Diary of Lisa Taylor, reluctantly 42 (and a half)

Or.. 'f.ck me I'm forty.. two.. and a half', though can look 38 on a - not so deluded - good day. Or 'How to reconcile a well experienced mind trapped in a still - but for how long? – youthful body.' Don't have the 30somethings angst/problems, neither have the resigned (?) ageing baby-boomers in safe family territory outlook yet. Here's how I cope, one day all sexy women will get old... but never invisible. © Lisa Taylor 2005/6/7/8/9. Jeez.. so much for the 42 and-a-half delusion

Friday, December 16, 2011

2 December - Two humans & 1 Leopard

there are some posts preceding this one that will be 'filled in'

having lost 'my' older gentleman travelling companion, the oz matematician Winfred, i was pottering along alone and sunning myself in Joshimath when the younger oz product designer Michael turned up. He only got my text saying 'do not come to Joshimath, there's nothing to do, the road to Badrinath is closed, and there are no women around, let alone young and good looking ones' - he's looking - when he was already 5 hours into his 12 hour cranky bus journey to ... joshimath. That's the trouble with bus journeys which start at 5am. He arrived despairing of never being able to see the mountains close up and regretting leaving some stoners indian friends in Rishikesh where he'd been rafting.. and where there was yoga/massage and the promise of a babe or two to cultivate.

As we were having a cup of tea the following day wondering what to do (for his sake really, since i had declared that was happy to read novels for the foreseable, non-active future) , i decided to ask the cafe' owner what could the only 2 westerners in Uttarkhand do and he said 'maybe my friend Ajay of Himalayan adventures can sort out a trek for you'. and so he did.

we took the 3 days /2 nights option and decide to trek to short of 4,000m (that's 12,000 feet for you anglos) from joshimath to the kauri pass from which you get a fantastic view of Nanda Devi, second highest mountain in india, and around 12 other peaks next to it.

that's a younger version of me in the photo and she's trekking in summer it looks like :)
as usual, i only bothered to look at the website above or others giving trek info, after i retured. i like suprises.

.. it wasn't that hard, i managed the uphill fine from Auli at 2,500m (8,250) though am glad that was not told that 2 hours in , there would be an hour long section on a ridge wide enough for one foot in front of the other and abyss on your left hand side. am not too steady at best of times and with a backpack you worry you'll trip, topple over even if you manage to hang on to a tuft of grass because the weight of the pack will get you! we took over 6 hours to climb up to first base camp and by then my right leg was super sore as i lead with the right and repeatedly 'stepping up or down' on it had pulled a muscle. am no girlscout but had the brilliant idea to fill one of those drinking flat packs with boilig water, place on muscle, and by next morning the ache had receded somewhat.

Set up in some woods at 3,200m area called Gorson , dinner on open fire (Shiv, the guide was cooking and washing up tk god) and sleep by 7.30pm .it was bitterly cold in the flimsy tent, but was given great sleeping bag complete with an inner tube made of fleece. the only problem was the mat, which is fine for summer but too thin for winter. Anyway, slept in all of my clothes, layered on top of each other, you sort of feel like a boil in the bag two hours later but by 5am you're a bit frozen peas . the last trek the the trekking company had done was 2 weeks ago (many mumbai and delhi people come up for those and also in summer germans/swiss and french but i guess they're all people who 've already conquered their own mountains, whereas between my trek to annapurna in nepal and now, there's been 11 years of me not walking upwards- bar something in wales).

however, the problem was i could not sleep as had a minor but constant headache. of course i thought f x ,it's altitude sickenss , but had not felt any adverse feeling when standing up or eating etc. On top of that the day before we left, (having already paid half ) some kids in a coffee shop told me a leopard had eaten a woman in a village below and that nobody goes out after 7pm ... i asked the owner of hima adventures and the guide and they both said yes, true but leopard wouldn't be at our altitude. that was fine, i believed them, but not when you are unable to sleep an entire night. I did think that Shiv having 3 small kids meant he wouldn't go endanger own life for a bunch of notes...

anyway , following morning woke up all fine, trekked up for under hour and a half to second camp at 3,500m at Galishar, which was AMAZING, circular view of many peaks i shall list another time. from here it was another 2 hours up and 2 down to the actual Kauri pass and readers.... i decided to be a reader and skip it, after the guide made the mistake of saying 'from up there you see exactly the same view, only closer'. I thought ummmhhh, i shall lie here all afternoon in the sunshine and stillness and probably manage to read most of White Tiger from page 30 onwards which is where i got to in london.

i got scared out my wits at 3pm ish by some very odd noises, and took a while to actually see the guys come through the woodland. what they were doing was rolling down huge trunks of dead trees (cedar or oak up there ) so they would hit the plane i was on and be used for fire. I again, thought leopard wouldn't be out at sun up but still. forgot to say that on way up but way down below still, it's full of indian army barracks and exercises going on but not spotted a plane or an helicopter. so you know, not exactly easy to get down if needed to in a hurry. also, forgot to say, that winfred had left me a book, one of many i hear, by jim corbett about his man eaters of Kumaon /tigers hunting so i think i know more than you about how they operate. they're alas super clever and super more powerful than anyone w/o a rifle. i did scope trees i could climb to be safe but none had branches low enough for midget me to get a leg on... I also knew the leopard would find our scent since i was uphill from the guide for a while and could smell his trainers a hundred feet behind him. so know i know how animals track us.

then we set off at 10am following morning and was all the way down and it was harder than going up. after 2 hours your legs start to wobble and you are super conscious of your feet twisting this way and that on the rocks , the path through forest, all rocks , rocks rocks so major fear of toppling over and holiday over. so i did slow them down a bunch but ... not sure about Shiv, but michael who does lead bush trekking in tasmania besides his job of product designer, was very impressed . i mean, i am twice both their ages first of all, and i weigh 8 st dead. so don't have that much spare muscle to carry all my shit. the only thing i didn't have on my back and they did was the tent. so i did well. we got down at 2.30pm and had been looking forward to the hot springs at Tapovan, 3km from end of trek. As usual with india, and have been here a month this time so i should know, you should ask for descriptions over and over to be sure they mean what you mean. you'd be expecting the springs to be like a tiny version of iceland lagoons or even the springs i went to in Manali, but oh no. the water gushes out of a rock then gets channeled to a building that houses a his and hers set of showers, 2 big spouts in each side and you have a very hot shower. no lounging about making your dead muscles come to life again. such a let down. nobody there as were the only tourists in town... as i think i said many times but can't tell you how odd it feels.

on jeep back, we had to wait while the road workers detonated part of the mountain off and then had the jcb's clear out the rocks. i kid you not. michael will give me the photos. it's hard to believe the roads are so awful, but they told us that every year the monsoon is so bad that they have to rebuild sections and support tracts that have fallen down the valley. my friend Leo filmed one of those docus on the most dangerous roads in the world blah, but eat your heart out. i 've been on 2 of those already as well.

that night am thought i'd sleep very well in the knowledge that it's the same room i left 2 nights prior and was quiet and clean and nice, and no animals want to get me. however, had reckoned w/o the electricity cut out which lead to the owners using a noisy generator and having no control over switching off the room light i had left on... sigh... mask and earplugs again.

i feel bad i didn't go up to the pass but am practical and i don't have that notch to etch on anything so happy to have done what i did .
am slightly disappointed that hima man had bad news on return. we had asked if he could book train tickets to delhi on night train, first class no objection and there aren't any seats for love or money in any class as november /december are the months of weddings here and all the world is travelling. there is a wedding everywhere you turn, it's true. so another 5am bus down the mountain (with top volume hindi songs on the stereo, but hey, anything that keeps a driver happy and then a shared car to derha dun - expect to arrive 6 to 7 hours later if not more, vs the 10 to 12 by bus (buses can't overtake trucks as roads too narrow , but jeeps can! hurrah!) and from there find a 'luxury' coach to delhi. whch will cost just a tad less than the first class would have, such a shame.

i think this was good practice for the western fjords of iceland nex year, it will take hours to go around 'fingers' of land when the proverbial crow could cover the distance in a flash.. sigh.... and i think you can safely assume i won't bother anyone with 'let's go to Everest base camp ' (a familiar mantra of mine) for a while. i can /could do it before i turn 60 , but only if am not mean enough to pay for a porter or a mule to carry my stuff and me. in fact, both the nepali himalaya sides have the advantage of a couple of airports at high altitude (Jolsom and Lukla) that significantly can reduce the trekking days ... but also, am exhilarated by the views i saw and especially the stars at 4am second morning when i had to get up and go out to pee, such a mega hassle that, but if you go to bed at 8pm , 8 hours later is the max any bladder will hold.... the stars were incredible but i was on frozen grass with no shoes so didn't gaze that long. the stream next to us had frozen over of course....but thank god it never snowed as predicted by the guide! he said when it starts to snow, they get 1 and a half foot. Can't imagine how hard to walk through fresh show. may as well join the Ibex (mountain goat) indian regiment and offer my services in protecting the border with tibet, ahem, china a few miles up.

no special insights from the stillness of the mountains, except , if anything i constantly thought about the old pilgrims who would walk to Josimath or Badrinath or Gangotri or wherever the top of the mountains are and they clearly didn't have jobs as would have taken them 3 months to cover these distances. minimum. also thought about people who are forced to leave their homes and become refugees and to get to their new country they have to carry their lives on their backs for days.. oh and they're scared, not like us doing it for kicks. other than that, no major thoughts, empty head, the best feeling i guess.
Glad am down on steady ground - having learnt to put up a simple tent , ya know, slept in one at glastonbury one time but never 'did ' any camping. and hope the calves stretch back to normal eventually.


ps young oz revelaed in passing on last day that his cousin co-runs mywardrobe.com in UK! form a tidy line if you want a knock off price bags, actually no, he said cousin was a bit stand-offish...

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