“[Walking] is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.” — Elizabeth von Arnim
The trek to Benog Hill Top offered the weary travellers (WTs from hereon) what they had set out for. They had craved for a basic B&B lodge which would act as their base prior and post the short trek. And they had hoped that the trek would allow themselves to be “free” for a few hours.
They were lucky that their initial plan to scale the Nag Tibba peak was ditched by a well-known hiking company. The setback facilitated an interaction with the affable Vipul from Yeti Outdoors who was sympathetic to their simple demands and put them under the stewardship of Manish, a local youth bubbling with energy.
The WTs were picked up by Manish from their lodge in Hathipaon which is conveniently located around 5 KMs from the hustle and bustle of Mussoorie and on the way to Benog Hill. A quick drive to the Cloud End Forest Resort marked the start of the trek which was a steady climb and took around 2.5 hours including all the pit stops along the way to soak in the sights and sounds of the hills and forests.
Your destination is at the top!
With spring around the corner, Mother Nature offered the WTs with a red carpet welcome. The hills were awash with the Rhododendron flowers. While the WTs marvelled at the red hills, Manish urged them to act as locals and bite and chew the flowers. The taste was more pungent compared to the Buransh (local name for Rhododendron) juice that they had tasted in other parts of the hills. The Buransh tasting session slowed down the travellers considerably but neither they nor Manish was complaining.
The climb upwards slowly opened up the beautiful vistas of Hathipaon, Doon valley, Aglar river valley and the distant peaks which were not clear on the day of their trek (on a clear day peaks like Chaukhamba and Bandar Punch can be seen). The climb continued and before the legs got too heavy and the alarm bells started ringing, the Jwalaji Devi Temple appeared and signalled the WTs that they were close. And wasn’t the climb worth all the panting and the money spent on newly bought trekking shoes from Decathlon? The views from the temple and the top was mesmerizing!
The cool breeze, the emptiness of the place and the 360 degree alluring views provided the WTs a perfect opportunity to relax and introspect. The WTs, despite being seasoned travellers, were taken aback when Manish opened his rucksack and offered them Frooties and Dairy Milk. The surreal combination of the offering and the Manish’s gesture on top of Benog Hill reminded the WTs the need to experience the simple pleasures of life.
As clichéd as it sounds, all good things come to an end. After frequent stops to turn back to take one last look at the blue sky atop Benog Hill, the WTs were back to where it all started in another two hours or so. They promised to be back in the hills and Manish vetoed their decision wholeheartedly.
Manish can be contacted at 9634187759.