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Nafran Valley, we shall miss you!

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July 1: Its been five days. Of walking in the mountains. Today the sixth, as we head back to Pahalgam, I don’t want to leave. I feel a subtle stabbing pain in the middle of my chest.
The others are walking ahead, trooping along the path. I signal to Yash & as always he agrees. We leave the path, to run over rocks and boulders. The river will anyway guide us in the direction we are supposed to go. For 5 days, Yash and I have been leaving the path to jump boulders, streams and challenge ourselves. There is a joy in pushing our limits, a feeling in unravelling wild, bushy, boulder strewn routes that is unexplainable to anyone who doesn’t try it, or love sport at its rawest.
Sandy joins the two of us. But unlike the other days, when I feel a joy in such running, today my heart is heavy. The three of us go in a workmanlike manner down the rocks. I adore Sandy. He is gentle, sweet, respectful to all. We find an obscure waterfall and without a word to each other, sit on the grass and gaze at it.
The 5 days, before today, were beautiful. We have seen such raw landscapes, a different view every day. From snowy mountains on day one, to open meadows on day two, running streams, horses grazing; a Ladakh-esque view on day three when we reached Nafran Valley, mountains shrouding the valley on three sides, towering over us. And the icing on the cake? The route to Harnag Lake, clambering up a waterfall and a steep cliff to cross a pass, and as we reached the top, seeing the magical turquoise lake down on the other side.
Its not even the beauty that I am leaving that’s saddening me. It is the meditative effect that a trek brings. The minimalistic living – every day the most important thing for a lot of us was to reach the camp and play frisbee ; eating rajma rice, squatting on a hole in a tent; lying down on the grass every night to see shooting stars. And the group, they have been amazing, each one of them.
I don’t want to leave. I have a Bali trip coming up. Its a beautiful island. But I don’t want to leave. I walk faster as my heart gets heavier. We rejoin our troop ahead. “Why are we leaving?, someone asks. I look away.
Nafran Valley, we shall miss you.
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Neeraj Narayanan

Neeraj Narayanan, a.k.a Captain Nero, is the founder of OHOT. In the summer of 2013, he quit his corporate job and went backpacking around the world. In a year full of (mis)adventures, he ended up being chased by a bear in a Croatian forest, being held at gunpoint by a mafia gang lord in Turkey, running with the bulls in Spain, and dancing in the clubs of Spain and Italy. A year later, he started leading group trips for people.

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