I have always found unpeopled roads and unfrequented places tantalizing. You might find it strange but I have often imagined what it would have been like to live in those times when only a handful of people walked the roads. I also have the urge, repeatedly, to time travel to the past and live in those years. But I do know that it is a distant dream. And so, I keep hankering for such retreats wherever I can manage to find them.
I am a little touchy as well. My town Shimla has changed tremendously over the years. And you know the love with which you guard your little space! Whenever complaints of the hill station being over-crowded and full of new construction surface, it hurts. But forging oblivion doesn’t change facts. And then, somewhere I too miss those lanes where we played badminton unabashedly without the fear of being run over by an approaching car. The same roads are now lined not by deodars, but by countless vehicles.
So, in search of an “Urban Escape” that would quench my thirst for solitude, we headed for “Agyaatvaas”, a retreat in Narkanda which is about sixty kilometres from the main town of Shimla. Now, Agyaat is from the Hindi dictionary, meaning unknown and vaas means habitat. You might think I took my wish to rush to a secluded place a little too seriously. But it was a mere co-incidence!
Based close to Hatu Peak, it is a loner’s paradise. After the initial bookings, we were a little taken aback by the reviews. But our daredevil spirit was too overpowering to consider giving up.
It was one of those rainy days in July. That the rain was alone responsible for our delay, isn’t true. We started on a note of a flat tyre which my husband had to fix with the merciless downpour drenching him completely. Nonetheless, after fixing these initial hitches, we headed for the unknown!
It was a perfect green day. The rain-washed hills were riding high on clouds. As we headed towards Narkanda, all we could spot were little kiosks selling tea and snacks. The tyre fixing had taken its toll and our time and, we were so famished when we spotted a tiny outlet that offered hot tea and maggi!
Enveloping piping hot chai served in a glass tumbler in your hands can certainly lift dying spirits. And if I was ever treated to the most delicious maggi ever, it was right there. My son joked with me about my long lectures on table manners as I slurped both the noodles and the tea.
The hills looked upon us as we drove on. I rolled down the window, closed my eyes and took in some fresh air. The apple orchards greeted us from far and both children shouted in excitement.
We stopped at Narkanda bazaar to pick up a few eatables as we were heading for an “unknown destination”. The road uphill was very narrow and the drive scary. My heart was in my mouth until we reached the retreat.
We some times experience a range of emotions within a brief period of time. From apprehension to excitement to fear- I had been on a roller-coaster of emotions since we had started the journey. But I was still longing for, maybe, the wasteland.
Soon we reached a secluded village resort with scattered cottages and tall deodars. A patch of clouds looked down from among the trees. There was no sun and a light drizzle.
picture@ A Hundred Quills
A decent-sized room with huge French windows and a bukhari corner to warm up the evening welcomed us. I looked around to see a wall mounted television which did not stream anything! Had I finally reached? Ah! I thought so.
As the family explored games of badminton and volley ball and experimented with the camera, I sat by the large French window, soaking in the solitude I had so desired.
Since we were in a place off the main road, groceries and tuck were brought once daily by a pick-up and the round for the day had already happened. So, what would accompany the evening tea? The aroma of fresh pakoras reached us pretty soon. We weren’t missing the television or the intermittent internet. No, we weren’t.
The monsoon season in Himachal is a prelude to winters. The chill of that evening interspersed with rain was a perfect set up for the bonfire. The night sky was lined by the silhouette of trees. It was a moonless night and it took me back to my visit to Kuppar top in 2004. An equally ambivalent surrounding that leaves you enthralled and fearful at the same time. It is in these moments that you feel how overwhelming nature is! I was in an unpeopled zone and almost oblivious of civilization. What more could a loner ask for!
On this note, the first day of my “Urban Escape” came to a close. What was the next day going to unfold? Would I languor in peace or do such places host adventures unknown? Tomorrow would have all the answers.
To be continued…
This post is a part of Blogchatter’s AtoZ Challenge. The other posts in the series can be read here.