Tuesday, 28 July 2020

A bucket full of blue skies: Chainsheel Trek (Part 2) #traveloguesofArtiJain

Day 3 (contd...)
You may recall "Part 1" of this trek from last month's post. Part 2 follows:

We left Mandi Thatch after word of our moody mules reached us. The late start will catch up with us but for now we were enjoying the unbroken blue skies and Ranaji's transistor. 

Incidentally, I wrote and recited a Hindi poem about this tiny transistor and its owner, Ranaji, who peppered our trek with Hindi film music whenever the mighty Himalayas let radio waves reach us. I'll share the link at the end of this post.

Blue: the colour of Shiva, of Krishna, of skies, of oceans, of lakes and of a plastic pale, however, kept us company throughout. Sometimes, silver-grey clouds played hide and seek with the blue but no matter.

Pradhanji (the village leader of Maunda) would stop every now and then to draw our attention to the things growing around. In the picture below, he's holding a tuft of moss growing under this massive rock that is used for its medicinal properties.
Of course, any opportunity to admire Mother Nature's abundance gives weary knees the much needed rest and break.

The trail on day 3 was unique because for the majority of  the 11 km stretch, the mountains and peaks were visible which is rare. In fact, for a long time, while traversing the ridge, we had a panoramic view of snow capped peaks on our left and  and right.  And time enough to pose with them:)
We ate lunch languishing on a log that had once been the trunk of an upright oak. Lunch was veg pulao that day -- deliciously abundant with potatoes, peas, carrots and capsicum. I must've been famished for there are no photos!

Post lunch progress is always tedious as filled tummies slow the legs down, or perhaps weary legs blame the tummy to hide behind an excuse. 

Snow flurries hit us late afternoon. Suddenly, dark grey clouds engulfed the clear blue skies and before we could zip up our rain covers, first fat raindrops and then soft snowflakes tumbled down from the heavens. Distant thunder carried threat of drenching.  There was no shelter in sight. It was freezing. The thought of being wet and cold in the mountains is not too appealing.

The threat receded as soon as it had appeared. All was well again. I'd burrowed my camera inside multiple layers so it didn't emerge till the changing light reminded me of the golden hour: that precious time when the setting sun bathes the world in golden light. It is a photographer's delight.

By the time the sun was rushing to kiss the horizon, we could spot the tents.  We had made it just in the nick of time--another hour late, and we would've missed this bliss.

How they managed it, I don't know, but almost as soon as we reached our tents, the team of Outdoor Monks offered us hot water to drink. Apparently, sipping hot water works on two levels: it not only hydrate the body but keeps it warm too. We will need all the warmth in the world that night. Two rounds of fabulous tea followed the hot water. 

If there's a God, he's tea on a cold mountain top--believe me.

Will we? Won't we? Step out of our tents? The twilight hour was fast receding into darkness. The temperature was well below minus 8 degrees Celsius. We were cocooned inside our tents wearing all the layers we could possibly wear and still it felt cold. 

I'm not fond of closed spaces so the tent is only used when it's absolutely essential: i.e. to sleep at night. I wasn't too pleased about the prospect of waiting inside the tent from sunset to sunrise.

This will be long night, I thought.

Will they? Won't they? Light a bonfire tonight? 
But, how could they?
We were far above the tree line. There were no trees, hence no wood. 

Pradhanji's booming voice mixed with sounds of scurrying activity pierced our tent. I laboured with my cold and heavy boots and stepped outside.

What do I see but a crackling fire and hunched silhouettes of people sitting around it. 

Rhododendron (known as Buransh  locally) can be burnt for fuel even when its wood is green. It grows above treeline and provides the perfect fuel for shepherds on nights such as these.

Nature is truly abundant.

The picture above and below are the best I could do with my camera to capture the miracle I was witnessing sitting around a warm fire, a steaming cup of soup warming my heart and hands.
Sleep was being rather elusive that night. I was ready to step outside before the first rays of sun touched down. 

Day 4 arrived dressed in orange, gold and the promise of warmth.

Sunrise of Day 4:
Someone, we don't know who as no one owned up to it, had left a sock on the rock near the previous night's camp fire. The solidified sock created an anecdotal distraction while we waited for chai soon after sunrise. It sat there on the rock thawing--perhaps waiting for its owner to own it again, once it had shed its icy facade. 

You will know when you see these photos just how rewarding Day 4 was. This, yes, this, we told each other is why we wriggle our toes into frozen socks and sleep like mummies --entombed but wide awake.
Can you spot the ice on the water? We'll come across frozen streams and puddles later on today. The blue of sky is misleading. It was cccccccold!

 Blue so bright -- it hurt the eyes.
But don't be fooled by the sky.
Our bones were chilled
and that is why
as soon as we reached the treeline
Bharat gathered some twigs, wood and twine
And lit a fire so divine.
we felt fine.

 Rest breaks are the best
 Meet the star chef: Surinder
Just how tricky is
tumbling down a hill
Jack and/or Jill
They'll tell you
Down and Crown
don't belong together
Humility and Pride
The latter half of our tumble aka trek down the mountainside was a tad tricky. Layers kept coming off our backs and getting stuffed into our bags. 

Congratulating ourselves and each other on surviving the cold, we meandered our way through forests of oak and deodar, trying not to look at the reminders of our advanced years, such as this young lad who carried this blue bucket throughout the trek and was dressed in these clothes even on the night of minus 8 degrees Celcius! They refer to us as 'elderly' in these parts. They're not wrong but it hurts. 
"What is blue? The sky is blue.
Where the clouds float through."
wrote Chritina Rossetti.
She was born in 1830.

Poetry never fails to inspire me...

Of the trek, there's more to come
We're not yet done.
There's a night and a day still:
One more bonfire to be lit
One last night in a tent
Under those stars that shine like suns
when the sun 
goes to pay his rent
to the Almighty.
You see--
He's supposed to pay it daily
for he occupies prime property
in the blue sky
up high
where clouds sometimes fly.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy Tuesday.
May you and your loved ones enjoy the bliss of noon, night and day
Here's the link I'd promised of my poetry recital in Hindi:
Thank you for being here.
Much love 

Thursday, 9 July 2020

A Haiku and a Tanka (almost:)

Haiku #2

The bees came in May-
to drink honey only they could see.
Come, my dates are ready.

(~says the date palm tree)


Tanka #1 

Erase my edges.
Soften me, O! Dragonfly.
Smudge me to oblivion;
where I can be you or me,
Frangipani or blue sky.

(~ say I as I attempt to write a Tanka but can't seem to whittle off the extra syllable in line 3!)

Dear Readers,

The date palm trees in Doha are pregnant with ripe fruit now. The first photo was made in May when the blossoms were hosting boisterous parties for honey bees.

This year, dragonflies have been regular visitors--I'm not sure why. Perhaps all the quietness induced by Covid is responsible. I'm not complaining--I'm grateful for such good looking visitors who sit still on branches for hours so that novice photographers like me can click to our hearts' content.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy weekend.

Stay safe and enjoy nature and her bounteous beauty.

Warm regards