Friday, October 14, 2005

Day 3 - The trek down

There is a very good reason why I don’t trek. I can’t. I think the simple act of locomotion pretty much takes up most of my neural capacity. Add an inclined surface & some haphazard stepping & I’m afraid they get pretty much overloaded.

But then there are such days, when you forget your own shortcomings. That particular morning was just such a day. A particularly beautiful one. The sky never seems so blue in the plains & the snow peaks surrounded us on all side. A morning made for a nice brisk walk. But more then that, my backside, courtesy Mule No 36, was in such a state that sitting was itself an ordeal. Sitting on a mule, unthinkable.
So putting on a brave face & my red Jacket, I stepped out of the post office & set out on the trail. On the way I met a porter, Bhim Bahadur, to whom I immediately handed over my Rucksack & off we went, the two of us, rolling & tumbling down the trail.
Bhim Bahadur was not a good talker & I wasn’t much of a walker. So we talked & walked in much the same manner. In short spurts, with long pauses & in various haphazard meandering directions.
Bhim has been around as a porter here at Kedarnath for the last seven years & told me about the way the trek had changed over that time. Apparently it was all just a jungle trail ten years back & then the government had put up cemented portions slowly over the years in patches.
The one thing I liked about Bhim was him readiness to take breaks. Apparently many more like me must have preceded me to make him used to the breaks. At the mere suggestion of a break, he would gracefully swing his load (which is called "Pitthu" ) down at his foot & sit at the stall along the road, whereas I would be left with the complicated task of removing my hat & sitting at the same time. Bhim definitely was not impressed by my endurance levels. He described in vivid details the miserable conditions that exist during the monsoons & when the snow falls. He let drop the hint that he could go ahead with my bag & complete the trail in an hour while I straggled in the evening.

But he drank tea. There is something about a man drinking tea with you. When someone is willing to drink tea with you, it simply means that this said person is willing to bear your company while the tea cools down sufficiently. And even silences attain that mystical qualities when seen through the steam of the teacups. So we drank tea. Lots of tea.

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