By: Jordan Bayliss and Ward Bourdeaux
What is special about this place? Why does it matter? Why does it make us emotional to leave? As our tempo traveller pulled away from our short lived home at Camp the Himalaya, a somber cloud came over us. It was a quiet van ride through the hazy mountain roads. Everybody was starting to realize how much they would actually miss that first place. Our shock to the winding bumpy roads on the drive in had worn off. Now we were seasoned veterans to the tight switchbacks and honking horns around blind corners. Our concern for the drivers turned into an unwavering faith as they guided us from one part of the Himalayas to another. What we first thought to be reckless crazy driving, we now see as an intricate pattern of organized chaos for the safety of our travels. This is a common pattern that we have noticed in India – the things we almost immediately judge are the ones we end up appreciating the most, and even though there isn’t much talking between us and the drivers, we have still have made a very sacred connection with them. After all, at first it felt like we were trusting them with our lives, which we actually were.
The questions we used to begin the blog post were ones we came up around hour six of our drive to Rishikesh as we were discussing where we had been and where we were going. At first, we were talking about these questions in relation to Pancheshwar as we reflected on our time there. However, upon further thought, we realized that these questions could be applied to everything about our trip, and beyond. What is special about this place? Why does it matter? Why does it make us emotional to leave?
Jordan – For me, these questions bring up a mix of complex and sometimes frustrating emotions. My entire life I have struggled to answer these questions as I have always had trouble leaving places I have visited, and thinking about how it impacted me. When I was a little kid leaving family members houses, I would be so sad to leave even when I knew I would eventually find my way back. I felt these same emotions as I left Pancheshwar. However the key difference is that I don’t know if I will be able to return to that magical place because there might be a dam there. It really was my golden opportunity of sorts to make it there this trip – here was a place I had been waiting over two years to see…for two years I had been checking the news for progress on the dam, and looking at the same Google earth photos. So when I was finally able to cast into the Saryu river in search of a trophy Mahseer, I felt instantly connected with the place. It doesn’t matter that I never ended up holding that beautiful mahseer in my hands, or that I never even felt one fight for a couple seconds before coming unhooked. All the mahseer left me with was a few gentle taps on my line as to just let me know they were there, but not going to bite. I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated yet so content. Every time I wanted to complain, I would look around at where I was. The awe I felt of being able to even fish in such a significant place took my frustrations away. Even though I had never fished so hard in my life to no avail…a day spent fishing is better then a day spent not. So if someone was to ask me why Pancheshwar was important to me, I would probably stutter for a couple seconds. Thinking between the crucial mahseer fishery, or the important history in the valley, or the kids who swam with us for hours in their local swimming hole – the answer behind the importance of Pancheshwar cannot be narrowed down to one specific thing. As all these crucial factors come together to form what is Pancheshwar. Pancheshwar people. People that wear save the mahseer shirts and stick save the mahseer stickers everywhere. Pancheswar is a place as worthy of being saved as anywhere else on the planet if not more. It was a hard goodbye and I hope eventually it will be a sweet reunion.
Ward – The entire trip, I have felt strangely nostalgic. If somebody came up to me and asked me if what I thought was most special about this place, I would say that the number 1 thing is the way the landscape and views make you feel. When we were writing a journal entry in the mountains of Pancheshwar, I couldn’t put the way I was feeling down on paper no matter how hard I tried. The feelings of pure happiness and contentment were overwhelming and when I tried explaining it to my peers, I still had trouble accurately describing what that felt like. When we eventually left the camp site, I was staring out the window as we were passing the many locations that we passed on the way there. That’s when that true feeling of nostalgia hit me. Even though I had only been there five days, I had grown a strong and unbreakable connection to the camp grounds, the river, and of course the people without even realizing it at the time. These emotions make me think about all the great that is out there that is just waiting to be discovered. My interest in learning about the world is true curiosity that will never blow over.
Jordan – It was very late as we pulled into our new home on the banks of the Ganges. We had been awake since 4:30am, and now as we settled in it was approaching midnight. These questions had been brewing in our minds. When it came time for our nightly conversation, we were all too exhausted to bring up any such questions, let alone attempt to answer them. But as we were driving, I thought about how these questions can be asked about any place whether in Uttarakhand or Middlesex County. My recent graduation gave me the same emotional time as I felt while leaving Pancheshwar – both of those places have been important ones in my life. Even though my time in Pancheshwar was only five days, this was a place that I’d been thinking about for the last two and a half years. And it was sad to leave, because the answers behind the importance and emotion of both places are similar. Two places where connections were made and where connections made meaning.