Treading On Mountains

The bags were packed three days ago. That indicates how excited I was about this whole thing. I, along with a few of my friends were leaving for Manali, finally. We had begun making plans about this weeks ago. Yeah, go ahead, call us kiddish, but just think about it! Six of us, along with a few more campers, with three instructors, going all the way to Manali!

Now I reached the main porch of the railway station. We all assembled there, there was a roll call, we said our good byes to our parents and off we went! After boarding the train, we found out that just Chinmay and me were in one cabin with two other Pugmarkers, while the girls were in another cabin. We sat tight for some time and then finally the train started moving. It was quite a long journey, most of the time we were in the other cabin. We had loads of fun, playing ‘Antakshiri’ and ‘Dum Sharads’ with one of the instructors, Anjali Iyer,  will never  forget a few of her Home Productions! I didn’t get sleep at night, so I just sat on the higher berths,  talking to Isha and Apurva about random stuff. We even played  prank on Tanya, putting toothpaste on her face. Poor her! She had her revenge later. We reached Nizammudin the next day, in the afternoon and after having a snack at a railway restaurant proceeded to the bus waiting for us outside the railway station that would take us to Manali.

The bus journey was rather boring until we reached Manali the next day. Viewing the beautiful mountains and the Beas River flowing past as the road was winding was a once in a life time experience. Then the bus took a smooth turn and there in front of us was a huge mountain with a snow cap. Yes, it was then when I first saw real snow. After going further into the village and onto a higher altitude, we reached the Prini camp, the main camp that Pugmarks has in Manali. Extremely beautiful and quite cold. I would say around 15 degrees Celsius. When we reached Prini it was quite late, so they issued haversacks, windsheeters and sleeping bags. We found out which tent we were to sleep in and dumped our haversacks and rushed to have a bath. After that we were awake for some time talking amongst each other and then Chinmay and me left the other tent and went to sleep in our own tent.

The next day we woke up early and packed the small haversacks that they had given us. This was as we were going to the Torku Dugh camp, which was at a higher altitude. We would be there for three days. We began the one and a half hour trek to the camp. By the time we reached it was almost evening so we quickly had our lunch and proceeded with the activities. The first one was really fun. There was this large net which we had to climb and then come down. All of us did it quite well, Vaidehi, having a phobia of height found it a little difficult but otherwise it was all fine.  And another where we had to walk across a slanting bridge. Both the activities were very safe and there were all sorts of equipment to make sure that nothing happens to you.

On the fifth day, we woke up early and went for a little jog to a open area where the instructors conducted a short warm up activity. The locals always kept us full. First there was tea and a snack in the morning, then breakfast and coffee, then lunch, then soup in the evening and finally dinner. And this was there everyday. Before the activities started, during freetime, one of the instructors, Sushil Chikane, caught a snake and spent time with it , trying to determine which specie it was. He later found out it was a mix of two species. That day there were two more activities. One was the Flying Fox, or you could call it Valley Crossing. And the other was the more exciting Rappelling, in which we had to slowly descend down to the ground, while keeping contact with a steep surface. And thus the day ended and at night we had lots of fun with Anjali, she talking to us about the camp and the campers.

The next day was like an information bonanza. It was a competition between the three groups that had been made. Sushil sir, at the start of the trek to Tilgan which was like a temple at a high altitude had given us around twenty five questions. All of them related to the camp, campsite and Manali. So, while trekking to Tilgan, we could ask for the answers to the questions to the local instructors or the locals. As it was a long trek, we had sufficient time to find out the answers. That day our knowledge about the local animals, birds, insects and plants grew immensely. At the end of the trek once we reached Torku Durg, Sushil Sir asked the groups for the answers and the team with the best answers won. So that day was very informative and since all of us were tired after the trek, we slept early that day.

The next day, we got up early, had our tea, packed our bags, cleaned the tents and assembled at the main area as we were to leave for Prini camp. The trek was quite long and we were relieved to be back at the main camp. We rested for some time and then dressed up and left for Kulu as we were going to go rafting. We went in jeeps and reached in the afternoon. Since we had to wait for quite some time over there, the instructors decided to take us to a nearby rabbit farm. It was really sad seeing the poor rabbits kept there in small cages  but it was a wonderful sight to, as it was the breeding season for the rabbits and there were many rabbits with cute babies and a few of them were new – born, thus being extremely small. After that we went back to the water sport area. By then the rafts had come back so we climbed in. Oh what an unforgettable experience it is! Simply amazing! And I was one of the lucky few people who actually were paddling along with the main conductor. The experience of the chilled water splashing on us was just out of this world! We returned to Prini, and after changing left for the Manali market. I didn’t shop much there, but since I was deprived of some good food, I ate a lot for sure. I had pizza, some tandoori chicken and momos. I bought a pair of glares and had a tatoo done on my arm. I even bought a shawl for mum. Then we left the market and returned in the jeeps to Prini.

On the eighth day, or you could say the last day in Manali, we got up early, dressed up, drank tea and left early for Rohtang to do what? Guess? We were going there to play in the snow! For the first time in his life Edwin Joseph was going to touch snow! Well, nice long ride in the jeep, so most of the journey we sat in there, listening to songs and eventually we slept. When I got up and got out of the car, that was when i realized how far we had come. We were on the top of a mountain with a long winding road behind us. It was so cold up there that we were shivering all over! At the side of the road, there was a small pile of ice so I went close, removed my gloves and felt the cold mass below my palms. We then left the jeeps and began walking up the road. The higher we went, the colder it was. Then finally we reached a point where everything was covered in snow. Oh what fun it was! It was a tourist location so the place was teeming with people. As soon as we went there, we ( as in the Valleites ) stopped to have some steaming hot Maggi from a stall. Then we began climbing the small peak. Oh it was freezing cold! I could not feel my hands and my toes! After quite some time we assembled and got into the jeeps and left for Prini. I had a cold by then and since I was tired I slept in the jeep.

When we reached Prini after the jeep journey we had a bath and began packing our haversacks as it was time to go. After packing, we came out of tents and began clicking pictures of each other and the instructors. Then we said good bye to the local instructors and the locals and got into the bus that would take us to Nizammudin to board the Goa Express that would take us to Pune. The bus journey began and we began to move rather slowly. All of us were quite sad that such a wonderful trip had to end. In the bus after some time we were excited as it was Chinmay’s birthday the next day and we were planning to wish him at 12:00 pm. We had dinner very late that night at Annapurna Deluxe Bhojanalay and we were halfway through our meal when it was 12:00. So all of us began singing ‘Happy Birthday’ for Chinmay in the middle of the ‘Dhaabaa’. Then after that we resumed the bus journey and caught up with some sleep.

We got up late in the morning. We had breakfast at a small restaurant and proceeded. It was really hot in the bus. We were in Haryana moving towards Delhi and the Sun wasn’t being kind at all. We reached a restaurant that was really close to the railway station and we were there for a really long time. Talking to each other and eating lots of good food. After some time, Chinmay’s Aunt came and picked him up from the restaurant. So the rest of us sat there, whiling away our time until it was time to leave for the station. We picked our bags up and went inside the station and onto platform number 7, from which the Goa Express was departing. We got onto the train and kept our bags. Again I was in a different cabin than the other Valleites. Still, all of us came into one cabin and sat there talking about the whole camp and all the fun that we had. We got bored and started drawing tattoos for each other. Then we were whiling away our time, singing songs and cracking jokes. That night we slept late as all of us were enjoying ourselves and singing songs that the instructors had taught  us in Manali. Apurva then took videos of Isha and Tanya singing the songs with props and background music given by me. Eventually everyone felt sleepy and went to sleep.

The next day was quite the same, just wasting time by singing songs and cracking jokes. The train was delayed by around three hours and towards the end of the travel all of us were really homesick, including Sushil Sir who was the one cracking jokes and playing around with us. Then at last the train stopped and all of us met our parents. What a trip it had been! Unforgettable! Sushil Sir gave the certificates to all of us and then after saying goodbye to all the fellow campers I left with my parents. Since we were terribly hungry, they took us to Dominoes to sink our teeth into some delicious pizza. After that, satisfied I reached home, kept my bag on the floor, quickly washed myself and changed and jumped onto my bed. I don’t even remember hitting it.

Edwin Joseph.
On the trip that he made to Manali with five of his friends and many other campers.

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