Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shared holidays

Sathish and Sangeetha and their two lovely children Shalom and Ishaan recently introduced us to the joys of walking in nature. They travelled from Bangalore to Delhi, stayed with us for a day and all of us (4 adults and 5 homeschooled children) went to pay our respects to the beauty of the Kumaon Himalayas.

The place was called Munsiyari and it was a 13 hour jeep ride from Kathgodam, the rail head which we got to after an overnight train journey from Delhi. On the beautiful, pine-forested, surprisingly good but steep and curvy roads up we had to make many stops to get the children unsick.

Our stay and the walking trips into the mountains around town were organized by an eco-tourism NGO that works with the villagers there. We stayed in quaint small houses in a village on the outskirts of town. Like this 50 year old traditional house.

Munsiyari is the end of the road. Literally! It is the place from where people start walking towards the Tibet and Nepal borders and the place from which the few tourists, who brave the 13 hours in the jeep, start their treks towards the Milam glacier. None of our city distractions worked here. No credit card, no ATM card, no cell phone (Only BSNL connectivity) and no Internet. So in the 12 full days we spent here- all of us- pizza loving kids and sedentary adults- all of us got used to eating aaloo in its many forms and to walking till our shoes wore off. Every day a local guide would take us up through the forests around our village- a little higher and to a little more spectacular place- acclimatising us till we were surprised at ourselves and at our presumption, at our easy new familiarity with slippery and cold and wet mountain heights .

We also spent two days camping up at 10000 feet where we realized the inherent superiority of women and children. The people who trekked up to 12500 feet, the highest point in the neighborhood, were the two mothers and two of the older kids. The men were down with altitude sickness and by the time Sathish and I recovered it was time to walk back to the village.

But I see now that the Himalayas have hijacked my post. What i wanted to talk about was the idea of two families with homeschooled children taking a holiday together to get to know each other better and to learn from their combined experience. But then maybe the photos have already told you more than I could have in my usual tongue-tied manner. So let me wind this up with a- Thank you Sathish and Sangeetha for making this trip happen. Thank you for introducing us to the fears and pleasures of communing with nature in the raw form. All of us here are eagerly looking forward to the next outing.

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