Guchhupani. aka Robber’s Cave. Go there, if you think you have the “IT” to face the impish jokes of waters chuckling at your ineptitude. Or if you are not shy of floundering as her rush engulfs you, only up to your calves maybe, or knees, or thighs (I don’t know your height, you see), but engulfing you nevertheless. In her impatient hurry to meet the yet-unknown fate, she rushes on. Or perhaps you are the kind with the “IT” to wade her waters against the flow, you who can appreciate her power. And while you are doing so, look up. The sky peers in at you from between just an itty-wide gap between giant crags. As you walk in this tunnel from heaven-hell (especially after an almost unprecedented monsoon), if you are me, you will feel an urgency to soak it all in. The weathered rocks on two sides, the blue sky amidst a shock of green, oh-so green life high up, and she – the stream, laughing under your feet. Not shy of their being, they aren’t.
So the earnest B, and I, his fanciful wife took it upon ourselves to road ourselves a little on an exceptionally aimless day. When we want to ‘road’ and the day is exceptionally aimless, we set out to Mussourie to sit in our favourite Clock Tower cafe for some black coffee. So, we set out. Halfway on the Rajpur road, a tug of guilt nudged us to remember that we hadn’t seen much of Doon. The place that housed us, and so very well at that. We took a quick turn. To where, but? We didn’t know yet.
Guchhupani. Had it been Facebook, my dying addiction, I’d have added a cute smilie. But it is not. So I won’t. But the name still brings a smile. Why? Well, I am a sucker for awesome.
This cave, as it is surprisingly called (I didn’t see any) was Sultana’s cave. Grapevines are a little entangled, but what the most popular ones claim is that Sultana the Robber (aka Sultana Daakoo) was a Robin Hood of sorts of this region and a big-pain-in-all-parts for the British. If you can read Hindi, here’s an article on him. Since I am deviating from the original awesomeness, I’ll pull myself back to it. Some other time about the said robber. We grew up reading about him in Amar Chitra Kathas… Well, whatever.
Let’s move on to the matter at hand. Robber’s cave used to be one of his many hideouts. I can see why. Most sensible people will say thanks but no thanks and either walk away, or sit under one of those thatched huts they serve Maggi noodles in, and wonder at the world’s foolish robbers. But, if you are foolish (even if not a robber, Robin Hood or otherwise), you will imagine walking up the stream. Sure enough. You will go towards the collection of craggy, humongous rocks. There you will see that the stream is flowing out of those crags. Here, you will need to be much more than fanciful and foolish. You need to belong to a clan of die-hard explorers. You will pull up your jeans legs (if you are foolish enough to wear anything longer than shorts to such a place. We can be excused, we were aimless), remove your shoes (or wear strap sandals aka floaters in the world I live in), and wade in the almost-fierce waters. If you are bare feet and have cracked soles, this is the best pedicure ever. Trust me. I never lie about these things. The relentless rubbing of smooth, round pebbles on your soles that sometimes turns into a jagged shock is a great way to turn those paws into good-as-new kissables. So. You move on, ever grinning with pride derived from your clan of relentless hopefuls. The water is now deeper, reaching up to your calves, sometimes threatening to sweep you off your feet. Up ahead, the mouth of the ‘cave’ looks almost inviting. The grey-green water is almost pool-like, you can see the mouth narrowing back again on the other side. Adventure beckons, as you insist on prolonged pedicure.
As you reach the other side of the mouth, ready to flounder into the belly, the sky opens up. Well yes, it was still above you when you last saw, but this is beyond something else. Tall walls of grim rock reach up to the sky, but before they do, they make room for some trees. So, your vision includes, what seems like a kilometer of rock elevated upwards, the green, oh-so green brush, and the blue sky. Just an itty bit of blue line. Juxtaposed with the golden of the sun… Water trickles down along the face of the craggy ‘cave’ sometimes escaping the surface and falling down on you in rain-like elixir of cool, cool water. If you forgot the chuckling stream below your current vision, come back, because it is getting nastier. Deeper water, faster speed. And this goes on until you reach what? The belly? No! The source of the water. And the sound! Listen to it. It’s the best ever celebration of freedom towards unknown, unchartered lands. You, if you are me, will soak it all in and wade back towards these very lands. This time along with the chuckling, impish stream. Wading with the flow. And by the time you reach the place where you pulled up your jeans, your pedicured, kissable soles will be ready.
P.S. I didn’t see a cave doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
P.P.S. Though the picture above shows wet jeans legs not-pulled-up, the fact remains that I had some sense of fuss to pull them up. They rolled back to meet the waters, much to my relief. For I am, after all, fanciful.