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I want to be free...

I just finished reading "By the river piedra i sat down and wept" by Paulo Coelho. I wont comment on the story of this book. What i like most about Paulo Coelho's books is the man-nature interface. A man or a woman is often seen wandering seeking for something important. And on the way they have various experiences. The description of nature's beauty in some of his books make my mind wander to those mountain ranges, to small villages, to brooks, to the meandering stony paths. I would love to walk alone in the midst of nature with birds chirping around me and dry leaves crumbling under my feet... I want to be free of all commitments and just wander.

Last year i went on a trek to Harishchandragarh with 3 of my friends. It was the best experience i ever had. That was the only time i was close to nature and away from civilization. The memories are still afresh. These photographs were taken by Satyaki (my bear). In the first photograph you can see the sun shining on me when i m trying to climb down without tumbling. The second one shows one of the many twisted paths where i slipped and luckily did not hurt myself. The third one is the ultimate beauty, mountains and mountains everywhere.

I was told by my friends that this was an easy trek, ok for beginners. I was the last addition to the small group. I went shoe-shopping just one day before the trek. At that time i did not know how much will i have to walk or climb. Actually i didnt know anything. I just relied on them (2 of them were first timers like me and the 3rd one was frequent trekker, and he is the one who deserves a kick from us).

We took a local to Kalyan. Then travelled by bus to a place called 'Khubi phata' (there is a joke about it which i cannot share here :-) ). From the place we got down from the bus we walked 4 kms to the small village called Khireshwar on the foothill of the mountain. And when the sun was overhead (at around 2 pm) we started climbing. It was so hot that after every 20 steps i felt like having a sip of water. At that time we had no idea how cold it was going to be at night. We went on climbing for more than 2 hrs and when it finally started getting dark a group of people coming from the opposite direction asked us to hurry and reach the top before nightfall. According to them we had to walk for more than an hour before reaching the caves where we were planning to stay at night. After a lot of grumbling and cursing we finally reached the plateau and came to know that the caves were full and we would have to make arrangement to sleep at night (or to stay alive that night).

As it was already dark we could not gather enough wood or twigs. Our expert trekker had to sacrifce 10 ml of rum he had got to drink. Even after this solemn sacrifice the fire could be kept alive for hardly an hour. And then we were left at nature's mercy. We managed to get place to sleep in a completely-porous hut. The cold wind blew the life out of us. 4 of us huddled together somehow managed to see the morning sun.

On the way back i didnt walk the way down. I actually tumbled and rolled down the rocks which provided a comic relief to my fellow trekkers.

What a sound sleep i had the night we returned. Each and every muscle and bone in the body was hurting. Some of the muscles, i m sure, were used for the very first time.

> 3500 meters up and back! It was great.


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