About & Around

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Yatri's destiny

Whose destiny can surpass
that of an emperor's?
A traveler's... when his journey
has been completed.

Read more: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=asoka
There's a scene in the film Asoka where the exiled prince crosses ways with a Buddhist monk. When the prince wonders out loud if it is his destiny to ascend the throne, the monk makes a point of reminding him that his destiny surpasses that of the Emperor's: the destiny of a traveler.

As I type this, a part of my head yearns to escape this city life. It wants to camp in the woods up the high mountain passes where the mercury drops way beyond water's freezing temperature at night. I want to pitch a tent and cook my ready-to-eat meal over a butane gas burner. My eyes are set on the high ridges where the glacier melts and ibex graze.

I am looking up camping equipment on Amazon. I am reading up trekking experiences of seasoned trekkers. I am browsing the websites of tour operators who facilitate high altitude treks for a fee. I don't want to travel in a group or pay up for a trek in which everything will be managed for me, robbing me off the experience of fending for myself; something that is as essential as getting there. I do take caution from their words though as I do not want to foolishly wander off trail.

I understand why these operators stretch the itinerary of such treks. Not everyone has the same pace and not everyone enthusiastic for the trek is fit enough to hike at high altitudes where the air is thin. I don't know what pushes me to my extreme while walking on a trail.

Triund was my first. I was under prepared and I started late in the day. I wasn't fit and fatigue felt nothing is worth the ache in my limbs. Half way through, a group retreated after rumours of bear sightings in the area. My heart jumped at the excuse and I wanted to walk right back but my partner wasn't in the mood. I rested after every hundred steps. I slipped as we reached the snow in the upper ridges but the view of Dauldhar from Triund took my breath away. Felt I scaled a hill to see mountains; sharp jarring edges with no vegetation and permanent ice caps.

A view, like nothing I had ever seen and it lit up something inside.

My next major trek was Kheerganga in the Parvati Valley. Running for weeks leading up to Kheerganga, I felt a lot fitter starting from Barshaini. Unlike Triund, the trail is not steep and the path wandered on and off (gorge)ous Parvati river. I reached the summit in less than four hours and descended in two, in the same day.

Treks are sojourns. Walking through the woods, wading through the rives and hiking past the hills of Himalayas for me consists of, what I can only describe as a great escape. Or maybe this is what the monk meant when he spoke about a Yatri's destiny.

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