Sunday, January 17, 2010

Almora....New Year's delight......Part 1

This year started for me very very differently. Unlike other New Year bash, this year I had decided to stay with myself. However, on 30th Dec afternoon, I was spurred by my friend Partho to join him & his folks to a trip to Almora. With nothing better to do, it was a quick decision, quick move….I packed my bags quickly, picked up my guitar & was off to the airport, got the first available flight & was soon in air flying to Delhi. The chilly blast of air on the face while stepping out of the aircraft at the Delhi airport, was signs enough for what to expect ahead.
We all started in the afternoon next day after a sumptuous lunch, for Almora in two SUV Safaris. Everyone around on the road, tucked in wollens, looked to be heading for some part or the other, while we were driving towards the hills. The air gradually started to become cooler, as the temperatures started dipping. Around 8.00pm, the road suddenly got engulfed in a thick haze of fog, making driving extremely difficult. The visibility ahead was barely a couple of feet beyond the bonnet & it demanded special skills to maneuver. Inspite of the near freezing wind howling outside, one had to keep the windows down to gauze the road ahead. It was an arduous task, as the driving speed came down to a mere 5km/hr… was as if we were walking instead of driving. It took us more than three hours to cross a mere 40 odd km stretch. We reached Kashipur almost around midnight & decided to halt for the night at a guest house. The drive had cramped us all & we desperately needed some hot food. It was all quiet outside, with temperatures hovering around the zero mark, as we stoked up a bonfire & huddled around to warm ourselves up. Whiskey flowed around for some, while, we chatted & then I played some music with my guitar….Partho was particularly happy, as it was like a family reunion of sorts. For the first time since his marriage, his whole family…..his parents, his younger brother with his wife & son…all were together for the New Year celebrations. Hot khichdi & potato wedges for dinner was just divine. We just hogged & hogged. It was already around 3.00am in the morning, when we decided to climb inside warmth of some really heavy set of quilts, & catch much needed sleep.

I got up early as usual to finish my morning essentials, but the water was too chilly & even the geyser could not provide with the encouragement to take a bath. As slowly everyone else woke up, I went for a quick stroll along with Partho, gazing at the distant green, shrouded in a white sheet of fog……it was an awesome view. Breakfast was tasty paranthas along with hot tea & then we set off for Almora. Partho’s brother & his wife had to leave for Delhi, while the rest of us continued our journey forward. The hilly terrain started soon & from then on it was a slow winding journey upwards. The countryside was a dry green, with large patches of brown, the air chilly & dry. We had brief stops twice, more to attend to the nature’s call than to eat & rest, & finally we reached Almora around 5.30pm in the evening.

The Himalayan range on the far backdrop was simply breathtaking. Snow clad peaks reigning majestically on the Northern skyline seemed to be lazying up to the winter sun….as if enjoying the warm touch. There was Nanda Devi, the highest peak in India, Trishul(a cluster of three peaks resembling the trishul head of Shiva), Panchchouli etc, all one after the other. The hotel we checked in was almost at the end of Almora, with a fantastic view of the mountain range. A quick hot shower relieved us of the cramps of the long journey & then we greeted some hot pakoras along with tea with gusto…… it was really refreshing. The first day of the year had been real special. We had a quick dinner & then I came out to take a stroll. My attention was taken in by a bright light coming through the cluster of the pine trees in the east…..where would this light be coming from?? It looked like a very bright spot light!!! A little walk ahead revealed that it was the full moon… bright & so near, as if I could jump & touch it……It was an unbelievable sight. I called out for others to watch the spectacle………the bright soft light was bathing us all….it was pure magic of the nature on display.

Dinner was a quiet affair & then all of us retired for the night……it had been a long day. However, sleep was miles away from me & I again came out for a stroll……the night seemed to be so inviting…..very romantic…..I kept singing some numbers all by myself, thinking of my lady love, who was elsewhere, busy with her own work!!!! How I wish she was with me right then to share the beautiful moon & the starry sky, the quiet & cosy night, all the makings of a romantic setting…….

Next day morning was early at around 5.15am……getting up quickly, I managed to finish up the morning essentials in the near freezing water & quickly got ready to come out for the sunrise. Partho was also up, setting up his camera to capture the nature’s spectacle. A little later, Sweta also joined us & we three watched in awe at the brilliance of nature. It was quite dark otherwise & only the north & the ast skyline was gradually becoming a crimson red. As the first rays fell on theTrishul, amazingly it took the shape of Om, as written in Sanskrit……as if God Himself was announcing the first letter of the Universe with the first rays of the Sun. It was a breathtaking sight….as we kept on gaping at the spectacle. I was told that this phenomena occurs only at sunrise & sunset. Throughout the day, the peak looks like a Trisul. I guess, words are always inadequate to describe such experiences. Partho kept clicking with his camera, as I stood still watching the inexplicable beauty unfolding. It was one of the best thing I had witnessed in my life. Simply majestic & outstanding. The only sound breaking the silence was that of a single truck painfully rumbling up the winding roads at a distance. The air was so fresh & chilly, the skyline slowly breaking into a clear blue, with shades of orange. We had forgotten the biting cold & the chilly air that kept brushing us through all this. We three then walked down for some time to catch the sunrise from a speck to a spectacular ball of fire……how beautiful is the dawn….how beautiful is out Country……we all were left simply speechless. The hills & the valley ahead was shrouded in a thick sheet of fog, as the first chatter of the birds, & the distant cuckoo sounded… was coming along !!!! A hot cup of coffee at a roadside stall was the best recipe that we could think of, as we rested & sipped the brewing drink.

The beginning of this Year had been truly spectacular & most unplanned, but it was worth all the efforts & duress.
Wish you all a very happy new 2010………