En route to Mahasu Peak, when I saw one of the horses raring wildly towards me, bucking and kicking in the nads of other ponies nearby, I turned and looked at my wife who saw the light go out in my eyes. I’d never wondered until then about the freight logistics in domestic passenger flights; whether there would be any scope for transporting a dedicated crate casket or the pieces of my mangled body wrapped in plastic would just be squeezed in the gaps between other bags.
Earlier in the day, at about 9:30, we started climbing for Kufri, which is about 15 km from our resort. Our guide didn’t say a word about what was so exciting up in Kufri; maybe it was the stunned silence from our Hindi speaking prowess. We still proceeded because we liked the suspense. After all it has a peak and there would be a suicide point surely. On the way we could see numerous cabs parked haphazardly along the side of the highway, sometimes in the middle to give other travelers the mercurial “Dashing Cars” experience.
At one point, our guide stopped the car and asked, “Are you interested in adventure?” with a wicked smile. I thought it was going to be like one of those Maruti ad campaigns, “Let’s go!” wherein he’d swing a sudden turn and take a wild detour into the woods, screaming away the scurrying rhesus monkeys and sleeping mountain deer. So, I was gearing myself with a big slurp of excitement. But, he took us to a ticketing point for a place called “Nagson’s Adventure and Amusement Park” which houses several indoor and outdoor adventure activities for kids. The men at the counter explained the different packages with psychedelic illustrations of every activity, especially Zip-lining that somehow looked like slaughterhouse pigs hogtied to hang from bamboo poles. We settled with the 700 per head scheme including only three indoor and three outdoor activities. For the full experience of ‘we-know-you-tourists-wouldn’t-mind-an-extra-300-with-a-false-sense-of-bundled-benefits’ scheme, you have to pay 1000 per head.
The walk to the adventure park is a steep hike with deep breaths and intermittent sneak peeks into the beautiful valley beneath. The whole park is setup at a hilltop with the activities placed at different levels on the hill. Since there were no directions for the tourists, the first part of the adventure was to find where each activity was happening. So, if you don’t plan your sequence well, you have to keep going up and down the steps often bumping into exasperated tourists catching deep breaths with their hands on hips. Climbing those steps was a whole adventure in itself for us sedentary folks.
Selfie Stick Syndrome
The current trend has replaced Suicide Points with Selfie Points in hill stations. With absolute disregard to anyone’s safety, people carry selfie sticks around like Weapons of Pointed Destruction. Amidst that bazaar-like congestion, families, kids, lovey-dovey couples and all try to plaster up a smile and desperately get within the focus frames of their smartphones, trapped in the mouth cage of those selfie sticks to get pictures as miserable as the sticks’ lengths. For misery much closer to reality, selfies are taken with plain arms extended upward just enough to expose the bald spots on their heads.
While managing to elude the selfie-stick traffic, I started seeing in blurs, sometimes haunted by one of those aggressive tourists who kept screaming out for his family scattered in the crowd for the next Selfie moment. I could still recollect his dark silhouette against in the white, misty backdrop by the edge of the cliff, holding his Selfie stick down that seemed like an axe dripping blood.
In our trysts with those activities, not only did I keep pummeling my wife’s car again and again in the Dashing Cars arena before she even figured out how to start hers, but somehow I managed to aggravate another guy driving with his kid to dash me off. I led him into a cold trail, which after a point made him go in his own vicious circles and his kid crying and punching his nose to let her off the hook. It was fun. Water Balls and Haunted Houses were the other indulgences in the package. The Haunted House was so mundane and juvenile even the old Mary Shaw glued to the chair with a broken neck wasn’t interested in spooking us.
Zip-lining. This is where they tie people to a taut rope, hang them upside down and release them towards another destination in the woods – another tree. Oftentimes, they stop the zip-liner in the middle and ask them to turn their head for a Kodak moment. After we zip-lined to the other end, we crossed back again over a net bridge, which wasn’t exactly horizontal. They call it the Burma bridge. They could have called it, “Shriveled and Always to the Right” Bridge.
The most enthralling part of the adventure park was the Reverse Bungee. Though we had signed up for Valley Crossing, the team inside forwarded us to take up the Reverse Bungee, which looked apparently more popular with the waiting crowd. Reverse Bungee. I was illiterate to this word until then. I was aware of only the original one – Bungee Jumping wherein you are dropped from a higher place towards a river just to give a tease for all those hungry crocodiles waiting with their jaws gaped wide open. Someday or the other, an upbeat jumper is going to scream “Yoohoo” in the salivating mouth of a crocodile.
As my wife declined doing the Reverse Bungee due to its potentially upsetting trajectory into the valley, I went ahead hoping I’d come back in one piece. Before the act, you’d have to insert yourself into the chains and shackles tied to the rope. The motif looked like one of those public hangings or lashings from the medieval times done to shame the sinister ones who proclaimed that the world wasn’t flat as God’s abs. The flutter in the tummy when you are propelled above is something that should be experienced. I was on cloud nine for a brief moment, counting the one moving from the valley end. The lighter you weigh, the higher you go. It was a true spectacle when small kids were propelled higher much like having a jetpack on their backs. They screamed in boundless joy.
After clicking a few photos for our memories, we left the park and reached Mahasu Peak. Our guide pointed us towards an agent who charged us a total of 1000 rupees for the pony ride to the peak.
“Why can’t we walk to the peak?” we asked.
“No walking. Only pony. 1000 rupees”, he said.
Having given the token number to the coordinator, we waited for our turn along with hundred other tourists, constantly hearing to the howling of escorts dressed in festive colors and riding boots, “21 kiska? 34 kiska? 55 kiska? It seemed like a roaring business.
Eventually, we were assigned two white ponies, which did not have much break time to grab some fodder after their grueling return from the peak. For all those escorts, time is money. Any pony that doesn’t obey or is lax with the orders gets punched without respite. Our escort helped us mount on the ponies and away we started towards the peak.