A trek to Kedarnath

I left from BLR to DEL via train and stayed with Mukul’s sister for a day. Despite our tight schedule we managed to explore Purani Dilli for a day before Haridwar. Our day was filled with visits to iconic landmarks, including the magnificent Jama Masjid and the historic Red Fort. And obviously, we explored the amazing culinary places that I had bookmarked earlier and had multiple feasts there.

Purani Dilli

We left for Haridwar at midnight and reached there at the break of dawn, around 4 in the morning. We scoured for cabs and found a cheap one right in front of the railway station, and went straight to Sonprayag. En route to our destination, we had the privilege of visiting numerous river confluences, each referred to as a “Prayag.” The Ganges is formed at a place called Devprayag. From Sonprayag, we went to Gaurikund, the starting point of the trek to Kedarnath. During the journey, we discussed about our lives and how we had changed over the years. We talked about what each of us plans to do in the future, and how our lives had changed since we had graduated from high school. It took us 12 odd hours to reach Gaurikund and we were exhausted. Sensibly, we decided to rest and begin the trek the next day.

Woke up early the next day, freshened up, and prepared for the trek. Hemant and Mukul, exuding enthusiasm, pretty excited and looking all tough, shouldered their backpacks and set out for the trek’s starting point. I was a bit sceptical of my skills. I pretty much knew I wouldn’t be able to complete the entire trek on foot. The 22-kilometer, steep journey seemed daunting. Hritik freshened up as well, and we all went ahead to start the trek. Mukul and Hemant were ahead of us. They didn’t wait for me as I was slowing down everyone. Hritik walked with me and tried to push me to cover as much as I could and advised me not to take frequent breaks. Carrying a few extra kilos, I found it extremely cumbersome to trek. I had to pause every 100-200 meters, mustering every ounce of courage and strength to continue.

Somehow, I managed to trek for six and a half km. Hritik, Mukul and Hemant urged me to trek on a mule. The route offered mule transportation for those who found it challenging to ascend on foot. Initially, I was equally excited as the rest and didn’t want to succumb and get on a mule. However, after enduring the gruelling climb of the first 6 kilometres, and considering the unanimous request from my friends, I realized that it would be unfair of me to hold back the group.

With Hritik by my side, we made the decision to mount mules and proceed with the journey. Upon reaching, we paid an incredibly high price for a plate of Maggie and halted. Mukul and Hemant reached after an hour, tired and looking like their souls were almost ready to succumb to fatigue. Hritik, Mukul, and Hemant set off in search of the campsite to rest and recuperate. Mukul looked as if he was on the brink of exhaustion and was borderline dead. I decided to hang back, explore the hills, and click photos.

Gangotri Range

I came to the tent after having witnessed the magnificent sunset that I saw up on the hill. All of us were exhausted, and we went to sleep quickly and just woke up for dinner. During the night, the temperatures plummeted to a bone-chilling -3 degrees Celsius.

The following morning, we awoke from our snug sleeping bags and prepared to visit the temple, our spirits undeterred by the challenging conditions. We went near the temple, and the view was breathtaking. The temple was surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and the sun was shining brightly. We were all in awe of the beauty of the place. Hritik decided to buy gifts for his family and friends. We went ahead and bought some stuff for our families as well. After the shopping, we went ahead and stood in the queue for the temple. The queue was long, and it took us 3 hours to reach the temple. We heard that Mukesh Ambani had come to visit the place and the temple was closed for 3 tedious hours. Standing there for three hours, I eavesdropped on the conversations of the people around me. My mind got busy travelling to various places in various stories, exploring multiple characters and their view of rights and wrongs. I was lost in my own world until I heard the temple bells ringing.

We went inside the temple, and the atmosphere was serene. After returning to the campsite, we collected our belongings and I found out that my power bank had been stolen. With a heavy heart, we started our descent. We reached the campsite, and we were all tired. We had our dinner and slept.

The following day, we embarked on our journey to Haridwar, which took us 6 hours to reach Sonprayag. The return journey was beautiful. having successfully completed the trek, we were all in high spirits. We reminisced about our childhood days and the memories we had made. We were all happy and content. Hritik told us how hard his breakup was on him, while me and Mukul made fun of him. Hemant told us that he got a quarter where he later found out that someone had died and decided to switch places. Now, he had to live with his brother while he awaited a new quarter. Somehow six hours passed, and we reached Haridwar.

After reaching Haridwar, we stowed our belongings in a room booked by Hemant. That evening, we roamed the enchanting streets, particularly around the ghats. It was a magical experience. As we explored the bustling markets of Haridwar, we indulged in a variety of food, finally catering to our appetites after being starved for 3 days. Hritik decided to bathe in the Holy Ganga and I joined him and dipped my feet in the sacred water. We also visited several temples, walking down memory lane, and reminiscing about our childhood days. We explored old paintings on the walls, discussing mythology and the stories behind them. We visited the Har ki Pauri ghat, where we witnessed the Ganga Aarti. The entire experience was surreal.

Ganga Ghat

We had a train to catch at 11:45 p.m., and at 12, we left for Delhi.

At that point, my journey took a different direction. While the rest of my friends remained in Delhi, I boarded a flight headed for Bhubaneswar, concluding this unforgettable adventure with memories that would last a lifetime.

Coming back home, I met my parents, Swayam and Khusi. Khusi had flown in from Dubai for her fall break, and we had decided to go visit Dubai together. The day after that, both Khusi and I embarked on our journey to Dubai, ready for the adventures and experiences that awaited us in this vibrant city.

Marhaba, Dubai

Dubai proved to be a surreal experience, marking my first international trip outside of India. As I boarded the flight, the first thing that caught my attention was the extended flight time. Our journey spanned 4 hours and 15 minutes from Bhubaneswar to Dubai International Airport.

Initially, I grappled with homesickness and longed to go back to Bangalore. However, after a few days, I gradually acclimated to the city, and my initial reservations gave way to enjoyment. I was amazed by the cleanliness of the city. The roads were clean, and the people were disciplined. The architecture was magnificent. Dubai is a giant city inside a desert. The city is filled with skyscrapers, and the roads are wide. Moreover, the diversity of its population was striking, with people hailing from all corners of the globe, making Dubai a truly global metropolis.

During our stay in Dubai, we rented out an apartment near where Khusi lives, for our accommodation. Each morning, as Khusi headed to her office, I would set up my daily standup calls and tackle the day’s tasks and responsibilities. We both would try to finish off our work by pre-evening and would hop on the bus and travel towards the metro to explore the city.

Room -1

Khusi and I visited the Mall of Emirates. We roamed around the place, realizing that we were too poor to be looking at any of the retail outlets XD. We explored various shops, eateries and fancy dessert shops. I bought her a cap and a pillow. We got groceries for the week.

She also introduced me to the places nearby. I decided to get a haircut done and made friends with the barber who belonged from Kerala. He told me about his life in Dubai and how he was planning to go back to Kerala. I told him about my life in Bangalore. We chatted about regional languages, and I paid him 40 AED for the haircut. He was a movie buff and asked if I had watched Leo yet. Leo stars Vijay, his favourite actor, after which I promised I would watch it.

The following day, our adventure led us to the iconic Dubai Mall, along with a visit to the Burj Khalifa. I had to get an Apple watch for a junior colleague of mine. We explored eateries and had dinner in the mall. I visited the Apple Store and urged Khusi to get me something but she refused. After a ton of shopping, we left and roamed around in the streets, exploring Dubai until late at night. I realized that Dubai is a city that never sleeps, and somehow most of the cab drivers here are either from India or Pakistan. The streets were bustling with people, and the city was alive with activity. We had dinner at a restaurant and then went back to our apartment.

Burj Khalifa

Over the next few days, we explored Bur Dubai with our friends, often also known as the “Little India” in Dubai, known for its extensive collection of electronic shops. We also visited a gold market, because gold is cheaper in Dubai than in India. We immediately brought out our inner Indian, put on a bright face, and prepared to bargain the hell out for the things that we wished to buy to death. I got Marshall Kilburn II: an amazing speaker. The five of us went ahead and had dinner beside a lake, where we reminisced about our college days and then explored a chocolate shop to get souvenirs for our friends in India.

After six days of extensive exploration, we decided to have a breather on a Saturday morning and went swimming in the apartment’s swimming pool with our friends. That evening, we set out to visit the Palm Jumeirah, an opulent and magnificent hotel in Dubai known for its attractive theme parks and immersive experiences. We had dinner there and witnessed a live band perform. We then went ahead to explore an Indian Pub, Havelli. It was loud and typical. Havelli reminded me of home, where we had our dinner. Khusi danced and made friends with strangers. Our card bills soared high, and we decided to head back to our apartment.

My scheduled departure back to India was set for Sunday, the 22nd. On that morning, we made our way to Kite Beach. I was in awe at how clean the beaches were. Having lived my life in Bhubaneswar, close to Puri, an iconic beach in India, I couldn’t believe how amazing this place was as compared to Puri, where tourists have made it a dustbin of all sorts. We had breakfast at a cafe and then went ahead and explored the beach. The beach was filled with people wearing fancy clothes, and the place was filled with people from all over the world.

Kite Beach

Before bidding adieu to this captivating city, we indulged in ice cream and mocktails and chatted a lot about how things were going on in our lives. We roamed on the beach, scouting for hats and sunglasses and bought Oud perfumes. While our feet sank into the soft sand, we delved into discussions about life in different countries and argued about which was better. We knew in our hearts that all we wanted was to reside in the same place. With fond memories in our hearts, perhaps some flaky promises and a heavy heart, we made our way to the airport embarking on my return journey to India.