All throughout the trip we ate in different locations every day, something we can’t even think of doing in the times of corona. 😦

We interacted with a lot of local people. I find that hill people are beautiful, simple and kindhearted. They welcome you with a smile.

I had my first interaction with hill folk way back in 1997 in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. I had gone crazy excited to see apple laden trees on the roadside. I stood on the road looking with longing at the trees. There were people working on their apple farm and a few ladies called me over and very kindly allowed me to take pics with the fruit filled trees. They were as beautiful as the apples themselves, rosy cheeks and pink faces, with most pretty smiles too. That was my first interaction with hill people and I was super impressed.

I expected the same hospitality in Uttarakhand too and I wasn’t disappointed.

Maybe because the whole circuit we went through is a pilgrimage route, but there are only vegetarian fare in all eateries. That was to our advantage, since we did not have to ask specifically for vegetarian food.

Every dhaba we went to had north Indian fare, as is expected. The food would be prepared after we ordered them. As a rule, all the food we ate at every place was good. None of us had upset stomachs. That is a blessing when the travel plans are as hectic as ours was. Most of the time, there would be Alu (potato) and paneer (cottage cheese) as the staple vegetables as sides to parathas or rotis. I think in the whole ten days we had had so much of paneer that honestly, we were a little looking forward to paneer-free fare like idli or dosa by the end of it all! 🙂

We used khachars and dolis for our treks to Yamunotri and Kedarnath. In the long trek up and down, we only have our doli boys or khachar boys to talk to. They were all young boys no more than 25. All of them were always respectful and friendly. I spoke to a few of them. Some of them were not locals but came to these places for the “season” to make some money. They would come from Nepal, or other hilly areas. I have noticed that all of them are great athletes. Even after trekking long distances over rugged terrain, they never seemed to get breathless like most of us.

On my Yamunotri trek, my doli boys made me walk small distances over the 6 kms trek to keep my blood circulation going. Three of them would go off with the empty doli and one boy remained with me. The path was very narrow and slippery. The fellow, most considerately held on to my hand, protecting me from khachars going up and coming down and helped me climb the steep steps with encouraging words. Whenever I would get breathless, he would stop till I felt better and never hurry me.

Even when we missed our own party in the crowd, they would be reassuring. As I already told you in my Kedarnath trek, the return was a tough one. The pittu boy was most kind and comforting. Not once did he get irritated with me questioning him repeatedly whether all the pittu boys (along with my group) would come to the place that we were in. I was almost panicking, with the darkness, no phone or money. He gave me his phone, and asked me to try any number of times and then of course he gave me his torch to reassure me. No doubt he knew I was getting jittery and he gave me something to do and feel useful and calm down a bit. And it helped.

All along the trek distance, there are small chai and snack stalls. The chai here is always sweet. How so sweet! If you like your chai not that sweet, you must ask for sugarless, otherwise, it tends to come with a great amount of sugar. These chai stalls were very welcoming. Even if you do not buy anything in their stall, but just want a small rest on the way up or down, you are very welcome to sit and relax and move on. No one questions. That I find is very generous in the people.

The food and people here both are very simple, wholesome and welcoming.

See you tomorrow!