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Published: September 18th 2009
Here We Go A' Hiking!
In the morning...come up...present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. (Exodus 34:2)
This little piece of scripture was the heading of my devotions the morning we set out to trek up to the summit of Mount Triune. Very fitting. With loaded packs, a hearty breakfast and adequate amounts of sunscreen, 11 members of our group set out on the hike. We started out winding through the small town of Mcleod Ganj and up into the mountains; ahead was a moderate 9K hike. I realized shortly into the trek that my jeans were not sufficient hike-wear. As my long stride put me a distance ahead of our stragglers, I popped off to the side of the road, hitching up my new pants just in time for a monk to turn the corner and peer questioningly at me behind his back. Continuing on the trail, monkeys bolted across the road and congregated at the dumpsters. Our group reminded each other not to smile, as this seems to them a threatening gesture of bearing your teeth. It was difficult not too, especially with the babies whining at their mothers
and clinging to their bellies. We walked, rested, walked, rested. Chai shops along the trail offered shade and refreshment. A large group of Indian students from Delhi were also on the hike up. We repeatedly passed one another and I soon made a game out of memorizing all of their names. When the director finally asked me why, I told him that it kept me from thinking of my tired legs. The girls laughed, "intellegent!" Really, we all know, I'm just social.
Once we finally collapsed at the top, two of our guides told us they would go on a little further to a place to hang their prayer flags. Mandy (my new NOLA roomie and the group photographer) and I looked at eachother; we gotta get this on camera. We mustered our remaining strength and followed the guides up about another half-K and watched as they wrote their names on the flags. Again, looking at Mandy, we were wondering the same thing; we sheepishly asked if we, too, could put our names on the flags. Our concerns for making light of this spiritual ritual were immediately cast out as they enthusiastically welcomed us to. So, I will have
Tibetan Prayer Flag
Can you see your name?
you know, my name, along with many of my loved ones' are being blown by mountain breezes in the Himalayas as we speak. Tibetans believe that with each wind, a prayer is sent out to our maker. This was so totally worth the extra hike!
We settled into the tents that were pitched for us and relaxed for a bit. Once the sun began it's decline we all took a walk along the ridge to see the sunset. As I came down a small, rocky hill, I had to pass a grazing water buffalo. A fellow student, Rebecca, was just a little ways ahead of me. As I paused to look at this grazing mammoth of an animal, Rebecca warned "careful, they said she's mean." Just then, the beast lowered her heavily horned head, glowering at me, and began to advance. Instinctively, I RAN! Apparently this was simply a threat on her part, but I still met my demise. In my frantic sprint--- camera in one hand, the other flailing wildly for balance-- I rolled my ankle and slid down hard, torquing my knee. At this point, though, I still wasn't sure if I'd be pummled by the cranky
buffalo. Looking at Rebecca, who had not budged, I realized my attacker was satisfied with my self-destruction. Walk it off.
With a slight limp, I continued on the small journey to witness a sunset that was totally worth my acrobatics and the minor swelling that would ensue. Sleep would have come easily had it not been for a few noisy neighbors (not with our group) who seemed to be having a domestic dispute. Eventually, we rested.
Chai and Hot Balls
Good morning sunshine! We slept til nearly 9! That is unheard of. As we roused our aching muscles (my aching ankle) we transferred all our belongings to the Lodge we had reserved. Plans had changed, bringing us up a day earlier than anticipated, hence the tents (tee hee). We feasted on omelettes, toast and porridge...and chai, of course. The big plan of the day was to hike to another location to see a glacier, but I can take a hint. My swollen ankle was a sign I should stay and rest. Fine by me. A few others stayed behind and we spent the day reading, writing, visiting and napping. The weather was showing
off all it's tricks. First, clear, sunny skies. Then misty clouds, then clear. Then hail and rain. Thunder echoed through the mountains and we hoped those trekking to the glacier were able to find shelter. Their four hour excursion lasted seven and they were overjoyed to be back. They were fortunate to find shelter in a chai shop/home while it stormed. Once we were all united we gathered around the fire Suneel, our beloved chai dhaba owner had built. Meanwhile, enourmous clouds displayed massive lightning aroud us, but didn't rain on us. While we sang and shared stories (the same games I instigated only weeks ago at Lake Pierre), Suneel made Dal (lentils), rice, veggies and chapati. Mandy and I outlasted everyone except Suneel and two of his friends. We sang Hotel California and some Journey songs for them. They played the drums and told us stories about the mountains. Eventually the fire was burning down and Suneel began pushing the hot coals around the fire. I suggested we play a game like hot-potato with the coals. Chaos ensued! It was fun; we would pick up a coal and shake it in our hands to not burn, blowing on it
to make it glow bright, then say the name of the person we would toss it to. The game got dubbed "Hot Balls." I hope they continue to play it and remember us. We retreated back to the lodge with charcoaled hands and rested well.
On Second Thought...
The plan was to take our time getting started and lesiurely walk down the mountain. But, I didn't wanna go! Bonnie, Rebecca and I decided to stay behind with two others from LHA (Neil and Matt). We had another nice day relaxing, taking it all in (when's the next time I'll be chillin' in the Himalayas?) All the cattle and horses grazing on these mountain tops were there for the monsoon season (their vacation time). They eat well and get replenished then return to work in the cities when monsoons end. This just so happened to be the end of monsoon season. It was quite the spectacle to see the animals, knowing full well they're going back to work, fight the shephards who were driving them down the mountain. There was running and kicking, throwing of rocks and beating of sticks. One fellow was chasing a horse around the lodge, unable to block both sides. I watched the comedy for a bit before I found the courage to wield my umbrella as a blockade and help drive the horse toward the trail. It worked and the young (soaking wet) man was greatful. He had quite the chore ahead of him. Aside from watching the occassional chaos, we visited with other travelers from all over the world and had another meal of dal, rice and chapatis. This time I helped Suneel roll the chipatis while he cooked them. He also took the time to show me how he makes the Masala Chai. I think I preferred not knowing how much sugar was in there. Oh well. The crowd had thinned and we retired to our last night on Mount Triune. Back at the lodge we played a few rounds of blackjack, then fell asleep to the barking of the many dogs.
Leader of the Pack
Up with the sun, we gathered our things and ate our breakfasts. Bidding Suneel and the other travelers farewell, we hit the trail. Just as we were starting, several hikers summitted, followed by a pack of seven dogs. The local pack (who help herd the livestock and scare of predators) immediately surrounded the new pack and hikers. The shepherds quickly armed themselves with sticks and rocks, fearful of the damage this new pack would cause their livestock. Having gotten a feel for this lifestyle (to some small degree) we helped, calling the new pack down the mountain with us. After some prodding, they understood and walked down with us. Bonnie and Rebecca fell behind at a leisurly pace while I walked ahead with Inbal, an Israeli girl travelling alone. The dogs kept with us and we named several (Bear, Ghost, David, Nikita, Aqua). They were fun to have along, except when they got in a tiff with a bull on the trail. We watched, trapped from going down by an angry bull. Finally we could pass; no damage was done. Eventually Inbal and I had to split; her to Bagsu, me to Mcleaod Ganj. I considered waiting a while for Bonnie and Rebecca, but figured with a pack of seven dogs, who's gonna mess with me? They escorted me to nearly the bottom when they were distracted by some livestock. I continued my descent with the moos of a harassed cow in my background.
Familiar with the streets now, I made my way back to my temporary home in the guest house. My ankle did remarkably well and was only slightly swollen by the end of the hike. After a brief nap and a shower, I went to meet my learning partner, Choetso and her roommate, Tsering. We had tea and visited, then I collapsed for the evening.
Change of Plans
This morning I woke with the evidence of a cold. Congestion and sneezing, I was a bit disappointed. I had a lot to do today. Laundry had to be done, blog needs updating (this is my second try, first one was erased...grrr), and I wanted to call back home since I may not have internet and phone the next few days. The main event, though, was the Dalai Lama. It was his last day teaching here and I wanted to sit in on one of the lectures. I decided, with the cold, I should go to the afternoon teaching and rest a bit longer, taking my time going up to the laundry (it's a hike in itself). Pausing after my first attempt blogging for a cappuccino, I ran into one of the student leaders of the group, Michael. I informed him I was about to go stake out a good seat in the temple and he asked what for. Apparently, the Dalai Lama announced the afternoon session was cancelled and there would be no more teachings. Deflation.
Now, truly, seeing the Dalai Lama would have just been icing, not a necessity. But, but, but...I was disappointed. Many of the students only sat in on one session saying they were uncomfortable in the seatings and the translations weren't very audible. This offers a tiny bit of consolation, still...it's the Dalai Lama, and when will I be in India again?! Oh, well. I'll just be the dunce that HAPPENED to be in the town the Dalai Lama HAPPENED to be teaching in, and I just HAPPENED to not catch it. Live and learn.
Headed to Tso Pema next. I'll keep ya'll updated! Thanks for the comments and for reading my blog. Love you all!
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