— Text and images by Apoorva Bhatnagar
There’s a checklist that most families adhere to when setting out for a vacation. In India, the basic criteria of a middle-class getaway revolve around:
- Value addition in terms of religious knowledge or historic elements
For us, it was already too late to book the conventional holiday as the options available were either too expensive or sold out. So we did what no family usually thinks of doing, go camping!Although we are the kind of family which prefers to chill at home, we decided to try something different. The idea of travelling miles from home to just enjoy nature, breathe fresh air, living in a non-concrete space with no attached bathrooms was new to us.
But we thought of giving it a shot!
Despite our apprehensions, we set out for Mukteshwar. Our destination was Camp Purple which sits high on the Kumaon Hills at an altitude of 2,286 mts. The journey took us nearly 350 kms from Delhi and 51 kms from Nainital.
Since it was our first outdoor camping experience, we did not mind over-packing for it!
Our phones were fully charged and among all other “necessities” we kept, including a medical kit, toiletries, sanitizers, mosquito repellent, locks and walking shoes apart from the tons of clothes – we were prepared for any kind of temperature the wild would wish to throw our way!
Our day started with traveling to Mukteshwar from Delhi on Saturday morning. After a long drive, we were welcomed with streaming hot Kumaoni food. All I thought was “Oh God! It is such a beautiful place”. They have not changed the mountain feel at all of that place..no trees are chopped, no bushes trimmed, mountain rocks for the way, wooden huts for the dinning area. The only source of light except mobile torches was a single tubelight near the kitchen area, and we were asked to place lamps outside our tent, to keep the animals away.
With only one plug-point in the entire camp site, we all learned to share and have patience while waiting for other camp members to get their equipment charged.
Not ones to just sit around, we did a small trek nearby which was the way to a beautiful waterfall. We also visited a Shiv temple and walked through the main market of Mukteshwar.
At the campsite, the small efforts made to be responsible started to stand out. For example, the camp owners and their staff would set aside only a limited amount of water for each person’s bath. They avoid the use of plastic or altering the natural mountainscape. Small dustbins are placed at convenient distances to ensure people dispose of their trash responsibly. I particularly enjoyed the customised walks and games – which involved interactions with the local people. One of these is a treasure hunt. They send visitors to a village with a task, and to get a clue from someone you have to help them with their work – like it could be doing their field work or teaching their kids.
We returned too soon from this unique experience. For days after our return we could talk of nothing else but the fresh air, the amazing views and the comfortable stay with the tasty food. Our connection with nature turned out to be a connection with the local people and a better connect with ourselves!