Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trekker's Romance

"I think I'm pretty fearless, if not for the single greatest fear of losing her. "

Lift the white veil
The stack of pale
Brown leaves that decorate
The hillside
Its hide
Caressed by invisible fingers
And a thousand invisible singers
That sing its song
Far out and along
The meandering stream
Like a serene dream
Of lush breasts
Imagined in those crests
with a thin trail
Leading to a frail
Gully through the snows
Where relentless wind blows
Into submission those
of iron will and a burnt nose.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Hornet and the Ant

Found this hornet [Vespa Orientalis] in the garden. It had been crawling in the grass long enough to compel a closer look. Turns out there was an ant clung to its right wing, making flight impossible (imagine barbell tied to a bird's wing). The ant had dug its claws real deep, in some strange frenzy, and had locked itself.

Initially, I assumed some predatory maneuver on the ant's part, and decided to not interfere with nature. But it wasn't so - for some reason it just clung on;  no progress was made, neither did any other ants join it. Some day the hornet was having. Some day the ant was having, too. I imagined that both would've died this way.

I stepped in, and after repeated attempts, managed to get the ant off with the help of holding the hornet down with a stick and using another one as a pick to lightly scrape the ant off. The hornet took flight immediately, much to my relief. Both the insects survived.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Trail diary: Flash flood on the Makalu BC trail

It's 16 past 01 [1316PM]... and I've been having a really, really misadventurous time for the past 20 minutes. The skies opened up, and now... I have nowhere to go.
Kongma, is, I guess, another hour ahead, and the last habitation - where I had my tea - is half an hour downhill. But I can't even go downhill for, like, 5 minutes; or I risk getting all of myself wet... which I slowly am getting, since I have no place for shelter. 

Right now I'm under the tiny canopy of a rhododendron tree. The water slowly creeps in, onto my jacket, which acts as a sponge, which is now saturated. Now the water is making its way through the jacket, and to my body. I'm wet, and I'm cold. The chill is starting to set in... 

My bag is completely wet. All the waterproofing that could save it, would save the middle compartment, at best, but the top compartment and the lower compartment - which had my jeans and my jacket,- is also gone. One jacket - that I'm wearing - is completely drenched. The other one, that was in the lower compartment, should be completely drenched by the end of this rain. I don't know how long it goes, but this is a real stressor for me. When, I get to Kongma today, I don't know what I'll be have to wear for the evening, so forget about tomorrow. The water still creeps in. 

I don't know what's gonna happen to the contents of my smaller bag. I hope my electronics don't go kaput. I hope I don't go kaput. This rain could go on for hours. The whole trail is flooded with water, so I had to run my way down [downhill] to the rhododendron thicket, and take shelter here. So my plans of Kalo Pokhari are definitely out. Right now the plan is to reach some shelter, or even some rocky outcrop, to assess the damage done. 

Let's see how it goes. Over and out.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Updates from Uttarkashi

Seems like I need all the outdoor gear in at least a smaller showroom, because
1. Otherwise I'll steal, or worse, borrow
2. Because i'm not leaving this passion any sooner

Here in Uttarkashi, days are like a discovery. Each comes with its highs - lows are only the time that i'm sleeping, but even in that i'm dreaming strange things - like polar bears and people crashing scooters - as well. I could wax lyrical, but one will think I'm mad.

It is raining really hard right now. They just started, and it doesn't look like stopping. In 3 hours, we are to be starting off on the trek to Bhatwari village, which is where we - yogi and I, - in November last year, changed the mode of transit for our Dayara misadventure. I shall be in plenty of mud for sure, and maybe even a rockslip or two. It shouldn't be a surprise, right? After all, the entropy is ever-increasing in the universe.

We are presently operating from Gyalsu, a village 2 km from the town. The last  that we visited the town, we were hosted at Shivling Hotel, by one girl Arunima. She is the first female amputee, internationally, to scale the Everest, which she did just a few months back, a mere year from losing her leg after being pushed off a moving train. Her story is amazing, more so to hear from her own person, and to see the political and social movement these guys are going to turn the sport of mountaineering into. No wonder she has a 350cr movie deal from Hollywood upcoming! Good news for those who toil.

I finally had to get a new boonie hat and Chinese goggles, as my efficient packing and restricted thinking led me to leave the ones I love back at home like a graveflower; but the goggles will look good on me. Days on the trail will be challenging, and at the same time unpredictable, so I'm happy with conveniences that I won't mind losing or accidentally destroying.

These mountain heads are a average breed at conversations. I can't keep up with them. It is not suitable to my participation, so I guess I'm the only one not having fun. Not complaining, but I wish silence dominates so just the roar of the river could dominate the aural-scape. But I can't tell how tangible I feel the word "complete" in their proximity. [see also, adj. forms of "ambition", "gusto", "discipline", "freedom"]. These people can help make psychological breakthroughs when kept under observation.
I just hope by the end of this trip, I'm not making such perverse observations.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In Uttarkashi

I've landed in Uttarkashi. Among the highlights in these first 4 hours - introductions with the team, surveying our organisational setup, the Bun Tikkis in the main market, witnessing an epic drunken walk, chasing fireflies, and agile fly swatting.

It took 7 hours to get here from Rishikesh, in a shared taxi. There was an additional 2 hour wait at Rishikesh for the taxi to reach full occupancy, since this peak season is now an off-season, and a few - if any - taxi guys are risking it to Uttarkashi; there were rumors about dicey situation of roads around Dharasu (26km from Uttarkashi) but we found them restored, at least until the next batch of rain hits. We - Jade, Amber Lamps, and me - lost a good hour shortly after Narendranagar, in a queue of traffic, owing to sections of the road that were washed away not yet fully restored; but there wasn't much difficulty besides. Even buses and trucks are plying on the route now, albeit a fraction compared to the usual.

But beyond Uttarkashi is a different deal. The road goes a mere 5 km further ahead, to as far as Gangori, and thereafter it had been washed away at several places, which makes prayers of any immediate restoration impossible. It is beyond this point that the bugle calls us into action.

The action plan is detailed. By the time of our arrival, a few tonnes of relief material had been bright up, preliminary surveys and data gathering had been carried out, stay had been arranged, and - most importantly - the permission from the newly-appointed DM had been obtained (the earlier DM was replaced on corruption charges, and it was the first day in the office for the new one).

Tomorrow, one batch does a recce to Maneri, and onwards to Bhatwari (this village is the branching point for Dayara Bugyal trek which I did last year). We are, in the first leg, targeting villages around Bhatwari, so making contacts and arranging for stocking space is the immediate aim, so that in the following days we establish an ABC at Bhatwari. Another batch of us - which I'm a part of - would be preparing food packages and seeing to the logistics (ie non mountaineering stuff, but I can wait). I'm in awe of the art and the sincerity of these teammates, who - in short note - are as cool and hardworking as they are experienced.

At dinner, the conversation(s) didn't leave the mountains. Mad people talking about fellow mad people. I can already see the differences...

Monday, July 08, 2013

Helping Uttarakhand

Just finished with a half of each - chocolate brownie, chocolate eclairs, chocolate tart, mango tart, and velvet cake (the velvet crumbs still cling to lips). My bakery raid ended well. And I even rode the Godiva, on the roads of Delhi, near midnight, to rediscover the love with my primera amor. The day around it was no less indulgent, but the details are lost in translation into text, so I won't enlist them all.  I could be off to a serene sleep. Only if..

Come the morning (which is in another hour and a half) and I'll be out to something ridiculous, courageous, risky, considerate, and - as I see it - appropriate. Yes, on the road again. Or to be technical, off the road, this time. It will be another first-of-its-kind experience, in tradition to the advance of year 2013AD.
In another 11 hours I should be in Rishikesh. In another 34, in Uttarkashi. I'll be a part of the team of some awesome "adventurists" who are dedicating themselves to the relief work in aftermath of the Uttarakhand disaster.
Besides those who died a quick death in the flash floods in the Kedarnath region, there are a fifty times more that are dying a slow one in other parts of Uttarakhand, like in the remote reaches of districts like Uttarkashi, where farm lands have been scooped away and the roads are a once-existed fact. It is these villages that we're helping.

If I were ever corralled into giving an interview by some on-site reporter, then I'll make a claim of how I know this region - having, coincidentally, done a couple of more hardcore/memorable treks of my life in this same region - and have a fond association with its people, coz of which an inner voice calls me back to pay my dues. I'll probably end with a line like "it is time to give back". I'd be hiding the reality that I didn't grow fond of the locals on these treks, even desperately trying to evade some who had business ends to met through a prospective conduit of ours. And the familiarity aspect is also humbug - nary did I take the lesser treaded path, or follow a spoor to its owner into the woods, so, effectively, my expertise is of knowing trails that aren't there anymore, and not of the character of these mountains.

To give the exact reason why I'll be there is hard for me. As per Richard Dawkins, philanthropy is a misdirected form of a primitive survival instinct, that works out an optimal profit making strategy; since the phenomenon of me and profits have never been observed simultaneously, I don't think I'm in it for any gains.  Really, then, what am I in for?