March 3, 2009

Yes, this write-up is long overdue. I’ve written it in about 15 separate installments, some of them all of two words long, so be prepared for a somewhat disjointed account.
Of all our trips with the kids so far, I’d have to say that this was the most successful – and so also the most enjoyable, for everyone.

The long train journey – three nights interrupted by a day-long stopover in Delhi – went off without a hitch. The car journey up through the hills was horrible, though, as the girls were car sick every minute of the way. Luckily Amit had taken his medicine so he was ok, but it was still interminable and nightmarish.

Our guesthouse in Binsar was in a nature reserve (hence no electricity), which meant it was quiet and remote. The rooms were clean and of a comfortable size, but not luxurious. The funny thing was that the bathrooms had windows that looked out on to – and worse, could be looked in to from – the reception and driveway area! Just as well there was no electricity so it was always quite dark inside.

Outside, a short distance away from the rooms, there was a large terrace. Lined up at a good distance from the terrace was an impressive array of snow peaks, with lower ranges of hills and valleys spread out before them. The most famous of the peaks was Nanda Devi; other well-known peaks including Trishul, Nanda Ghunti, and, far away to the northeast, the Annapurna range also did their best to impress.

Binsar is not a place for frenetic activity. There are some nice walks you can go on, even a ten-km day trip, but with the kids around the best we could hope for was to do the leisurely 2-km walk to zero point.

We spent Sunday doing nothing much. I don’t know about the kids, but I was still recovering from the harrowing drive up.

On Monday, we lazed around on the fabulous terrace, enjoyed the fabulous sunshine, the fabulous views, and the fabulous food.

On Tuesday, we moaned about the weather being overcast, the sunshine being weak, the views being obscured, and the food being monotonous.

On Tuesday evening, there was thunder and lightening, and the invertor gave way (due to the lightening, they said) and we had a candlelight dinner and were packed off to bed amidst a short but businesslike spell of rain.

On Wednesday, we woke to rain which suddenly and magically turned into snow. It snowed all day and we began to wonder whether it would keep it up the next day or not, and whether, if it did, we’d be able to get out on Friday morning. Meanwhile, we moaned about the cold and the challenges of keeping two kids occupied for the whole day indoors.

On Wednesday evening, the snowfall stopped, and the sky cleared up and the moon and stars came out. With everything white, it was beautiful. We stopped moaning about the cold.

On Thursday the weather was clear and the snow began to melt. By late afternoon, it was all gone. But we weren’t complaining – it was wonderful while it lasted.

On Tuesday, we had ventured towards zero point with the kids in tow. We didn’t quite make it, because the kids got tired and hungry and cranky and we had to carry them back to the rest house for lunch. On Thursday afternoon, I set out after lunch, leaving Amit to keep an eye on the sleeping twins. A mere half an hour later, I could proudly say that at least one member of our expedition had made it to the peak – that is, to zero point. It wasn’t a great achievement, there was only a bit of a tower there and a good view. The path was easy – a four-wheel-drive vehicle could have made it. Still, it was a nice little outing, especially with all the clumps of melting snow that slid off the trees all around me, missing me by a hair’s breadth many times and landing with a soft, soggy “plonk” on the forest floor.

And on Friday, after a leisurely breakfast, and just around when lunch was being served, we left.

I had been dreading the drive down, with the memory of the drive up still deeply etched into my consciousness, but it wasn’t bad at all. None of us had had lunch, so there wasn’t much in the stomach to come up, and apparently there was just enough to stay down. The kids fell asleep soon after we started and stayed asleep nearly until we reached, with very few, short breaks for retching. I could almost enjoy the scenery.

Looking back, it was a great trip. Everything that could have gone wrong didn’t. Nobody fell sick, nobody got lost, and on the whole a good time was had by all, with the exception of that traumatic 3-hour drive up to Binsar. Given all the disarray of travel, specially when you throw together two long train journeys, a long-ish car ride, twins, a remote hill station with limited electricity and uncertain weather… and altogether a two-week stint away from the comforts of home, I’d have to say this trip was a resounding success. We all returned home overflowing with high spirits… and several shades darker than the way we were

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