Planting Around the World – Mission 1 (INDIA)

In our Planting Around the World Mission our challenge is to plant at least one tree for every country we visit during our world backpacking trip. Why? With all the talk about carbon emissions we may help the environment in our small way. But also because we love gardening, plants and nature, we thought it would be a respectful gesture towards the countries – and its people – we visit. And of course, hopefully, a long lasting memory of our visit.

We’ve finally done it! Tree #1 is in the ground and as fas as we know, growing happily in the north Indian sunshine! (Or more likely rain)

Three days to departure  from India and one of our mission objectives had still not been fulfilled: planting a tree. We had seen about two nurseries in India so far, one was between Agra and Delhi somewhere and the other I cannot remember where, but neither in convenient locality to where we’re staying and even if we were to go there and get a tree, to transport and find a place to plant it will be another thing altogether.

It being effectively two days before our departure from India, the whole idea was seeming pretty absurd and unrealistic; but not doing what we set out to do would count as a failure and bring greeeat shaaame to nation.

Well on the 12th of September we leave McLeod Ganj at Dharamshala. We don’t get very far and it starts to rain, rain, rain – not cats or dogs this time but a lot of water anyway. We manage to take shelter outside a little road-side restaurant until it slows down and then move on. On our way Ebru spots a small nursery so we do a U-turn and we pull in. It’s a flower nursery and the owners don’t speak much English but they have some trees and we try to explain to them what we plan to do and we’re hoping to get some advice on where to plant and so on. They don’t really understand us I think, but the way they look and smile at us I get the feeling they thing we’re a bit out of our minds…. I can’t disagree completely.

Twenty minutes later, with our lovely little Banyan tree and a metal gardening implement which we intend to use as a shovel, we saddle up and set off, Ebru clenching the tree between her thighs between us. The surprised and confused looks we got on the way from people are a laugh! It’s not at all unusual seing people carry all things from chickens or sheep to refrigerators on their scooters around here, but a white couple transporting a tree seems to be something noteworthy…

When the second bout of rain hits a half hour later we take shelter in a small tea shop which I recon is simultaneously home to the patron as there is a bed inside, about 30km outside of a town called Kangra. Our is bike parked under a nearby stable with several horses and the tree soaking up the rain in the open. We have some tea, wring out our clothes and engage in some sign language with the other guests. We were informed we have been riding along the wrong road for the last 30km and need to turn around. So, once the rain ceases again and we drive 30km in the opposite direction with our little tree, I think people have seen it all.

About 50km from the tea shop, in a beautiful river valley, through a short tunnel blasted through the mountain rock and in the vicinity of a temple, we spot a beautiful location where three grassy ridges connect into one hill, overlooking the river gorge opposite. Both the left and right ridges have small trees growing on them, but the centre one does not. The perfect spot!

Of course things are not so straight forward in India, so as soon as we dismount and get our tool out a band of Punjabis about 10 man strong comes along the road, 3 passengers per bike, hooting and waving as they pass. As I expected, barely a minute after they disappear around the corner, they return, park up next to us and request a photo shoot with us. LOL 🙂  The customary photo session completed, hands are shook and we wave them farewell as they ride off into the distance.

Now we were ready to begin our work. We climb up our little hill, select a spot and dig the stony ground. Some lone Indian guy on a scooter pulls over at the roadside and watches us curiously – even suspiciously – he waves at us a few times, maybe he thinks we’re in trouble. The tree is planted and it looks like it will be happy here. We take a few snaps and head back down. The curious Indian inquires and we explain what we’ve been doing. He doesn’t quite get the point I think so he heads off.