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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Snowsome Tales 2: The Journey Back

Apparently it had snowed at 4 in the morning while we all were asleep.

A thin veil of snow had covered whatever our eyes could see, ofcourse except the river: lightly growling then like a lion whimpering in its sleep. All surrounding mountains were shrouded in a mystic drapery of clouds and blowing snow, which parted towards their base, to reveal them shyb-lushing in their new polka dots avatar!

I was still tired from the inadequacy of the space on the bed last night. It was so stupid - what was a rat doing in our room in such icy cold weather. Wasn't he supposed to be in his burrow hibernating! Ok, I know they don't hibernate, but whatever - aren't they suppose to go down to a rat hole at some lower altitude just like humans! In totality, I mean - what the ... was he doing at 3365! Wretched creatures they are...that one rat drove Gj, sleeping contentedly on the floor, to get terrified to his bones despite all that layers of clothing and jump on the bed with already suffocating other 3.

The night had passed, and the grey-white morning was no time to soothe cramped muscles, except o'course for Twigman who had popped in a Crocin before he slept, and then had dedicated almost the entire tube of Volini to his back as soon he got up in the morning! However, on a more generic note - it was the time to drink tea, gulp down maggie, ignore the call of nature to stay back for some more time, and to run!

Even before we started it had resumed snowing mildly. The dense dark grey cloud cover lined our entire downward path causing a morbid worry to surface over our guide,Ramlal Ji's, face as he asked us to make haste. And then, we ran! When we left at 8:45 AM, no one even turned back to heave a sigh; every warm breath was important, more so because the entire trek for the day was uninhabited and our ration supplies had already hit the red.

Soon, flakes of snow started falling thick and fast. Every 10 minutes or so we had to wildly shake ourselves to get rid of the snow piled on our backpacks and boots, shoulder and hoods. As I half walked half ran - the snow lightly crunched under my feet, fell on my lips and eyes and blew in my nose causing a seismic wake of tanginess to run through my body, ending in my belly causing me to suddenly vibrate - it looked as if I was dancing. Well, the truth is, I was! Wouldn't you if you were running in the wild in the first snowfall of your life?

While ascending HKD (Har Ki Dun), I was of the opinion that it was one of the most beautiful winter treks that I've seen, but oh I square that it was doubly so when we descended. I had so far believed that my favorite color was blue, though I really don't think I have a favorite color but just in case had you asked me mine - I would have said blue. But damn, I am saying the color of snow the next time you ask me, and no kidding this time.

And it was not just snow - at halfway, the path down from HKD suddenly bends at a right angle around a ridge to completely tumble the world before your eyes - from bleary huge snowy mountains lurking in your face, the view after the turn suddenly opens up to the far horizon with Supin river joining you back - flowing down several hundred feet between yours and the parallel mountains...

After having walked for a little over 2 hours: through steep downs and large white flats, from over freezing streams to over already frozen falls, the snow finally started receding. The urgency in us too receded with it and a sense of peace set forth in our gait. We started to notice how huge boulders tumbling from mountains had blown off huge bridges and the teetering makeshift wooden bridges in places, how the occasional green patch of land was indeed a wheat field, how effortlessly our porters walked, and how with every step downwards our knees said 'Ouch'! The last part is important - descending on mountains is never easy on knees which are accustomed to not even descend a single floor on well laid stairs. However, it generally helps if you don't climb down mountains like stairs but instead put your legs horizontally across - as you might have seen in military movies in 1-2 1-2 steps. Moreover, try to keep your legs on some stable boulders instead on the ground while climbing down a slope or walking on a flat - as once your leg is on a boulder it is much more stable then when it's on ground where it keeps on hitting the scattered boulders lying around.

Caution: don't run! Walk fast if you have faith in your shoes and judgement, but don't run! Last time around, Tobebabu risked the most important parameter in his equation of being a babu: being alive! When we were descending from a height of 4200m to 3200m around curving slopes, he decided to run directly downwards assuming that...

Probability {his legs finding a boulder to step on/he keeps his foot forward} = 1

...this was flawed, and even otherwise so! He stopped when we all saw him and shrieked on the top of our voice, only to look up with an expression of - "Just trying!"

However, no major heart-stoppers occurred on our downward journey this time, except for when Twigman leading our pack in the drafting snow stepped over ice, which was slyly covered under snow, and fell headlong. It was momentarily scary and then funny to see him trying to axe his nails in the ice to get a grip, slipping a little every second toward the small stream which we were crossing, before he was given a hand by Gj. However, no joking about the fact that being drenched when it's snowing might have been a direct ticket to heaven (I guess he's a good man!).

By and by we reached the bridge over Supin river which would take us back to comfort of rest houses. But crossing bridge was no easy thing - the pull of dashing white river was too strong and one by one everyone slumped on the bridge; lost in their own special thoughts. When we looked at our watches - it was just half hour past noon! Everyone in the group had made down amazingly fast; and some of us were again in enthusiasm to go further and reach our starting point, Taluka, the same day; however, we did not - and for good, as otherwise I would have missed something which mesmerized me more than anything I had seen thus far on our journey...[to be contd.]

The bridge over Supin

Story Continued:

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