A Journey into Hearts – India Memoirs

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Guest Blogger - Betsy

Betsy Jones Hemenway, a Professor from Loyola University, Chicago, traveled on the Himalayan Photo Odyssey  this year, as part of her longer India adventure with us. She not just made deep connections with India and its people, but also took back lots of fond memories and great friends. Below are her memoirs (and pictures) from the journey she made into our hearts.

 

‘ India had been nowhere in my plans of 2015, but then, here I was, at the very end of May, on a flight to Delhi. The opportunity had appeared just a few weeks earlier, and I’d seized it, thinking it might not come again for a long time. As a single professional woman with kids now in college, I suddenly had the time and the invitation to explore a country that had intrigued me for many years. Of course, I wanted to see some of the typical tourist sites in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, but I also wanted to go off the beaten path. So when the question came: “Would you like to go to the mountains for a week?” I said yes.

Shortly after my arrival in Delhi, I found myself in a car at the crack of dawn with two new acquaintances and our driver. The traffic north of the city, not to mention the early hour, was not an auspicious beginning, but soon we were gaining altitude along winding roads with breathtaking views. Over the next few days we traveled in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand as far north as Munsyari (7200 feet), just a few kilometers from the Nepalese border. On the way, we visited a temple complex near Kausani (6200 feet) and hiked in local forests, where I learned about some of India’s rich cultural heritage and gazed in wonder at the beauty of the natural surroundings. We caught glimpses of mountain village life, sometimes in passing, others up close. At every stop (and sometimes in between), we all received expert instruction in photography. I learned the different techniques necessary to take photos of the sunrise, snap close-ups of a flower garden, and capture a still image from a moving vehicle. Throughout, we all enjoyed warm hospitality, excellent food, and buckets of tea.

Most important, however, was the company . At first, I was a little apprehensive about traveling with seven strangers, but soon this anxiety fell away, and I felt more at ease. Much of the welcoming atmosphere was due to the team of Rudra Xp who had carefully planned every stop and meal and worked tirelessly to ensure our comfort along the way. However, the rest of us were also open to spending time together and seeing what came around the next bend, so to speak.

Over the days and evenings we shared stories and laughter that helped us bond as a group, and we were able to face annoyances and even minor crises together with good humor and mutual support. More than once we sat around a firepit in a garden or atop a roof under the stars, recalling the events of the day, savoring the mountain air, and …singing. I have to admit, it must have been after decades, that I found myself digging out all my old favourites and singing away like there was no tomorrow..

At these moments I felt most at peace, within myself and among new friends.

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Now, when I look back, I am amazed that so much happened in just a week. We traveled hundreds of kilometers, passing goats, cows, schoolchildren, and wedding parties. We met village women who wove elaborate shawls from local wool, then crossed paths with other travelers from distant places. We saw the green valleys of Kumaon covered with pine forests and lush foliage, as well as the high, snow-covered peaks of Panchachuli. We snapped hundreds – or more like thousands – of photos. And we created a deep network of relationships that still connects us.

I am also profoundly grateful for the experience of seeing a region of India that I might not have otherwise included on my itinerary, except for that simple question: “Do you want to go?” It made all the difference. ‘

All the above pictures (except the Group picture) are courtesy Betsy Jones Hemenway.

Ask Betsy about her trip, leave your comments below.

 

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