Thursday, September 15, 2005

Serving up delicacies at 4000m

Yesterday I arrived back in Manali from the trek. Unfortunately we ran into lousy weather, almost from the 2nd day onwards. By the fifth day, we were in the middle of a storm that just refused to go away. After waiting for about 3 days at Chhatru -- the only place in its 80km radius with a phone connection -- we decided to end the trek and head back to Manali. And of course the weather opened up today. But by yesterday our tents were all wet, and we were more or less done with sticking it out in the relentless rain, and even snow at times.

The first four days, though, were good, despite bad weather. On the third day we reached Hampta pass, close to Deo Tibba, at an elevation of 4270m. I couldn't see a thing from there as the visibility was less than some 20 feet. That night we camped at Sheda Ghauru ("cold place"), and I spent almost the entire time in my tent waiting for the biting wind and rain to subside. It felt like North Pole. The analogy isn't far from true -- I met a couple of Swedes later who took pictures at Sheda Ghauru to show their friends that there are places in India that look like somewhere in Norway or Sweden.

One of the things that caught my attention on the trek -- and it doesn't require trememdous observation skills -- is the amount of shit that covers Himachal. Litterally. All through the trek I had to be careful to avoid stepping into something that came out of a four legged creature. It came in several variety too. There's the wide, circular buns of cows, brown lumps from horses and mules and the droppings from goats and sheep. The number of animals I saw didn't quite match up to the amount of shit everywhere, so it seems all the more amazing. The place we camped on the second day -- Balu Ghera (circle of sand) -- was entirely, I kid you not, covered with cow dung. You had to really step around carefully to find clean ground -- or really ground covered with dried up shit -- and there was absolutely no strolling around in the dark. And of course, half the place smells like the stuff covering the ground.

The trek covered beautiful meadows in Kullu valley in the first 4 days, and then descended into the Lahaul valley, all the way to Chandertal. We didn't go much into the Lahaul valley. We camped at Chhatru, close to some dhabas and a satellite phone operated out of a rest house some 15 minutes' hard walk away. At that elevation, devoid of vegetation for most part, that walk took much more than what seemed at first.

What was really amazing on the trek was the stuff that the cook churned out every evening. It may not sound that spectacular to think at first that he made banana pie one night (at Sheda Ghauru). I must remind you that this place was in the middle of nowhere. I had once heard this phrase applied to Columbus, Ohio. But that doesn't even come close. I mean, if you stepped out of the tent and looked around (if you dared the piercing wind), you would see... nothing! There's no sign of civilization around (if you can ignore the ground). You would have to hike about 5 hours to get somewhere. Then you will have to drive another 5 hours to get someplace that begins to get somewhat close to the middle of nowhere that Columbus is. So, when the ever surprising Om Raj, the cook, presented the banana pie, I was justfiable amazed. On other days he had made macaroni, momos, pooris and he had planned to cap it all in the end with pizza and cake on the last day (which didn't occur thanks to the weather).

I am headed back to Chandigarh tonight, and then to Bangalore soon. The trekking plan didn't work out as well as I had hoped, but it was great nevertheless. it is beautiful country here, and deserves many more trips. And yes, I'll put up some photos once I am back in Bangalore.

1 comment:

hbhanoo said...

Dude that sounds AWESOME! I guess now you realize that all enlightened souls observe and comment about shit. :)

I hope Kush and Sood read about the gourmet cooking; we'll do it in style next time :)