Sunday, May 6, 2012

He- Ma- Lay- yas!

Reactions are funny... mine apparently rise or fall to fit to my situation rather than being consistent.  When home, I’d scream over cockroaches, spread warnings about sleeping w/ “nasty” hotel comforters, and freak out over being the least bit cold (which in Miami is 50 degrees).  That all seems a bit dramatic now, considering how I've been living.  Curious if I'll go back to that in the future.... whatever.... a little squeal never hurt anybody :). 
Just one or two cockroaches in the room? Okay great, I'll take it.  I leisurely shoo them away, “telling” them to just leave me alone when I'm sleeping and we’ll be okay. Did I mention one day a rat was hanging by my foot at a restaurant? Kept eating. I've had to put bug spray on a few night the mosquitos were so bad... inside my room. Geeeez
We’ve all heard not to sleep on/with the comforter in hotels in USA, because they only wash them like once a week rather than daily... This last week there hasn’t even been a sheet (or like the other night, a ridiculously stained one with dead bugs on it!) and I'm a lllll snuggled up in that comforter because it's cooold!  I'm sleeping directly on a mattress and pillow that have probably had 100’s, if not thousands of people before me on them (and they look it). I used to lay down my towel, but I sleep so crazily it’s always kicked off by morn, so I’ve given up.  Lets not even consider what is going on up in these threads... what I don’t know won’t hurt me right?  Luckily it’s been cold so I'm usually fully clothed and use my travel pillow when it looks treacherous.  Ewwww! 
Then there’s the cold. I’m teased in Miami for keeping a heater under my desk (when the others have fans) and blasting heat in my car. This last week, I’ve been high up in the Himalayas, frozen and happy. Hiking in snow storm, Rock hopping in snow storm, tenting, meditating, eating in the snow.... my lips may have been blue but I was still smiling :-).  I slept three nights camping, around 10 degrees. It was def cold, but manageable and memorable. :)
One thing I'm consistent about though... the joy of a hot shower! The 4 nights in the hotels, I would have paid big money for a space heater and a real shower.  It was either nothing, (because heck no was I showering with glacier fresh frozen type cold water) or it was a bucket “hot” shower. One hotel we had to pay (only $0.80, but still) for a bucket of hot water, and another gave us a ghetto, exposed wire socket heater (safety much?) that we could put in our own bucket to heat up water.  No heat in the rooms ever, so the bathrooms were so cold it was pretty miserable the 90% of the time I wasn’t pouring the little bucket of heat over me! I refused to wash my hair... that would have been too much self-torture. Could have made fries w/ all that grease ;) 
So yay, the Himalayas!!! Maruti (my awesome trek pal turned fab travel pal) and I decided we needed some Mother Nature soul nurturing.  We took a 7 hr bus, then a 5 hour bus up to Gangotri- which is a decently famous place as it’s the gateway (a 18km trek away) to the source of the Holy Ganges River.  Let me just say 12 hours of government economy bus ride doesn’t exactly sound fun, especially when you consider the seats are so small your knees are jammed into the seat in from of you (not to mention never once cleaned), the roads are so bumpy you risky mass injury if not paying attention, and the route so winding there were 3 people puking out the windows at one point! Ewww!  BUT, it was the easiest and most awesome 12 hrs of bussing ever!  First of all great company, Maruti and I are two peas in a pod, and secondly--- the scenery was just heavenly!!!!!!  Towering mountains covered with delish smelling pine tree, mostly snow capped! Massive cliffs/ valleys/ gorges with waterfalls  (some we drove thru!) and the winding river rushing by.  The mountain houses perched on these incredibly impressive land terracing. Real living off the land type stuff to ohh and ahh over: cow and goat herders, sheep seemingly impossibly grazing on an 80 degree cliff, donkeys hauling mass loads... reminiscing now- ohhh this place was AWESOME! 

That's just wonderful :) 

Double waterfall!!!!
Caught this from the bus window perfectly between the trees, yippee! 

Space much? Not exactly the leisure bus!

The first day we explored the city and found ourselves in the most majestic, wooded, cliff laden forest, with the exact raging river, massive boulders, evergreen trees, and caves that I want on my own future property (more on that soooonnn!).  Def one of God’s best works of art :).  Part way thru, we found ourselves sitting with 4 baba’s, having a smoke (tobacco, eww, but I had to take at least one drag, who could refuse such a neat scenario!) off a natural wood carved pipe with grass stalks as a filter!  We then followed them to a monstrous cave where we had chai/coffee with 6 of them, the leader being the cave dweller.  We sat Indian style (no pun intended!) It was cold, dark, and uncomfortable-- but awesome!!! Each of them had a huge white or salt & pepper beard and a mass of dreads.  They were talking in Hindi but very cool still.  I sat next to the woman one (ok, so she was not bearded) and we kept smiling at each other and she offered me everything multiple times. Super memorable experience! 

How great are the little cabins? :) 

Trees and mountains!

Me doing a sun salutation.... I love this place! 

The baba's we shared a lil' smoke with :) 

More on these baba’s. They are everywhere here, this being a popular pilgrimage site (because recall the Ganges is holy). They have renounced the typical life- no posessions, family, sex... just God.  Up near the top of our hike, 14k from town, we went to return blankets (from an extra cold night) and happened upon breakfast and chai with one Baba named Nirmal (he’s got a little gas camp stove, and an impressively efficient routine). He has lived in his little rock “house” for 23 years.  He lives there all year (even when it’s -20 degrees in the winter) walks the 4km to “Gaumakh” (the river source) and bathes in the holy river EVERY DAY! During the  winter he actually has ice form on him! WTF! That’s some crazzzzy dedication right there.  More power to him I guess!  That’s a big HN for me. 
The town of Gangotri itself is 3,048 meters ASL.  We started our trek at 8:50am, and spent the next 6.5 hours climbing 14km and 733 meters (putting us higher than Cuzco (Machu Picchu), my previous highest destination of 3600m).  Doesn’t seem like the best pace for sure, but that altitude is a killer! For perspective, the highest peak in all of AUS I climbed was only 2,228m, in the continental USA it's 4,421 meters, whereas Everest is 8,848m! I cant even imagine. One little uphill climb and it’s hard to catch your breath. Luckily I don’t have issues with altitude sickness, but still even just the smallest little exertion makes breathing more difficult. We started in shorts and t-shirts, but by the last two hours it was snowinggggg and freezing!!!! You could barely see around the next bend let alone the beautiful scenery!  Plus the 733m climb (2,404ft) is the final elevation change... doesn’t include the zillion ups and down of the trail!!  It’s just as beautiul as the road trip up, but now up close and personal.  Tree climbing and tree hugging ensued:). The trail was really rocky and diverse (i love this), so kept you interested, plus the scenery just keep unfolding like another Bob Ross painting every look up (the one downfall: rocky floor=looking down), so loootts of photo breaks. Pretty much I was in heaven :) 

Just one of many cool trail spots.
Supposedly during monsoon season the river is  5-6 x wider... maybe I must come back :) 

Starting to get coooooolllldddd! 

I felt like I was just getting a taste of what my inspiring friend RyHo does every day. He’s one month in (of 6) on the 2,184 mile Appalachian Trail right now! Awesome!  He wrote in his great blog that he hiked 23 miles one day!  I did 30 over 4 days and my feet were Kapoot!  Side note: Ryan, and randomly another guy, both I used to date, are on trail right now, about 300 miles apart... something very few people even want to attempt, let alone do! Guess you can tell my taste in men?... Gal like me gots to have a manly man you see, so I still feel girly :)
Second day we did the short 4km trek to the actual source of the river, Gaumakh, at elevation 3,892 meters.  WOWWWW-- it’s a glacier headwater river... so if you’ve ever wanted to see how a river like this starts, I recommend coming to see this one!  Big huge ice walls, and the water is just gushing out from the bottom of them! Super neat (and scary, as rocks kept falling off the top). Although it’s considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world lower down, I felt pretty confident I could have a sip here :). I also had to wash my feet in it, for effect. :) Thank goodness we had a patch of sunny or else I’d prob be a few toes short right now;). 

Brrrr.... thousand year old ice... Yep it's cold! 

The official source of the Ganges River! 

The fourth day I went and climbed all over the top of it (the glacier- attempting to get to a peak called Tapovan). It was quite exhilarating... a bit freaky really.  I mounted the glacier cautiously, expecting to get back to real ‘mountain’ material.... but nooo... Im walking on wobbly rocks on melting ice! Water is dripping every where, and every few seconds you hear rocks falling as it’s foundation melts.  Normal rock hopping you might find an unstable rock every 30 steps or so... here it was pretty much every other step! There was no trail at all, so a million different ways you could go (which changes every day with the movement and landslides). Every ridge peaking revealed more crevasses, frozen ponds, falling rocks, and ice cliffs. These decision junctions were toughhhh, bordering the line between fun and stupid... making it really slow going (good breaks to breathe though- my heart rate crazy high). It wasn’t till on top that I really realized the natural process of glacial river making... and the unfortunate speeding of that process by global warming. Call me naive, but I hadn’t really ever considered this scenario. This glacier is 1000’s of years old... and way back when it used to be milesss further down the valley!  The earlier part of the trek is full of trees along the banks, but the last half is really just loose rocks and dirts, looking like landslides.  It all kind of made sense then, that as time goes by and it melts, it recedes back and leaves these banks of sliding stones. With some research now, I found It has averaged 19 meters (receeding) a year, but over the last 25, averaging 34 meters a year!!   It’s a little crazy to think what happens when the ice runs out?  There’s even been a documentary on it!  I feel the need to put this link: 10 things you can do to reduce global warming.  Refill your water bottles!

Where I'm heading :) 

Ganges Glacier! Considered the longest in the Himalayas

Sliding rocks and ice mountains... which way do I go??

These all over... and the rocks keep falling off that edge! 

Would love to peak in those caves... def not getting too close though! 

After almost 2 hrs of climbing and really no progress towards my destination (but surely 4000m- 13,123 feet- high!), I had to start heading back (18km hike back to town).  It was quite nice though, and I was pleased with the attempt. It was a bright sunny (albeit chilly) day, so I sat up there on a big (stable-ish) boulder and wrote in my journal, surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains, overlooking miles of the snaking holy river. Cool :) 

That all used to be more ice.... crazy to ponder 

The third day, Maruti and I decided to have solo days.  I think these are so clutch to life now (recall my (the) newfound discovery of the power of Aloneness!). Im reaaaalllly digging these times when I can feed/find my real self. And.. I’d been so social in Rishikesh I was pretty desperate for one.  I hiked back to Gaumakh and set up my tent for a solo night.  I got there around 1, and searched for my perfect site.  Found a good one sheltered from the wind, cleared rocks for soft landing, and set up camp. Refilled and filtered water, found a stick in case of wolves, and prepped my setup so once night fell (and the 10 degree weather) I’d already be set up.  I then explored the nearby hills, collected trash (grrr), meditated. Luckily it was a pretty nice day (it had snowed both afternoons before) so I decided to find my perfect spot to journal. I saw this giant boulder with the most comfy looking built in back rest.  Upon approach, there was no way up... but being the problem solver that I am(!), I decided to build myself a pedestal!! 45 minutes and much stone hauling later I was presumably the first person ever to sit in that wonderful seat :).  
The rock I just had to get up on... nice looking back rest eh??! 

Now that is what I’m talking about!!! It was such a funny thing... spending so much time when there were a jillion other fab places to sit.  Who you really are comes out in what you do when you have nothing to do.  I mean realllly nothing to do... not when you’re home with laundry or errands or friends to see in the back of your head. I’m talking you’re the last person on earth type of alone, with nothing to do, any and every resource at your fingertips. What do you do? Do you draw? exercise? cook? read? shop? sing? spend it on facebook? None of them are better than the next (except the last ;) ... they just tell us a little bit about what our real passions in life are.  Find that, trust that, capitalize on that! THAT is your life’s calling!  Me? I build stone steps, climb on rocks and write :).  If I was settling here, I’d start building my own little rock house, or cave dwellings or furniture!  And I’d crush up materials to mix w/ water, making paint for stone and wood art! 

Seeing how I’m really discovering/accepting/embracing my nature lover/ designer/ architect/ builder/ crafty/ adrenaline seeking/ mountain goat/ rushing river rat self... (yes, I swear I’m a woman!)..  I suppose it’s time to share my future plans!!!!! ....To Be Continued.....!!!

1 comment:

  1. Becky this is awesome! I think you are so amazing to be doing all of this stuff and seeing all these amazing sites. I get reamazed with every blog I read! And I love your way with words!!!
    Love ya, Mandy