If you saw me now, I would remind you of the Christmas jingle ” Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer…”. A sun burnt nose, a black and white forehead, thoroughly chapped lips and swollen legs, one would think I returned after summitting Everest. But nothing so exciting. All this makeover is thanks to three days spent trekking in the lush green valleys of the Dhauladhar range.
Ishita, my niece had been wanting to go trekking with satya for some time now and the long Easter weekend gave us the opportunity to do exactly that. So Thursday evening, with sacks packed we headed for ISBT to catch our bus for Dharamshala. Our destination was a place called Kareri. A beautiful village at a height of 2000 metres, three hours from Dharamshala. Mansingh Ji, our friend from Kareri received us at Ghera (the last roadhead) before the trek starts. My second reason for choosing to go here was his family. Ever since Satya and he had been traveling these mountains together, his family was keen that I visit them as well. Having heard so much about them, the choice was not difficult.
The trek to Kareri is a steep ascent of 500 metres. The trail is well made with stone steps go almost all the way to the village. Soon enough we were stripping of our second layer of clothing and walking in our T-shirts. A carpet of green lay in every direction I looked and the sky was a clear blue. Further in the horizon, the white of snow glittered from the Dhauladhar range. Snow had been late in coming this year and the weather was exceptionally bad just two days short of our arrival. But the gods were kind and the sun shone directly without a speck of cloud. A gentle breeze made walking on the slope comfortable. A small Sitla Devi shrine sits almost in the middle of the hike.
Eventually the steep ascent gave way to sloping terraced fields. We were approaching a village. My eyes first fell on a dead crow that was hung from its legs on a branch. Its wings opened outwards and the beak hanging low. The villagers believed this worked better than any scare crow when it came to protecting their crop. Soon enough, i was surrounded by 10 pairs of eyes watching me curiously. They peered from behind a snow wall and giggled, not daring to come any closer, lest I get a sudden pan of hunger and bite. But no one can resist the lure of a photograph. Just as I trained the lens on one of the pretty young girls, everyone seemed to come out of hiding. Cooing and rolling their eyes, they happily obliged the shutterbug. At a distance, women sat chaffing grain in the Anganwaadi compound.
Fifteen minutes later, the first part of our journey was over. We reached Mansingh Ji’s house and were warmly welcomed by his wife. The high slopes of the Dhauladhar provided the backdrop and fertile fields stretched as far as the eyes could see. Small houses with slanting roofs and colourful walls dotted the area. Somewhere below, the womenfolk were busy deweeding their farms and acknowledged us with the slightest bow of head.
Here on, we would leave for the mid point. But for now, lunch awaited us.