First of all accept my gratitude for comming to my life or rather for providing the chance to be among you, to belong to you. You came to me like Gold comes to a beggar. I still remember the day I got the first hint that I will be with you. Recovering from juandice, then denied by doctor not to climb any mountains as hard as usual for me, I was devastated how or what this year would be like. When I got the chance to manage a hostel in your laps, I was confused as anyother. For like the rest of world, I had only heard your name and known your infamous stories for the addiction and hippies lifestyle you are renowned for. But like always my heart and soul made the choice to drink the wanderlust and to live in the mountains. A new place, my heartbeat was more faster than my thoughts. And by the end of spring I arrived...
The first day, the first week and first month was all but things I had never seen or experienced. I did not judge or think, I just let it soak on. Not that I did not feel out of place when all around I found people smoking and fond of the most weirdest drugs or addictions, I could have imagined. I was like a mammal among reptiles, someone questioning if I belonged here or not. I missed climbing high snow clad peaks, adventure and being on edge like previous year, it added to the fuel of my unrest in me of being here. So much so, when the whole of kasol partied in front of my eyes, I looked upon the far, the peaks glittering white touching the sky. As if it shouted I belong there, not where I am sitting among hippies smoking and dancing, making merry. Seldom I felt like Lucifer the fallen angel, exiled to rule the hell, when he belonged to heaven...
But without my attention, I was also dipping in the enigma of the valley. Before late, I started calling you my home. A beautiful wooden house, my residence, art work from different minds adoring my walls, diverse people from around the world came to my house making it a gem. Finally got to pet a dog and found new love in nature as well as humans. Did bonfire parties in the darkest hours of night, danced like it was my last and sang like no one had a sweeter voice. I was free, that freedom which all wants but few achieves.
I soaked in more as months passed, no more the high speed psycadalic music felt a disturbance, no more the tripping hippies felt unknown, I could understand them and they could understand me even though I did not got high in their terms. Though climbing was still the only thing that made me high still we were friends now. Finally I accepted parvati as it was.
I met wonderful people, who showered love, respect, care and warmth more than actually I found at place I was born or changed into man. The mule owners, my housekeeping, my neighbourhood guest house owner or guests from across the oceans everyone smiled truly and taught me to smile true again. I guess parvati makes all such. You do not care what the whole world is or will be, you are just what you are at that moment, the present. You do not think about future neither the past bothers you. Whats gone shall be gone, what is to come is welcome and that is to live and that way you actually prosper the gift of life. Thats what parvati teaches you...
Every grain of soil, every specks of rocks and boulders, every leaf of every plant, every molecule of the flowing water in the brooks and rivers teaches you are nothing but everything is from you. In the vast universe, our thoughts or our being does not matter but yet the universe matters in us. Living free, without a stress, thats what we were actually purposed to be.
So now when I finally leave the valley after seven months, I am not sad. I won't miss it much for I know this valley belongs to me and I belong to it. For I shall return that is destined. From the craziest rave parties, to experiencing chemicals, from knowing the world from the weirdest and bizzare point of views to living like there is no tommorow, sitting in front of the ever flowing and raging river, finding the calmest moments of life, parvati gifted me everything. In seven months I lived my whole youth perhaps. I have never felt more free than before, and I know however the world turns, good or bad, my life shall be an adventure, a crazy story, a living movie forever from now on...
Either you are crazy enough to come to parvati, or parvati makes you crazy.
The land of thunder dragon has mesmerized me for long and finally now when I am backpacking there this november end. I found five reasons as to why you must join me too.
1. Bhutan uses gross national happiness as their measure of development rather than GDP like most of developed countries. So it means we must learn to value our citizens like this country where happiness of the people actually matter more than money!!
2. The constitution of Bhutan enables the nature to grow. It states that atleast 60 percent of the country must always be under forest cover. So a country that has such healthy and green clean nature is to prospere easily. Smoking is also banned helping to maintain the fresh and clean air. So beware before taking cigerattes or buying them.
3. The amazing monuments in bhutan are sure not be missed by a backpacker. Be it the city palace of thimpu, the capital of bhutan or river side peaceful monastry of punakha. Out of all this amazing places the takseng monastry hanging on a cliff in the hills of Paro is the most renowned and sought after to hike up. So how can we as backpacker miss it??
4. There is a secret national park in the eastern edges of bhutan known as sakteng wildlife sanctuary. It was formed in order to protect the high himalayan controversial and mythical creatures called YETI , the abonimable snowman!! how cool is that !! Moreover bhutan has good diversity of wildlife, its naional animal Takin is only found there. Also the rare black necked cranes from siberia is also a elusive jewel to be found.
5. Bhutan is the last shangri La , it does not want to turn into a busy crowdy tourist place like Nepal hence its visa fees are extremely high for foreing nationals, however citizens from south asian countries are extempt from it making it a elusive lands where most people want to visit but we get a easy entry compared to others.
So what are we waiting lets g
I recall hearing first about the Chadar trek couple of years ago when it was shared multiple times on social media tagged as the world’s most remotest region (Zanskar Valley in Ladakh) where locals have to trek for days on sheets of ice used as a route for them to send their children to school and get access to local supplies.
‘Chadar’ refers to a blanket of ice and can only be accessed during the coldest months from January to February. The region remains close off for eight months to a year due to heavy snowfall. The thought of treading through deep icy waters and walking on a thin layer of ice was somehow fascinating and thrilling to me. My first impression of the Zanskar region was one of isolation
Coming from a tropical country and diving deep into the frigid mountains was not the best decision ever, but I came prepared. I rented a mountain jacket from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation in New Delhi, but turns out there was only one size available in XXXL. It looked like my Uncle’s jacket and it felt like I was wearing a hard-shell space suit.
Day 1 - Leh to Tilat Sumdo
Having made a steep 45 degrees descent into the valley, I felt like a pro after walking on the sheet of ice for 1-2 hours. I did not fall, and did not think this was hard at all.
The porters took their time to set up our first campsite and this was when we were served Chai (Tea). When you’re high up in the mountains, there is nothing that comes close to a simple cup of aromatic tea. Soaking in the last of the sunshine before nature’s sunset arrives, I knew when night came, I would be a frozen popsicle.
Day 2 - Tilat Sumdo to Shingra Koma, 9.5km, 6 hours
Ready to take charge of the next day. I woke up at 7.00 am and the rest of us were ready to leave by 9.00 am. Today was supposed to be an arduous trek. Parts of these places do not get any sunlight until mid-day. Our face and ears completely exposed, it was hard to even look up.
During the next few hours, we walked and walked to what seemed to be like an endless game. There was no inclines and we thought the easiest way to have fun was to slide, fall every 2 times, walk and repeat.
One of the joys of the mountains for me is the way that life is so simple. One’s focus is on living and expressing rather than keeping up or keeping in time.
Day 3 - Trek from Shingra Koma to Tibb, 15km, 7-8 hours
Our journey to Tibb cave was a long adventurous one, we were completely entranced by the beauty of the ice formations. Hanging on to our dear lives while inching closer was hard. I had never felt this nervous and was afraid that I could tear my ligament, or worse still, fall into the cold rapid waters.
Day 4 - Trek from Tibb to Nerak, 12km, 7 hours
The shadows of our feet and reflection was hardly visible, because we were back in the freezer. This was a day of adventure as we climb through cliffs, and cross gorges within Chadar in order to reach Nerak, which ironically means ‘Hell’ in Hindi.
The curse of Nerak was upon me. Chadar was not fully formed and it was quite a challenge to get across. The simple bouldering we started with quickly turned into rock climbing. I decided to pass my camera bag to the porter who thought it was a brilliant idea to toss it to another guy, in hopes he would catch it but in minutes my bag slipped through his hands and fell into the cold waters.
My mind was racing, I couldn’t decide if I should transfer my energy onto my limbs to get moving, or simply be furious at what I just saw. With the unpredictability of what comes next, I didn’t know what to expect. But when I encountered the much-awaited frozen waterfall, I thought to myself that this is definitely heaven on earth.
Day 5 & 6 - The Return from Nerak
The next two days, we begin our journey back. “Quick, quick, quick, the ice is breaking. It’s snowing. We have to leave now!” exclaimed our trek guide.
Today, we thought that we’ll be retracing our steps and it should be fairly simple, but this is when you can never underestimate what comes next.
So we made our descent to the Chadar and I noticed that my gumboots were eerily grating against the breaking ice. By now, the water was knee deep and had seeped through my gum boots and pants, all in frozen temperatures. I looked up at that moment and also remember the sky to be slightly overcast with dull grey streaks.
Day 7 - Return to Chilling
Our journey at Chadar was coming to a bittersweet end.
With the successful completion of my epic voyage, I have never had such a wintry experience before in sub-zero temperatures. Jaw-dropping sights, the humility of the people and the physical and mental challenges that we had to overcome, these are the little lessons that I have taken back which trickle onto my other areas in my daily life.
The conversations on tall high rocks as you overlook the blue waters to inspiring stories you hear when night falls are moments that I value and replay at least 10 times over now, as I type this in the comforts of my own home.
Pashmina , from Malaysia is a soul born with wanderlust and in the eventful year of 2015, she traveled to India and did the Chadar trek in ladakh winters with my team. This is her story of experiencing such grandeur and awesomeness. This post has been published even in Huffington post and you can follow her in facebook as " Gone Goat ".
Thank you Pashmina, come back to India soon.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"