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Go take a walk or something…

In Travels on December 31, 2010 by Ticket, please?

The lonely traveller they say, is having all the fun. And I’m the kind to be easily led by hearsay. So whilst the others went off to the breathtaking and spine chilling Nathula Pass in Sikkim, I decided to give my spinning head a late start. Also to dig out the big truth of the much raved about solo travel.

Dorjee, my driver cum guide seemed wary of a single woman wanting to go, just about anywhere to experience the local. “Madam, are you from Discovery channel?” he asks. The ice is melting. He continues, “You look like one of them; only they go to such interiors and offbeat places.” Yes, he used the word offbeat! One thing I can conclude at the onset of this journey – the drivers here are extremely suave, stylish and well bred. And he switches on Linkin Park, just for the record.

Cloud-hugging uphill drives, creaking veteran bridges, peeking faces from bamboo huts, rivulets leading the way, the omnipresent gurgling Tista, cool alpine winds whistling out to me and a wondering Dorjee – perfect surroundings! The pleasure of being able to stop anywhere to have a chat and chai with the locals, to find prayer flags greeting you at unimaginable heights, to create loud whispers amongst the peeping residents, to chance upon young monks wearing superman t-shirts, to give right of way to the hens on the road and then get off to actually chase them – all this at the luxury of being on my own.

So what’s the next obvious thing on this not so obvious itinerary – a monastery. Nestled somewhere in a small village called Pabyuk in West Sikkim is this five hundred year old monastery that is happily neglected by tourism. Primarily because it is a steep climb and none of you are healthy or eager enough to get there, and perhaps because of its miniature stature amongst the more prominent hotseats like Rumtek. Seriously, all you tourists, what they say about travel is, that the best places are the ones that aren’t on a map. They, whoever.

As I puffed and panted my way up, giving up every ten steps, a little doubtful about the safety of a lone woman in a jungle that was getting more dense, a destination that wasn’t on the map (because that was the whole idea!), my head was conjuring up all the possible incidents that can happen so discreetly here, where the slightest croak or movement on the ground would be a reason to flinch – and even amidst all this drama, I was completely besotted by the beauty of this journey, this solitude. Discovering the road less travelled on your own has its own rush – it’s an achievement. An endearing silence and an inexplicable sense of peace prevailed as I saw a hint of some prayer flags fluttering amongst the greens. A whiff of this verdant luxury needed to be packed along. The monastery per se is nothing much to boast about and was closed when I reached. Perfect timing. But my efforts were duly rewarded with a monk going out of his way to open it up for me. As the doors open, I see a small dark room with a huge set-up of lamps, incense sticks, water bowls and some other potpurri. The magnificent set up was for the big prayer the next day – a prayer for the departed souls.

Little monks were going at their football game like any other team in the world until they noticed me peeking and clicking from a corner. And I wonder, “what’s the fun of being a monk?” I save the contemplation for a later moment. The downward journey was easy, interesting and delectable. Noodle soup with locally grown herbs was a warm welcome by the locals. The setting sun just above my head – a lifetime memory. And a tatse of ‘channg’ – the local beer, made this whole journey pretty much worth it.

The thing about a solo journey is that it is completely yours. I won’t make any larger-than-life claims to a self-discovery, or anything remotely spiritual. It’s important to be one with the place and the journey. To find newer paths of getting there. And eventually all of us do get there; it’s the how that makes your story. So go take a walk or something… I say.

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2 Responses to “Go take a walk or something…”

  1. luved this post as well … and the 1st frame is truly awesome!

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