That One Friend: Memories of an Adventure Camp in Chail

Four years we had spent together: partying late in the room of that one friend that is always the collective living room, panic studying in the library before exams and screening movies that served no purpose but laughter. We were about to leave all that behind, our lives were veering but our hearts were not.

To commemorate it all, we typed Himachal weekend tour packages in our search bar which led us to LETS camps in Chail Hills. We knew we were emotional about our looming lives ahead but for a while, we decided to forget it all and enjoy ourselves on our weekend getaway. Once we arrived and settled in the afternoon, we roamed around this second campus, commemorating the craziness of living on a residential university campus. We then began in front of a spitting fire in the evening with the friendly fibbing of all the hilarious things we had done together.

LETS Camp Chail Hills Sup Tents 1 1

We stayed up till late that night, just talking. The camp manager, Jeetendra, whose care for us was unmatched, checked in with us a few times to make sure we had everything we needed. He even asked for our feedback on the food to which we said that the parathas tasted of home! He laughed and left us to our devices. Just when we thought that we may have missed asking for chai for the chilly evening, like magic it appeared in front of us. We laughed and said that Jeetendra ji may be telepathic! Once the Chai arrived, our night began. We laughed, danced, and cheered; warmed as we were by the cosy blanket of our friendship.

The next morning, we were kindly provided with experienced personnel for our big group who led us through trekking, zipline and friendship ladder as a part of our Himachal tour package. While all managed well through the trekking, the zipline became the cleavage of fear that split the adventure junkies from the rest of us normal people. The adrenaline junkies were the first to snap on their harnesses and cross through the cable to the other side.

My friend Mrinalini was scared — but wanted to try something new. Shifting on her feet, she looked very apprehensive. So I went up to her and asked her: Have you wondered what the stunning view of the hills would be like while you hang above it all, a hiccup of awe in the breath of the universe?

She stopped shifting and looked at me. After five more minutes of consideration and observing how careful the instructor was, she said she would go. When she was secure in her harness, she turned back, looked straight into my eyes, and said thank you. I smiled back and mouthed all the best.

A friendship ladder and a refreshing (surprisingly!) hot water shower later, we were finding our footing on trails for our night camping. It was hard so we were constantly looking after each other’s back out of difficult spots together, clueless that we were just doing an exercise in trust and support! Finally reaching a clearing after many stumbles, instructors helped us pitch the tents and got a fire going. We made our dinner and also made a hilarious attempt at storytelling around the fire that failed miserably, leaving us clutching our stomachs in laughter and humbling us in bringing out our utter lack of storytelling skills.

chail cabin
LETS Camp Chail Hills Bonfire

But once the fire started growing smaller, we all huddled close together, none of us wanting to sleep or leave this moment behind. I have no memory of how it started, but one of us started tearing up, opening up to tell us that she was leaving for another country alone and feeling underprepared to live without her friends. Another wrapped her arm around and in a whisper-thin voice mentioned that she did not know what she was doing next and felt utterly confused. Somehow, after some time, all of us had our arms around each other and were talking our little hearts out in one hushed corner of the world in Chail Hills, Himachal Pradesh.

After the fire burned out of its embers and we ran out of fuel, we made our way to our tents. Mrinalini came by my side and we walked to our shared dome tent together. I remember her quietly saying on our way that wherever we may go, we will always know these parts of ourselves that we shared all those nights ago till now. I could not help but agree.

The next morning, we fed ourselves with the satisfaction of cooking our food for a second time, and zipped up our suitcases of memories, realizing that LET’S Chail taught us all about the pause we needed to just be.