Thursday 11 July 2013

Spiti: Travelogue- Part 2

My heart just went out to the kids in Spiti. They are so innocent and unspoilt, unlike city kids. Every where in Spiti, kids greet and smile, just like their elders and also wave out, especially if you are in a vehicle. They are extremely well-mannered and say ‘thank-you’ whenever they are given something. 
The lovely kids at Langza

By the second day, I too had caught the ‘waving bug’, and soon I was waving out gleefully to kids, toothless grannies, shepherds, cows, goats, sheep and bikers, and motorcyclists on Harley Davidsons and Royal Enfields. In Langza and I’m assuming in other villages too, kids return home from school at 4 pm, change over and go into the grazing pastures to fetch the cattle at sunset. Every day at Langza I accompanied my class 7 host, Tenzing, puffing and panting and pleading with him to go slow (it’s amazing to see how even little kids in Spiti go scampering in a jiffy over steep climbs) to the pastures. There Tenzing introduced me to his other classmates and friends. The kids asked me many questions….where I lived, why am I traveling alone, how it was in the cities…etc. There the kids would simply run behind lambs, chase goats, ride donkeys and do cart-wheels. Such simple pleasures of life. They had no access to toys or games like city kids, yet the fun they had was unmatched. Once I told them I wanted to take a picture with a cute little lamb. The boys chased the lamb for 10 minutes leaving me rolling with laughter on the grass. Whenever I distributed chocolates (Luckily I had carried a huge packet to give it to kids in the villages), they made sure that everyone in their group had received and that really touched my heart. I had also carried some coloring books and crayons. I had distributed some when some other tiny girls came accompanied with their mothers to my home-stay asking what book I had, since the girls I had give those to, had shown them off in their school and now even these kids wanted the same. I gave whatever I had and felt so bad since I didn’t have enough for all. I’m planning to send more books to their village school soon.
Another incident which moved me happened when I was traveling in a car. There was some work happening on the road and so the car slowed down. I looked out to see an old toothless granny with a flask of tea sitting on the side of the road, taking a break from the road work. When my eyes met hers, she gave me the most beautiful smile and asked me to come and join her for tea.  Here was a poor woman earning a daily wage and yet she was rich beyond measure to offer tea to a complete stranger like me. In that moment my heart expanded manifold. Each time I experienced the magnanimity of these gentle, peace loving people, my heart too expanded to accommodate more love and trust and also spread the same.
At a different level I also feel the entire trip had a magical quality about it. It’s needless to say that the very sight of the Himalayas is magical and fills you with an inexplicable sense of joy , calm and peace. The 1st night I spent in Kaza, it was 2 days away from Full moon and the snow peaked mountains reflected the moonlight.  The sight was magical beyond words. The next day I went to Langza for volunteering work and as soon as I was shown to my room, a sparrow sized orange breasted bird came and sat on the window sill and looked and me and happily chirped away as if to say “ are here?..welcome and now I’m off to work” and flew away..I again almost jumped with joy..:-)
Treasure from Langza

The next day morning I decided to explore the village. I met a lady working on a barley field. After chatting up with her, I sat down nearby to read a book on how the Earth was seeded and about early life on this planet. The same lady suddenly threw something in my direction. I didn’t understand what it was since it had camouflaged with the stones. She came up, picked it up and showed me…and lo behold I was holding an ammonite fossil in my hand. The sweet lady burst out laughing seeing me choke with joy..:-) She told me that it came with the snow melt irrigation water. I thanked her profusely for the same and decided that this would be the best gift for my husband. As I sat admiring my newly acquired ancient gift, I got greedy and decided to explore the village to see if I get more of these. Yes, after a lot of walking (and walking is tough at 14000 ft above sea level), I found another one slightly bigger and as a parting gift my hosts gave me 2 more of these. When I was in Demul and just sat watching the night sky , suddenly a light flashed across the sky. It could have been a shooting star but I’d like to think of it as a UFO J The night sky is so magical inSpiti. At such a high altitude, with no pollution whatsoever, it’s a feast for the eyes and soul to see over a million stars twinkle. It’s almost as if you can hear the music in their twinkling.
My guide Kunga Jorden
Since there is no mobile network in the villages, people carry messages on foot or shout from one mountain to another and seem to understand and hear each other perfectly. Their eyesight too seems to be amazingly sharp. My guide would point out to some far away mountain and say “see there are 3 tourists coming down from there”. And I would struggle to focus my vision in the direction he pointed in. Sometimes he would tell me that someone from far away was waving at me and when I failed to locate them, I would simply wave out in the direction he asked me to. Another funny thing I observed was that people there are obsessed with chewing gum. Right from children to nuns, to monks to toothless grannies and grandpas, everybody chewed gum and popped bubbles!!
One more strange experience I had was when I was trekking from Komic to Demul. I had left my yak and it was a down hill trek. Suddenly I began to feel very ill and within minutes it seemed as if my head and body would explode with pain. There were tears streaming down my cheeks and I was suddenly feeling very negative. Even I couldn’t understand what went so suddenly wrong. Anyways I reached my homestay, took a pain killer and rested for a while and I was ok. The next day I went to meet a Tibetan medicine man, just to understand what he does. Just to get him to talk more, I asked him to check my pulse. To my surprise he asked me if I had been very ill the previous day. When I replied in the affirmative, he said “Aap ke upar daayin aayi thi”….meaning some disembodied entity had latched on to my aura. He said I was fine now but weak and that I should rest a lot. I was surprised how he had felt the energy change I had experienced just by feeling my pulse.

The Amchi at Demul
The last leg of my trip was a true adventure, so to speak. We left from Kaza at 6.30 am for Manali. At 12.45 pm, we joined a long line of stationary tempos, taxis, trucks and buses only to find out that a truck coming from the opposite direction had got stuck between a partially collapsed road and a rock jutting out from the mountain. There were 2 other girls in the share taxi from Czech Republic who were with their boyfriends. They waited for 2 hours and realizing that the situation wouldn’t improve decided to hike it out. Now I was the only woman in the taxi. As time passed I saw that the other men/boys in my vehicle as well in the front were walking it down to the next closest sign of habitation, a tea stall, a good 12 kms away. Still I felt no fear or panic. Now it was nearing  4 pm and my taxi driver was getting too chatty for comfort . That is when I realized I must do something to get out of there. I started by walking down behind as well as in the front peeping into every vehicle to see if there was any other woman. 2 vehicles ahead of me there was a lady but she was just beginning to unload her luggage to hike it out with her husband. I reminded myself not to panic and that the Spirits of the Himalayas would take care of me. I walked down further and was glad to see a woman in her taxi. I told her that I was the only woman behind and that I wanted the company of another woman to decide what can be done. She was an Israeli and assured me that she wouldn’t leave because she was too ill to walk it down. She was truly God-sent. She had her boy-friend for company and said that they would be with me. At around 5 pm, her taxi driver said that he has arranged for a taxi which was coming from Manali and which would pick us up from the other side of the stranded truck. It still meant walking down a good half hour with heavy luggage and that too over a waterfall. The same driver who was annoying me earlier offered to help me with my luggage and also helped me walk through the water fall. God bless him. As we passed the other vehicles I noticed that we two were the only women around and the rest were all drivers. The water was so cold that we had walked ten minutes on it and our feet were numb. Finally at 6.30 pm our taxi arrived and we reached Manali, fully exhausted at 10.30 pm.
Bonding after getting stranded.
I also met a lot of interesting people on this trip. From a couple of girls from UK who were traveling to Spiti after having volunteered to teach English in a rural Gujarat school for 8 months, to 2 men, aged 52 and 65 yrs, who had given up their jobs 9 and 16 yrs respectively to pursue their passion for travel and photography, to my new Israeli friends who had been around India much more than I have (including some places I didn’t know existed), I listened in awe as they narrated tales from their travel to different places. I also heard about other travelers from a solo traveler who had decided not to earn for a living in 2004, and who since then has been trekking and traveling in the Himalayas continuously. He spoke of a Swiss man who travels overland in his camping car from Switzerland to Goa and also takes other travelers with him for a fee, a group of travelers who do the length and breadth of any country only by train, without stopping in any city, a solo cyclist from Mumbai who has toured Asia and Europe on his cycle and many more fascinating tales!!.
So as I had set out to explore joy, love, infinite potential in the matrix, so I did find them and much more. I discovered magic in every moment only when I let go and trusted. And very objectively I can say I scored pretty well on this trip:-) It was truly fulfilling in all ways. And I'm ever grateful to the Nature Spirits for giving me this experience.   

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