It took me a long time to relax. Relax from the constant need to arrange my life the way it should be, the way we're taught it should be. The right job, the regular grind, a race that never ends.
If I can remember myself before I joined the race, there were two things I loved; the mountains and music. Most times I've felt a major urge to stop and run, to de-clutter. Then there it was right in front of me.
One Evening, I Was Sitting At Work, Drifting A Little Bit...
Alternating between staring at the grey sky outside my window and browsing inattentively through my Instagram feed to suddenly notice an upcoming music festival in Shillong featuring legends like Steve Vai and many more fantastic musicians of our country and outside.
I had to go! But before I could make the decision, multiple worries ran through my mind, the travel cost, taking a leave, where will I stay, who will I go with, just overall how will I make this happen? I read somewhere how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once and If there's something I needed to do, I had to find a way to do it.
I Flew To Bagdogra From Bangalore And Then Took A Train To Guwahati.
What's intriguing about the North East is that it's a green country, the further my train whistled toward it, the more I felt that I'm drifting into the wild away from the urban clutter. I quite enjoyed the train journey, reading, eating, staring.
On Reaching Guwahati, I Put Up In An Old Hotel Near The Railway Station Where I Was Joined By My Sister Who Flew There Directly From Bangalore.
Next morning we were to take a taxi to Shillong so we went to bed early without really galavanting around town. So this wouldn't be my first time visiting Shillong because my parents lived there when I was a baby but I have no memory of it. This made the anticipation more interesting because it felt like I was going back home, a home that I have no memory of and don't know what to expect.
Early Morning, Fresh And Enthusiastic, We Began The Climb Toward Shillong.
I've grown up in the mountains myself but the mountains of Darjeeling are so different from here. These hills were smaller but greener and had a specific characteristic of its own, I really can't pinpoint what but I was in awe the entire route till my awe magnified to another level on noticing a huge lake, absolutely pristine right beside the sidewalk of the highway. It was the very famous Umiam Lake. We had to stop and stare (you would have realised by now how much I love to stare) This lake was a dream, so clean so pristine so fantastic almost like a lake in heaven. That's when it struck me that this is what differentiates this place from other hill stations, their gorgeous and virgin lakes untouched by any kind of human disruption.
When We Were Entering Shillong, I Had A Strange Sense Of Continuous Deja Vu Like Everything Is Familiar But Not Really...
The yellow buildings, the churches, the old market, the tin roofs, the box windows. ( I'm not sure if what I'm saying makes sense but it was a strange feeling). On reaching the main town, we had to take a bus to the location of the festival which was another 45 minutes ride. The address of the festival was Wenfield, The Festive Hills – Thadlaskein Jaintia Hills, basically in layman terms, the middle of absolutely nowhere!
There Was No Question Of Taking A Hotel In Shillong And Traveling All The Way So We Decided To Camp Beside The Venue.
There were multiple camp set up for festival go-ers bang opposite to the venue right by a beautiful lake. Walking toward the campsite, I have to admit, I felt a slight sense of pride looking at all the equipment from Decathlon, the Quechua tents, fresh and black, blue, green, so many colours, they even had our dartboards hung up on the trees. The campsite was pretty with fairy lights set up for the evening, a bonfire area, small counters for food. Just the right ambiance to get anyone into the vibe. We dropped our luggage and lazed around in our tents for a while before it was time to head to the festival.
We Arrived At The Venue At Around 5 pm.
What particularly stood out at Festive Hills was that the land comprised multiple hillocks with 4 stages in the spaces between the hillocks, for a natural amphitheater. The whole place was lit up with the setting sun as the background, fantastic artistic decorations, retail stalls, F&B outlets, and other experience zones. It was a truly soulful evening with diverse music and audience. They call it the happiest music festival and it stood true to its name.
On Wrapping Up, We Were Back At Our Campsite Following A Trail Of Fairy Lights Shimmering On The Water.
Everybody was already seated around the bonfire, chatting, making new friends, playing the guitar. I was freezing because it was a November night in the middle of the hills right beside a water body. I had to get into my tent and my sleeping bag for a while to warm up and calm the chills I was feeling. I fell asleep for a while and then woke up again with an intense feeling of FOMO. I stepped outside and sat by the fire, had some nice conversations with the different people I met from across the country.
The Next Morning Started Slow.
I spent some time in the campsite reading, relaxing, just enjoying not doing much. We even decided to take a walk around the area. I had only read about yellow and orange fields in some of my old classics until I saw them in Shillong. Long walks in the mountains do offer more time for reflection than any other discipline in the sport.
In The Evening We Were At The Festival Again.
This was the big Steve Vai night that brought the festival to an epic end. I went to bed early because we had called for a cab at 4 am to take us to the airport in Guwahati. The night was very cold and still, the water in the lake had some ripples and the stars above glittered more than ever. The environment was very similar to what we imagine as heavenly. A starry starry night in the middle of a green forest. The Quechua sleeping bag with a hood kept me warm till I was able to fall asleep.
We Left Shillong Early While It Was Still Dark
Just driving down the mountain I was thinking that it's not always so easy to do something simple and at that moment, there were no limits to my appreciation. The choice to be there is what I'm thankful for.
As much as camping is fun it can also be full of challenges and if you decide to venture out alone, challenges can increase even more. We’ve heard many time, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The mountains literally teach us that.
Tarun Goel is a full-time traveller. Growing up in the mountains, hiking comes naturally to him. After years of wandering in the Himalayas, he is now ready to share his knowledge of the mountains and its needs.