The next ridge of the mighty Himalaya after the one Mussoorie is on is crowned by Nag Tibba (3,022 m). For those who want to climb the highest point in the lower Himalaya in the state of Uttarkhand there are two main routes going up - one is the direct way via Mangalori village - and the other is to go out via the forest rest house at Deolsari. We were not going to climb Nag Tibba (in a few years perhaps?). Our intention was to get to Deolsari - and enjoy the forest around it.
And was that intention ever met!
Step 1: Young (2 years) and old (76 years) got into a jeep up at Sisters bazaar for the drive out to the closest village to Deolsari. All 10 of us (we missed Neeru this time - and keep missing Premi every year) clambered in.
Most did not enjoy the ride. Our jeep took us to Suakholi, then down to Tathur and then over the Aglar 'river' (just a trickle in early June) and back up to the village of ? (oops forgot the name). We should have gone to Bangsil - but our driver decided to go up the other side of the brook. Why did most of us not enjoy the ride - it wasn't the scenery which was gorgeous. It was the feeling of travel sickness that almost all of the younger generation had - which was not helped by eating momos while waiting for the middle-agers to get some medication from the Landour Community Hospital on the way. Much vomitting and many stops along the way... and then finally we got to the village where the road ended and we could unload.
Ahead of us was the open sky and the hills leading up!
After unloading what seemed an expedition worth of luggage we engaged two young men to help us carry and set off with a crowd of spectators around us - feeling very much like a group of folks heading off to Everest!
Silent stems surrounded us on every side.
Greens of oh so many hues and shades - with the straight lines of the Deodars directing your gaze up and up and up again...
Judging by Anita's performance on this walk - there may be some truth there! Our two-year old was bubbling with enthusiasm.
Our youngest member had us all enthralled as she welcomed us into her world.
And her joy at seeing things new - like the butterfly she is gazing at here helped us to look at things in a wonderful way.
Hooray for young eyes to help all of us see more beauty - especially at the smaller scales of creation!
Being Eichers, there were also books in our packs.
One member of the younger generation decided to whip out one of them on a short break while walking up the hill.
Another member looked over his shoulder.
After a quick breather it was onwards and upwards again.
The 10 of us spread out as our two intrepid young men carrying the tents moved ahead with Opa Eicher and Asha keeping up with them - and all the rest moving through the green beauty in little clusters.
The only people we met in the forest were two boys who tried to sell us a small bag of Kaphal fruits.
Since we had already bought from other kids along the way (on one of our vomit stops) we left these young lads with a conversation - and their bag of Kaphal still in their hands.
Both boys were school goers - and they walk all the way to Tathur each day to attend. But these days were holidays - and what better place to be than in the forest!
That's what we felt too!
Especially when at the end of the trek we came to this beautiful Forest Department bungalow!
After showing our letter to the local staff, we plonked ourselves onto the grassy lawn next to the bungalow and tore into Vicky's prathas and alu sabji.
Nothing like having a good lunch at 3 PM and being bathed in to golden sun filtered through the deodars!
A quick nap for most of us - and then the fun of putting up tents began!
Thanks to Edwin Singh and the Blank family we had some wonderful 'tambus' to put up.
What can be more magical than building your own house?
And once the tents are up - you need to play in them properly too!
There was much merriment in the camp!
Camping is more than just sleeping of course.
Food is huge. And since we are in the forest we need fuel for the fire.
We had some wonderful helpers who combed the forest floor for twigs... As the German children's song goes: wer will fleissige Handwerker sehen?
And over the next two days our fire was the centre of the camp. Many a cup of tea and coffee was brewed. Many a fire-maker huffed and puffed and saw the miracle of flames dancing and coals glowing. And sweet aromas of Deodar being burned, the pungent smoke drifting through and the small cloud of ash that periodically covered us with fine grey all added to the special flavour of being outdoors.
As dusk fell, the large pot of noodles was simmering.
And in the darkness under the star speckled sky, we slurped the hot noodles and listened to the hilarious (mis)adventures of William by Richmal Crompton.
Songs and marshmallows roasted on sticks and a psalm rounded off the night. And happy campers fell asleep in their tents (and in the bungalow too!).
The denizens are up bright and early... Some unfolding like a flower.
Time to brew up a cuppa and start the adventures! A chorus of 'when are we going to the stream' punctuated the morning hours.
And finally it is time! Stefan has his team all ready.
The stream beckons!
The explorers and would be bathers are ready!
Now all that needs to be done is bring kids and water together!
And that is done quite simply, because just a few minutes walk through the forest and we come to this wonderland of water and rocks and more water and more rocks!
A place to explore... and over the two days that we were there much exploring was done.
For boys who live in concrete jungles, this is straight out of Tom Sawyer.
Needless to say, it was hard to get the kids back up to camp. And easy to get them back down to the water at a moment's notice!
And to watch our loved ones enter a different world.
Something that we read about in story-books - and now are actually living out ourselves!
To see the little tadpoles swimming in the crystal clear water. Something Bombay-boys and Delhi-lads don't see much in their day to day experience.
And finally to warm ourselves on a hot rock after the various levels of plunges taken... all added to the delight!
Most of all - our time at Deolsari was the joy of being together. And to be together in so much beauty.
We are so grateful to God for these magical days. And for the opportunity to be together. Alone and cut off from the huffing and puffing of what makes up so much of 'normal life'
And being in a place of re-creation.
A place of quiet and joy and discovery.
A place where the stunning beauty around us was mirrored in the delight of experiencing it with each other.
We are so grateful for 'Oma' for her insight in getting us up the mountain to this place of bliss.
We are so grateful to God for His generous provision of allowing us to live out these beautiful days which will remain etched in our memories.
It was so ideal to have a place where we could camp and congregate - and also wander off for stream exploring and prayer walks and time reading.
Our mind's eye is already thinking about the next time we can make our way up the hills to this wonderful place.
And as the walking capacity of our family increases, who is to say that we cannot go further? Maybe one day we will summit on Nag Tibba itself!
Maybe not, given the un-angelic sounds that surround most of us.
But just as Anita sleeps in her father's arms.
So we too can rest in the arms of our loving Heavenly Father.
One who gave us a glimpse of heaven through these beautiful days in Deolsari.
I am personally so grateful that my back did not give out like it did 2 years ago when we were camping on Flag Hill. The prayers of the sinners-turned-saints on my behalf are so appreciated!
At the end of our time there we had to shoulder straps again and walk down to the village where the jeep was to pick us up.
Stefan took the kids on a final river ramble, we bundled all the bags together, cleaned up the camp place and left the location in pristine condition - so that the next group of campers will be just as delighted as we were!
And so the trek back began. Till next time! And may next time come soon!
Most of the pictures in this post were taken by Stefan Eicher - including the one just above! Thanks Stefan for documenting our time together!