When you are determined to take a journey, nothing can stop you from reaching your destination and when you have your friends along, even forests look like a fairy-tale. These three girls just proved that even nature bows down to its real lovers.
Shivangi Pandey, Gunjan Menon and Arzoo Raj have been best friends for more than fourteen years now and to cherish this friendship they decided to take a trip to the remote areas of Uttarakhand. While their parents were not convinced initially to send their 22 years old daughters on a all girls trip, they had to allow after seeing their strong will and desire.
The trip was full of fun, adventure, thrill and chills; be it rains, thunder, lightening or hailstorm- these tough power-puff girls saw it all. Let us have a glimpse of their wonderful journey as they describe their experiences in their own words.
A trip with best friends is like a jackpot especially for girls, there is so much fun and adventure. While I always dreamed of a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara kind of experience, I recently got a chance to visit the woods of Dhanualti and Kanatal with my best friends. While it is hard to put this wonderful experience to words yet we can go on and on about it. The lifetime experience that we had in our tent in the hamlet of Kanatal was mesmerizing.
The constant rain, thunder, lightning, wind, hailstorm and the darkness of the night scared us sometimes but we were determined to stay there and fight our fears. For two days and one night, we survived only on chips and Maggie and I can not mention that the Maggie in hills tastes the best. The trip gave us an opportunity to not only explore the mountains and forest but also our own selves.- Shivangi Pandey
This was our first stop on our way to Dhanaulti when we couldn’t resist the beautiful view of the ranges and we got down to click some pictures. The roads looked good, awaiting for us to continue our journey and we needed a clear sky to observe the meteor shower. The chances looked slim as the sky was clouded. Nevertheless, we clicked a few pictures and continued on our way. Dhanaulti is a hill station 24 km (15 mi) from the popular hill station of Mussoorie, and 31 km (19 mi) from Chamba, as it is situated between the two.
Located amidst thick Pine, Cedar, and Rhododendron forest, Dhanaulti has excellent weather round the year and offers great view of snow capped Himalayan peaks. Plus, warm peace and warmth of hospitable people welcomes you at Dhanolti that definitely adds to its charm.
The first place we visited after reaching Dhanaulti was Dhanaulti Eco Park. We trekked to the park, relaxed for a while and enjoyed the swings in the forest area. The feel was pretty much like that of a typical Bollywood movie from 90s. This recreational park has no roller coasters, no bumping cars, no noisy rides, but lush green surroundings, a wide variety of swings, beautiful walking tracks, nice corners and sitting spaces. It was good to be able to breathe fresh air away from the city pollution and population.
We were searching for a good camping spot and Dhanualti seemed quite crowded at that time so we decided to move ahead. We wanted a place away from the village and villagers to enjoy some quite time under the starry sky. Also, we were quite fascinated by the idea of camping in wilderness as it seemed pretty daring and we wanted to try it out.
Our search took us to Kanthal which is famous for spectacular view of the mountain ranges. We spoke to a few locals here and tried to gather information about the surroundings. We tried a few places but they were either private properties or they seemed unsafe. The search for camping location went on and we met many smiling faces during this search.
We met this lady who was as pure as the blissful surroundings and as welcoming as the place itself! Initially, she was surprised to know that we three were on a trip all by ourselves and she looked quite worried when we expressed our desire to set up our camp in forest.
It was not safe for girls to be alone in hills she said and later when she realized that we were a group of three stubborn girls, she did everything she could to help us there. The lady suggested a perfect place to set our camp, she also invited us to her home and we stayed there for a couple of hours. It was a nice, small house just like the kinds we find in hills.
Thanks to this lady, we found a perfect spot for camping. It was a place about a km ahead of Kanatal towards Chamba. The best thing about this place was that the sky was clearly visible and we were extremely excited to observe meteors during the night. While we were still admiring our tent, it started raining rather pouring, we got inside the tent and it kept raining heavily for around three hours. We had little hopes that our tent will survive but luckily it did!
Amidst thunder, lightening, rain and hailstorm we all were curled up inside our tent hopelessly. We knew we won’t be able to capture the starry night and the entire search seemed to go waste. We were freezing as the whether was extremely cold there and the sounds of rain and thunder terrified us. We had heard from the locals that lightening fall is quite common there, so the fear got worse.
The night was full of thunder, clouds and lightening, there was hardly any hope left of being able to see Acquarids. Yet my desire to capture the starry sky was high and we set alarms for every hour and we kept checking. Finally at 1AM the sky looked a bit clear and stars were visible but I could not get a perfect shot until 3AM when the magnificent milky way greeted us.
I jumped of joy and captured this beautiful picture at that time, it was too cold for me to stay outside. The photo doesn’t do any justice to the mesmerizing meteor shower we observed on the morning of 6th May, 2016.
These shooting stars, the Eta Aquarids are one of two meteor showers created by debris from Comet Halley. This phenomenon happens once in 76 years. Caught one of them in this photograph but observed many more while lying down in the tent with just our heads popping out as it was too cold outside and the view was too fascinating to stay inside. Captured the tent with my girls keeping a check behind me for wild four legged or wilder two legged. We had pepper spray and knives always ready to attack. It was the first time we were camping alone and for the shoot to turn out well, it had to be pitch dark outside.
The next morning we roamed around and met the locals, there’s something special about the Uttarakhand people. They’re exceptionally sweet and give you unconditional love. This beautiful herder showered us with love and blessings and allowed us to play with her goats. They had some contagious energy as we climbed up behind them, chasing the goats, not realising that it wasn’t an easy climb for us.
I left the other two locals peeping inquisitively while I was clicking her portrait because that just added an innocent tint to the picture. I wish people in the city were even half as caring as the people in hills.
We next went to Tehri Damn which is the tallest dam in India and one of the highest in the world. It is located on the Bhagirathi River near Tehri in Uttarakhand and we just fell in love with the view it offers. Clear blue sky with cotton-like white clouds, crystal-clear waters and the majestic mountains- we felt like we were a part of some wallpaper and the blissful sunlight added perfect amount of radiance to the landscape. Nowhere else had we ever seen such beauty in life so far.
We sat there, clicked pictures, observed the place from different angles and recollected our journey of 14 years of friendship! Everything looked so calm, serene and pure, it was an awe inspiring scenery which cannot be put to words.
There was some charm, magic and charisma in the place that did not let us move away so easily. We were happy, satisfied, safe and at peace surrounded by those mountains which felt like old grandfather, sitting beside the river which was as calm as a mother and those tall trees as strong as father. We felt like we were at home and the magnetic power was not ready to let us go. Nevertheless, we had to make a move as it was time to return back.
On our way back, we were admiring the scenery and we saw a beautiful landscape with steps. A local told us that this was terrace farming which is primarily done in hills. Terrace farming consists of building a series of step like benches. These benches are supported by either sod or stone walls. Each level slows the flow of water runoff, slowing the erosion process. They also bring into tillage areas that formerly could not be farmed.
What started off as an idea of a shoot for me turned into one of the most memorable trips so far because of my two best friends’ company. No matter how confident we are, it’s not easy for girls to independently camp in India. Our parents hesitated at first but on our assurance they supported our decision and trusted us.
I want to tell all girls out there that it is very important to believe in yourself and just go for such trips. It’s not as difficult as we think. We just need to be extra careful, know some self defense techniques and carry safety weapons. The inhabitants of Himalayas are exceptionally sweet and helpful.
The locals are extremely caring and loving and guide you throughout. Just trust your gut feeling with people and go for it. It’s an experience that you need in your life. You might get scared but you overcome it. You might have doubts but you get over them. It was not only memorable but also an empowering experience for us and a message for others around us that we are brave enough to take care of ourselves.
People thought we’d get scared of the thunder and book a hotel room but later, when a man told us that he will tell his daughters about us to inspire them, we knew we had achieved something. This is definitely the first of many more adventures that we now have the confidence to embark. – Gunjan