Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Up-close and personal with nature…

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle has rightly said, “Nature does nothing uselessly.” And so, when it calls you for its attention, you know there is something miraculous waiting for you. The same miracle waited for me somewhere in the hills of Pachmarhi, where I recently took a temporary recluse, away from the hustle of the city.

No, am not a travel-freak. Neither do I like hitting the road all so frequently. But when it’s a place, which promises to offer a soulful connection with its surrounding sans the ever-noisy, ever-polluting ambience of the city, I am all for it.

And when I packed my bags for the 5 day trip to enchanting Pachmarhi, little did I know that this tour would be a lot more than ‘just another journey’ of a lifetime..

With some apprehension, I climbed the bus to Pachmarhi. I was apprehensive, because this was one of those few journeys, which I would be exploring alone, without my family. I’ll be all by myself. But I still wanted to drink in the enthralling nectar of adventure, which I had heard, Pachmarhi offers to its visitors.

I was hungry or rather starving, as our (mine and 240 other co-travelers’, mostly students) buses awaited the RTO clearance. I somehow managed to gorge on some Parle-G biscuits to appease my hunger. The cold breeze was making its way into the bus through the driver’s glassless window. It was getting colder inside. My shawl and jerkin came in handy. Thank gosh I surrendered to my mum’s insistence on keeping warm clothes in the hand-baggage! All this gave me some relief from cold. I patiently awaited the morning sun and dreamt of how it would look from the running bus. And somewhere in between intoxication put me to sleep.

The morning sun was deep orange and its rays soothingly welcomed us to a brand new destination of beauty and magnetism, never seen before. This was Pachmarhi, one of the most under-rated paradises on earth. I could feel the freshness in the air. It took away all the lethargy that I thought only a morning cup of tea could do! I could smell the nostalgic fresh fragrance of the wet soil, which reminded me of my nanny’s village…

We reached our hotel. Everything was fine until I stepped into my room along with twenty other girls, who pulled, pushed and yanked the door open, only to rush inside and fast forward the seemingly ‘organized’ place into a total mess. The so-called ‘hall’ soon lost its identity. ‘Well, this is how I have to spend the next five days, but let be.’ I consoled myself.

Our ‘dhanno’ (our jeeps), waited for us, outside the hotel building. There were two people to guide us through our journey. Our excitement made us hurriedly rush into our respective jeeps and we headed straight to ‘handi-khoh’, a valley named after an Englishman ‘Handi’ who committed suicide here. It was jittery to look deep into it. This was how our garrulous jeep-driver described it. And how right he was! It was frighteningly deeper than what we had imagined! The sight was fierce but, nevertheless, exciting.

We moved on with hearts full of exhilaration to our next destination, Chauragarh, which was a whopping TWO AND A HALF HOUR CLIMB! And mind you, the way to Chauragarh is extremely zig-zag and bouldery. And over 1200 stairs have been constructed to reach the blissful seat of Lord Shiva. Our legs became stiff and numb by the time we reached the place where a life size idol of Shiva bhagwan was enshrined. The sight of this beautiful statue made us forget the pain and the numbness for some time and the ecstasy of climbing such a huge distance helped in reaching back to our jeeps.

But seeing our leg-weary condition, the two guides suggested calling it a day. Coz they knew better that the rest of the destinations called for bigger action and sprightliness.

Usually am very fussy about making my bed tidy before I hit the sack, but that day I was too tired to bother about all that stuff. All I wanted to do was to sleep like a log. The condition of the room was pathetic. Given the fact there were twenty girls staying in one ‘hall’, what else can you imagine? But I didn’t care a damn. Before I could think any further I was already deep into the land of Nod.

We woke up to start the day afresh and my legs surprisingly had become sturdy enough for another escapade walk in the woods.

The second day was less tiring than the first one and we enjoyed our stay tremendously at Apsara Vihar. This beautiful bathing pool offers an unforgettable joy to its guests. Water continuously falls upon a small ‘kund’ creating magic. We clicked as many pictures of this awesome fall as we could and left some memory space of our cams for the next tourist spot.

I can never fail to remember the beauteous scene of the sun immersing in the sky, just like a new born falling asleep in her mother’s lap. We know the baby will get up again the next morning to light up the face of mankind. This was the sunset point. No matter how tired we were, nobody wanted to miss the chance to be in dialogue with the Sun God, when it was innocently cool. I bet, once you are atop you desire to stay there forever.

The night was musical with the tabla and harmoniums playing some old classical numbers. The musicians accompanied us throughout the course of the trip. The music was the icing on the cake and was greatly rejuvenating.

Next day we scarily hit the ‘reech ki gufa’. We were warned not to make any noise there as it could alert the wild animals residing in the jungle. But hey! Girls have got to do what girls have got to do, right? And when there are 250 of them, even the roaring of a lion is belittled. But thankfully, we didn’t face any of the savage beasts of the jungle. And cheerfully we went on with our joyride of exploration.

Before coming back to the hotel, we had two ravishing waterfalls waiting for us. Both were spectacular. Though the arduous roads consumed a lot of body glucose, we still were flabbergasted to see the beauty of these falls. Bee-fall is about 150 feet high and Dutches fall has its own charisma. Visiting the two waterfalls was truly a spiritual experience.

The last day observed a bundle of mystery unfolded as we visited the Pandav Gufa. Pandavas are said to have spent their days of exile in these caves. It was intriguing to know the detailed history of this place as explained by the usher. We also spent some time in the laboriously built Pandav Garden there and enjoyed the splendor of the place.

Pachmarhi Jheel was my personal favorite. In contrast to the hastiness of our caravan, the Jheel appeared placid and undisturbed. It’s a fabulous spot. The scintillating rays of the sun falling on its surface made it appear like a bed of diamonds. Back home, I knew my sis, chacha, mum n dad might be missing me. I missed them too. And I wished they were there with me at the time when I was rejoicing in the tranquility of this stunning creation of God.

Well, sadly the trip was over. Jheel was the last spot of our trip but it will always be the first destination of the memory ride, whenever there’ll be a mention of God, beauty or nature.

It is only after visiting, relishing and falling in love with Pachmarhi, that you realize that it is truly, yet another paradise on earth.

On our way back home, we halted at Hoshangabad, on the banks of Narmada. As buses couldn’t make their way to the narrow streets, we had to walk through a busy market and it was a pretty long distance, given the already worn out condition of our shoes. We walked past people who would comment – ‘ye koi naari mukti morcha hai kya?’, ‘Kidhar se aaye ho behenji?’. God knows how I managed to walk like that. Except for the morning walks in quiet streets or joggers’ parks, I am not used to walking like that, in the middle of such busy streets, people staring at you n all. But I did. There was no choice. But in the end I enjoyed my stay at Hoshangabad, Narmada kinare.

All in all, the trip was an unforgettable experience. Sometimes you just want to sit and marvel at the beauty of God’s creations. That is exactly what I did in Pachmarhi. It only reinforced my faith in that Supreme Being and His Godliness, which together cast a spell on your existence through these magical creations.

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