Virtually Real


As someone pointed out after reading yesterday’s post, we all look for a break from our urban lives but land up in retreats that happen to be equally crowded. Thankfully, I’d say, the hills still have some unexplored places but they ask you to be more venturesome and daring. If you are looking for valet parking at a height of three thousand metre, then you’d better forego the idea altogether.

The next day we woke up to a bright, sunny morning and were introduced to our guide and friend, fifteen-year-old Pankaj. Dressed in a T-shirt and an old pair of jeans, he looked much younger than his age.

‘Are you really fifteen?’ I asked.

‘Yes madam. Turned fifteen this year.’

Pankaj was part of the work force there which consisted mainly of the local boys. He was, however, from some part of Kangra and was happy getting  meals and some cash for all the work he did.

We decided to walk up to Hatu peak with him. Pankaj insisted we use the short-cut via the jungle and we agreed. But we had hardly started when there was a heavy downpour and, we had to rush back. Unwillingly though, we decided to go by car since the weather in the hills is highly unpredictable.


Hatu Temple (Picture @ A Hundred Quills)

Hatu peak is the second highest peak in Shimla at an elevation of eleven thousand one hundred fifty-two feet (11,152 ft). Dedicated to Goddess Kali, Hatu Temple is a fine piece of architecture. As we reached the top, the weather continued to play hide and seek. But this time round we were better prepared. We decided to walk from there to Bhim Chulla. It wasn’t a hike, just level walk. This is the place where the Pandavas are believed to have cooked their meal during their incognito living (Agyaat Vaas) but once again, the weather played spoil sport. So, we had to move back to the resort.

While the children were happy and snug in bed, both my husband and I were pretty restless. We had been looking forward to the trek and couldn’t let the rains wash away our enthusiasm. The hike couldn’t be sacrificed for the whims of the rain gods.

So, we tucked the children in bed with their favourite board games and decided to climb up to Karena. Pankaj, of course, was our partner in crime.

The trek didn’t take more than half-an-hour from Agyaat Vaas but the route was pretty challenging. All through I kept wondering if it was okay to go ahead or should we return mid-way. But Pankaj continued to motivate us as he made his way up in a pair of old Bata slippers. I was in my Wildcraft shoes. Pankaj was so agile and fearless. Made me think. Our requirements are akin to our comfort levels. Otherwise, there isn’t much that you need to survive in this world.

On our way, our young guide also regaled us with his personal stories and those of the jungle. It was famous for felines and was extremely dense. Going up was certainly tough and at places I felt stuck, with neither the courage to move forward nor the conviction to return. I also had my slips and misses and was beginning to get tired of the dark and sombre forest, until we reached the last leg of the climb.

Finally, I spotted a dash of wild flowers against a blue skyline. The clouds had begun to descend over the mountains. When we looked above, we saw an unwanted little shack on the top. The place, inhabited by an old sadhu who lived there with a pack of dogs, was incredulous. It was like a chapter out of an old folktale. I was scared to move up but was relieved to find that the inhabitants were away. They walked down a distance of ten kilometres every day for their daily needs.

Anyway, soon enough we reached summit. The sight, to say the least, was enthralling. The rains had stopped and the three sixty-degree view took my breath away. I might just be contradicting some scientific facts but there was an extra dose of oxygen up there. Or so I thought.


Right across we could spot Jau Bagh, a beautiful lush green meadow, which is another trek in the opposite direction. We could also spot the red roofs of our cottages in the midst of the jungle.

Both of us sat down as Pankaj observed  from a distance. There was an eerie silence all around us. Silence, they say, is the language of solitude and that was what I was there for! I had come all the way for this virtually real experience.

The walk back was less scary. Or probably, by now we were more familiar with the route. The evening was spent by the bukhari, taking notes for an anticipated write-up.

We drove down to Narkanda the next morning. This time round I enjoyed the drive because apprehensions were now a thing of the past. Before we made our way back to the town, we took a little detour and visited the Tani Jubbar Lake, another balm for aching souls. This could be an alternate getaway for the valet parking lot!


Tani Jubbar Lake (Picture@ A Hundred Quills)

As we inched closer to honking cars and crowded bazaars, my thoughts ran back to Pankaj. I had given him a little gift of money, which now I thought was way too little.

I might go back to explore Jau Bagh someday, I thought. Maybe then, I can carry a pair of hiking shoes for him.


This post is part of #Blogchatters AtoZ Challenge. The other posts in this series maybe read here.


16 thoughts on “Virtually Real”

  1. This is just beautiful. I’m at a loss for words actually. This place looks so inviting. I really need more details about this place from you.
    Btw, I haven’t yet posted W. Lagging behind very slightly. 😛
    Like I said, I need this break.

  2. I traveled with you in time. Sonia, firstly you are one gorgeous girl and secondly, you weave magic through words. That pic on top of the summit is going to stay with me for a while as I crave to go to a hill station this summer.

  3. This was completely immersive. You should do a virtual reality series! 😛
    P.S. The pictures make me want to forget everything and move to the hills.

  4. My present state of mind wants ne to rush to the hills for a reboot and believe you me, this post had that magical healing effect on me for a few minutes. The flow with which you narrated the whole experience coupled with the photos took me to a state of trance. I second your thought that we need bare minimum for peaceful existence yet keep on piling the baggage throughout.
    This is one of those posts where I lost all conscious effort to read and was feeling each step of your trek, the gush of fresh air overdosed with oxygen, the enthralling stories and the healing silence. You sure have the skill to connect the real to your words.

  5. I just had a virtually real tour with you! The way you have captured the scenic beauties is mesmerising, the pics are amazing and loved to know about the boy called Pankaj.

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