Sunday, April 27, 2003

Wow, what a weekend...

Yesterday morning we got up early and set off on a 3 day trek to a cave above the snowline. My travelling companions were Shivach, an Israeli guy who has the room next to me, and Sunil, the local guy who runs my guesthouse. The plan was to head to Triund, at the top of the first pass, then camp the night in a cave there, then head to the snowline and the main cave the following day, before returning on the third day. We set off early and after about 4 hours had reached Triund. The view is incredible. Behind you is the valley stretching down towards Dharamkot, McLeod Ganj, and Dharamasala, and in front of you tower the Himalayas, snow capped peaks reaching up into the clouds.

The sun was shining, which was nice, as the walk up had been a bit cloudy. We lay in the sun and ate noodles and marvelled at the panorama before us. Then, in the space of about 5 mins, the sky turned black and the first drops of rain began to fall. Me and Shivach forced our strained legs to propel us full speed up a very steep and rocky slope to the cave in which we were to spend the night. By the time we got up there the rain was coming in strong and we just got our bags into the shelter of the cave in time. I say "cave", but really it was just a rocky overhang, and some shepards had built some simple dry stone walls at the sides to keep some of the wind out. It was starting to get really quite cold and I was very glad to have my thermal long johns with me! The storm continued to get worse and the wind was becoming gale force. The view from the cave was incredible. You could see the mountains behind, the valley in front, and directly below us was a small group of ancient looking trees, their branches festooned with buddhist prayer flags. The prayer flags are all different colours and have prayers or mantras written on them. The buddhists believe that when the wind blows, it carries the positive prayers with it. As I watched from my cave, the flags looked as if they were going to tear free as they fought with the wind to cling to their string, and I thought to myself that there must be a sizable ocean of good vibes streaming off of those flags at that moment... :) As we sat in the relative shelter of our cave, I thanked the many gods for making the wind blow across our cave rather than into it... I'm not sure I could have dealt with a full in the face assault. The rain turned to hail. The sky was so dark by now that we had to use a torch to see enough to light a fire. It was getting bloody freezing! We really were incredibly exposed there, but thankfully the wind kept it's course, and the 45 degree rain continued to hurl itself past our cave rather than into it. At one point the storm eased up slightly and we were able to venture out of the cave long enough to find some food and admire the amazing sky and mountains...

I slept fairly well despite the intense cold, but was awoken just before dawn by Shivach snoring. After failing to stop him with the use of violence, I decided to get up. Sunil had been telling us the day before that it definitely wouldn't rain, then that it would stop after 20 mins, then that it would stop after a few hours, then that it would be clear tomorrow..... Well, it was tomorrow now, and although the rain had stopped, the sky was still looking ominous. We lit the fire and thawed ourselves for a while before heading down to the small chai shop further down the mountain. The wind was still very strong, and it was very cold. We looked over towards the snow covered mountains that were supposed to be our destination. Sunil assured us that it was no probnlem and that we could continue to the snowline, and that the rain would not return. I was starting to doubt Sunils ability to accurately predict the weather, and after about 15 mins of trekking thru the gales and biting cold, Shivach was the first to stop and say he was going back. Sunil asked me if I wanted to continue. I looked up at the snow covered peak and saw the thick white clouds of snow and hail moving purposefully across it.... "Not into that!" I said, and we decided to head back before the worst weather returned.

After a nice walk/run down the mountain, during which the sun came out and warmed our frozen bones, we arrived home just as the main part of the storm returned to finish the job! We were so happy that we had decided to turn back, as the rain began to lash down in torrents, and we watched it from the dryness of our front porch. :)

But now it's still raining!! Not good! But at least I'm here in this dry Internet cafe rather than shivering in some cave half way up the Himalayas.... :)

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