Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished – Lao Tzu
It has sometimes been said that I have my head stuck in the clouds, which I vehemently deny, however, this time I must concede.
When I came India, I wanted to volunteer, and trek. Given I was based in Himalayan foothills, it would be criminal not to explore the beautiful rugged landscape all around. One of the guys from the animal shelter I work at, Munna, is an avid trekker, who heads out every evening, and spends his only day off going for long hikes with his dog. I had hinted at my interest to join several times, but this never amounted to invitation. So on Sunday morning when he said “if you wanna come for a walk with us, be ready in ten minutes,” I was ready in seven.
It was a pleasant overcast day – a welcome change from the simmering heat of the past few weeks. We met up with a couple of his friends, a 50yr old man in flip flops, Sirji, who turned out to be the fittest 50yr old I’ve met, and another guy, Tenzing, thirty something, and not nearly as fit.
Soon after leaving the house were already walking on brown needles among the plentiful deodars, the scent of pine and manure in the air. We stopped at a stream to take in the view – mountains upon mountains of lush green, with patches of terraces looking like crinkles in an emerald green carpet, some with grey scar tissue where the rock had broken free.
We began our ascent, Munna and Sirji in the lead, chatting, laughing, joking, nothing giving away the fact that they were climbing 45 degree inclines with loose rocks. I walked behind, trying to work out my centre of gravity with each step, clutching at rocks and branches to reduce my chances of a perilous fall, working up a fair sweat, but feeling good that at least I wasn’t last. Tenzing brought up the rear, moaning and muttering, cussing and swearing, to anyone who could hear, to which Munna responded “don’t worry mate, all your farts will come out yet”. This continued for at least ten of the twelve hours – a great source of amusement.
Yes, that’s right, we ended up hiking up and down mountains for the better part of twelve hours, stopping along the way to make a hot cup of tea with wild mountain mint, a roti or biscuit, and watching the city become smaller and smaller, the sounds of civilisation diminishing, and the sound of tweeting birds getting louder. As we climbed higher still, the tweeting got less. We passed the odd goat and goatherd, but not much else. We also came across the rare Monal, the very pretty state bird of the Himachel Pradesh (the size of a chicken, and the colours of a peacock).
There is silence, and there is silence, and when we reached the top of the mountain, there was silence. After some eight hours of determined climbing, at 10,000ft (3000mtrs), we were sitting atop a high mountain, gazing at the grey and white peaks of the Himalayan Dhauladar Range, the sun was above us, the clouds before us, birds flying below us, the city of Dharamsala far away, a little splash of non green in the distance, and all around us was silence.
It felt like having your head in a ball – vacuous silence. My head was stuck well in the clouds, and I loved it – what a feeling!
We all sat peacefully revelling in it. In minutes we were covered in a dense mist. It really was like being in another world. The sun had started lose it’s brilliance and fading into a warm glow.
One last look over the edge of Middle Earth and it was time to head back.