On a beautiful March morning, we got off the train at Katra railway station and as the fog of the night lifted from our sleepy heads, we took in the view that surrounded us. The mountains were breath-taking. After a moment of silence, the noise of the station slowly mixed in much like paints do in still water – the birds, choppers, soldiers with their guns, tourists and vendors all making their way through the morning.
I was excited at the prospect of visiting the Vaishno Devi Temple, not only had I heard about the beauty of the place, I was also looking forward to the trek. And what an adventurous trek indeed! At 6 PM we decided, we would go up in a chopper and started making inquiries. Due to bad weather, we could not fly in a chopper but that would not defeat our spirit. We decided to climb.
We started together at 7 PM. As some of the dainty damsels in our group struggled, some men slowed down to take up the knight’s role to help. While some of us carried on ahead and reached the temple. The best part was trekking at night and feeling welcomed even though it was almost midnight.
We prepared to return, four of us. Soon we reached that famous dilemma Mr Frost had once talked about where ‘two roads diverged in the woods’. Me and fellow musketeer, Gurmeet were ready to brave the unexplored short cut because we had a deadline, the exhibition would open at 9 AM and we had to make it before that. We went down the dirt road path and every now and then we would be delighted to see some stairs too. Everything was going smooth until we reached some broken stairs and in spite of the ‘No Entry’ board, we jumped over. At 3 AM, a few barking dogs chased us into a thicket of trees. Just as things couldn’t get any worse, it hit us that we were quite lost.
As we walked the path less travelled by, we thought of the movie ‘Wrong Turn’ and even if we wouldn’t admit it, fear crept in. Gurmeet suggested that we go back up but we couldn’t climb back the way we came as we were very tired. Slowly and steadily, moving on and cracking jokes, we managed to finally spot the right trail. We were in the first group that reached the top and the first two to leave, taking our short cut with much gusto. Not very surprisingly, we were the last ones to arrive at the bottom but the memories of this adventure remain forever etched within my heart.
– Ashish Banoria, as shared with the SECAS blog team: Reema Jaiswal, Nitin Tiwane and Guest member, Jigu : )
(A bioinformatics student, Ashish has a straightforward personality and has handled many a profession, be it working as a software engineer or developing and managing his own ecommerce website. Being notorious as a kid, he can mimic communicators well, is a dancer and is always up to mischief. If you see some origami turtles or little adorable rings in kids’ hands, know that Ashish was around!)