It was in late April 2018 that I climbed to the summit of the very steep hill opposite our friends Shefali & Christopher’s home in the Tirthan valley in Himachal.
But that was 3 years ago.
For years this beautiful mountain has been the view from our room, and I have come to feel rather proprietorial about it, casually referring to it as “my” mountain.
And, as I said, a lot has happened in 3 years.
I am 3 years older, for one thing.
We’ve all been grounded by the Coronavirus pandemic, and there seems to be no immediate light at the end of this particular tunnel.
But, me being me, I also have Big Plans for when we are able to “emerge” from the pandemic.
Actually, they are all the exact same Big Plans from 2020 that got sidelined by Covid.
The older I get, the more my Big Plans seem to involve physical challenges, so it seemed appropriate to climb once again to the summit of Dev Kanda and offer prayers at the little wooden temple atop the summit.
As on all my previous hikes up this mountain, I went with Neerath, the charming village carpenter, and so, on a beautiful last day of March morning, the 2 of us set off.
The climb up the face of the mountain that we see from our room is
(a) one heck of a slog in the sun, with NO shade whatsoever
(b) way higher. In essence, what we see from our room is only half the mountain, as the summit is not visible from the valley below.
Accompanied by a random village dog who joined us, we made good time up to Neerath’s house where we had chai and biscuits, and then after a short rest, we pushed ever onwards & upwards, on a much steeper route than I’d remembered.
I asked, and Neerath confirmed that it was indeed much steeper than the route we took 3 years ago – we were scrambling a lot of the way, with Neerath picking out the path. No sign of a “pagdandi”.
When we made it to the summit, he (kind man) told me that I was the fittest person he’d ever taken up. I tried to tease him by saying (roughly), “I bet you say that to everyone,” but Neerath is one of the straightest, most honest people you could meet, and he insisted.
No, he said.
You are very fit.
Very seriously he told me, “I guided one girl “much younger than you” and even she turned back.”
So I decided to accept the compliment for what it was.
I was a tad apprehensive that in the 3 years since my last climb, the tiny peaceful little temple that crowns the summit might have been modernised (like so much of the valley below, almost unrecognisable in just 6 short months), but other than the addition of a small wooden gazebo-y thingy for people to sit (apparently) it was as lovely as I’d remembered.
Mercifully no litter.
Amazing views over the peaks.
And just the two of us – the dog had peeled off about 3/4 way up.
Neerath offered the god the pine branches he’d picked.
And I offered up prayers for my Big Plans.
We then both had a little siesta on a rock in the sun, before setting off down the mountain at a fair clip.
We called in for chai at his nephew’s house, where I was given an 8 hour old goat kid to cuddle.
Neerath’s nephew greeted me politely, and then his first question was “Aapka age kya hai?” (How old are you?”).
Ah yes, the brutal frankness of India.
On we went, waving at Neerath’s brother and sister-in-law who were busy fixing a window-frame in place.
We stopped a little later at his uncle’s house for a chat, & I was again asked about my age.
After that it was down, down, down to the bridge leading to Gushaini village, and we walked the last 2 km along the road, with everyone we met teasing Neerath for being a guide. He’s a carpenter, remember.
A super day.
Lots of chit chat with a sweet, gentle man.
And, fingers crossed, prayers accepted by the gods for my Big Plans.
I made a short film of my route (well, an app did 😛 ).