It was my first time doing a full-time trek and that too in Himalayas. Thanks to my two friends, who motivated me to do this trip together. It was early hours of morning and these two were cozily sleeping in their sleeping bags, while I was half awake thinking of the day about to unfold. Yesterday was like an adventure roller coaster , crossing glaciers, chilled lakes, walking on the edge of the mountains, never have I lived my life on edge this way . I was a bit low because I was always lagging behind the others. The chilled temperatures also was making me feel dull and feverish. May be it was all in the mind, but I was craving for a warm bed and hot water bath. Today, we have to climb down the mountains and camp in the night at the base camp. I prayed to God to give me the strength and energy to survive one more day.
As I was lingering in my thoughts, we heard the voice of the leader, that we have to be ready in one hour. These girls woke up and as we opened the opening flap to our tent, the view was breathtaking. Beautiful snow capped mountains welcomed us. The fears I had so far somehow vanished and it felt positive. The day was going to be beautiful, something told me. Soon we got ready and assembled to leave for the down-trek. There was another surprise, our new trek guide. He was going to guide us through the path until we reach the base camp. We three gals looked at each other at the same time and giggled. We had some motivation for today, we thought 😛
He was very attractive, am not sure how to exactly define it. There was something about him that was very mysteriously charming. A bit above average height, obviously fit body owing to the trekking I believe, and very very fair skin (or may be I should say it was rather pale, translucent). He introduced himself and had a quick round of introductions for him to get to know the group (yes, there were 10 other people apart from us 3, we went as part of a larger group). He called us “Bangalore gals” and the three of stupidly giggled.
We started off on our trek and I was slowly walking, finding a rhythm to match with my breathing. My poor friends tried to stay back with me for some distance, but I nudged them to go ahead. I somehow felt very fresh and loved being surrounded by such beautiful nature. Beautiful snow clad mountains surrounding us, tall trees and green meadows with beautiful little flowers. It was so picturesque.
There was a small stream of water which we had to cross and climb up the rocks. The water was so clear that we can even see the rocks beneath. I made calculations in my mind, that I have to put my first step on one of the stones in the stream (so that I don’t get my shoes wet) and the second one on the rocks to climb up. As I jumped on the first rock as per my plan, I realized I chose the wrong stone. It was slippery due to the stream of water and before I knew it I almost slipped, when I heard a voice “Hold on” and a hand stretched infront of me. I reached out to hold the hand and as I lifted my head, I saw the most beautiful eyes looking at me. They were the color of the pure himalayan waters – crystal blue. As I was half lost in my thoughts, I caught hold of his hand and in an impulse left the hold, before (thankfully) he held on to me and I got saved from falling into the chilled waters. He pulled me up on to the rocks and immediately I let go of his hand. It might have seemed rude, but his hand was so freezing cold. He asked me if I was fine and to my embarrassment I blushed and managed to say “yes”. He told me, “don’t panic, even if you can’t trust yourself, just trust your shoes and step forward carefully. They won’t let you slip”. I tried a few steps forward and a bit of jumps and realized it was true. I discovered that I could manage to balance myself and not fall off, as I imagined in my head.
While I was discovering my new skills, I turned around to see if he was around to appreciate. He was miles ahead of me with the crowd going in the front. I looked at the way he skillfully hiked the path and wondered that is how experienced trekkers move. Am I becoming a bit too obsessed with him, I thought and shook my head, as if to shake away the thoughts. I moved ahead slowly on the path which was a bit of an uphill, but this time I felt confident and joyful.
After a while, I felt completely exhausted, but I pushed myself to go a bit further. It seemed to be down-hill from this point. The trek guide returned to see that the late comers were able to cope up. This time I decided I will stop day-dreaming and have a real conversation with him. He offered to hold my bag and encouraged that the camp was just a few miles away. He was already holding 3 other bags, is he a bahubali or what I wondered. As we walked, the path looked beautiful – tall trees, beautiful flowers and slight breeze. “What is the kind of work do you do at Bangalore”, he asked. I tried to explain my world of chip design in layman terms, which am sure would have been boring. I told him how this trek was refreshing breather to me away from the chaos of city life and busy work schedules. He seemed to empathize with me. I was curious to know more about him. “Is trekking your hobby? Do you stay nearby? Have you taken this up as you job?” I probed. He smiled (probably at the number of questions I asked) and replied, he loves walking in these mountains and being a part of the nature. He lives in a nearby village and has a small school for educating the kids in the villages nearby. He finished his PHD in physics and has always wanted to come back to his village and start a school there. I was impressed at how he was at peace with his life and loved what he was doing. He said the trek organizers were his friends and he joins them on random days like these when there are holidays.
After walking for a while, we heard some screams of happiness, looks like the basecamp is nearby. We talked about my hobbies of sketching, and writing and how I hardly find any time to pursue them. He asked me what was my takeaway from this trek, and I analyzed the last few days. One thing I realized is life was more laid back now and not governed by time. I hardly looked at my watch and did things whenever I felt like doing. Though we woke up so early everyday, I did not feel sleepy or lethargic, the way I used to feel otherwise. Another major realization was that it was so peaceful to be away from internet. As we were chatting before I knew it, we reached the base camp.
I met with my friends who were waiting for me with a lunch box full of hot and sumptous food. We ate to our hearts fill and the thought that we have finally finished the trek made us super happy. We had few hours to rest before we met for camp fire in the night. We went into our tents, and were chit-chatting. I shared with them the incidents of the day, how he saved me from falling down, and how we walked back talking. They started pulling my leg and teasing me that I was definitely falling for him. We tried to catch some sleep, now that we finished the trek – the mind felt lighter. It got dark and I woke up to the voices of some enthusiastic folks calling others for the camp-fire. My friends were fast asleep and were lazy want to join. After thinking for a bit trying to choose between sleep and campfire, I decided to join the camp fire. I stepped out with my torch and reached the camp place.
Rest of the trekkers were all family friends and were already there around the fire. They played tamil songs and were dancing happily to the energetic tunes. I sat down on a rock there, enjoying the songs and looking at them dance. If only these girls were awake, we could also dance – I thought. The night was a bit chilly, but the camp-fire was emanating warmth and joy. Instinctively, I looked around for the guide – is he here? where is he? I haven’t seen him after we reached the base camp and we were leaving early morning tomorrow, I sighed.
Just then I heard a voice next to me “Hi, so you are here”. I turned to the left and I could see the crystal blue eyes and pale skin in the dancing light of the fire. There was a secret joy inside me which I dint want to acknowledge to myself. “Are you not dancing”, he asked me. I said I dint know the Tamil songs. “Same with me. Few of my friends in college were from Tamilnadu. They tried a lot to teach me tamil but invain. ” he was saying sitting next to me.
Before I could extend the conversation, some of the kids in the group came to pull him to dance. I watched him also join the group, dancing to the tunes of “Why this kolaveri di”. He whispered something to the kids and they came to pull me also, and so I was there as part of the circle. He cunningly grinned at me as I looked at him accusingly, “why should I be the only bakra” he said. But then, the folks were really sweet and started playing some bollywood songs too – “Its the time to disco”, “Baby doll” , it was fun dancing with kids, uncles, the sweet ladies and the cute stranger 🙂 under the stars
I felt a bit tired from all the dancing and came back and sat down on the rock for a bit of rest. Probably I secretly hoped that he would also come and sit beside me. I was looking at the people dancing so energetically, and then I saw him leave the circle and disappear into the darkness. Did he leave already, I felt a bit disappointed. Then I told myself not to think too much, just enjoy the experience and go back with loads of memories.
I got up to fill my bottle with some hot water and go back to my tent. I went to the cooking tent and asked the bhaiyas for hot water. I started chatting with another bhaiya on how tasty the food they made was, while the other bhaiya was filling my bottle with hot water. I took the bottle and was saying my good nights, when I heard the same voice, “you are still here?”. Am I thrilled or what 😀 !! “yea, I was just about to go back to my tent” I said hiding my excitement. “Let me walk you till there, its very dark”, he said. We slowly walked towards my tent and I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful sky with stars twinkling so clearly (the moon seemed to be hiding somewhere, must be new moon day), with cool breeze around, talking random stuff which is not even reaching my brain. Is it too filmy to think that it is romantic, I thought. While I was in my thoughts, he suddenly stopped and I almost lost my balance, trying to halt suddenly and almost fell before he stopped me from falling. I am a bit clumsy in general, but how off was the timing. It was so so stupidly 90’s filmy, I thought to myself embarrassed. Everything was going on so fine and why did I have to make a fool of myself, I mentally kicked myself several times. “OK! Have a good sleep.”, his voice brought me back from my thoughts. “what should I say, how to continue the conversation,” I tried to fish my brain for ideas . He suddenly leaned forward and my heart started racing. What is happening, what is he planning to do – thoughts were running in my mind. He opened the flap opening of the tent and said “Good night. Sleep well. There can be dogs outside, so be careful in the night while stepping out”. I managed to say “Good night” and stood there watching him leave. It was dark except for the dim moonlight and as I watched, he disappeared into the darkness.
I got back into my tent and calmed down by heart beat. “C’mon..stop dreaming and get back to reality. He is just a trek guide and we will be going our separate ways tomorrow” I told myself. Next day morning I woke up bit too early, along with my friends. We got dressed and I filled them in on the latest updates during our breakfast. He stood there while everyone was having breakfast, but he was not even looking at me. Was he intentionally avoiding me, I complained to my friends. They collectively decided that it is good for me to leave it here and not think too much about it and I agreed. The atmosphere was very joyful, everyone were exchanging mail ids and phone numbers. We were taking group pictures and this guide fellow was not coming in any of the pics. All said and done of leaving the topic, I wanted to have atleast one picture with him, for memories sake. Finally we convinced him and got a picture right before it was time to leave. We got our bags, walked a bit of a distance, where the jeeps were ready to take us back to the hotels. End of the trek was a bit happy, bit nostalgic and bit emotional. I turned around to see where he was, one last time. He was at a distance and though it was not possible to hear his voice from so far away, I felt as if he softly whispered “Good Bye. Travel Safe. I will see you”. I waved my Good Bye back and wondered if I was becoming too delusional and cooking up stories in my mind.
As I sat in the bus, I took out my mobile and saw the pic we took with him. To my disappointment, he came blurred in it while the 3 of us, standing next to him were clearly visible. Only his image was blurred and I my curious brain started analyzing. As I recalled the previous day’s event, random doubts started cropping up – His hands were incredibly cold, could there be some reason apart from the Himalayan temperatures. There was a good amount of sun at that time and my hands were perfectly warm then ; While I was crossing the stream, he was nowhere nearby, as I recall. But as I was about to slip, he appeared out of nowhere and gave his hand. I dint notice this during that time, but can someone’s reflexes be so fast; He was a bit too fast compared to others, which I thought was because he was an experienced trekker; he carried so many bags and trekked effortlessly, could it just be human strength ; In the night, while he was walking back from my tent, he walked so confidently in the dark, though he did not carry a torch, Can it just be exceptional eye sight. I am not sure if my thoughts were just running wild recalling all the fantasy books I read.. Am I excited? Am I worried? Am I scared? Am I just curious? or am I going crazy missing him already? I am not sure, but one thing was sure – there was some kind of connection I felt…
But are my doubts valid? There is something mysterious about him. Is he really a human being? There is something super human or super natural about him.. is he a vampire as I read in the Twilight books?? (To be continued…)