Travelling alone has its own benefits. It gives you that control where you can set an itinerary and then you can ditch it. Spending days in solitude also makes you more eager to chat with locals, absorb their culture and team up with them to make your journey more interesting. And that is exactly what happened to me when I was on my way to trek all the way to Deo Tibba.
Deo Tiba is basically a 4 to 7 days trek depending upon how far you want to go. The base camp takes 7 days. The elegant Deo Tiba peak which is 6001 m high looks like a half oval-shaped egg. The journey starts from Jagatsukh village (about 20 km from Manali), in a motorcar, followed by a great deal of walking through Himalaya’s pristine and untouched beauty, laced with the amazing forests and snow-clad peaks.
But let’s not waste too much time speaking about its specifications, because we aren’t even going there.
So as I said, travelling alone has its own benefits. And this journey just proved me right. When I left Jagatsukh to hitchhike and cover the first few miles towards Deo Tiba without giving my legs a hard time, I happened to meet Bijju – a 28-year-old guy from the local town Jagatsukh who was going in the same direction. A 10 minutes conversation with him ended up in an invitation to join him on a rather off-trail adventure.
Bijju was on a business trip to one of the isolated snow-clad peaks, where he and two of his friends extract some particular kind herbs and roots to export them into China. According to him, they come here every year around in the month of July and collect these herbs to sell them and make a fortune. Keeping the story brief, he said I can be a part of their establishment up in a mountain for the next few days before they all come back with the reward. I agreed and henceforth started my walk into the Himalayan woods.
“The gladdest moment in human life, I think, is a departure into unknown lands.” Sir Richard Burton
The way to this uncelebrated and unsung mountain had no defined trail and was more like a confusing steep walk. To begin with, I’d like to tell you that trekking in the woods is not like other spaces. Here trees surround you, blocking all the surrealism of mountain peaks. They make you feel small and vulnerable like a child who loses any sense of direction in the crowd of strange legs. So trekking in the Himalayas when you’re surrounded by woods is not a pleasant experience at all. It is spooky. But I pressed on in a directionless sense and kept following Bijju for almost 7 hours in one stretch – without any breaks – and off we reached our destination.
The entire mountain region had 2 tents with 4 people in them, one that belonged to me and the other belonged to Bijju and his friends – Ghanshyam and Chuni Lal. Mine is on the right-hand side in the picture which almost gives a camouflaged effect with the terrain. It looked so infinitesimally tiny in the picture and with a backdrop that I’d to Photoshop and make it visible here.
But living in such a place where there is no one around you for several miles in each direction is a great feeling. No café, no tourists, no nothing – just a bunch of new friends and a hungry bear. Yes, you heard that right, a 500 Kilogram hungry bear who, during my 4-day stay happened to be lucky by snapping and killing a poor foal.
The forest area around Manali is home to extravagant wild options where you can spot Musk Deer, Alpine Ibex, Brown Bear, and even a Snow Leopard. And the chances of finding them are high at places where there’s very little or no human movement – someplace like where I ended up camping.
Though I knew that a brown bear seldom attacks humans, but here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong. And, I am sure they are always hungry. If they make their mind to kill you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want, especially when you’re fast asleep in your cozy tent.
Sure that doesn’t happen very often but for me even once would be enough. I wanted some guarantee when I heard there’s a wild bear living in the same mountain somewhere close to us but I never quite managed the necessary leap of faith during my stay there. But on a bright side, the fact that my three companions are at least mindful about the do’s and don’ts during a bear attack was some assurance.
We stayed three nights in total, at our unknown camping site, where Bijju and his friends would leave for work every morning, as I was still sleeping tight in my tent. They’d come back before dark and we have our first meal of the day together. We play cards, drink a few shots of local wine, they’d brought with them and eat Masala Peanuts from the share of packed food I’d brought with me.
And the bear… it was always there huffing and puffing in my mind, but if I look beyond my jitters and a wakeful sleep for three consecutive days, it was a great experience overall. And if nothing else this would always remain with me as one of those memories that you share with your friends on bonfire night and end up saying “Yeah, I’ve done shit in the woods”.