walking like the locals

“It’s just here only… Step out of our gate, walk for around 5 minutes. You’ll see a chhota road, take that and keep walking. It’s easy. Max to max one hour, you’ll reach.” This was the guest manager at Three Chimneys Gethia, our halt for two nights near Nainital. And we believed her; that was probably smart and dumb at the same time. The road suggested was the villager’s short cut from Gethia to Nainital. It was 3 – 4 kms instead of the much longer route that was 16 kms by car or public transport. A & I both enjoy treks especially local routes and ones that don’t suck the air out of us too much. This posed a small challenge that we couldn’t refuse. We set off with a bottle of water, camera and our wits. Not even ten minutes later, we were panting heavily. Should we turn back? I wondered. High above and in the distance, the clumps of trees cleared to show the distant town we were walking towards.

High above us a solitary eagle circled, gliding with such grace and enviable ease. Down, far below, we plodded like heavy footed humans grown distant from nature through years of city living. The route was a gracious introduction to the real side of this hill station. We bumped into farmers as we walked by tiny farms, chatted with villagers, eavesdropped on children at their school assembly and even got chased by a dog guarding a house.

Slowly we rose, climbing higher with the hills, on them, through them. The gradual incline making us blind to our vertical movement. Around one and half hours later, we were at Nainital; tired and happy. I suddenly thought of the eagle… And I looked up – almost as if to tell her we’d reached. But all I saw was an empty sky. After a few futile moments, I looked down into the valley and there she was… circling way below. We hadn’t even realised how much we’d climbed. We were now the ones soaring!

In most towns, the locals always have the short-cut, that road which goes through houses built over years and fields that sustain stomachs, roads that dwell by fields watching women work hard and linger by the one school in that town, roads that take you where that new tar road can never reach. Take that walk, wander, get lost to find yourself.

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