The train of thought arrived at nostalgia station, as we nibbled at a omelette at 7:30 PM yesterday, quite not the time for a breakfast dish, but never mind. If you asked us, if we’d like to change anything in the world, we’d change one number. A single number. And we really wish we could. It would be 201
87, and Trump would still be President, but we’d be away, disconnected to the outside world, stretching the light sensitivity of our eyes, trying to locate the milky way.
The best part about backpacking is the fluid itinerary that comes with it. We’d never be in Tara Guest House, if it wasn’t for the helpful chaps at Zostel Kaza. Relying on public transport for the entirety of the trip did come with some riders (Horrible pun, not intended). We had to wait long hours at the Kaza bus stop, in anticipation that the only bus to Mudh would arrive “soon”. We planted ourselves on an empty bench in the bus stop premises. I resorted to my favourite activity of people watching, while Mayuresh, Chinmay and Pranav indulged in Fad of the Year 2017, attracted attention of some local boys loitering around the bus stop, got them addicted to swiping their fingers hard on the phone screen and in turn getting frenzied after watching the points counter explode. In the meanwhile, I made a mental note of how many people spun the Tibetan prayer wheel in front of us. While I was deeply engrossed in my demographic study, the bus arrived. Did the bus have any magnetic properties? Everyone seemed to be going towards the bus. Another bus arrived, and this is where the confusion started. Rumours floated in the air, locals and backpackers ran towards the free seats alike, and the snack sellers made a lot of business.
The conductor finally announced which bus would go to Pin Valley. He had an air of a very important judge, about to deliver his landmark judgement. It was like an edge-of-your-seat (literally) thriller. The other sounds faded out, as he uttered words that everyone had been waiting for, all this while “Yahi bus jayegi Mudh”. We were in the correct bus, and we had seats! This initial euphoria about securing seats soon turned into regret, as the bus pulled out of the bus stop and raced towards Mudh. I could write a mathematical formula- the depth of the pothole multiplied by the distance from the rear tyre equals anguish about choosing the last seat on a bus. While the mathematician in me beamed, I was in awe of the man who sat next to me. My mathematics failed on him, as he sat still, looking into infinity, unfazed by the bumpy ride.
Being cut off from the world is a widely romanticised concept. We understood it when we sat at the table on top of Tara Guest House, overlooking one of the tributaries of the Pin River. The sun set soon. We hardly had any clue about what was coming our way that night. Mudh is a little hamlet in the Pin Valley. There is no internet, no TV and no mobile phone coverage in the village. The only means of communication with the world is through satellite phones and letters (probably!). After a hearty dinner of fried Maggi and Nutella momos, we took all of our photography equipment to our coveted table on the terrace of Tara Guest House. The lights in the surrounding houses went out. We looked up to the most magnificent views of the night sky I’ve ever seen.
Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.
This wasn’t just a diamond. This was a full necklace. We forgot everything about the temperature, which was falling by the minute. The next one hour was our foray into trying to get the milky way photography right. After some failed attempts, we eventually got it right. Our delight knew no bounds. The excitement of discovering something new brought our childhood back, as we just stared at the night sky in this in-the-middle-of-nowhere place in the north-western corner of India.
Life was peaceful- the two days in Mudh, cut off from the rest of the world were fantastic. Our parents back home were probably worried. This felt like the good ol’ days of travelling, or so do I hear. BSNL coverage exists in most parts of Spiti, but I switched off the mobile network for the entirety of the stay in the area. I loved this type of travel. The sky was our limit. We could go anywhere, do whatever we wanted, and find fun in the smallest of things- like the time we ate a hearty meal cooked by our hostess in Tabo. I can’t believe that it’s been one year to this trip already. I wish it was as simple as just changing a number in the calendar and revisiting it all. Alas. To future trip.