Monday, June 26, 2006

Hiking in the Himalayas

Hello folks. Am back after a long blog break! The first half of the break was on account of a blissful two weeks in the Himalayas. The second half was sadly about coming out of the clouds and spending some endless hours at work.

But let me get back to my trip. It was a 6-day camp in the midst of the mountains in Manali. When you are cut out off civilization, living at 10,000 ft, and roll out of your sleeping bag to see the fog creep through the mountains each morning it just makes you want to Live. It’s really one of those picture perfect places. You can get an idea from these pics.

The only time I came this close to the mountains was during my trip to Sikkim two years ago. And I’d decided that nothing could beat that idyllic beauty. But Manali has all of that- snow capped mountains, little rivulets, lots of waterfalls, and the beautiful river Beas flowing down to Kullu.

Camp life was quite an experience too! Living in tents, huddled inside sleeping bags and freezing at night is what I can mostly remember. The cold was just unbelievable. And I promised the lord that I would endure many a sweaty day in Bombay if I could just live through that.

I was quite sure that the rigors of camping would translate to fitting into some of those old pairs of jeans. But no such miracles took place. Thanks to the cooks who dished out some good food, I could barely fit into my existing clothes by the end of the camp.

Of course the repercussions of camp life are that you gotta wash your own plates and spoons and god, that is miserable in the cold. It was still ok doing it during lunchtime. Try removing your hands from the comforts of a glove and showing it under a stream of icy water at night. Pure torture. And that obviously meant that we went without a bath for a good 6 days. When we got back to civilization, the happiest sight in the hotel was without doubt the bathroom.

And by the way, we were part of a bird watching group. Unfortunately, the ratio of spotting a good bird to a crow was roughly 1:200. These crows are very likely going to replace the cockroaches as the invinicble species. It is so annoying when you're squinting hard into the distance at a bird like object very professionally, only to be told that its a stupid old crow which can be seen in your backyard in the noisiest city. I wish I had pics of some of the really pretty birds though, coloured bright red and blue. But what was totally fascinating were the flying squirrels and the way they glide. Really cool. We spotted a lone fox following the trail of goats and a Himalayan Pitt viper on another occasion. But our closest brush with wildlife was when a family of eeky slimy creatures called skinks were hurriedly evacuated from their homes inside the ground as our tent was set up right on top of that. It definately took a lot of convincing to get us to spend the night in there. I'm sure those skinks never forgave us. Thankfully they didn't come back to haunt us that night but we had another visitor. A cute mountain goat had strayed from its herd earlier that evening as they were passing our camp site. All night the goat circled our tent, bleated a bit, and tried to chew our bags that were sticking out of the tent. Actually, we would have let it in and cuddled it for some warmth but for its pokey little horns.

I recommend a Himalayan holiday to all! Trust me, fresh air, sparkling water, river rafting, snow sliding, and more trees than people- it doesn't get better than that.