The year is 2010. It is a pleasant morning in the big town of Manado in Indonesia. The traffic is moving at a steady pace, men & women are crowding the Microlet (local transport van) interchange, and we are trying to haggle a ride to the ferry terminal in the four words of Bahasa we’ve learnt in the one day we’ve been here. We must be on our way to the little known island of Bunaken today.
You’re forgiven for cursing the sun gods for the signature Delhi heat. But thanks to them, the long weekends of Dussehra & Diwali are beckoning you to ditch the sunscreen, lose the ice stock, drop your sun hat, and set out for a breath of fresh air.
Mcleodganj is perhaps every backpacker’s rite of passage to India. Except that it is so unlike India, I feel I’ve skipped a few legalities, missed a few stamps on my passport, and entered a world I was taught is forbidden.
Lately, I’ve been surprised with an inflow of emails & tweets applauding my love for travel. (Thank you for that.) These notes almost always end with a ‘someday,’ in that, someday, you too want to see the world. To everyone with this ‘someday’ in their dictionary, I say, all you need to travel is a backpack & a heart for adventure.
My first solo trip to Spiti Valley was filled with many firsts, including hitchhiking in India for the first time! Come along? As I walk along the green fields of Pin Valley, I smile in delight at the pink, purple and yellow flowers in bloom. I haven’t seen greenery for the last 3 weeks in the mountain desert terrain of Spiti. I carefully walk across the fragile bridge across the Spiti River, to the village of Gulling. The goal is to hitchhike my way back to Kaza, Spiti’s capital, instead of waiting for a bus that may / may not show up the next morning. Also read: I Love Spiti – A Campaign to Save Spiti Valley from Single Use Plastic I have never hitch-hiked in India before. It would be a parent’s worst nightmare for their 23-year-old daughter in the northern cities of India. But my time in Spiti has convinced me that there isn’t a safer alternative to travel the region. The mountain people welcome you with big hearts, space or no space. …
As we drive into the heart of India, dubbed Madhya Pradesh, I awake my sleepy self to the sight of the Betwa River, a beautiful expanse of clear water vigorously flowing through a dam. I am suddenly kicked about venturing into an India that is far off the tourist circuit; Spiti & Hegdenagar feel like a long time ago.
I’m reminiscing about the winter of 2007, that I spent traversing the famous backwaters of Kerala and discovering the ways of southern India. Through my rusty memory, I remember the tranquility of the waters, the countless coconut trees along the coast, and a beautiful evening sky.