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A memorable encounter

At a glance he looked like a hobo, I felt a bit apprehensive to approach him but those gorgeous furry four legged creatures could not stop me. I wanted to have a conversation with him ‘Aahh.. are these your dogs?’ ‘Yes they all are with me’, said a thin voice of a man in his sixties with grey hair and beard, clothes and boots slightly tattered. He definitely looked like someone who had called quits on society! Everything about him looked interesting, I wanted to know his story and what was he doing in this forest?

Hatu mata peak

Meet the man.

You could tell that he has been there and done it all, before the awakening struck him. He was an apple trader travelling to big cities and spent many years living there, but from the last 18 years this forest is his home. His family lives in a village close by but he prefers to live with his seven dogs and two puppies, somewhere in this forest. He had a pleasing personality easy going, self contained and warm.

We spoke about the local mountain goddess whose temple was just a kilometer away from where we met, my friend and I had camped there last night. He often visits the ‘Hatu mata’ temple, a staunch believer of the goddess and for all the good reasons the priests of the temple have high regards for the old man. He absolutely disliked ‘tourists’ who come to the mountains in fancy cars, he was disappointed with their behavior - with all the littering, loud music, absolutely no respect for nature.

While we were conversing I realised this man has so much love and respect for nature, it was admirable. He understood the forest at the tip of his fingers and had a fair knowledge about the planets and stars. While we were chatting the dogs were getting impatient, they were all over the place, jumping, wagging their tails to get some attention.

All set to leave, where ever he goes they follow the master.

‘It was very nice to meet you’ I told him. ‘It was a pleasure to meet you too’ said the man. I asked him ‘what's your name?’ ‘Tara Singh Chauhan’ (Tara in hindi mean a star, how ironic). He started to walk towards the valley and his dogs followed, the scene was no less than a poster. I thought wait a minute I want to know more about this amazing human. I asked ‘So where do you live?’ He said ‘you see that peak on that valley, that single tree over there? that’s where I live’. I asked ‘Can we come and camp there for a night?’ He said ‘Yes, but bring your own water. There is no access to water their’.

It was an easy hike to the peak but the last point was a bit steep, we could hear the woof woof and we knew this is Tara ji’s residence. My friend and I were greeted by our four legged friends, the view was breathtaking - panoramic view of the Himalayas and a gorgeous green meadow. His home was a makeshift hut made of stones and wood, a home at 3200 meters ! We camped at one of the best spots on the meadow, while the dogs were curiously inspecting our tent and trying to know us.

Dogs of Himalayas

If you are a dog and nature lover, this place was paradise.

Camping with dogs
Dogs watching sunset

They are equally mesmerized by the sunset.

Mountain dogs playing

We met Tara ji around sunset, he was just back coming from the forest collecting woods for his kitchen. One could tell the dogs were so happy to see him, it was dinner time! We enjoyed gazing at the sunset together, he showed us the various spots the sun rises and sets in summer and winter. He introduced us to the most adorable pups, who were hardly few days old and literally fur balls. He was a busy man who had to feed seven dogs, we said good night then.

Sadly we did not see him the next morning he had already left for the day, it would have been nice to say a final goodbye.

He was an amazing person, I was touched by his humbleness and wisdom. It was because of him my friend and I spotted one of the best campsite, sleeping under the stars gazing at the mighty Himalayas.

Morning at Kareena peak

This by far has been one of my most memorable travel encounters, he reminded me of Christopher Mccandless (from Into the wild) - well just a bit more practical one!


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