Sunday, 3 July 2011


In a faraway land called holiday there lived a little boy.

His name was Enoch. Just before he travelled to this magical place he made himself a list.

Wrote it down. Put pen to paper. What he wanted to do when he got to this enchanted isle.

Here is that list:

How did he do?

Well chocolate chip cookies were made:

The second food item - 'jelly' was also served - as part of a 'trifle' that Oma made for us:

The 'doubles badminton' did not get played - because for the first two days of our time in Mussoorie it was a form of 'baseball' that reigned supreme:

Some Tintin books? Many. Every last one of them that remains from our boyhood collection. Enoch's Daddy also explored the world through Herge's eyes again...

But the big one. The very first item on Enoch's list. That was the one we were really hoping to do this time.

'Camping (2, 3 days)' is what he wrote.

For most of the time we were at Shanti Kunj going camping seemed almost as distant a dream as it seems to us know down in sweltering monsoonal Mumbai-land.

The reason was that at the end of my second joy-filled day in Mussoorie my old back injury showed up again like an unwelcome visitor. The next 3 full days I was horizontal. And in pain. Going hiking was the last thing that we considered possible.

Added to this was Opa's own injury. A few days before we arrived, Opa was involved in an cycle-rickshaw accident. The aging peddler had swerved to try and miss a speed breaker. In the process the contraption turned turtle. With Opa beneath it and in a ditch. Mercifully there were no iron or glass pieces in that gutter. But Opa did get a very bad gash on his foot which needed stiches at the Landour Community Hospital. And the recovery process was slow.

So the two men of our Holiday home were invaldided (Stefan and Neeru and kids had gone down after the second day). The camping dream started to fade.

But hope does spring up.

I all happened on the penultimate day. With only packing and saying-good-bye day and going-down-to-the-plains-to-catch-the-train to look forward to - we actually did it.

We left at 4 in the afternoon for a hike. And a camping experience. The very first one that Asha and Enoch and their cousin Joanna had ever had.

Our destination - the peak of Flag Hill.

How were we going to get there?

Down the beautiful walk along the ridge that passes over Fairy Glen, then past First Jabbarkhet and up the road to the gap. Then up the ridge to the top of Flag Hill. Opa and Vicky and Prem were taking a taxi with our saman to the gap. From their they carried up the things to the top - with Opa remaining there and awaiting our arrival.

The walk down and then back up was exhilarating. So much beauty all around us - the stately Deodars take your breath away:

And then you pass through the delightfully mixed forest of oaks and cedars and deodars and blue pines and Himalayan maples - not to forget the glorious chestnut trees... and you know that just below you are the lovely picnic areas of Fairy Glen.

Sooner than you expect (after a water and cinnamon bun halt of course) you are down at Jabbarkhet and climbing up again.

Then the real fun starts. The metalled road is behind you. Small tracks lead you up. The ridge of Flag Hill beckons.

A little bit of huffing and puffing later, you come to the top of the ridge and gaze in wonder at the hills unfolding around you.

This is not some lofty Himalayan peak - but the joy of getting to the top, of seeing sky above you it terrific. The kids and Oma have gone far ahead by now to search for Opa. They find him sleeping peacefully with the luggage.

In the late afternoon sun there is a lot to explore at the top of Flag Hill. The name, incidentally, seems to be linked with the Tibetan prayer flags that festoon the top of this hill.

But wait, there is work to be done! We need to set up camp before it gets dark!

Ok everyone. Fan out and collect dry wood. And pine cones.

Joanna does her part in preparing for the night:

Meanwhile, Opa starts the fire and tends it carefully. A pot is put on the fire almost immediately to brew up some tea for us.

And then the tents are pitched.

What fun.

You start with a flat area, covered with pine needles. A short diligent search is made for stones and sticks that would trouble you during the night. These are tossed away into the bushes and the tents are unrolled.

We had one two-man pup tent:

As well as a 4 man dome tent (borrowed from some dear friends of Mum and Dad). Young and old helped pitch the miracle.

And as soon as the tents were up the little ones wanted to go inside. And sleep they said. But the smiles tell the whole story.

Its all first time for Asha and Enoch. And terribly exciting of course.

After the tea - the pot is put on the fire again to cook the evening meal.

Wai-wai noodles - here we come!

Good hot food in our bellies - and the onset of the evening at hand. Time for an extended sit around the camp-fire as the evening wind start wailing along the ridge that we are on.

With Opa faithfully tending the fire - it takes on a beauty of its own. The orange flames dancing and licking the wood - alternately blossoming like a bouquet of light - and then calming down to a dull red bed of glowing embers - the the occasional tongue of flame.

And in another first - our kids had marshmallows for the first time. And what better way to eat them than by impaling them on a stick and holding the marshmallows close to the fire, till the puff up in a sweet sticky mess that our mouths gladly - if a bit gingerly - welcome in.

The kids found the heat of the roasted marshmallows a bit hard to deal with - but their sticky mouths and cheeks showed that where there is a will, there are ways!

And so it was time to hit the sack. Or crawl into our sacks at least. The initial bravado that Asha, Joanna and Enoch showed about sleeping in the pup-tent soon evaporated. They were to be with Sheba and I - while Oma and Opa shared the small tent.

Snug as bugs in a rug. No less.

The night passed. With the normal shifting and surging that anynight slept under the sky does. But what a joy to be up on a mountain again, surrounded by people you love, and cuddled up in that warm cocoon that your sleeping bag becomes.

After a few waking ups in the night, I saw that the morning had come.

One of my sleeping beauties had also opened her eyes. The other three sets of eyes were tightly shut as the first rays of lit up the cloudy skies.

I went out to collect fire wood and make some tea. The embers of the previous night's fire were still glowing and a few sticks on them soon had the flames dancing again.

And then our mini-adventure began.

The heavens opened.

First a light rain. Just pin-pricks in the mist that swirled around as I walked through the woods - picking up twigs.

Then the big drops started falling. I headed back to the tent. On my way there the drops turned to ice - we were being hailed on. I dove into the tent door and put my wet shoes in a corner.

The little ones were awake by now and thrilled to see the ground covered with icy pebbles.

Being true Eichers - the next gen had brought books along with them. These were out in a flash.

Oma and Opa got wet. The little pup tent was just a bit too small for them. And a bit too wet.

We happily welcomed our 'refugees' in the spacious dome tent we had.

And were so glad we had brought in all the materials the night before we slept.

Breakfast in bed- or at least in sleeping bags!

And after breakfast - Narnia! We read from 'The Horse and His Boy' and were taken to a different world.

This was very precious for me because here we were recreating for the current generation of Eichers so much of what was precious for me growing up. The joy of being out doors. The pleasure of being with each other. The excitement of hearing stories read out (and the joy of reading them out to others).

As the rain continued to fall - we were exploring the deserts on the border of Archenland and how the intrepid 4some were going to make it to Narnia in time to warn them of the invasion...

... in the mean time, the sun decided to come out.

At just the right time.

We were up and tearing down our tents at 10.30.

As the adults packed up - the kids did some final exploring of our wonderland.

And then it was down the mountain for us.

We were rewarded with some breathtaking (and camera-defying) glimpses of the snow in the high Himalayas to the North - and an amazing vista that the rain-washed mid-morning air gave us to the South.

As we ended the great camping experience - we were just so grateful that it had happened. With all our weaknesses - we were still able to go out and camp this time. It was not quite the 2-3 days Enoch had written on his list before we went to Mussoorie - but it was very precious to us as a family.

So grateful to loving God for the many experiences of His love that we are given. Its a great life. And continues to be. Praise Him.


  1. Wow! Wish we were there!! Spent a few days in Almora recently and decided that hiking and camping are definitely on the cards in our future, God willing. And this write-up confirms that! How blessed are you all. May there be many more such precious experiences.

  2. Thanks friends! Lets make it a joint venture! There is nothing like going on a hike with friends!