“Sometimes you have to get lost in order to reach your destination”
The Rohtang Checkpoint at Manali is the last green bastion of civilisation before you enter a landscape of antediluvian sparseness. More commonly known as Spiti Valley, this isolated chunk of Tibetan culture is nestled in a remote corner of the Northern Himalayas, rendered almost inaccessible by treacherous roads and impassable mountain passes.
It was May, 2013 and we had driven down from the Capital, searching for some music and madness in the midst of nowhere. We were asked to look for a place called Sarchu. The concert venue was supposedly located around some abandoned old military base, few miles from Sarchu towards the Leh-Ladakh road. The day had already progressed to the extant where the sun begins to stoop down and kiss the earth, when we were stopped by uniformed guards asking for relevant permits.
In the matter of a few minutes, we continued on our way to the vast unknown that was unfurling in front of our eyes. The landscape has transformed to a stern white with flecks of brown splattered all over it, chiseled as if the harsh rays of the sun has whetted the edges into stern ridges. A narrow lane meandering through snow covered cliffs, waterfalls flooding broken roads hanging over a steep precipice, flock of sheep returning to their mountain homes, a eucalyptus-covered wayside overlooking the dam beneath – the spectacle constantly shifted from the Uncanny to the Grandiose.
The lingering rays of the sun were soon replaced by the dark mist of a rapidly falling night, decked up with a glittering sky. As the darkness descended, it engulfed us in an eerie silence of desolation with not even the mundane sounds of crickets for company. It was not too long before we were lost. We were almost on the verge of turning back, when fortuitously we found a camp that gave us further directions. It was almost 9 pm we finally reached the camp which was to be our home for the next two days.
Surrounded by ragged ice-capped mountains on all side and a dry river-bed behind the deserted sheds, the camp consisted of a couple of tents, a few good men, some basic paraphernalia and heavy duty audio amplification equipment. The atmosphere was quaint and seemingly surreal, with backpacking Europeans & Israelis coming together with these mountain dwellers amidst this scraggy and rough terrain of the Himalayas, united through their combined love for music. With only the sombre light of the full moon for company, we huddled up in front of the modest campfire and, in vain, tried to keep warm through intermittent puffs of smoke and chants of “bam bhole” at frequent intervals.
The next morning I was freezing in my sleeping bag, wishing I had remained back wrapped around in my soft comforter (the little Ms Baggins that I was), when the euphoric baritone of the multiple buildups and drops of trance music woke me up from my sluggish slumber for good. Breakfast was a meagre but delicious affair, consisting of Maggi, eggs, cups of tea and parathas. We spent the entire morning hypnotised by the crisp air and the electro beats. It was two days of pure bliss, with only the vast mountains and the clouds passing overhead to feast one’s eyes on.
The taste of freedom of the senses was exhilarating, with nothing to distract the mind. If you wish to experience something beyond acoustic, transformational festivals can provide you with the much needed thrill. But you need to let go of any hang ups you might have regarding living in the lap of nature. And there would be nothing to distract you from music – no cell phones, no radios, no laptops – a perfect bliss.
The question naturally arises, if life treats one so harshly in the mountains, why go camping in the great outdoors at all? Why leave the comfort of your home and warmth of your hearth to travel to barren mountains? It’s because, like Bilbo Baggins, no matter how lovely your home is, the wanderlust in you shoves you out in search of new adventures; and during the journey to nowhere in particular, you learn that a simple plate of piping hot Rajma Chawal or a bowl of plain old chicken stew can work wonders for your appetite. You learn that a few impromptu conversations with unknown strangers over puffs of smoke can warm your heart and feed your soul. You learn that happiness is not necessarily a synonym for material success. You also learn that the finest things in life are best experienced raw and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to reach your destination.
——————-Originally posted at Trailwala.com