Written by Shobhangi Rudra.
“Travel Makes One Modest, You See What A Tiny Place You Occupy In The World.”
– Gustave Flaubert
It was the month of August 2019 when one of my most awaited dreams finally took flight. Our college was organizing a one-week trekking expedition to Manali, Solang valley. The first exam which I had to pass with outstanding results was convincing my parents to allow me on my first ever trip without my family. This was something I was very nervous about. What if they don’t realize what this trek means to me?
Gathering all the courage I had, I stepped in front of my parents. “Mom, Dad, I need your permission for fulfilling one of my biggest dreams”. They kept on looking at me, waiting for me to speak. Finally, I said it. “I want to go on the trekking expedition organized by our college.”
Silence. I was still waiting for them to answer. Both of them shared a very conspicuous look and said, “we will let you know.” I couldn’t sleep for the entire night. It felt like a lifetime before something surprising happened. Almost a week later, I got a package from an online store. I opened it and guess what I found?
It was a TREKKING RUCKSACK!
My father ordered one for me the night I asked for his permission. This was his answer. YES, I was going to Manali! I have never been happier. Finally, one of my most awaited dreams was about to be fulfilled.
Preparing for the Trek (2 months to go!)
It was now very clear that my excitement to go on my first trekking trip had reached the pinnacle. Hence, I started preparing for it almost two months earlier.
Trekking is not a leisure activity. For people like us who have no experience in trekking, we have to undergo a series of physical activities and mental preparations before we can take the plunge.
I did not go to the gym or have any exercise session on a regular basis. I was NOT prepared for a winter trek and I had just two months in hand.
I began waking up early in the morning and going for a jog. After coming back, I used to feast on a delicious meal consisting of fruits and juices. I had to give up my beloved junk food and high-fat eating habits. It was tough but I was ready to go to any length to achieve this dream of mine.
To be very honest, I started feeling more confident about myself after I changed my lifestyle. Visiting a doctor to see if you have any hidden ailments like asthma also helps in the preparation.
Once I was sure that I am physically fit to embark on a winter trek, I started gathering the gears required for a winter trek. I began preparing my equipment by purchasing a pair of trekking poles. It had to have a very strong and firm grip to prevent any mishaps during the trek. The next gear that I purchased was a pair of trekking shoes. This is an essential part of the trek. If the shoes do not have a good grip, there are high chances of you slipping and falling down. Also, the shoes need to be waterproof because while trekking on snow, the water might seep into your shoes giving you frostbite. I also purchased a good trekking goggle. This is very important because you don’t want to squint your eyes and have a blurry vision of the road ahead.
Soon after, I bought a flashlight, proper woollen garments and other essentials.
It is very important to do some research about the place you are travelling to before you start your journey. Temperatures drop to a minus seven degree in the month of December in Solang valley. I carried windcheater jackets, sweaters, pullovers, gloves, earmuffs and woollen socks.
Now, I just had to wait for December. I was ready and equipped with every essential required but then life can surprise you in many ways. I didn’t know what to expect from this trek. No wonder I was nervous and excited at the same time.
“Chota sa fasana
Kisi ko pata na
Isey kya sunana
Chal pade hain jo hum
Ab kaisa bahaana
Isey hai nibhaana”
-Karwaan, Arijit singh
After months of anticipation and excitement, the day was finally here. I was about to board my train to Delhi. My train was scheduled to leave at 6:00 pm from Sealdah station. This was going to be a long journey. Hence, I wore a pair of comfortable joggers and an oversized hoodie.
I was feeling confident and had extremely positive expectations from this trek. It was around 4:45 pm when my parents dropped me off at the station. They had a talk with the trek coordinator and instructor. We were a group of 50 people and I knew just one person from this group. She was my friend, Katha. Both of us were really excited about meeting new people and exploring new places. Surprisingly, I realized how much of an introvert I was. In spite of spending almost two years in the same university, I didn’t know half of the people on this trek.
Around 6:10 pm, we boarded the train. After a very emotional goodbye, my parents finally smiled at me from outside the tinted glass of the train. That smile meant that they believed in me and my dreams. I couldn’t believe that I was finally living one of my biggest dreams. After a few minutes, a tall lady entered our compartment. After a brief conversation with her, we came to know that she was our trek instructor. She had been a part of many national treks and was a lawyer by profession. We were surprised almost immediately. She was very welcoming and insisted on not being addressed as“ma’am. Around 8:30 pm, we were served dinner.
After a nice and hearty post-dinner conversation we retired to bed. We had to gear up for the 17-hour long bus ride. I fell asleep amidst a tinge of homesickness and lots of excitement. The song “choo lo” kept playing in the background. Someone was an ardent admirer of the Indie Rock band, The local train. The fan in me hummed along until i started dreaming of the beautiful snow-covered mountains.
Approaching the Hills
“Maine Bhi To Aana Tha Isi Taraf
Meri Bhi To Raahein Hain Yahin Kahin
Uljhano Ke Do-Raahey
Raaston Ki Yeh Baahein
Aate Jaate Poochhti Main KahaanKahaan Hoon Main
Kahan Hoon Main”
-Highway, Jonita Gandhi.
We reached Delhi around twelve in the afternoon. This is where our journey was about to begin. We were told that we will have to go on a bus journey to Manali. I quickly opened google map to see how long it would take to reach Manali by bus and guess what the results turned out to be. 13 long hours! This was going to be one hell of a journey.
After some refreshments, we boarded our bus. Our group was given two buses. I and Katha hopped on to the bus where Sreeradha ma’am was travelling. We felt comfortable around her. The bus left DELHI around 1:30 pm. I plugged my earphones in. Prateek Kuhad’s ‘Kadam’ kept on playing on a loop and I could feel the chill as the evening approached. We stopped at a posh restaurant called Amrik Sukhdev for dinner.
The temperature was below 15 degree Celsius. We were freezing and we had not even reached Manali yet.
After feasting on butter roti and paneer, we geared up for the next leg of our journey. As the night descended, we could feel the cold wind on our face. It felt like we were already in the hills.
This was going to be a long, cold night. The bus on which we were travelling had rectangular glass windows. There were no curtains to prevent the cold from creeping in. I was sitting on a single-window seat. I pulled out my woollen socks and put them on, hoping to feel a little warmer.
Around 11:40 pm, the bus was engulfed in silence. Everyone was asleep. I could not sleep. It was not because of the cold but because I could not stop admiring the beauty outside. The misty window of the bus made it difficult to look outside. All I could see were the tiny city lights decreasing in size as we went up the hill. At one point the view outside looked like a huge bonfire. The city lights were glowing amidst two hills, the lights reflecting on them. It was magical. Something that one experiences in the mystical movies. I Was living a dream. A dream that was so beautiful that I never wanted it to end. We still had a long way to go. A R Rahman’s “maahi ve” played in the background. I had to take out my windcheater from my rucksack. I could feel chills running down my spine. This time it was not fear, it was the anticipation, the excitement of the unknown. We were approaching the hills…
The journey of this nomadic soul has just started!
Keep an eye for the next part of her beautiful travelogue.
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Shobhangi Rudra is a Content Writer at The Strong Traveller. A wanderer at heart, she keeps on trying to find herself through the little trips and quirks. A student of journalism, Shobhangi loves to share stories, deeply passionate about travelling and experiencing new people, culture & places. She loves to read Rumi and strongly believes “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”