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