Read 1st Part Here – GBL #1 SaraiRohilla
Read 2nd Part Here – GBL #2 KemptyFalls
And the 3rd Part – GBL #3 TheGanges
Set in the scenic Kumaon hills, Mapple Hermitage is a spiral hotel with an indoor pool and beautiful small gardens on the periphery, ignoring everything of which we headed straight to the dining halls for breakfast early next morning. Hours later we were atop Dungsil Talla gazing over the never ending horizon lying in front of us.
“Ha ab hawa barabar chal rahi hai, aa jao kon hai 70 ke upar”, a lanky guy listening to music enquired looking at us and the heavyweights surged forward. One after other with some anxious faces, like the ones before entering a viva, smearing dust as they ran down the slope and in air the second, gliding in the air as questions glide in that viva rooms over our heads! The harness was put upon me as a dangling bag hung behind. The air filled the chute as I was checking the carabiners strapped across and the next thing I know, the feet didn’t had anything beneath and the eyes had everything ahead! Tiny vehicles travelled on zigzag roads that were partially hidden under the trees over the steep slope of Dungsil Talla. Adorning a small island right in the centre, the magnificent Bhimtal lake and hidden in the abyss of the valley, Naukuchiatal lake were on the either sides of the descent. Misty Kumoan ranges with faded back rows another stood bundled across the evening sun as the mind galloped every time I was heads down towards the ground during the sharp turns. The mind dazed at the sheer height and absence of control over the way down but marveled at the sheer insignificance of oneself in front of the humongous forces of nature. Once on the ground, I looked back at the take off point where some parachutes were leaping into air when I was pulled into a small cabin at the corner of the plains for a fresh bowl of Maggi and some coffee.
It was late evening when the sumos dropped us at the hotel. Arranging the chairs around the pool we sat down for a little chat before the food came calling in. The dinner was early and it was sumptuous! 6 days into the trip was when, for the first time, the aroma of finely cooked chicken filled the room. Once the plate was collected at the start of the row, the feet involuntarily walked towards the end of the counter, filling in the bowl with tandoor pieces dipped in mildly viscous sauce sided by fluffy rotis and some rice. Post relishing the buttery morsels from the over filling plates and heavy hearts and stomachs, we made our way out from the dining hall and onto our beds for cards were pulled out. Then when the game was right onto its climax, there was a knock on the door. It was late and the sound pierced through the absolute silence that prevailed, knocking many out of their seats. The closest to the door helped himself and unlocked the latch…And he was gone! We heard a commotion outside and some seconds later, he returned all messed up and along with him four figures with blankets, lighters and mufflers and laughter broke out in the room. Again the usual suspects went to sleep and the remaining ones ventured out of the rooms to wander in Bhimtal at 2 in the dark.
The corridor was silent now with the ‘ghosts’ in their rooms giving the hotel an eerie silence. We made our way now to the lobby. Sparkling waters and into it some fine creatures of sea were mounted opposite an empty desk. The attendants, the cleaners, not a single living soul was to be found. The keyboard had its backlit on behind the desk and the printer making a whirring noise along with the big ticking clock were the only sound around. Statues with lively faces reflected little light coming from the outside street lamps from their edges. The water in the pool was almost static and the chairs that seated us that evening lied as we left them- unorderly ! The hotel was virtually just us, 4 of us roaming around. It was chilling air that greeted us when we stepped out of the hotel. The sky was starry and the moon shone so brightly that we saw our shadows onto the concrete as we passed by the buses parked on the slope. Guard’s cabin had a dim flickering bulb inside with the man himself wrapped in sheets getting a sound sleep. We now ventured onto the outskirts now going around the hotel. A small cottage lay on the edge as we approached it. The inn had lights on the first floor but no movement inside. Bhimtal was turning out to be one of those towns from the Holmes novels with a murder waiting to happen. Faraway the lake with its waters also had its share of moonlight as calmness settled over it. We returned and settled down now on the in the lobby and talked about the various ‘happenings’ and ‘surprises’ since the commencement of the trip. That was the last thing I remember before I fell asleep on that surprisingly comfy sofas right there in the lobby
[To Be Continued…]