In the lap of the Dhauladhars
“I’ve been here since 1984”, said He. I exclaimed and replied to him that I was here last in 2007. And he said, “Yes, you do look familiar.” I wonder if I really did seem familiar to the man who ran the Magic View cafe 2500 metres above sea level, considering the number of people that climb to Triund in Himachal year after year, seasons after seasons, some who trek much further beyond and others like me who return aching and panting, totally unfit from city life but nevertheless vouching to come back again and hoping to get higher the next time. Me and Aparna had just eaten the most expensive and delicious Maggi of our life here at 80 Rupees per head. We ate hungrily looking down at the valley in front of us which nestled an eclectic civilization of Tibetans, Himachali folk, travellers, pseudo-hippies and trekkers. Up ahead the Dhauladhar range was sparklingly snow covered and shining in the sun. Below in Mcleodganj, the Dalai Lama was giving a special sermon at his monastery on the occasion of Losar while election was a few days away. Beside us two foreigners- one in a turban and the other in a hat talked non-stop of the meaning of life oblivious of us. An obese American sat quietly by himself munching the same masala Maggi concoction on the other end. Mr Magic view was rolling his number nth. Then there were the Japanese tourists, Indian boys clicking pictures incessantly and Punjabi boys playing dhinchak music as they trekked!
Where was I again? I was in the lap of the Dhauladhars, watching them watching me under changing colours of light from morning to night, going round and round them on foot and on bus for three days. At 2500 m, like all things in the mountains, we were close but way too far. “I want to be at the top of that point up there”, wished Aparna listlessly looking at the many magnificently imposing peaks in front of us. We both could do with some weight loss to even get to this same spot in lesser time when we returned again! 300 m up from here, Triund was covered with snow and we were late to get up there and come back down by nightfall as planned. Later in the night on returning to Dharamsala from our run up and down to Magic View, we sat cross legged and stared at the fantastic view of the range glowing in the moonlight from our host’s house. A single light flickered in the direction of the Triund ridge top. So close and so far yet again! I almost felt like a mountaineer who had to return back to base camp because of bad weather and just short of the peak by a few metres. It was bittersweet – much like those many things in life that you yearn for but can only reach so far.
The Dhauladhars were our companions for the three days we spent trapeezing over and under Dharamsala, Mcleodganj, Kangra and Dharamkot – they stretched out for us in full splendour in Kangra as we gazed at them through 9th century ruins atop the ancient fort. Here they had seen epic battles and the history of the Indian civilization unfold. We mellowed in their presence in Dharamsala as we woke up to catch the sun rising behind them. They played peek-a-boo in Mcleodganj bathed in a pinkish glow of the sunset as we woozied over Tempest apple cider (locally brewed). And at Dharamkot we looked up at the trekking trail we had left behind and said goodbye to the tiny speck of a hut of the Magic View cafe from where we could get to them closest just yet. Their whitewashed peaks remain a memory bathed with a melancholic glow.
P.S: Special thanks to the invaluable Himachal Path Parivahan Nigam without whom this trip would not be possible.