Dear Mountain Gods,
You know how I worship your domain. Every little holiday I can scrape through, I try to run to your highest adobe, the Himalayas. Do you remember the days when I used to be your favorite child, when you would let me see so much beauty on my various treks and trips?
I would particularly like to draw your attention to the Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal in 2012. How kind you were to me. Due to my work commitments I could only take the pilgrimage in May, not the ideal month for walking in that sacred region! And yet you showered me with abundant blessings. On all those 11 days of walking you did not let a single drop of rain fall on my head. Agreed there was a bit of snow but then, it came at night, made everything look even more pretty at Dignboche and it caused no trouble while walking.
There were treks when I walked in hail for about two hours but then you produced a magnificent rainbow the next day!
Now I am sure I have done something to irk you, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what. When I went to trek through the Annapurna Circuit in 2013 you made it rain for four days, out of which two days started in a raincoat and ended in a raincoat as well! Now you also know what misery it is to trek so. Then at Letdar you made it snow, not the beautiful half inch but the kind that makes you give up the trek and walk back. I would not have been desolate but for the dense cloud cover which hid all the peaks on all the days I was there. I barely got a glance, a poor one at that, of the magnificence that surrounds the region. That was in 2013.
It is now 2015 Gods and I still get the same treatment. Last year even at Charndratal, Spiti I got rains! When I went to Kareri recently I got one absolutely sunny day out of the six that I was there, it was the day when I was leaving for home. It has been the same story with some minor changes on all my trips to the mountains from 2013 to 2015.
Now Gods I am not complaining, because I am sure have done something wrong to invoke your ire. But whatever I did, don’t you think it is enough? Can you please take me back in your favor? I know you are only miffed because you have always let me come back one more time, but please can we go back to the Everest Base Camp days once again?
PS. Since you were so reluctant, I just have these two watery sunsets to show for my six days of stay at Kareri Village.
There have been occasions when while posting a picture I have thought, “well I probably made it look better than it actually was!” On the other hand for each of the Kareri Village pictures I can safely say that the picture is actually inferior to the scenes. Try as I may, I was not able to truly capture the beauty of this small Himalayan village in my photographs. Still, I have to share what I got and here I go.
1. Blue Fronted Redstart
Kareri was a paradise for birding. The birds would flock around the house of my hosts itself. A red capped waterstart was a regular to the frontyard. It took me sometime to figure out the true identity of this beauty, the blue fronted redstart which was perching shyly on one of the branches a little away from the house. It is my first sighting of this delight.
2. A Poetry in Yellow
I can’t write poetry even to save my life. Barring a few (“miles to go before I sleep” leaps immediately to the mind) I hardly read poetry. But that is slowly changing. I do not run away as soon as I see poetry anymore. Maniparna it is you who changed it for me! And somehow these flowers look worthy of a poetry to me!
3. The Mighty Dhauladhars
I do not know what fascinates me but there is something about the mountains that makes me happy. I was looking at the light falling high up, forming the two lines on the otherwise dark face. I actually wanted to climb and stand there. However, I have no mountaineering skills at all. And yet the mountains fascinate me so, always.
4. The Fairy Fields
My eyes are more used to seeing concrete at a stretch than flowers! So you have to forgive me if I compare it to a fairy field! However, I have a suspicion that the locals who see it daily do not give it so much as a second favored glance!
5. A Cloudy Symphony
If I will be honest, I wanted blue skies and the mountains glowing red in the evening light. But since June 2013 all I get is clouds and mist, for most of the time. I do hope the mountains take me back in their favor and soon.
6. A Frosty Display
The day I was leaving, there was frost on the ground. My feet made such a crunching sound while I walked through the fields. I was a bit scared that I might slip. I am not at all confident even on mere frost, what to say of snow!
7. A Place to Call Home
You cannot call me a romantic. I love to spend my vacation at such scenic places. But I know the nearest hospital is far away and there is only one school in the neighborhood which is up to 8th standard. And yet for a while I did wish that there was a place by the yellow fields that I could call home.
8. The Blue Skies
The blue skies appeared miraculously in the morning on the day I had to leave. I ventured out to spend a few hours walking by, enjoying the view. To me now it seems but obvious that there should be blue skies when I am leaving the mountains, that has been the trend for more than one year now.
9. The Parting Shot
As the jeep started moving out of Kareri, I saw this scene and started fiddling with my cell phone. Guessing correctly that I wanted to click a picture, Sohan ji asked the driver to stop the vehicle for a few seconds. So, that is how the parting shot was captured.
10. Beautiful Outskirts of Dharamshala
This was also one of the jeep shots, where I got down to click this picture. It was still so beautiful on the outskirts of Dharamshala. Now when it comes to the main hill stations, I find them so over constructed!
Do let me know which picture is your favorite!
For me walking is therapy, it almost always works to clear the cobwebs in my head. I guess there is something soothing about shutting everything out and just deciding where to keep the next step for a few hours! Or you can take the other view that my guide Sohan Singh ji is fond of propagating, that trekkers drop a screw from their brain and they keep going back again and again searching for it. For me there is truth in both the views! So a day hike around Kareri Village sounded ideal to me, as it was anyway not possible to do a proper trek due to snow.
Of the four days that I stayed at Kareri I was too lazy to venture out on the day after I arrived, the other two days, the weather ensured that I stayed in.
Three of us, Ravi (the eldest son of our hosts), Sohan ji and I ventured out after breakfast on a clear day. The plan was to take a circular route which would touch three villages Langa, Chattri Mua and Nohli. The population of the villages are 300, 150 and 250 people respectively. Kareri has a populations of about 750 people. When I asked Ravi how could he know 750 people plus almost everyone in the other three neighboring villages, he just laughed and said, he just knows!
When we started there were flaky white clouds in the sky making the whole scene even prettier. After walking for a while, the thick jacket came out, I was getting hot under the collar. However, the mind still kept wandering. Now there is a real risk involved in that. I am not used to walking on mountain routes, particularly if they are full of stones. It takes all my attention to keep my feet on the track and not to fall. A wandering mind is not good at all on a stone ridden trail, I am worse when going downhill. Thankfully I managed to keep walking without twisting my ankle or knee.
The villages were pretty with their neat houses clustered together. Ravi would greet someone every few meters. I would admire the mustard flowers in bloom and wonder why can’t I make the picture look as pretty as the scene. My SLR was with Sohan ji as he was busy shooting birds! I was content with my Lumia1020 which is a pretty decent phone for photography.
We eventually arrived at Nohli which is not very far away from Kareri. But we took two tea breaks in this village as Ravi’s uncle and aunt lived there. It was refreshing to have tea after walking for a few hours.
I was wondering if my going to the gym would make any difference to my trekking? I am not sure what to conclude on the basis of this day hike. I guess I was too preoccupied, the cobwebs were getting more tangled as I walked and I did tire easily.
However, after the tea break I certainly concentrated better on the path and found the going easy. We reached back to Kareri at about 3.00 pm to a late lunch. This hike was puzzling for me as I have never been absent minded on a trek! I guess I need to go trekking again and this time for a few days at a stretch to test out if working out is helping or not!
Sitting by the fire in the kitchen I tell my hosts, I can’t remember when it was last I didn’t eat anything out of a packet for so many days in a row! Kareri is a sleepy little village in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. I was incredibly lucky to do a homestay at Kareri Village. It was cold in January but people in the hills know how to keep warm in these freezing months.
The original idea was to trek up to the Kareri Lake but due to a lot of snow on the route, the trek was abandoned immediately. I simply stayed at home and took walks around the village when the weather permitted it. It rained on one day, it snowed on another, on other two days I felt too lazy. So, in reality I did only one day hike around the village.
Mostly I sat by the fire in the kitchen and read Agatha Christie novels on Nook, finishing on an average one in a day! As Seshadri and Chhavi have stayed here before, the matter of my identity was simple. If anyone asked who I was, the standard reply was Chhavi ki Mummy (Chhavi’s mom)!
The day I arrived due to the avomine induced drowsiness, I went to sleep and refused to go out even for a walk in the evening. Kareri has phone connectivity. My host’s (Kamlesh and Family) home is slightly downhill, But we used to go up to what I christened ‘internet hill’ where I would get high speed internet connection but it was not reliable. But as it is Himachal Pradesh, electricity supply is like dream. There is no shortage of water as well! Only schools, roads and hospitals come by with a little more difficulty. There is a kaccha road to the village now. I was able to take a vehicle both ways.
I would wake up leisurely everyday and run to the kitchen to get get some hot water to brush my teeth. They do have a gas connection but they cook on wood as well. A big pot of water would almost always be on the wood fire. The chores of the day done, I would sit by the fire and wait for a cup of tea. Soon it would be time for breakfast. After that if it was a sunny day I would sit out and read a book, if not I would do the same by the fire. Thus at slow pace the life would go on.
There were numerous birds that could vie for my attention along with the book. The mustard flowers were in bloom, painting the village pretty. If the weather was good I would go out for a walk in the evening but the view of the hills eluded me till the last morning. When I was leaving, it was of course blue skies!
The family consists of three brothers- Ravi, Kamlesh and Suresh and one sister Anu. Chhavi is a great fan of Anu. I met Ravi, Kamlesh, Anu and their parents. Both Ravi and Suresh work in the tourism industry with Suresh currently working in Goa. Ravi is living in McLeod Ganj though his wife Vandana lives at Kareri. Kamlesh looks after the home, horses, mules and fields. Their parents also live in the same two storied house which has at least 10 rooms! Auntie can still lift so much load and carry it to the fields! They treated me like a princess! So, the next time you see a person handling mules, remember they live in 10 bedroom homes!
As my holidays drew to an end I realized that I didn’t spend a single rupee (other than paying at the end of my stay) as I could see no shops in the village! I was told there was a shop but as it was winters, the supplies were low! It was an amazing experience where two things stood out, I never ate anything out of a packet and I never went to a shop for six days!
If you wish to do a homestay at Kareri village with Kamlesh and Family you could call Kamlesh at +919736246820 or Ravi at +919805934718 They usually charge 1200 rupees per person per night which includes food as well.
The nearest big town is Dharamshala. I took a taxi from Dharamshala to Kareri which cost me 1500 rupees. I had to walk a bit from the road head to the house. There is public transport up to a village called Gera.
As I was new to the region and as I was thinking of trekking, I went with my long time trekking guide Sohan Singh Bisht (his number is +919410365281). However, if I go to the village again I am confident of going alone now.