Adventure With The Fabulous Septuagenarians

Words | Pictures Lt Gen J Jayaram ( Retd ) PVSM, AVSM

It all began on the golf course on receiving a call from my good friend and colleague Lt General Mandeep Singh to spend some time in the hills. It was extremely difficult to turn down his oft-repeated invitation and my wife, Satya gladly got the ball rolling. And thus we embarked on this most enthralling visit to the hills.

After a very pleasant Vistara flight to Chandigarh and then being most expertly driven by Mandeep’s wife, Jasdeep (through some astonishingly beautiful scenic routes) we reached the Mandeep’s more than lovely abode at Fagu. Spent 3 idyllic days at this beautifully designed and well-appointed home. Visits to the golf course and lunch at the stately club were one of many activities we indulged in. Great food and the pleasant company of Spinner, the affable Labrador made it a complete stay.

Then off to Tirthan Anglers Retreat. The retreat is owned by Dilsher, Mandeep’s son. We arrived after a 5-hour drive with the Mandeeps, late in the day to this most inviting retreat. The steep descent from the road to the cottage was probably a harbinger of what was to come. Dilsher has created a cool angling spot in a few short years. Tastefully done cottages alongside the clear glacier waters of the Tirthan River are just wondrous. This placid environment and the wonderful company we had, the lure of trout fishing and the exquisite cuisine provided lulled us into this tranquil mood not expecting what was to come.

What do you know, heavy rains and resultant landslides, and road breaks isolated the retreat, and the clear river water turned brown and a raging one at that. We had to leave and the only way was up and down a very tricky and wet hill slope. With no option, the ladies in particular had determination writ on their faces to undergo this trial, while Mandeep and I test our stented hearts. Net connectivity had been lost – no telephone connections and electricity. To travel light we left behind our suitcases and reverted to backpacks. We were accompanied by three sure-footed lads from the resort without whose help, we would not have been able to complete the “escape trek”.

Leaving Dilsher and the retreat was sad but unavoidable and the climb to the base of the hill was slippery and treacherous, an indicator of what lay ahead. Mandeep led the way admirably, as he had done a courageous recce earlier, with me bringing up the rear. The slopes were understandably very slippery and getting a foothold was quite a task. Saw Jasdeep and Satya very bravely tackle the slippery slopes both up and down with the occasional slip and slide. Wide earth breaks and fallen tree trunks had to be manoeuvred with the help of our gutsy and confident assistants from the resort. A side glance while negotiating a narrow slippery path was unnerving because of the sheer drop. At times we had to clutch onto plants and even grass to prevent a possible disastrous slip. There was no stopping as the rumblings intensified with the prospect of more deluge landslides and rock drops.

Local guides forbid us from even resting for a moment. We hiked up and down this rather insurmountable hillside, ankle-deep in slush and hoping nature would not vent its fury whilst we were negotiating its way of demonstrating its anger at mankind’s many indiscretions towards it. Finally, we made it to a road head after 3 hours of continuous climbing, descending, sliding and, clutching branches, plants and even grass for support. A full 3 hours of resolve testing trek ably led by Mandeep, and most courageously accomplished by the ladies. Salute the girls for their resolve and the 3 youngsters for their local knowledge, patience and expert guidance. Not to forget our four-legged friend Coco a most amiable Golden Retriever and his master young Vikas, who accompanied us on this unforgettable journey.

We then continued in an old Mahindra Balero pickup till we came to a massive road break that the locals told us had just happened. After making us alight the driver dared to drive down and up this road break a seemingly impossible task. Rallying at its best!. We then gingerly crossed and continued our journey. After changing 3 vehicles we were finally at home in Chandigarh. We set out at 8 am and reached Chandigarh at 10 pm highlighted by the 3-hour trek and everyone’s indomitable spirit, particularly the ladies. Our stented hearts held up and we proved that age is just a number, considering that we are all into our 70s.

All’s well that ends well and while we in retrospect reflect on what we achieved we have to spare more than a thought for the people of Himachal who are suffering intolerably and will do so for a long while and also a lesson that nature has to be respected so much more.

An unforgettable holiday and a tryst that reminds us of nature and its fury. The pictures tell it all!