(Contributor : Deepika Bhatia)
Waiting out the pandemic in the mountains is a bliss in many ways. A mountain walk is one such simple pleasure that awaits you. The rain and the sun play constant hide and seek in the hills. You take a walk whenever the sun appears to be winning for some time at least.
As you make your escape from the house, seeking solitude; you hear the door to the house open behind you. The two-house dogs Fia and Poe, decide to accompany you for your sunset walk. Your attempts to send them back in a loud voice shouting ‘go back’, become the trigger for a little charade. Poe pretends to go back, while you walk up the slope, but runs up behind you, the moment you turn your back. You give in accepting their cheerful company, even though you know that this may mean many more doggy interludes on the way. Dogs in the mountains ain’t ever on a leash, they tread the slopes with a sense of proprietary that comes naturally to the ‘mountain born’, allowing you to partake a bit of that in their company.
Further up the slope, the neighbour’s dog Bobby, jumps off the little high corner.
He gives Poe a little bit of football high shoulder greeting and joins your trotting duo.
So, you set off for a walk with three dogs, when you were looking for that bit of solitude! As you near the main road, you have a multitude of trail options, the left seems inviting. You set off downhill at a good pace, with the three dogs in tow, you feel like a respectable pack leader, with momentarily obsequious followers.
The valley to the right is a deep green pine forest, with white clouds wafting through the valley like leisurely cotton dreams. The dark mountains form a solid edgy backdrop, their sharp lines etched, showing up above the white clouds in patches. The city eye takes in this rejuvenating shot of green, brown, white and dark grey contrasting palette of colours. You continue your walk with your own coloured pack of Poe the adventure seeker, Fia the old follower and Bobby with his shiny black mane. Together you tread the gleaming rain-washed black road with a white line. As you stroll down the hill, you pick up pace. The dogs sniff the trail and mark territory, with little squirts by raising their leg in some sort of a sequence. The clouds now waft from the valley on to the road and form a beautiful web ,with light streaking through them; the road acquires a mysterious air with clouds shrouding the path ahead. The three dogs run ahead, and the walk becomes a single file and you get the feeling of being led by them through the mist.
The mystery spell is broken by the loud honking of a lorry behind; the dogs run ahead and spot a small herd of mountain goats. Poe the scout starts to chase the goats, down towards the green valley. Young Bobby chases the other half up towards the mountain, the goats cleverly perch themselves on the narrow rock ledge there. Bobby barks up at them and tries to climb up the mountain himself. Fia looks at their antics with wisdom of an old dog, who knows the predestined outcome of such a chase. The lorry driver slows down to give the dogs, goats and you a miss and shouts out something inaudible in the commotion. The lorry speeds off again and Bobby and Poe give up the chase, realizing they are little match for the nimble footed mountain goats.
As you walk further and approach a beautiful stone laid pahadi home, their dogs run up to guard their territory. There is a fierce exchange of barks until their owner shouts at them in Kumaoni. You continue further, the sky has started to turn a deep orange, the sun has set and left behind shades of pink in the sky. You turn around and start walking up the slope, the dogs run ahead now impatient to get home. The amber sky with the green valley below and the white clouds reconvene to form a new pattern every few minutes. You take out your mobile camera and try to capture that moment, while you know in your heart the picture will never do this natural spectacle any justice. As you walk around the bend, you see two men seated on a motorcycle, with the engine switched off, rolling the bike down the slope enjoying the free roll of the motion. They are carrying a goat on their bike and some grass, while talking to each other in a loud tone and you catch snatches of a conversation between two friends so much at ease. It makes you wish you had such a friend too.
Fia, Poe and Bobby run ahead picking up scents and sending the birds around in a flurry, twilight has fallen, the crickets start singing in a chorus. The mountains now appear black and friendly as lights come on in mountain homes on the hill side. The mountain appears domesticated, the lights give it eyes in the center and the lower lights outline its shoulders. You near the end of your walk, your own home lights appear to beckon you home, inviting you to go inside and greet your fellow co-workers at the quiet place.
(Deepika Bhatia wrote this as a guest at the Quiet Place, a workation destination in Uttarakhand. )