All’s well that ends well
Back in 1981 or 1982 just after my student life I with one of my friends planned a trek for ‘Nag Tibba’. A very scenic hill that allows viewing Himalayan range from open perspective at around 9000 feet.
Devalsari a small village was four hours driving distance from Mussoorie, a picturesque town of present Uttaranchal state.
Our carry away vehicle was Bajaj Chetak scooter. In those days in India Bajaj Chetak was bought at premium – then purchased on priority by either paying in dollars or wait for couple of years for your term so owning one was a different thing.
We reached Devalsari by sunset at and settled in only accommodation that was available a forest rest house. Being student’s life we did not pay anything but a few pegs of rum were offered to the lone forest guard as rent. In those years in India the interiors of hills the liquor has more value than dough. The guard also served us some warm food. Soon a deep sleep engulfed us.
Early in the morning we started our trek to ‘Nag Tibba’ only a few kms away. We carried some fast food, a bottle of water and a big knife to defend against the possible bear attack in the dense forest (ludicrous in fact). With the help of knife we sharpened a wood piece to be used as another weapon in case of the big animal attack. This trek is known to be a ground of small hill bears which look nice but are known to attack if surprised.
Against advice we tried to traverse via a shortcut and straightway climbed through dense forest. We kept moving for a few hours but soon we lost sense of the direction, measurement of time and managed to consumed all food stuff we carried. At this moment we realized that scenario was pitiable for us with no support of life saving essentials.
Ultimately reached on top of the hill and got a comfortable looking footpath to walk. Not realizing our position and greatly tired we sat on top of a rock and tried to find ‘to walk this way or that way’ only based on assumption and guess work. We chose the route which went back to the place we started from and so that we thought we did. After an hour or so we felt that our legs were not supporting our already fatigued bodies.
We were hopeless and boundless but magically a hunter with gun hanging from his shoulder and a dead deer on his back crossed us. Looking at our thoughtful faces he stopped and enquired where we intended to go. Knowing the answer he simply smiled and said that we were moving in opposite direction to Nag Tibba.
Noting left to do we managed to explained our helplessness that there was neither food nor water with us to go any further and nor do we know how to the right way. The gentle hilly hunter consoled us not to care for food and water and said most of that will always be procured from natural sources. Puzzled and decision already made by our newly found guide we followed his footsteps which on his honor he chose to take us the right way to take our tired bodies to the base of Nag Tibba Trek.
Upon reaching the base the good Samaritan advised us to drink water from a small pool and promised us to prepare some food for which he sat down for preparations. The water was muddy and not fit to drink but still we were so thirsty that we took a couple of palm fills.
At the moment of food being prepared for us we trekked apx. three hundred meters uphill and finally reached Nag Tibba by the late afternoon. The scenario was simply surrealistic for us at that moment. We were on top of hill and the surrounding peaks paled in comparison. Utterly tired we flattened ourselves on ground; closed eyes; took deep breaths for relaxation for both a humane hunter and our not getting into the wild with no help.
Before we could go for a nap on the ground, the hunter called us to have food. There was a deserted hut nearby which was a kitchen as well as dinner table for us. What was the grub? Chapatis prepared on a small tin sheet on top of fire prepared with dried woods and small pieces of deer cut by the hunter’s small knife. We took unaccountable rotis and the meat was very soft to top on it. Our cook was patient and coolly gave us a good filling hearty meal. He himself took only a roti and prepared to leave. We thanked profusely and departed by the route he mentioned us to move.
With little hiccups we reached Devalsari (our resting place) for the night. The forest guard was naturally worried as we took double the time to go and come back from Nag Tibba. The food prepared for lunch was consumed in dinner with some doses of rum for us and our caretaker. Trek was so tiring that we hardly got dreams and got up early in the morning to ride on scooter way back to Dehradun.
In hindsight ‘sleep does not need soft bed and hunger does not care for the mouth -watering cuisines.’
Even after decades back this trek gives a lively mix of hope and despair; people are basically good; action is better than only planning; the more hardships we face the more remembrances these give in future.