In July 2012, I set off for the Valley of Flowers with a close friend of mine. We were just out of school and wanted to go on an adventure. Our trip had no plans, no stops, no routes; all we had was a vague idea that we would somehow make it to the Valley of Flowers. We reached Rishikesh on a rainy monsoon morning and boarded a shared cab. A Couple of our co passengers were bullies from Delhi who ceaselessly pushed the driver’s limits and passed jokes on every one else. A newly married couple had also decided to travel by our shaky rickety vehicle and the bride refused to unveil herself or speak to anyone until she reached the groom’s house. The chief bully, Bunty never stopped with his quips and wisecracks and repeatedly stopped the car for his paan breaks much to everyone’s inconvenience. Once dusk set in our driver poured himself large rum and continued driving. He emphatically declared that he preferred driving after a few large ones and said, “Mera hath road pe set hai. Ek haath mei glass our ek mein steering”. I didn’t want to contemplate the idea of my early demise and though death was no big deal, I wanted to complete college first because education is important.
After a harrowing journey we somehow made it to Joshimath and enlisted a demure and sober driver from a good family to drop us to Govindghat. Happy to be off the car and on my feet, my friend and I trekked the 14km. together, after which we parted ways to explore our own trails. Halfway through the trek I felt calm and content especially after the tiring cab journey until I saw Bunty sauntering along. He made wisecracks at all the other people and swaggered along the path.
Once I entered the valley of flowers, the crowd disappeared and nature took over. I walked along brimming with high lofty notions of connecting with nature and feeling like Wordsworth until I came across Giri. Now you may be surprised to encounter your local chai shop character on a remote trail in the mountains but it happened. Giri lit a cigarette and told me about his various adventures. He was from South India but frequently travelled to the north because he enjoyed variety. Giri told me to read up on philosophy and enrich myself since life was to be reflected upon. He also told me that travelling was best done with a girlfriend, and that single people could not run away form their single life and feel better on vacations. I appreciated Giri’s company and exchanged numbers. On our way back to Delhi we shared a cab with some seniors from Delhi University who gave us tips on how to survive the first year of college.
I realized that travelling solo truly pushes us out of our comfort zones and forces us to stop and interact with the people on or way. And sometimes the most unlikely encounters lead to new connections.