In Search of White

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

 Well, by now I have got some degree of expertise in planning hyper-intense, compressed form of travelling. Those physically and mentally exhausting, hectic kinds, 2 to 3 day trips, planned at a very short notice. For this year’s travel agenda to get rolling, all it took was an invite to a college friend’s marriage in Dehradun. It hardly took us (me & my 2 close friends) an instant to seize this opportunity as another reason to plan a trip, this time to the mountains and try our luck to be able to find some snow!

We took a flight for Delhi late evening after office (12th Feb 16), and after catching a few hours of sleep at my place (in Delhi), we boarded the early morning Dehradun Shatabdi express at 6:30 AM. The train journey was quite relaxing, as we gazed outside at the endless farmlands, and winter-hued landscapes. By 12:30 PM, the train chugged into Dehradun station, and the city welcomed us with a light, yet cold drizzle. Our cab driver was waiting outside, and in no time we started off towards the first destination – Dhanaulti (Near Mussoorie), about 60 kms away.

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The road from Dehradun to Mussoorie was very scenic, and dotted with small Maggi points all the way. We stopped over at a joint for a short noodles break. By the time we reached Mussoorie, it was already 3 PM and the temperature started falling sharply. We covered ourselves up with sweatshirts and jackets, and kept moving towards our first pit-stop, still about 30kms away. Not even halfway through, clouds of mist started engulfing the road and as we passed, the drizzle had now become sleet. After driving a few more kilometres through the slippery roads, we finally saw a white, snow-covered mountain slope. That sight was enough to spike our excitement levels up exponentially! And finally, we saw snow flakes falling all around; those tiny, white crystals of ice touching the face – that feeling!

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The mountains ahead were totally covered in snow, and the air temperature was probably below freezing point. We stopped at a dhaba enroute, and treated ourselves to some steaming hot tea/coffee and some bonfire. But our excitement was short-lived. Then came the news that the roads ahead of that point had been blocked due to heavy snowfall, and there was no way we could reach Dhanaulti that day. My friend then somehow managed to convince the hotel staff, and arranged for an alternate accommodation back in Mussoorie. Getting some temporary relief, we got back to clicking some photos and enjoying the surreal experience. That night, we returned back to Mussoorie and stayed overnight.

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Next morning, after a quick early breakfast, we decided to check out newspapers for weather reports and warnings. The roads were still blocked. The locals also warned against going back to Dhanaulti. Bit disheartened, we opened up Google Maps and looked out for an alternate route. We figured out an alternative route which was open for traffic – however it would involve an additional 120 kms drive, going back to Dehradun and coming around via Rishikesh and Chamba. After negotiating with the driver for the additional kms, we left for Rishikesh without wasting much time. Along the route, we stopped at a river side for a few snaps, and some stretching. This route had much less traffic than the other route. After crossing Chamba (about 50kms from Rishikesh), we took the road going left towards Kanatal and Dhanaulti. Fortunately, our second night’s accommodation was booked at a quaint, picturesque resort in Kanatal. The snow was still there, and we could not resist the urge to play in snow near the resort. Soon after, evening fell and bright stars filled up the dark blue sky. Being the only guests at the resort that night, it felt quite special and a bit spooky too. We had our dinner under the night sky with an open bonfire, as the temperature started dipping to below freezing.

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We woke up to a lovely crisp sunny day, and got good news that the roads to Dhanaulti and Mussoorie were now opened to public. We left for Dhanaulti post a light breakfast, and drove carefully through the slippery, snow laden roads. In some places, the snow mowers were still doing their work and we had to wait for them to clear off the snow. Enroute we had also planned to visit the famous Surkanda Devi temple, which lies a few kms before Dhanaulti. It was a steep 1.5 km uphill climb, with breath-taking panoramic views of the greater Himalayas from the summit. The temple was magnificent, and had a beautiful oriental look to it. It is believed that when Shiva passed through this place on his way back to Kailash with the dead body of Sati, her head fell at this point.

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There was a lot of fresh snow near the hill top, and the child in us could not resist the temptation to roll and dive into it! After taking innumerable selfies and landscape pictures, we started our descent (which was quite tricky on the slippery, icy path). It was already 2 PM, and we had to reach Dehradun by 6 PM in order to make it to our friend’s wedding. We drove carefully through the frozen roads at minimum speed, so as to avoid slipping. After a brief stopover for lunch in Dhanaulti, we started off towards Dehradun via Mussoorie and reached out destination close to our target time of 6.30 PM.

The journey was tiring and hectic but we enjoyed every moment of it, and took back loads of lifelong memories, cherishing the precious bond of lifelong friendship that we have. Every trip we make gives us – a different perspective to look at our regular lives, learning that no other classroom or teacher can give, and a spiritual/divine experience which guides us to being a better person than we were ever before… So always keep travelling!

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