“Okay. Let’s climb this then. But be ready to have quite a bath.”
“Oooo, is there a water way up there where we are planning to bathe in?”
“I’m not too sure of a waterway, but I can guarantee that a gigantic shower head will be over our heads in a few hours!”
The preface to climbing Chariot Path, was anything but calm and collected. We were already hours behind schedule thanks to the grueling drive to the base of the trek that consumed about three hours of our time and a considerable portion of our energy. And yet, we persevered, saying it was an easy trek that we can do within one-and-a-half hours. The young and the foolish make the most remarkable memories; we were most of one and a bit of the other.
So we waved good-bye to a bunch of kids on the threshold of manhood, our last human civilization point, and started the journey on foot. The walk was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Walking amidst the tea plantations, with misty hills looming above you on the horizon – throw in a random patch of tress that were every shade of red and you have a tapestry of serenity.
A group consists of a multitude of people. That is what adds color to the band. We were five girls and eight boys, three of the girls being first time hikers. As is to be expected, we ended up regrouping into three smaller units – me, a female friend and my SO bringing up the latter as we had to answer nature’s call.
Have you noticed how travelling brings you closer to people? One is more likely to open up about the deepest darkest places of their heart on an uphill climb with only whistling wind for a sound track, than at a bustling coffee shop with Pillow Talk on the sound system. Is it the air? Is it the physical extortion? Or perhaps it is that you feel so disconnected from things you usually use to define who you are – career, family, pets, laptops, tablets and phones – that you reach into your core to understand what makes you, you. I am not sure if the air of the mountains sedates you. But I do know that whatever it is that is up there makes you confront your issues and makes you realize that you are a beautiful coincidence.
Munching on rotis, sipping water, we walk for about one-and-a-half hours and decide to take a break on the bank of a cascading stream of water. The rest of our group being completely out of sight, and discovering we have signal on our phones (hallelujah!) we call a friend on the other group.
“Where are you guys? We are at that large stream with the clear water and rocks”
“What stream? We didn’t pass any streams!”
“What do you mean you didn’t pass any streams? Okay, so it’s more of a waterway? We passed about three and this is the largest.”
“Machang, we didn’t pass any waterway. I think you guys are on a wrong track.”
We were lost. We had no idea where we were, so we could adjust our path to meet with the others. We did not dare venture deeper into the path for the fear that we will not be able to make it down before nightfall. The sun was already playing hide-and-seek with angry, grey clouds and we felt we would be pushing our luck if we were to venture into the unknown, with meager supplies that we had left.
So we sat by the water, hidden by greens that were taller than a grown up man, resting against cold rocks that served as both a back rest and a shelter against the wind. Have you ever sat in the middle of nowhere, and hummed your favorite tune to the melody of the wind? There is something inexplicably beautiful about feeling the core of your being.
Thinking to reach the bottom before the skies start falling upon us, we decide to start the trek downhill. We walk and talk – of how this feels like the perfect place for Drogon to come and lift us all off to safety – when the cold drops of heavenly blessings start to fall. Not a shelter in sight, the tallest tree being up to knee-height we have no choice but to keep walking. Wrapping the cameras and the phones to make sure they don’t get fried, we hug ourselves tighter and walk a walk unlike any I have walked before. Lightning strikes on the mountain across us and the glare and the sound makes you lose sight for a few seconds. The wind pummels you mercilessly, having no wind break to reduce the force. The rain come harder and faster, and each raindrop feels like being pelted with stones that were in the freezer for a week. Hair coming loose, water dripping down the ends into the layers of clothing that have become heavier and soaking wet, backpacks drenched and cold against the back – the worse was when wind was blowing in our face and it felt as if a cold hand was repeatedly punching your heart. We scream – out of exhilaration at this unexpected and unrestricted assault of nature – and we laugh at our pathetic selves for thinking, even for a moment, that measly humans as us stand a chance in changing the course of this boundless all-powerful entity.
So we reach the bottom. The kind souls of the village smile at us in sympathy, gently breaking to us that no one, not even the ones who live here, would climb that formidable construction in the rain. They offer us tea to help with the cold that has now reached our bones. They shower us with such kindness that I yearn for the simple love they so readily give. We change, we wait. We are the only ones to have made it back so far. An hour later, a small unit of all boys reach the van. They have reached the summit. They show us the photographs. We ooo and ahhh. The final group comes down after another hour. They have got lost too. And ended up trying to scale the summit from the precipice end. They had found shelter for the rain. We laugh. We remark on how crazy it was.
We start our descent to the main road, with a van full of wet clothes, wet towels, wet shoes, wet socks – and thirteen minds reflecting on each of our journey – for this time, not all of us had the same destination despite of having the same goal.
I didn’t mind being lost, I think to myself. Sometimes we embark on one journey, with one goal in mind, but lose our way. That is only natural. After all, this is the first time we are doing this. What matters is how you react to losing your way. I was looking forward to seeing the chariot path. I was looking forward to tasting the waters of Sita’s tear pond. I was looking forward to all that. But sitting by tinkling waters with the mist rolling in on you, running down muddy paths with the rain pelting you, screaming in ecstasy of being alive to feel these feelings – they are amazing too. It’s about time the perfectionist in me admitted my true feelings. Not reaching the summit I wanted does not bother me as it might have some time ago. In losing the way, you discover hidden gems. What is life if everything goes as we plan? Perhaps I was never lost. It was merely taking a much needed detour so that if I reach the summit one day, I would know not only of the view from the top, but of the beauty that surrounds it in hidden nooks and crannies too.