Following the Gaddi shepherds [trek day 2]

Trip Start Jul 02, 2007
Trip End Aug 03, 2007

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

I managed to avoid the dreaded early-morning call of nature yesterday, but this morning I had to drag myself out of my cosy sleeping bag into the crisp dawn, and then find a suitable rock. There is no lack of those, though in future I might go earlier because then all the horsemen aren't there to watch me as I pick my way across and back again. At least I've done enough Duke of Edinburgh to get the none-splash technique right.

Once you zap your nerves with the cold, you can't get back to sleep, so I read Kim for a while until it was safe to make plastic-bag-rustling noises and pack.

Omelette and porridge again, along with a small peanut butter and jam sandwich. Ewww, I know, but it's surprisingly good, and great energy.

8.30 had us setting off across the huge meadow, feeling very small; dots on a massive plain surrounded by snowy peaks. The views back were pretty breathtaking as we climbed up past a section of forest [the last, I think, as the treeline ends soon, barring a few hardy birches].

Following the river valley and crossing part of it early on, we kept climbing, shallower than yesterday so that when we turned to look back I was amazed by how far we'd actually climbed. Apart from the forest the route was open and I found I had to stop frequently so as not to miss the views. Even on the simple trails, you spend a lot of time watching where you put your feet.

The dog followed us [or in my case, walked right in front of me so I couldn't see the path] until we passed a group of Israelis, the only other people we saw on the whole trek until the main camp after the Bhaba Pass [except Gaddi shepherds]. This trek is usually done in the other direction - Guilling [or Mudh] to Kafnu. I'm not sure which is harder. Probably equally difficult, since our way involves a steep climb up to the top and a long scree trail down, and the other way is more gradual up and steeper down. Meh.

I think the dog belongs to someone in Kafnu, he seemed quite happy to follow us and then immediately turn around halfway along the path and go back down with the other group. If I had the choice of up or down, I know which way I'd go. About 20 metres after we passed them, the guide found a shawl/scarf thing that the Israeli girl must have dropped. We tried sending a call back, but the message suffered in the wind [and also for Katryn asking, "why?" instead of just doing it, bless her] and Dirk seemed quite happy to keep it since "it smells nice". Francoise had it by the end of the day [it was a bit feminine for Dirk] and to my knowledge still has it now. Israelis aren't our favourite travellers, and while I'm sure the group were nice people, we didn't really feel that bad.

As I mentioned, there are people who live up here in the summer - Gaddi shepherds. They herd their flocks high into the mountains to find good pastures [there's a local saying about them going up and not returning until the sheep have eaten 40 types of grass or something - making the best milk and meat you can get]. We saw a group today, high on a hillside. What an existence!

We passed more glaciated sections of river and crossed more boulder-strewn meadows, until we spotted the tents, again in a idyllic location surrounded by mountains. Just before we reached them we passed a patch of pink flowers. With the mountain backdrop we all had to stop and take pictures, meaning we all arrived at the campsite at about the same time.


No headache today, which was great, not least of all because it means I'm drinking enough. The water was boiled last night so that it was cool for this morning, and that definitely helped.

Yesterday the river was on the left [I assume west-ish] of the campsite, down an embankment perfect for hiding behind to wash. Tonight the river is east-ish and not so well hidden. On the upside there are plenty of bushes to drape your clothes over, and to the west of the tents, over a rise, is a huge boulder perfect for toilet stops. Not that it's a stranger to such activities so you have to watch where you put your feet. Mmm nice.

I declared I was going to wash my hair. Yesterday the sun was out for my afternoon bathe, but this afternoon it was overcast and the wind was up. Ideal conditions for getting freezing cold. Not.

Dirk said I was mad, and Francoise forbade me, so I told them that I'd just wash normally. Heh. I crawled back into the tent after a gaspingly cold 5 minutes or so [most of which was needed to get the shampoo out of my hair] with a towel on my head and a cheeky expression. Sure I got an ice-cream headache and questioned my sanity, but afterward the comparative temperature difference meant I could don my ugly-troll hat [yes, I brought it!] and be all snuggly warm.

Lunch helped, a plate of yummy rice something-or-other. Then I had a sleep and read my book. I'm sharing a tent with Francoise tonight and she appears to have very particular sleeping arrangements. Usually I stand my backpack up against the back wall, between our heads, since it stands up by itself and takes up less room than having it lying flat with the other pack. Francoise said it made it feel too separated, which I guess I understand, but still, one night? I didn't mind putting it down - it's no big deal to me - but I jokingly made a huff and puff about it. Some people eh? [Francoise, I'm only kidding, I love you really, you crazy Chicken.]

The afternoon dragged on a bit. You can only look at the mountains for so long, so boredom began to creep in. I know, horrendous talk...

Dinner [trekking makes me hugely hungry and with the lack of things to do, dinner becomes a real bright spot!] was eaten in the main tent again. Both Narish and the cook lad, Draminder, have noticed my, er, healthy appetite. I think it's something they respect, since India women in the cities are becoming more aware of the global fashion for waif-like bodies etc. Anyway, I just eat when I'm hungry and I feel no shame in that. The buggers do tend to poke gentle fun, making an extra chapatti or piling my plate high with rice. The rest of the group [except Dirk] ask for small portions, understandably since none of them are very big at all; even Francoise, taller than me, is pretty thin. I guess the more food the guide and cook shift, the less the mules have to carry. And the chapattis are very good - Draminder smears them with the only margarine I've ever actually liked.

On the first evening they gave Jenny and Ann too much and so I ate the leftover chapattis. They were going to waste! So now I, as I'm finishing, get an extra chapatti thrust at me. I'm all, "No, really, I've had enough." and after some more nudging and some smiling taunts by Narish of, "It's going to wa-aste..." I end up taking it. I've coined the phrase, "EAT THE CHAPATTI!" said in a deep commanding voice. Joy.

The evening was spent giggling, or watching the others giggle. Francoise and Dirk were trying out some Hindi/local words on the horsemen, causing much hilarity. I wasn't quite sure what was so funny - sure, people out in these places are often delighted when you speak some of the language, but still, I got the feeling I was missing something.

Turned out I was. What they were trying to say was, "[Hello] friend!" and, "Goodnight". What they actually said was, "Jakpo!" and "Choclatree" - respectively, "Arse!" and some very rude word that Narish refused to tell us. Amusingly, Francoise and Dirk continued to use the wrong pronunciation over the next few days, despite Narish and my quiet attempts to correct them. In fact, a couple of days later, I was witness to a singularly beautiful scene: Dirk yelling, "Arse!" at the top of his lungs down the mountains from the Bhaba Pass [Tarik La, same same].

Ahh good times. For future reference, the correct, (as I have it anyway) pronunciation is, Shakpo and Shubratree [or maybe Chubratree. Anyone?]
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