It was my first morning at Sarhaan- a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India. I woke up at 5:30 am and went for morning walk. I walked down the narrow road that connected Sarhaan to rest of the world.
The chill in the air could be felt. I cherished the landscape with mountain ranges bordering the small village- Sarhaan. Every few moments, I glanced at the mountains that were green and full of trees. The idea to trek the mountains did not occur to me before I returned to hotel where I stayed. At the reception of the hotel I was informed services of guide were available.
I decided to set for first trek of my life but only by afternoon. Given the distance to reach the summit of the peak, afternoon was too late to start. I did not budge to the resistance of the guide to attempt the climb next morning.
We started the climb at 1:30 pm. The guide was fast. My fitness was put to a rigorous test.
I thought of telling him, “That’s it! I cannot climb anymore.”
The guide informed about the chance of sighting a leopard in the jungle above. That was motivating to push myself ahead. The guide introduced himself when I followed his steps.
Just 1 km from the starting point, I said, “Lets stop for a while.”
My pulse was back to normal in 3-4 minutes. When we started again the guide walked at a slower pace. In next 15 minutes we crossed a few huts of caretakers of the apple orchards. Our next stop over was at the initiation of my guide.
The moment he stopped near a stream he turned around to look at me. I was quick to say, “Please go ahead and sip some water.”
He washed his face before sipping from an extended iron pipe that peeped out of earth. The break gave me an opportunity to look around and have a decent glance at the beauty of the place. The area around was green and peaceful.
The only sounds I could hear was the water flowing and occasional singing of birds sitting on the branches of tall trees. I searched for langoors, monkeys and deers. My guide at the start of the trek informed about the possibility of sighting some of them and even leopards.
The guide despite being ignorant about where the world was headed to, was frank to ask me if I followed Jainism, Buddhism, or Hinduism. He narrated his history how he managed to run away from Army training camp, his response to a 21 year old Australian tourist who fell for him and his 60 year old Punjabi tourist 20 years back who offered him Rs 100 just within first 1 km of trek.
I asked him, “Do you expect the same tourist to be alive today?”
He said, “Of course not. He must be long gone since he was already 60 plus 20 years back when he first came to Sarhaan.”
We were 5 km from the starting point. We continued to walk at a decent pace now since the steepness was more manageable now. We crossed a couple of huts of nomads who mountain at these altitudes their summer home. Their cattle and horses grazed with abundance of fresh grass. Moving a kilometer ahead we reached a much flatter place that was green and populated with some rare herbs.
“This is Switzerland of Sarhaan”, the guide said.
I pulled out my phone to click the scenic views. I did not want to forget this place for rest of my life.
The air was cool and blew through the thick spear-shaped leaves of long pine trees. I raised my head along the thick trunk of a pine tree to gaze at its height.
The summit of the peak we targeted at the start was still 1 hour away.
“Its 3:30 pm and we cannot make it back to Hotel by 7 pm when it will be dark”, the guide said.
I was staring at the Sports tracker app on my phone to notice that the trek toute was too zig-zag a track to be followed. Had my guide planned it better we would have reached farther ahead though still falling short of reaching the summit due to shortage of time.
Next moment I was resting on the grass stretching my legs. The cool breeze and view of snow-laden peaks in front gave me a heavenly feeling. I shot video and clicked some more pics while returning. We walked past the apple orchards and narrow streams with fresh water in them.
My first trek of life finally happened. I thought, “This should have happened quite early in my life.
But I am happy it happened and happened two years before I had lived 4 decades on earth.